Friday, January 20, 2017

Still I Rise

I am the dream and the hope of immigrants...I am an immigrant....I am an American....I am a woman....

Still I Rise! 

Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

About the proverbial "other"

Have you ever felt like "the other?" You know what I mean, right? Have you ever felt like "those" people who are "not like the rest,” those who are not “normal?" Not completely accepted? 

C’mon, think hard. Think back to that moment in your life when you felt like an outsider. Yes... remember that metallic taste in your mouth? No? 

Well, let me try a few examples to refresh your memory.

Were you the only Italian kid on an all Irish block?
Were you the only kid who had freckles?
Were you the only person in the room who didn't know that salad fork goes on the left side of the plate?
How about the only one who didn't have both parents?
The only one from the “East side?”
That CNN reporter in the lobby of the Trump Tower?
The only one with a pierced nose?
The only one with a tattoo of a dragon on your chests or the only one without the tattoo?
The only one with braces?
The only "newbie" with no skills and no experience?
An unloved stepchild?
How about, the only one of a different ("the other") race?
Sexual orientation? 

Yes, I know. It hurts to remember, doesn't it? I guess, if we all dig deep enough, at one point or another, we have all been in that dark place of being "the other." 

Hopefully, for all of you that dark place and time were brief and nearly impossible to recall. But if you are truly honest with yourself, has it left a mark? And, if it did, for what purpose? 

Being the “other” means that you don't ever belong, and a sense of belonging is one of the most critical conditions for a fulfilling life (smart research tells us). Being the "other" means knowing that if you are on your best behavior you have a hope of being tolerated... and, if you don't conform, you could enter a real danger zone of various extremes and varieties.

I have been "the other" all of my life. Let me repeat it so that you don’t for a moment think that this statement found its way into this blog post by accident.  Drum roll please…I have been "the other" all of my life.  And now, I can say that it is a heartbreaking and a character (soul?) building, as well as a humbling experience. 

When I was a little girl I was "the other" because I was the only Jewish girl in my class and one of two Jewish kids in my school, and a hated minority in my country of birth. Later in life I was the other because I am "a Russian immigrant." Later still I was the "other" while trying “to find my religion” in a Brooklyn reform temple; then - because I have an accent in English and in Russian (my native language), then as the only woman on a business trip... And so on...

But at some point, probably over a course of many years, I have embraced my "otherness" AND, this is most critical, I realized that there are many of us. And together - we are ONE. Remember? …One nation under god indivisible with liberty and justice for all.I am different just like you are different and that makes us the same. I own it now. The "otherness" in me has transformed itself into "oneness" with all of YOU. I carry it – this spirit – as a unique badge of honor and a source of pride. 

What helped me get there, you ask? I am convinced that it was the spirit of America built by those who were the "others" someplace else, who came here to build a better life, to create a world where they could belong. 

So what's my point? I have two: one – to share the depth of profound despair, fear and hopelessness I am experiencing recently, watching what's going in this beautiful country of ours and around the world. And to also pose some questions so that we can step into the pool of light of our collective hearts, that endless pool of our collective humanity and perhaps reshape the dialogue...and maybe even our future?

My dear friends - I ask you... are we losing that sense of "oneness” as a nation? How about the sense of humanness in us? Have we already lost it? Have we ever truly had it?  
I can tell you that I feel that I am losing it, that feeling of belonging here in America is escaping me. My scars of the “otherness” started to hurt when it rains. I think people's empathy and humanness have begun to atrophy and disappear. I think that amnesia is setting in and history is repeating... and I am terrified.

What’s the core of this discourse? I believe it is the proverbial (and at times very real!) contempt-filled finger-pointing at the proverbial (and at times very real!) “others.”

So, I ask you, now that you have recalled what it felt like to be the "other," why would you ever, through your direct and indirect actions, inflict it on anyone else? 

This blog is about my life as I know it... as I know it in any given moment of writing a post. In this moment, on this ridiculously warm January evening, I ask you to think about these things I bring to your attention and to act in accordance with the depth of which your soul is capable of... because we are ONE. There are no “others.” It’s just us,  on one small blue planet.