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I feel like I’ve written or told this story a hundred times before. I’m not even sure if it made out into some tangible form, or if I replayed the events in my head from time to time over the last decade. Every passing September makes my heart ache. I was thankfully not directly affected by the tragedy that day, but it affected me nonetheless.
I remember that September 11, 2001 had started off as a bright day. Bright enough to coax me out of bed, and out of the house, on my way to high school. It was only the second week; classes had not yet lost their novelty. The first two classes passed unremarkably. Even if you asked me, I wouldn’t be able to remember what those classes were. My third class, though, I will never forget.
It was science research, a class devoted to introducing students to lab techniques and research skills. It was a little past 9:40 AM, and several of us were gathered around the desk to the far corner of the room, talking about whatever high school sophomores talk about. One of the girls came running in a little after class started, and exclaimed that planes had hit the World Trade Center. She was someone who had a tendency to be a little silly, if not outlandish, and so I didn’t believe her at first. Who would want to? It was when the wood shop teacher walked in from next door, solemn and silent, that we realized that something indeed was wrong.
We were shepherded into his classroom, where a TV had been wheeled in, blaring the news. There we stood or sat, transfixed, watching smoke billow out from the angry, blazing gashes that had torn through each World Trade Center tower. I remember some students crying, some were talking out loud. Others were anxiously calling their parents who worked at or near the World Trade Center. I don’t remember what I felt exactly, probably because at that moment, I felt empty. I had no idea how to react, because what had happened was so beyond the scope of what was possible, that my mind and body were blindsided. I watched, as though in a trance, as the smoke continued to pour out, and the voices of the news anchors danced nervously around, unsure quite how to react themselves. Gone was the notion that the United States was, somehow, impervious to outside forces. Wars were supposed to be few and far between, fought oceans away, not in my own backyard. Any impression of peace and stability was quickly and mercilessly eviscerated.
I remember that a good friend of mine was sitting next to me, palpably frightened, though perhaps only comforted by the fact that she had discovered that her mother was not in harm’s way. We were sitting together when, at 9:59 AM, the South Tower began to collapse. Forever etched into my memory is the sound of the small scream that escaped my friend’s lips at the moment the roar of the flames and the crunching sound of failing structural beams became one, as everything screamed towards street level. For me, that was the sound that marked the boundary between what once was, and what is now. Innocence, and innocence lost. The start of a terrible new chapter, but everyone was too frightened to willingly turn the page.
I remember that when I left the school that day and looked west, the sky was now covered with a faint, gray haze. “Smoke from the Twin Towers, most likely,” said a friend of mine.
Later that night, I remember sitting on my bed, thinking about the the day’s events, and of what happens now. I was thinking about the thousands upon thousands of bodies scattered throughout the site: some dead, some barely clinging on, and the rest working to save them. Death was not something I was familiar with, let alone on such a scale and in such close proximity. That was the first time that I openly wept that day.
I was scared, not only for future attacks from beyond our borders, but attacks from within. Hate crimes had started almost as soon as word had gotten out that the terrorists were mostly Arab Muslims. Anyone who looked potentially Arab and/or Muslim was a target, including my family, my friends, and me. I heard stories about not only Muslims, but Sikhs and Hindus being taunted, beaten up, and in some cases, gunned down. All paid the pound of flesh that they did not owe. While the incidence of those crimes died down almost as quickly as they had appeared, the simmering anger against Muslims was still present.
Ten years later…
Ten years later, Osama is dead, along with thousands of people with terrorist leanings. So is Saddam, and hundreds of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi civilians. So are thousands of US soldiers.
Ten years later, Muslims (and to some extent many South Asians) are still vilified. Every opportunity to throw stones seems to be taken by people who don’t understand that the sins of the few should not fall on the shoulders of the whole group, and that just because the color of our skin is the same as another group, doesn’t mean we are the same. If you don’t believe me, look at any news story that involves a Muslim, and read the comments from the readers. It is shameful.
Ten years later, The first responders, who put aside family and other responsibilities to toil at the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center, have had to pay a huge price for their sacrifice. Many have developed significant respiratory issues, others have developed cancers that normally occur far more rarely. For this, they have received little, aside from empty words of support and promises, as they face further death and disability. Slowly, steps are being taken in the right direction to provide compensation, but they deserve far more than that.
Ten years later, we receive word of another “credible” threat though “unconfirmed.” I truly hope that nothing happens. Yet, this is just another stop on the paranoia roller coaster many of us in the United States have been riding since 9/11. At this point, I feel like the way in which news outlets cover stories about terror threats, acts of violence, and other similar events has moved so far beyond “the boy who cried wolf” that every threat, credible or otherwise, has become background noise to me. It shouldn’t, but it has. This is what fear-mongering does. It saturates and obliterates any ability to discern what is worth worrying about, and what can be put aside.
Ten years later, I worry that I have descended into a kind of cynicism. I want to believe that, as a country, we have grown closer post-9/11, and that we can look past everything and come together for the sake of peace and stability. Then I see the politicians railing against equality, diversity, and drive while championing xenophobia, a widening income gap, and ignorance. They fancy themselves patriots. The patriots who fought for our country over 200 years ago (yes OUR country) were fighting for freedom and equality for all. How quickly the definition of patriotism has changed! This only fuels my cynicism. If you want to meet a patriot, talk to some of the first responders who didn’t ask those they saved if they were immigrants, followed a different faith from theirs, or worked in a different income bracket before deciding whether or not to save them.
Ten years later, and I’m still admittedly worried.
Ten years later, and I still mourn the loss of life.
Ten years later, what was Ground Zero–a smoldering pile of ashes, rubble, pain, and death–has slowly blossomed into something beautiful and full of hope. Even though I am in Manhattan very often, the last time I had visited Ground Zero was in 2008. It takes my breath away now, to see what has literally risen from the ashes. From 9/11 to now, we have been beating the terrorists everyday by living, building, and thriving. Yet we cannot truly win until we hearken to a more basic, but universal set of principles. That is to say, all are equal, and all should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Freedom, knowledge, and well-being are not objects that can or should be rationed, but rather, are undeniable facets of human nature that should be tapped, and never stifled for any reason.
When I was in ninth grade, my classmates were introduced to Hinduism and some basic Hindu tenets in our Global Studies class. One of the first things that we covered was the concept of the caste system. There were the brahmins (priests) at the top, followed by the kshatriyas (warriors), then the vaishyas (merchants), and sudras (unskilled workers). Absent from the hierarchy were the untouchables. It had always been my understanding that caste was a birthright. One was born into a certain caste based on their past karma (fruits of their actions). The hereditary quality of caste, like eye color and skin tone, seemed indisputable. If my parents were one caste, then I would be of the same caste. Hence, at the time, marrying within the same caste made complete sense.
I read this article recently in the New York Times, detailing the honor killing of a Brahmin girl in Northern India who was secretly engaged to someone from a lower caste. The parents had apparently feared, “…ostracism, and accused her of defiling their religion.” She was 22 years old when she was found dead, and was apparently pregnant. While the argument from the family’s side is that she committed suicide, it is hard not to believe that she died at the hands of her family. I can’t seriously believe her fiancé could have posed a serious threat aside from being a threat to questionable ideals and the pride that the family derived from adhering to those ideals.
My discontent with the caste system as it exists today probably started with my most recent trip to India. I was about to head off to college, and was visiting India partly to pray at some of the temples. One of the temples I visited was a small temple in Ernakulam devoted to Devi (the female embodiment of divinity). We had gone to perform a puja (ritual offering) in honor of one of the manifestations of Devi, Saraswati (the goddess of learning). The priest was unsurprisingly, a brahmin. My experience with priests here in the U.S. has always been positive; they have always been very friendly and interacted with us as though we were family. Yet this priest, nice as he was, would not permit us to touch his feet as a sign of respect, nor accidentally touch his hands when he gave us prasadam (food sanctified by having offered it to the deity). Even Nairs (at least in the old days…maybe even now in some rural parts of Kerala) had a physical hierarchy, where the castes are segregated to some extent, intermingling only as much as necessary. That never seemed right to me. While we set ourselves apart from each other with these supposedly hereditary castes, I’m pretty sure there are people in each caste who may not necessarily fit what it means to be from that caste, whether that means they rise above the defining characteristics or fall well below the cultural expectations.
To my knowledge, there is no scriptural basis for the theory that caste is hereditary. In the Bhagavad Gita, there is the following verse:
sudranam ca parantapa
Brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras are distinguished by their qualities of work, O chastiser of the enemy, in accordance with the modes of nature.
(Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Chapter 18, Verse 41)
The next few verses delineate the qualities of each level of the caste system, without any reference to family or lineage as a deciding factor. The son of a sudra is not necessarily a sudra just because he is born to one. The same is true for other castes. It’s like saying the son of a doctor is a doctor too…ok well some parents may actually believe that one.
Unfortunately, caste still exists as a rigid, unchanging system where mobility is not an option. Intermingling among castes, while accepted nowadays in most contexts (more or less), romantic relationships still remain taboo. It is truly unfortunate and deplorable when parents react so harshly (and sometimes violently) in the face of an intercaste union. It is equally deplorable that, while people do interact across caste boundaries, some still hold on to the antiquated sense of superiority of inferiority supposedly conferred by caste. I really do hope this changes, it just seems like the product of centuries of misinterpretation and an intrinsic need to create a sense of “us” versus “them”. Once we move past those terms and realize that we are all in this together, and that we must do what we can to elevate each other socially and spiritually, then only can we make real progress.
This is partially in response to a piece recently published by Salon.com, covering an interview with Alva Noe, a philosopher from UC Berkeley.
I am a Hindu. Hindus believe in the existence of souls. I am studying biology. Biology does not consider the soul to be a possible entity. I am a neuroscience-enthusiast. Neuroscience does not believe the soul is the seat of consciousness.
While Alva Noe argues against a reductionist approach to understanding consciousness, unfortunately that is the very real reality of consciousness. The brain is the seat of consciousness. Why argue that it isn’t? It’s not as though the brain is somehow incapable of being responsible for the functions and emotions that make us wholly human.
I will agree with one aspect: that a lot of experience is very much dependent on the context into which we are placed. Yet that does not diminish the role of the brain, but rather, it reveals just how involved the brain is in crafting consciousness. It has to determine, based on the inputs it receives, how to perceive and react to the stimuli present. This is where his driver versus engine analogy falls apart. It is not a process that happens apart from the brain, it is the brain itself. When someone is brain dead, it’s not as is if consciousness continues to exist apart from the brain. Consciousness dies when the brain dies.
Why is religion something that has to be so separate from neuroscience? It’s as if one cannot coexist with the other, that somehow, neuroscience would undo the wonder that makes religion and religious experience what it is or vice versa. Neuroscience gives a more concrete basis for religious experience, and religion can help us reflect on the sheer wonder that is the brain. Why can’t the soul have a neurological basis? I’m not arguing for the total negation of the existence of the soul, I’m arguing for integrating it into our cerebral selves.
Likewise for love, desires, dreams, whatever emotions and states of mind there are that seem much too complicated to be contained in a network of neurons. These all have strong neurological bases, most have in dopaminergic pathways that give rise to feelings of pleasure and instilling the need to repeat actions that make us feel good (seek out someone we’re crushing on, eating something we like, pursuing a career which interests us). Yet we hate to think of it in these terms, we like to keep a little bit of that veil of mystery intact. It’s understandable, but it’s silly to argue that they are undoubtedly separate from the brain, whether partly or totally.
For better or worse, we are animals. We are a network of organs. We have been blessed with a highly developed forebrain, but that does not make our added ability to perceive ourselves, the world, or anything beyond…anything beyond our membrane-bound brain. What we should perhaps be more in awe of is that, despite the fact that we operate within the confines of our cranium, we can understand and strive for things that seem to exist far beyond us. That is the real wonder of the human psyche.
It isn’t just about the Western world against everyone else. It isn’t just about whites against blacks. It isn’t just about one place and their people pitted against other people. Race isn’t even the only factor, it’s race, sexuality, religion, and so many other things. Wherever there are differences, people strive to create some sort of hierarchy.
Every ethnic group, every religious group, every group of people you could possibly consider probably sets their group apart from the rest in some way. Whether it’s considered racist, or otherwise, prejudiced depends on who’s judging.
An example that comes to mind is that, in the context of the Hindu caste system, converts away from Hinduism lose their caste, or in some cases, dropped to the bottom of the ladder. Yet in the Abrahamic faiths, Hindus are not looked upon kindly. I could probably rattle off a whole list of examples. Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, Hutu and Tutsi, ethnic Spanish and ethnic Indians, straight people and gay people, and so on. This is not to say all people in either camp necessarily follow that outlook, since that is certainly not the case. Some people don’t see race, religion, or sexuality. Some people do. Everyone sees it differently.
I guess I started thinking about this after seeing this link. The post starts out with an excerpt from a site evidently promoting white pride, but at the end, the author reveals that he had in fact, taken it off of a Jewish pride site and had replaced “Jew” and “Israel” with “white” and “Europe.” I remember distinctly starting out reading the post thinking “oh how awful” but when I saw that it was, in fact, from a Jewish website, it didn’t feel as bad. And then I thought, why is one any better than another?
I suppose in this case, it’s not quite as clean a substitution as one might think. “White pride” generally carries a strong negative connotation to begin with, owing to its association with such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacist groups. Just substituting “white” and “Europe” results in an entirely different reading, given that context.
The Jews, meanwhile, have a strong religious connection with Israel, not just a cultural one. Their connection has not yet been watered down as strongly as the white connection to Europe, in most cases. Whites (at least Western European whites) have been in this country since its inception, for the most part. Jews have been around since the latter half of the 19th century, for the most part. In considering the various sects of Judaism that exist, and how some are shrinking rapidly (some Sephardi sects come to mind) why wouldn’t some Jews call for a return to intra-religious marriage, within their sects? Maybe it’s because I’ve been raised to marry someone who is the same caste and same religion, I don’t see it as totally radical.
Yet there were people who commented on this post that felt very strongly about it. Some condemned the word subsitution, some condemned the Jewish site, some just condemned the concepts on either side. Try substituting your words of choice…does it read differently? Why?
We shouldn’t see it differently. We shouldn’t praise one and condemn another. There shouldn’t be boundaries to begin with, but since it’s too late to dismantle some of them, let us try to respect them…so long as these boundaries and notions do not cause undue pain and suffering to another. We are all, after all, human first.
I figure after 3500+ views in a little over a month, I should probably welcome all of you who read my blog. Welcome, bienvenidos, bienvenue, welkom, swaagat, swaagatham, and (insert welcome of choice here).
I’m so glad to see this blog has started to blossom and attract numerous viewers. I hope you are finding the posts informative and maybe even entertaining. I will try to keep the topics varied and interesting, so that everyone can find something to read and enjoy on this site.
Thank you so much for your support, kind words, and even criticisms. Here’s to hoping this blog continues to thrive!
Somehow, killing just doesn’t seem to equate into any sort of act of retribution. I don’t see how taking a life, or taking several lives, justifies any valid philosophy. Since when does storming a crowded place, taking out your rifle, machine gun, or pistol and firing bullet after bullet into people achieve any sort of good? What good does it do to target people and take hostages, and watch as they bleed and sweat fear for their lives and shame for being somehow, culpable for some vague and uncertain deed in the eyes of their captors.
Who are we to judge who is worthy of life and worthy of death?
This is the credo of terrorist organizations today, or so it seems, that in taking life and striking fear, something good is achieved. Most recently, several gunmen opened fire in coordinated attacks across several of Mumbai, India’s hotels, restaurants, and hospitals. It was clear that these gunmen were targeting foreign nationals. In most of the terrorist attacks in recent years, the sites tended to be those frequented by foreigners. Why?
I am not even going to try to interpret their actions, it’s not my place. I am not going to talk about God, and I’m not going to talk about religion. They have been unfairly dragged through the mud and I am not going to continue with it.
So where does one start to dissect a mind, a mind of a person so caught up in their own mission that the mind is indistinguishable from the mission? Have you ever tried to convince someone they are wrong about something they strongly believe in? It’s about as effective as talking to a wall, except the wall is sticking their fingers in their ears and trying to talk over you.
No one ever goes out wanting to do something “evil.” Everyone is convinced that they are the good guys. Can doing good be so relative? How can one begin to standardized “good deeds” and “evil deeds?” Won’t terrorists see that they have inflicted unbelievable pain on their fellow man, won’t that (in theory) make them realize that their view of supposed “goodness” is fundamentally flawed, when death and suffering are imperative to achieve any “good?”
Then again, maybe they won’t. Goodness and evil at this point in time are still (unbelievably) relative. One can only hope that this changes.
I pray for the people who were lost today in Mumbai, as well as for the people who have been lost and will continue to be lost if good and evil remain concepts that are open to interpretation. May their souls rest in peace.
EDIT: For up to date pictures/information about what’s going on in/around the Taj Hotel, please refer to my friend Arun’s blog: http://arunshanbhag.com/2008/11/26/mumbai-blasts-taj-is-burning/
Let me set the stage for you:
The girl is a graduate student on her way to applying to medical school next year. She is not in a relationship at this point, and there seems to be no one that has expressed any real interest that would keep mom and dad placated…i.e. Malayalee and Nair. Therefore, the aforementioned parents want to put an ad up for the girl to be married within the next two years, something a la Shaadi.com. The general connotation of Shaadi.com and matrimonial ads of the sort is that of ridicule and considered a “last ditch attempt” by most. Others, however, have found great people (her parents included) through these methods. What is the girl to do?
Arranged marriage has tried to evolve to meet the times, no doubt. Back in the day, couples would be arranged perhaps within the village, but at least within a certain area. Marriages were alliances of families, not just the bonding of two people. It was about preserving one’s identity across generations. In Kerala, for example, cultural and religious practices even differed across the state. Those closer to Tamil Nadu have a culture that melded Malayalee with Tamil rituals. Those closer to the Malabar coast have their own. This is clearly evidenced with my parents, one of whom is from Palakkad, one of whom is from Ernakulam. That union was viewed as almost radical, I mean, a girl from Ernakulam marrying a boy from Palakkad? Insane! That too, they met through an advertisement.
Now it’s my turn.
Being born and raised in the United States my whole life brings about its own set of challenges. I am cynical, which may or may not be a function of my being raised here. I tend to be suspicious of people at first before warming up to them as I get to know them. It seems like my parents were much more open to ads than I am and many of my peers. I tend to think (not entirely erroneously) that half the ads on sites such as Shaadi.com are not made by the person who is being advertised (I’m not including sites like eHarmony and Chemistry because they’re a bit different). “Shaadi” for my non-Indian readers, means “marriage” in Hindi. A quick browse through some of the profiles seems like most were written by their parents, rather than the guys themselves, and that strikes me as duplicitous. Maybe the guys asked for their parents to put the ad in, but if they can’t even invest that much in finding a spouse, I’m not sure I’d want to even deal with them. Part of me still wants to see if I can find someone on my own, who my parents would like as well. Shaadi.com seems like a last resort, if I look at it that way.
Yet there are definitely benefits to this system. At least on Indian matrimonial sites, if you’re so inclined, you can search by region, religion, and caste, which theoretically makes life easier. The same can be said for newspaper matrimonial ads. While my parents are probably more vested in my ending up with a Malayalee, Nair guy, it can’t hurt to have that option available if I want to search for one myself. Like other dating sites (I think) there are the options of looking for profiles with photos and without photos (and praying the photos that are up are not heavily Photoshopped). What’s convenient about Indian matrimonial sites is that you can indicate whether you are vegetarian or nonvegetarian, drink or not, smoke or not, and other things. Me, I’m a pescatarian…yes it’s a word, and you’d be surprised at how things like diet can shape a relationship (there was a New York Times article on it a few months back). I myself am pretty lenient, but I’m just saying…it’s a factor to consider.
Nonetheless, it’s important to get to meet and know the person, regardless of how one found the other. Sometimes that’s a bit harder when the person you met on Shaadi.com lives in India and you live in the States. Even if you both live in the States, getting from New York to say Texas, is easier said than done. Yet the argument can be made that, if there is a legitimate connection between two people, distance shouldn’t matter, right? Still, for me, face-to-face contact is the best way for me to judge a person’s character. Denying me that makes things very difficult. Also (on a slightly lighter note) having my brother play “that brother-in-law to-be” a la Nick Portokalos in “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” would be very difficult if the guy’s not around too often before the wedding. It’s an inevitable, right of passage.
So for me at least, the jury is still out on the possibility of me utilizing a site like Shaadi.com, or just plain old matrimonial ads. I’m hoping I won’t have to, that I’ll find someone the “old-fashioned way” but I guess there could be someone special that may be found through an ad. I just hope his picture isn’t John Abraham’s when he actually looks like Mohanlal.
We all dream. In fact, over a lifetime, we spend about six years dreaming. Six years! Imagine what you could do over six years of your life.
So my question is, should dreams be treated solely as the product of neurotransmitters and REM during sleep? Or should they be interpreted as something deeper, steeped with meaning? For someone like me, who is both an aspiring doctor with a fondness for neuroscience and a deeply spiritual person who deals in the abstract, it’s a bit of a debate.
Neuroscience hasn’t gotten around to providing a concrete biological definition of dreaming, but there are theories being thrown around. This is the best summary I can come up with:
During sleep, your brain goes through periods called rapid eye movement (REM), where (if one were to do an EEG) the resulting brain waves during those periods look remarkably similar to those from wakefulness. Scientists have postulated that several neurotransmitters are involved in creating the dream state, while a host of others are suppressed. The result is a situation similar to wakefulness, but also a state of virtual paralysis so as to prevent the sleeper from acting out the motions in his or her dreams. Curiously enough, a chemical called dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is suspected to have a large role in creating the dream state. Among other things, it is a psychedelic agent. Need I say more?
Yet of course, there are others who treat dreams differently. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung published numerous case studies where they analyzed patients’ dreams. They, as well as several psychologists downstream, held that dreams reflected the interplay between the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious allowed thoughts inaccessible to the conscious to bubble to the surface during dreams. Dreams, therefore, could be interpreted to get at the underlying emotions.
So who’s right? The neuroscientists or the psychologists? I’d like to think both are right.
Yet interpreting dreams is an inexact science that is open to many, often wrong, interpretations. Is it really worth it? Sometimes it helps to give some degree of closure or clarity, since dreams have a tendency to just be downright strange, if not emotionally charged. That’s of course, if you can get at an interpretation that achieves that end.
Then there are the prophetic dreams. Some say they’re religious experiences, some say they’re random events. Others argue it’s the brain putting 2 and 2 together into some logical conclusion that turns out to be right in real life. I, however, am not sure. I’ve had a few of these, and I can’t describe them any other way other than inexplicable.
Why do some people experience dreams differently from others? I have talked to my friends about my dreams, and find that among many of my friends, I tend to have very vivid dreams replete with the whole range of sensory experiences: color, touch, smell, sound…heck sometimes music. Others I know tend to have consistently bizarre, and often humorous dreams. Others still have violent dreams. Perhaps it’s a function of our individuality, including how we deal with experiences that we may have had in our day to day activities that have since sunk into our subconscious.
So will we ever solve why we have dreams, and how to deal with them? Probably not, but what say you, the reader? How do you deal with dreams? Any interesting ones?
To anyone who made life difficult for people because they are different,
Ten years ago, I stood behind my middle school, waiting for my mother to pick me up. As I was waiting, two girls from the same middle school who were maybe two years older than I was came up to me, each with an idily burning cigarette in hand. I didn’t know them. One of them sneered at me, her teeth already tobacco-stained, and smiled a cruel smile. “Smile,” she ordered, “smile you fucking Hindu bitch.” Laughing, she and her friend walked away. Ten years ago, I continued to stand there long after they left, confused and hurt. Ten years ago, for me, racism was but a theory that quickly became a stark reality.
Today, the scene is much the same. There is a strong constituent that prides itself on fear-mongering, on the cavalier tossing around of racist slurs, on justifying reasons to hate or ridicule another group of people because they are different. There are still those that believe, intuitively, that someone who is different is somehow inferior. I’m so sorry you all still think that.
Differences have always been present in society, that’s a fact, today though they’re being embraced more strongly…perhaps to the chagrin of many. Ethnic identity is a badge of honor rather than a mark of shame. Other sexual lifestyles are being viewed less as woefully deviant and more as beautifully different. You see this as a sign of the end of days, a change for the worse. You have been fiercely vocal in certain pockets. In the light of the current political climate, with an African American poised to (potentially) clinch this election, you have been especially vocal. You cannot see change such as this as good.
It is different, therefore, it is bad. It must be suppressed, and we must stick to the status quo. Islam is bad. Hinduism is bad. Anything anti-Christian is somehow odd, and perverted. Anything culturally alien is base, is backwards, and needs to be stamped out, if not somehow changed to meet your ideals. Have you considered perhaps learning about the cultures that are slowly melding with with American culture? Have you considered learning about the people, their backgrounds, their faith (or lack thereof), perhaps their rationale for seeing the world the way they do? Have you considered any of it? There is beauty in diversity, and I’m sorry you don’t see it.
You do not reflect America as a whole, thankfully, but unfortunately America’s image is slowly being colored by your clamoring few. America, as a whole, has started to extend its arms to new change, to new differences, and to new views. Yet there are some that are still scared, fiercely so, and you turn instead to put-downs and wild allegations about the people who are possibly bringing new perspectives and new possibilities to a country that right now, is sorely in need of a different direction.
I’m sorry to say, I did listen to that girl. I smiled then, and I smile now. I smile not because I was conquered. I smile because I will never be conquered by fear. I smile because I will work through all the remarks, all the jeers, all the comments. I smile because I see your racist remarks, I see your xenophobic attitude, I see your fear and I raise you…and ultimately I win. Ultimately, we all win. White, black, Asian, Latino, homosexual, heterosexual, religious, atheist, and any and all combination of groups, we all win. Once we accept the changes our country is undergoing–the increased diversity on so many levels and its slow spread into all eschelons–we all win. Then, maybe then, we’ll all have a reason to smile.