Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Doing Gender According to Hafiz

As I was getting my daily dose of Hafiz, I was surprised to find that he conceptualized gender as many modern scholars do (West & Zimmerman; J. Butler). We haven't advanced as much as we thought we had, we just weren't listening to the right voices.

How Does It Feel to Be a Heart?
Once a young woman asked me,

"How does it feel to be a man?"
And I replied,

"My dear,
I am not so sure."

Then she said,
"Well, aren't you a man?"

And I replied,

"I view gender
As a beautiful animal
That people often take for a walk on a leash
And might enter in some odd contest
To try to win strange prizes.

My dear,
A better question for Hafiz
Would have been,

'How does it feel to be a heart?'

For all I know is Love,
And I find my heart Infinite
And Everywhere!"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

القبرة و الفيل

Call me crazy, but to improve my Arabic, I have been slowly but surely reading short fables with spiteful animals. I have been shocked at just how spiteful these seemingly harmless animals have been by blinding, maiming and eating other animals that have crossed them. My personal favorite statement that was spewed by a very vengeful lark to an elephant who killed her baby lark after she had her friends blind him and other broke and maimed him. She said,

"أيها الظالم المغرور، لقد احتقرتني و قتلت فرخي و اعتقدت أني ضعيفة و لا أقدر على الانتقام منك. أنظر إلى حالك الآن!"

(Roughly translated, it reads "Oh arrogant oppressor, you despised me and killed my chick and thought that I was weak and was not capable of avenging you. Look at your state now!")

I will probably never look at "children's" animal fables the same ever again...

A Hafiz Poem for Teta

When I was reading this poem, I could almost feel my teta wrapping her arms around me. The sound of her slippers swishing across the tile floors in her house as she sneakily turned off our fan in the middle of summer brought a tear to my eye. She will always be there to watch over me, even if I cannot hear her footsteps anymore.

Keeping Watch
In the morning
When I began to wake,
It happened again--

That feeling
That You, Beloved,
Had stood over me all night
Keeping watch,

That feeling
That as soon as I began to stir

You put Your lips on my forehead
And lit a Holy Lamp
Inside my heart.

Thank you, Hafiz for bringing my beloved back to me for a moment in time!

Hafiz and Religion

Hafiz has a way of expressing spirituality in such an eloquent way that resonates with my beliefs. --As a side note, Hafiz is a Persian poet from Shiraz in modern day Iran.

Would You Think It Odd?

Would you think it odd if Hafiz said,
"I am in love with every church
And mosque
And temple
And any kind of shrine

Because I know it is there
That people say the different names
Of the One God."

Would you tell your friends
I was a bit strange if I admitted

I am indeed in love with every mind
And heart and body.

O I am sincerely
Plumb crazy
About your every thought and yearning
And limb

Because, my dear,
I know
That it is through these

That you search for Him.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Opportunity Nation

What do Fareed Zakaria, Suze Orman, Philicia Rashad and Serena Williams have in common? I saw all four of them within the past day and am pleased to report that they are alive and well. I was completely star struck my Fareed Zakaria because I have been reading articles and journals authored by him for over 5 years and aspire to be as influential and intelligent as he is.

In the past two days I have networked and met some incredible and influential students and professionals from around the country who are actively engaged in providing American youth with opportunities. The face of America is much different than it once was. America used to be a place in which its citizens had confidence that the next generation would be able to prosper if they engaged themselves . Today, it is actually the opposite. It's unsettling to hear my fears of the decline of this great nation are indeed a reality. At the same time, it is empowering to know that honest people are doing their best to make a difference to combat this process and prepare the next generation to succeed tomorrow. I will share my notes from today's lectures and panels tomorrow. For now, I have to go to bed. Tomorrow is a big day!

What I Failed to Convey

Well, I did it yet again! I overheard someone applauding the United States' valiant efforts in Iraq and dashed their hopes with my skepticism. Unfortunately, my passion swallowed my words in the moment and I was unable to adequately convey the beaming evidence that we have not helped Iraq by occupying it or submitting its people to debilitating humiliation in the past 8 years.

A gentleman from the group stated that my response was contradictory to hard evidence that showed that the Iraqi GDP has grown since our invasion in 2003, thus we must be doing something good for the people, right? He said that the economy must be doing better, ergo the people are doing better. I looked at him skeptically and stated "Since when has the GDP of a nation depicted the actual condition of its general population?" That's a good rhetorical response, right? It's obvious that the US GDP growth rates are a pitiful depiction of my well being or that of my fellow Americans.

GDP statistics offer a very vague and often nonexistent depiction of disparity between the wealthy and the poor, unemployment rates, the average national income, much less indicators that depict "well being." What is "well being?" It's a combination of physical security, autonomy, self determination, access to infrastructure, economic mobility, health, access to education, and many other freedoms that we take for granted every day. This actually reminds me of Amartya Sen and his book "Freedom As Development." He gives a fantastic explanation of many dynamics of development that are often not taken into consideration.

As my fire burned within me, I thought of my dear friend and her family and their plight for the right to live in dignity. As their faces raced through my head, I couldn't help but think of their beautiful nation that has been raped of many of its national treasures and historical beauties. The fact that Iraq's GDP has increased since the days of Saddam Hussein are no surprise to me because Iraq was placed under strict sanctions by the United Nations after the Gulf War. Iraq was a very successful country during the 1960 and 1970s. It was a jewel of the Middle East due to it's cultural significance as well as it's thriving economy. This all became a legend of the past during the Iran-Iraq War which devastated the country's economy and killed a sizable portion of Iraqi men. Iraq never really recovered from that war because Saddam invaded Kuwait which led to the Gulf War. Isolation in the form of sanctions limited Iraq's ability to participate on the global market and as a result stagnated economically.

Just because Iraq is able to participate on the global market again, does not mean that the corruption of the new government is not absorbing the revenues. This does not indicate that the Iraqi people are healing. The young man asked me what my response was to polls that indicated that the majority of Iraqis wanted the US military to stay in Iraq, I simply stated that cannot be the reality of the people. Who was polled and which regions were polled? Were the "safe" areas and people polled or was it a fair poll that actually represented the views of the general populous? Who sponsored the poll? Were Iraqi refugees outside of Iraq taken into consideration, as their views might be drastically divergent from those of Iraqis within the country. Because I do not know what sampling methodologies were used for his claims, I fail to see the validity in his claims in behalf of the people.

The wealthy as well as much of the middle class left Iraq. With this exodus, Iraq was drained of many of its financial investors as well as tremendous human capital. The brain drain has had a devastating effect. The occupation, corruption of new political leaders and Iran have electrified Iraq with desperation and fundamentalism. Would you return to raise your children in a country with no jobs, no security and no hope for the future? If you are not insane enough to subject your life to such instability, why would you expect Iraqis to do so?

Iraq is no longer bleeding. Its situation can be likened unto a gaping wound that has been inappropriately dressed and left to gangrene. The stench of the fruits of occupation and mismanagement are like bacteria that has overwhelmed the country to irreparable state. In order to save the life of Iraq, the United States' presence in Iraq must be severed. Yes, this will be painful, but just as we had to leave Vietnam, we too must remove ourselves from Iraq.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Enamored with....

There are many nouns that would adequately finish that acclamation. For today, I'll focus on my taxi, Harlem, and soul food. My plane ride to New York was uneventful. After reluctantly tearing myself out of my covers this morning at the ungodly hour of 5:30am, I rushed around my tiny apartment gathering odds and ends to prepare for my trip. I had convinced myself that it wasn't that critical to get up sooner because traffic would be a breeze, no one would be at the airport that early and SLC airport is tiny. However, I did forget one tiny detail that made me panic like crazy on my trip to the airport. As a side note, it is INCREDIBLY difficult for a woman to pack a carry-on considering the liquid constraints and no accompanying luggage. At first I was stressing and fretting over it and then I remembered that SLC airport is a joke when it comes to regulations.

On my way to the airport, I stopped for gas and THEN realized what time it was. Oops! I started muttering things to myself as I listened to Tamer Hosni and tried to make it to the airport as quickly as possible. I was determined to make time AND wean myself from my lovely gps. As I arrived I remembered that I had to park and shuttle it in. Oh no! I was so worried that this would take for ever and arrived at the security to my terminal an hour and fifteen minutes before my flight departed. DUMB idea!

My heart was racing and I was starting to panic until I craned my neck to get a glance at the flight departure time of the girls' in front of me in the security line. Their flight left 15 minutes prior to mine. After that, I took a sigh of relief and tried to calm my anxiety until I arrived at my gate. After flying through security, I briskly walked to my gate and actually waited for 20 minutes before my plane boarded and then waited an additional 25 minutes on the plane before departure.

I had a mini victory when the woman who was supposed to sit next to me asked me to surrender my isle seat for the middle seat and I smiled and kindly declined. I assured her that I wanted my seat and almost didn't feel bad because I knew that she too wanted the seat. Despite two hours of turbulence during the flight, I slept for much of the trip. The night before I made a grocery store run at 12:00AM and was quite exhausted.

Upon arriving at JFK, I walked to the exit and got in line for a taxi. I have never had a taxi in the United States in part because they are ridiculously expensive and also due to my rural upbringing. I got a jeep cab and sat in it just as though I were in Jordan. I maintained similar etiquette as a passenger and tried not to make too much conversation or eye contact with my driver. From my observations and assumptions, I think he was Pakistani or a light Indian. He had a slight British accent, which I would assume is from his English aquisition origins. From his appearance, I also made the inference that he was Muslim because he wore conservative Islamic looking clothes, and medium length beard. Also, when a Sikh driver crossed our path, he wasn't particularly warm to him.

Since my first exposure to NYC as an adult was through the subway system, I was entranced by the beauty of the bridges that we crossed. I think we crossed over the Hudson River. As we passed the houses, I was intrigued by their awkward shapes. They seemed to be sucking in their walls in attempts to maintain their distance from the other houses. Some of the houses reminded me of Germany, while others just made me smile to be back in NYC.

When I arrived at my hotel, I registered with Opportunity Nation and received my key to my room. It is a DREAM! I have a king size bed of which I occupy about 1/4, a large plasma screen TV, and other basic room amenities. The whole hotel is smart and edgy and one night stay is equivalent to a low end of $290. After jumping into my beautiful bed to soak in a small portion of my enjoyment, I set off to walk the streets and find somewhere to eat dinner.

As I wondered, I immediately came across a falafel stand. Although I wanted to order something from the stand, I knew I wouldn't get a receipt for a reimbursement and I knew that I should try something different. As I scanned the signs, my eyes were caught by "Soul Food." earlier this year, I went on a date with a young man who said that his favorite food was soul food. I had never heard of that before and showed my ignorance by asking him if he was pulling my leg. No, he wasn't! Soul food is another name for Southern food that is renowned for it's delicious flavor and grease.

As I peered into the restaurant, I wondered what kind of an adventure I was about to embark on. I followed behind a woman and watched her as she pulled a plastic container off of the top of the glass shelves above the buffet of hot dishes. I followed suit and pulled down a plastic container for myself and quickly realized that the names were insufficient to explain whether or not there were pork products in the food. I asked a young man for some clarification and received a quick list of all of the do's and do not's of halal soul food. It was impressive to me how helpful and understanding he was and it made me smile that New Yorkers had the exposure necessary to understand and respect people from different backgrounds and beliefs.

While talking to a friend the other week, he indirectly challenged me to be open minded and try new foods because it is a form of embracing and learning something valuable and beautiful about another culture. It was my intention to embrace as much African American culture as I possibly could! As I almost blindly piled food that looked appetizing onto my plate, the young man who helped me before approached me and said "Just in case you wanted to know, that big brown thing on your plate is a crab cake." I looked at him gratefully and realized just how out of place I must have looked in this small establishment. I was truly a sight and some watched me intently with amusement. Some of the foods that I tried include: collard greens, crab cake, crab salad, a delicious orange rice with beef, deep fried bananas and a vegetable and noodle dish that was sensational! I considered going home to my hotel room, but decided that I would benefit more by soaking in the environment and enjoying a little piece of New York.

My little spot was near a window with a poor view of the neighboring building's wall and a small patch of cracked cement. I quickly lost interest and instead watched the people in the restaurant. Sociology is truly influencing the way that I view human interactions and environments. The local news was on and several others were enjoying their meals in the room. The ceiling was painted like the heavens with clouds and a bright blue sky. I wonder why. When I ate as much as I could pack in my stomach, I reorganized my containers and thanked the clerk at the front desk as I left. My stomach smiled from within. I can fully attest that Soul food is INCREDIBLE!

When I got back to my apartment, I prepared for the Opportunity Nation night at the Apollo theater. Little did I know that some people actually have this theater on their bucket lists. I had never heard of it before and there I was, privileged enough to attend an event at it. It was first established in 1914 and has played an important role in the history of Harlem. Philicia Rashad opened the night. When she walked on stage, I recognized her face, but had no idea who she was. Just in case you are as lost as I was, she was on the Cosby Show. The crowd roared with cheers and the young women in front of me were clearly star struck. Rashad is clearly a woman of respect and grace. She spoke of the importance of education and promoted the arts and creativity. She stated that opportunity begins with a thought. Innovation begins with an idea that is expanded and developed until it becomes a reality. Thank you, Philicia Rashad for telling me to think big and pursue my intuition.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dare to Bare in Jordan?

I was excited to finally come across an article written by a young woman that I had met over the summer, but was disappointed that I fundamentally disagree with her argument 'dare to bare.'


This is a terrible idea, ladies! TERRIBLE idea... Not only is the fashion utterly revolting, but her disregard for cultural and Islamic norms is unwise and unsafe for expats that lack the safety and security of private transportation and secluded housing.