What a Wonderful World this Could Be

_IMG_2603 my photo w guide imamSaturday was an absolutely beautiful day in Barcelona. First I went to the opening ceremony for the Nit de Les Religions (Night of Religions), an event sponsored by Audir (a Unesco Association for Interreligious Dialogue).  The Night of the Religions began five years ago in Berlin, Germany and this was just the second year it’s been held in Barcelona.  It’s a night when religious communities across the city – THIRTY THREE of them this year – open their doors for anyone to come and learn about the religion and its customs and traditions.  Last year I stayed at my synagogue to be able to help prepare (mostly the delicious foods) and welcome people.  I was happily surprised and overwhelmed that we had a full-house of interested people with a handful even having to stand.  So this year, I decided to venture out and take advantage of the opportunity to get to know about another religion.

But before the night could begin, first I joined about 30 people from both Audir and the BCN World Music Project after they performed at the opening ceremony (they are based here with singers and musicians from Barcelona and other parts of Spain, India, Iran and more) for a long, enjoyable lunch. I felt so privileged to get to know some of these amazing people before I had to zip off to make it in time to get to know one of the communities that evening.

img_2608.jpgI arrived at the Catalan Islamic Cultural Center of Barcelona and had no idea what to expect. Here I am a Jewish girl that feels deeply committed to the initiative I joined not too long ago, Salam Shalom Barcelona. I have come to believe that if Jews and Muslims (and anyone from any other religion, cultural background or race) can just get to know each other on a personal level, then we can work together and build bridges to make this world a better place. Easy enough.

IMG_2574 looks like MUDEJAR STYLEWell, you have to start somewhere so why not at the center’s entrance where there is a relaxing, babbling fountain in the middle with tables full of books and materials lining both sides of the walls.

To begin, four confident smiley young women took a group of about twenty or thirty of us on a tour of their center. They were patient and kind and willing to answer any questions. And they all wore hijabs (a head covering) – some with dresses and some with jeans.

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We went upstairs and saw their library, a long and narrow room, with small desks pushed up against every other bookshelf.  We saw a small classroom with about ten older desks in traditional rows that look just like what you might find in a Sunday school for Jewish children to learn Hebrew. Here the children learn Arabic and, if necessary, Catalan or Spanish.

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Back downstairs we removed our shoes before heading to the basement, the big prayer area that was entirely covered in a light blue plush carpet.  Some of our tour guides were left barefoot and others in socks. While they moved the dividers to the side they explained that the women pray on one side and the men on the other, and each gender has their own entry to the room.IMG_2591 guidesWhen I asked one of the women if they were from Barcelona, she said all four of them were, except that she had come to Barcelona when she was three years old. She explained that the majority of the members’ origins were from Morocco.

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And I could easily see the Moorish (characteristic of Muslims from Northern Africa) architecture style, which immediately took me back to the south of Spain, to The Alhambra in Granada. Similarly, in this prayer room, brightly decorated geometrical tiles cover the pillars spread throughout the room. There are arches throughout the room and the ceiling has etchings with the 99 names of God in Islam.

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Dad at The Alhambra 2016

 

 

In the entry to the center and in the prayer room, I also recognized the Mudejar style architecture (medieval Iberian architecture and decoration, strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship) that is especially prominent in the synagogue in Córdoba – as I saw with mom and dad on our trip there last winter.

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At the synagogue in Córdoba, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2584 where imam stands

 

 

 

In the prayer room we saw where the imam (the prayer leader of a mosque) kneels to lead prayers, under the black and white arch and to the right, where he stands from while giving his speeches/sermons.

 

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And finally, the impossibly complex looking clock system that keeps track of the five times a day prayer times that change depending on the condition of the sun (a very complex mathematical process – at least it looks that way to me) and geography.  Of course in this modern day and age the young women let us know that there are also plenty of apps to keep track of those times.

 

 

 


From there, we returned upstairs, slipped back into our shoes and sat down for a presentation with their exceptionally personable imam.

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He gave a short presentation in Arabic; with one of the young women translating to Spanish. He began by explaining that Islam means love and peace. The Koran says we come from Adam and Eve and therefore we’re all brothers and sisters. He recalled meeting with leaders from the Jewish and Christian faiths and that they have talked about working together to help each other and the general community. They played a video and showed how this center works to collect items for the homeless and then goes out to distribute them.  They talked about the blood drives in which they have participated. And I found myself wishing that my own community would aspire to do these types of events together.

After, the imam answered questions extremely patiently. The first two had to do with the attack in Barcelona and what responsibility the Islamic community has. If I were in his position and had people wanting me to answer for those barbaric excuses for “human beings,” I would have just wanted to yell and shout that obviously they have nothing to do with my religion. But this beautiful man wasn’t flustered at all; I’m sure he was expecting these questions, but his answers didn’t sound rehearsed. He did say though that he had addressed the horrific event in his speech to his congregation on the Friday right after the attack (which was the next day) and that it is on Youtube. He said that the men who carried out the attacks have nothing to do with Islam. He said adamantly that taking a life is obviously the worst possible crime that someone can commit. And then after a few other questions that made me squirm uncomfortably in my seat, a little boy raised his hand and asked why Muslims can’t eat pork; the imam quietly chuckled, smiled and sweetly explained something about the urine that stays in a pig’s body even after urinating. Basically, I wouldn’t be surprised if that kid is now keeping Halal.  

I felt so comfortable and welcome from the moment I walked in the door. After the presentation, I went up to introduce myself and said that I come from one of the Jewish communities.  I wished them a happy new year – the Muslim New Year is this week, just as is the Jewish New Year. And Salam Shalom Barcelona will hold its first official event in October to celebrate them together.

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To finish, I joined the others for a traditional sweet Moroccan mint tea, served in a gold plated small glass. And then we each received a book with questions and answers about Islam called, “Somos Musulmanes” (We Are Muslims) with the words at the top “Por el AMOR, el RESPETO, la FRATERNIDAD, la TOLERANCIA, la PAZ, y la JUSTICIA” (For Love, Respect, Solidarity, Tolerance, Peace and Justice).

You may say I’m a dreamer and I know I am.  And I dream about what a wonderful, beautiful world we could live in if the “Night of the Religions” went global.  

Audir has shown us the way here in Barcelona, has organized an amazing evening two years in a row, but you don’t have to wait for an organization to make it happen where you live  Go across the street or the hall in your building.  Introduce yourself to your neighbor.  Bring them some traditional food at the next holiday.  Hey fellow Jews – bring some apples and honey across the street or down the hall this week and strike up a conversation. (We should probably stay away from sharing gefilte fish just yet . . . we are trying to make friends.)  Don’t be afraid to talk about your experiences and invite them to share theirs.  Ask them to tell you about their religion or maybe just about the customs or traditions or maybe just the food – everybody loves food.  Maybe ask them if they can show you their house of worship.  And then, in turn, maybe they’ll reciprocate and ask you some questions.  You’ll never know unless you try.

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We Will Not Be Divided

salam shalom - rachelAt one my first meetings with the group Salam Shalom Barcelona (see description at end of entry), one of the organizers asked us to get into groups with about two Jewish members and two Muslims members and a member from another religion.  Well, we all sat fidgeting in our chairs, until someone finally said that we didn’t know who was Muslim and who was Jewish.  Out of the twenty or so in attendance, there were two women wearing hijabs (head coverings) and two men wearing kippot (yarmulkes, skullcaps). Otherwise, there was no way to really tell who was Muslim or Jewish.

Last night in Barcelona, dozens of Muslim groups came together to host an event, “Muslims Against Terrorism,” to show solidarity after last Thursday’s horrific attack. Muslims have been facing harsh criticism for their lack of response in the wake of the tragedy – although this criticism is completely false – they had denounced the assault immediately and continue to do so. The event was open to anyone who wanted to join in. The principal messages being: “We are not afraid;” “We do not hate;” and “We are Barcelona.”  

Women’s March Barcelona and Salam Shalom Barcelona salam-shalom-bcn.jpgwere just two of the hundreds of groups standing in support with their Muslim brothers and sisters.  In addition to the other messages, as people marched from Plaza Catalunya down Las Ramblas, you could hear people chanting “Not in my name;” “I’m a Muslim, not a terrorist;” “I am Barcelona;” and “We are Barcelona.”

On the way to the event, my taxi driver spent the whole time questioning why he hadn’t seen any men among the photos and videos of Muslims protesting the terrorist act. First of all I wondered, who is he to criticize how people respond to a terrorist attack; and second, why does this man deserve an explanation at all. Then, I did my best to lay out the situation as I understand it. I asked the driver how he even knew that he hasn’t seen photos of Muslim men at the protests and gatherings.  I explained that not all Muslims dress in the traditional clothing that people may assume they must all wear.  Most of the Muslim men I saw last night, and often at other gatherings, wear modern clothes – like buttoned down collared shirts and trousers. Oftentimes they can easily be mistaken for Israelis, they look so much alike. When I reached the Salam Shalom group last night, I recognized one of the women and two of the men, but I honestly couldn’t remember which were Jewish or Muslim. So no, Mr. Taxi Driver, and all the other critics out there, it’s not as simple as just judging a book by its cover – but I thought we were supposed to have covered that lesson back in elementary school.  While it’s an elementary lesson, it’s clearly one that must be revisited over and over and over.  

While there were some men in traditional garb and women wearing hijabs last night, it was often only clear who was Muslim because of the sign they were carrying – it said in Spanish or Catalan, “I am Muslim.  I am not a terrorist.” But again, anyone could have carried one of those as a sign of solidarity.

Soy musulman y no soy terrorista - I'm a muslim and I'm not a terrorist

SOY MUSULMAN Y NO SOY TERRORISTA – I’m a Muslim and I’m not a terrorist. Photo: Anrike Piel

If I would ever feel the need to carry a sign that read “I am Jewish.  I am not a terrorist,” I am sure I would react as the mother and daughter did, standing right next to me, silently crying their hearts out while wiping away tears. If an attack were to happen, caused by about 15 people who did so in the name of my religion, 21015903_1669312439745542_6237847164325617590_oand I then had to face constant questions and criticism, answer calls and have television cameras in my face, all demanding answers on behalf of my entire religion, I might just decide to stay home, cower in a corner, and feel completely helpless and overwhelmed by the situation.  But these brave men, women and children, who happen to be Muslim, took to the streets and defended their right to be who they are and to remind people that those terrorists do not represent them.  

The taxi driver went on to say that these people can dress however they want in their country – and I asked, and if they are from here? He stammered something of a response that I didn’t quite hear. The first speaker last night spoke quickly and perfectly in Catalan. The next speaker the same, but in Spanish. This is their home. Some young Muslim men who I met last night have lived here for 19 and 16 years respectively, being younger than I am, that is more than their entire adult lives.

So what is it?  Why do I feel that it is only right to stand up for other minorities, including Muslims?  I lend whatever bit of support I can to the Muslim community because I can only too easily identify with them. Not so long ago, and still today, Jews have been scapegoats for everything bad and wrong in society. You still see white supremacists spewing hateful rhetoric and spreading fear that Jews will take over.

 

As Elie Wiesel said, “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.” And so I could have just told the taxi driver where I was going but not why.  I could have enjoyed ten minutes of silence. Or I could use those ten minutes as I tried to – to engage in a polite conversation. While I know it won’t change his mind, maybe just possibly it will get him thinking. And that is what led me to Plaza Catalunya last night.  I can’t in good conscience turn a blind eye to my innocent Muslim brothers and sisters when they are under attack.  “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”

Hate is what festers terrorism. Hate is what perpetuates terrorism.

Enough hate.  

Enough criticism.  

Enough blame.

It’s time to come together.  

It’s time to say and to truly believe that we are one people.

Love must win. 


 

 

SALAM SHALOM BARCELONA exists to face the problems of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racial and religious discrimination in general and to build solidarity, inclusiveness and openness between Islam and Judaism.  We believe deeply in intercultural dialogue and in a peaceful and constructive coexistence.

 

 

Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)

The first day of my sixth year of working at an English summer camp in the Pyrenees was, well, memorable to say the least. 

It started off normally enough with the “good mornings” and handshakes with the parents as they dropped of their children. One father almost broke my hand and I couldn’t help myself from commenting on what a strong handshake he had. But I shouldn’t waste time on what could have been a measly few broken bones when there are blood and guts to get to. 

On the way to dinner the children go in small groups and follow a teacher down the stairs that lead straight to the pool, but for as long as this camp has been running (since the 80s) kids have turned left to enter the dining room. 

I was upstairs on crowd control when apparently one happy go lucky boy didn’t turn left and didn’t see the glass door separating the bottom of the stairs from the pool area … and walked right into it, shattering the glass in the doorframe and taking the brunt of the impact with his knee. I so wish the waitress hadn’t felt the need to later share with me what his skin looked like, flapping in the wind. 

Well that seemed bad enough for Day 1 … but then I offered to trade my duty with another teacher so he could watch some important football match with the older kids and I’d help put the younger ones to bed. 

I brought down the box of games for the kids who weren’t interested in watching the match. As I set the box down and pulled out Jenga, Connect 4 and others, kids took them back to their tables.

Suddenly, it seemed like the world stood still for the next three minutes – as one kid with shaggy blond hair stood in the middle of the game area, in the back of the room, legs spread apart and mouth wide open with vomit shooting out as if surging from a fire hose. It wouldn’t stop. I knew I had to act the teacher, the model, pretend there was nothing to see, but it was like a train wreck – only worse. 

I went to the front desk to ask for someone from housekeeping, but horrifyingly found out that no one’s on at 10 pm. So instead he sent me to the dining area to get a mop. 

All I’m thinking, while wanting to burst into tears at my doomed fate is, “I’m supposed to be upstairs with the minis, I was just dropping off the games!” 

The dining area staff found my storytelling very entertaining (which I was obviously thrilled about – comedy first) but all they offered me was a small garbage bag and some plastic gloves – not the hazmat suit and gas mask I had requested. 

When I got back to the TV room, I saw that an angel was just finishing cleaning up the crime scene. It was Angel, the front desk clerk who stepped up and became my new personal hero, saving the day and me from having to clean the “charco de vomito” (pond of vomit), as I later heard him describe it. 

Day 1 done … hopefully just 13 luckier ones to go. 

Salam Shalom Peace

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On Saturday night I exited the metro station at Plaza Catalunya and was a bit taken aback as I immediately noticed the greatest police presence I’ve seen in my six years in Barcelona.  With all of the recent attacks in European cities, the police are out in full force in Barcelona’s most touristic areas. 

I quickly made my way down and away from the swarming crowds on Las Ramblas, before cutting off to the right towards the Raval area.  I met my friend outside of the Macba (Museum of Contemporary Art), where the hipsters continuously circle around and zip back and forth on their skateboards so close to the people making their way through the plaza you can feel your hair stand on end.

The iftar was to start at 9 pm and my friend (not a Muslim or a Jew and not that it matters) and I sat to the side, watching some people set up very long tables with plastic white lawn chairs.  A stage was set up with microphones waiting for their singers.  Iftar, often done as a community, is the evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. Incredibly they fast every single day for a month from sunrise to sunset. Not even a sip of water during those hours.

And the skateboarders kept at it, but at a distance from the tables that were surrounded by the recognizable Barcelona neighborhood festival metal barricades. And not a single police officer in site – which oddly seemed comforting.

We sat there while the tables started to fill up and met another friend (also not a Muslim or a Jew and again, not that it matters) who had told me about the event.   We moved closer to the barricades and to the people already seated and starting to break their fast.  

Right away people started waving us over, encouraging and inviting us in to sit and join them.  I hadn’t eaten in maybe an hour and was already hungry again – the Muslims seated at the tables had been fasting since sunrise, it was still about 90º outside, and yet they had the energy to jump up and look for three seats for us.

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The three of us sat on one side of the table across from two middle-aged women, both from Morocco.  This iftar was hosted by an organization of Moroccan Immigrants to Catalonia.  They described the food that was placed before us: the harira (hot soup with lentils, tomatoes and full of spices), the hard boiled egg and the sweets – halwa chebakia (a sesame cookie folded into a flower shape, fried and coated with honey) and dates.

 

 

 

 

The woman on the right was pale white, with short wavy hair.  She’s lived in Barcelona for 26 years, alone, she has family in Belgium. She was dressed in modern clothes and pants, wearing a hat with a small NY logo pin. Next to her sat her friend, with much dark skin, a constant smile, wearing a gorgeous silver tunic and a matching silver headscarf.

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Once the music began, it took time for me to find it alluring, but in the end it was looking around at the smiling, beaming faces and clapping hands of a shared experience out in the open that felt so right. Days later I still smile thinking about it, just in time to attend my next iftar this evening.

When the three of us got up to leave, I noticed that all of the hipsters and everyone else who would normally be zipping around on skateboards, bikes and scooters were just sitting on the side, listening to the four men singing on stage. They were quiet, respectful, observant.

While envoys are sent to the Middle East to try to broker peace between Muslims and Jews – maybe this is way too naive, but maybe a little hopeful, that this is how peace begins: sit down and share a meal with your neighbor. You don’t have to talk about your own story at all.  Just listen.  Ask questions and listen.  And then, when it’s your turn to host, invite your neighbors and hope that they will be interested to hear your story too.  Little by little, step-by-step, maybe you can come to realize how much you have in common and find a mutual respect and maybe more.

The Group of Four and The Phenomenon They Set in Motion Around the World

f-wannacrime-a-20170515-870x580What is that phenomenon called when you talk about something that you’ve never heard of or seen before or at least haven’t heard or seen in a long time and then within 24-hours, boom, it’s there, it’s everywhere? Apparently, it’s the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Well, just 2 weeks ago a new student joined the English class I have at a company.  She works in the IT security department.  Talking to her reminded me of one of my all-time favorite podcasts that I had already listened to twice.  The second time I remember stifling laughs with my mom on a tour bus as we shared my earphones; I had the left one and my mom had the right one, while on a day trip from Málaga back in January of last year.  The podcast is from PRI’s Radiolab and the episode is “Darkcode.”  It’s 40 minutes of some of the most entertaining storytelling I’ve ever heard.  The way the Russian American mother sing songs the account of her travails while her American born daughter interjects is a beautiful symphony of a horribly frustrating story.

And so I decided to use the podcast last Monday for a lesson on internet security and for the students to practice their listening skills.  Also, the IT student could comment on the story and give us her take on it.  We listened to what happens when ordinary people have their computers hacked and how the Russian American woman’s husband’s computer screen was frozen when a cross bones and skull appeared with a message demanding a ransom be paid in Bitcoins.

And what happened since last Monday’s class . . . around the world, computer systems came to a halt.  Germany’s national railway, like hundreds of thousands of companies like FedEx were held hostage by the ransomware Wannacry, and even the National Health System of Britain was affected.

So this week my students and I glanced around the room, noticing the camera at the front of the room and thinking that if there were other hidden cameras or microphones, maybe we should think carefully about what to talk about, just in case we had the power to set off another crazy phenomenon . . . again.  

The Master Plan

On Thursday, with my 14-year-old student, we spent her 45-minute class plotting how she would prank her mom and sister relentlessly on Saturday, April 1, April Fool’s Day.  As a side note April 1 is just a normal day here – the closes there is to April Fool’s Day is actually on December 28, El Día de los Inocentes (The Day of the Inocentes – or Santos Inocentes.  On that day the traditions vary but in the city of Barcelona most people I’ve asked haven’t even been certain of the date, wavering somewhere around the 28th, so it doesn’t seem to be too celebrated here.)

I wasn’t sure how she would go for this lesson; being a teenager you never know how she’s going to react. While making a face like she just sucked on a lemon, she often says, “I don’t like, I don’t like.”  If just once she remembered to include “it” I don’t think I’d be as bothered by those negative reactions.

Meanwhile her 12-year-old sister is a complete contrast, bubbling with excitement over any activity that I suggest. A couple of weeks ago we watched some videos of my nieces and nephews talking about their daily routines. In Isaac’s video he mentioned that his favorite dinners are pizza and mac & cheese.

Mac & cheese isn’t something that people eat in Spain but they do sell the Kraft delight at the small American specialty grocery store. So I picked up a box of it and last week the 12-year-old and I prepared it (she has her lesson first since she gets home a half hour earlier from school at 5:30 PM and her sister gets home at 6:00).

We started by making a list of the materials and the ingredients she would need and she drew pictures too, like a saucepan and a spoon. Once that neon yellow powdered goodness had smothered those elbow noodles just right, it was time to dig in. I tried to keep my expectations low since this is not something eat here, but the 12-year-old ecstatically gobbled it up as if she hadn’t eaten in days. We brought a small sample of it to her sister’s room. And I’m pretty sure before the first noodle touched her lips, she had already uttered “I don’t like, I don’t like.”

But back to yesterday and my overwhelming surprise and delight to not immediately hear those dreaded words from the teenager… but instead we shared devious smiles as we leaned in, lowered our voices and got to work on “The Master Plan” for April Fool’s Day.  I had pulled together a ton of ideas from multiple websites and I wrote down the ones she was most interested in doing to her mom and sister.

She learned new words and expressions like:

  • 2017 apr 1 IMG_0221“freeze” – Freeze the cup with the toothbrush in it with a little water at the bottom of the cup.  In the morning take it out of the freezer and put it back just before your sister tries to brush her teeth.
  • “switch” – Switch the bags of cereal to different cereal boxes and see how long it takes them to notice.
  • “frying pans” – Move things around in the kitchen.  Put the frying pans in the fridge and cups where the bowls normally go, etc.
  • “upside down” – Tu
    rn picture frames, figures, calendars, etc. in living room upside down.
  • “backwards” – Put your clothes on backwards and act completely normal.

And there was one that she just couldn’t wait to do – so she distracted her mom, got a hold of her iPhone, brought it back to the table and we switched the language to English.  Her mom speaks English pretty well so it wouldn’t be too big of a deal but I’m pretty sure my student was planning on trying to play it cool, and act as if she had no idea how it was changed from Spanish.

At the end of class we folded up the paper and she snuck it back to her room.  I told her to take pictures and videos of her mom and sister’s reactions.

I can’t wait for our next class. And I still can’t believe I get paid for this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sweetest

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In January, I started teaching the 5 year old younger sister of a current student.  Last week we were practicing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and playing memory with body parts when all of a sudden she slithered from her chair to mine, sat on my lap, kissed my forehead and crept back on over to her chair and continued to search for a match.

The excitement she exudes when she finds a match is only comparable to how I felt when the Cubs won the World Series.  She claps her hands together and pumps her arm as she says, in English, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”  

Come Together, Right Now

#WomensMarchBCN #WomensMarch

Women’s March Barcelona – Saturday, January 21, 2017

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Day of Reflection

In Spain, the day before an election is known as “The Day of Reflection.” There are no political ads or campaigning on that day and it was put in place to give voters time to think about their vote.

Time is one thing that Americans voters do not lack, as the election process seems to go on for an eternity. What does seem to be missing is reflection. I wish more people would take the time to reflect on the country that they want to live in and the country that they want for future generations. But the consequences go far beyond America’s borders. I can’t go a day without someone here in Barcelona talking to me about the election. People from around the world are worried about what the outcome will be. They have told me that they consider the President of the United States to be their president too, to be the President of the World. An Australian friend told me how nervous she was and many Spanish friends, when referring to Trump, ask what the heck is going on in the U.S. and how he’s gone so far. A friend from Uzbekistan sent me an optimistic message this morning saying, “Two more days til happiness.” God I hope she’s right.

The messages that Obama lauded of “hope” and possibility, “yes, we can,” seem to have dissipated among all the gridlock up the hill. I have been so disgusted by the hateful messages that Trump has spewed. But less than a week ago I had a burst of optimism at the moment the Cubs won the World Series. It made me hope; it made me think that anything is possible, that good can prevail, that happy endings do exist. I don’t want that feeling to end, but I’m too nervous about the outcome of this election. I just can’t help wondering, if the Cubs could bring more than five million fans together to celebrate, why can’t that brotherly love carry over to the polling places? Why can’t we see what we have in common even when we aren’t all dressed in Cubbie blue?

During this week’s Saturday Night Live intro, Trump (played brilliantly by Alec Baldwin) was surprised to find that his Twitter account was not actually private and that in spite of that he was still somehow in the race. Trump supporters praise him for speaking his mind and telling it like it is but I can’t imagine that if any “regular” person expressed the same views publicly, via Twitter, or to a fellow douchebag on a bus, they wouldn’t be fired from their job and have a hard time getting another.

Time and time again we hear of another group that Trump has called out and offended. His supporters defend him. It breaks my heart and makes me sick to my stomach when I hear his and his supporters’ hateful rhetoric. It feels like no one’s ever heard of “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.” We share each other’s struggles. So many of our families came to America fleeing persecution elsewhere. Everyone is just trying to make it in the world and do the best they can. They want to provide a better life for their kids. Why do we lose sight of that? I just saw someone on a friend’s Facebook page refer to “god damn refugees.”  I don’t even know how to process that.  I’ve heard stories of people who have been rude to and sometimes even violent towards others because they weren’t speaking in English. People seem so far removed from reality – like the fact that their families were almost certainly not originally from America. So what did their relatives speak when they first arrived here? And in a country where people hold “freedom of speech” so dear, does that only mean if the “speech” is in English?

Trump wants to “make America great again.” I honestly can’t figure out when he’s referring to. The slogan was originally Reagan’s and referred specifically to the economy. Trump’s seems use the slogan with quite different implications. While I am well aware of the rights that I am privileged to have as a U.S. citizen, I can’t help but wonder, when exactly was America great? Before you can talk about making America great “again,” you must also acknowledge the skeletons in the closet – the slaughtering of Native Americans, slavery, Japanese internment, and throughout time unequal treatment of and violence towards citizens based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability. And not accepting Syrian refugees because of completely unfounded fears that they might be terrorists harks back to when Jewish refugees were turned away for fear that they were Nazi spies. It was anti-Semitism then and it’s Islamophobia now. “If history is forgotten it is doomed to repeat itself.” Was that only a quote that we were taught in school or, by avoiding all the uncomfortable parts of history are we seeing the doom happening again before our eyes right now? “Make America Great” is a worthy slogan, but “Make America Great Again,” – I don’t buy it.

And so tomorrow, finally, is the day we find out what kind of country Americans want to live in – as Kate McKinnon put it so well at the end of this week’s SNL intro. While McKinnon portrayed Hillary Clinton she asked if the whole world had gone crazy. While it’s not the whole world – even though it seems like it with Brexit having passed and a president having been elected in the Philippines who encourages citizens to kill drug dealers – it seems like half of the U.S. has either lost their moral bearings or has decided that they will vote in spite of them. Even the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, was seemingly so disturbed by his own vote that would toe the party line that he couldn’t use Trump’s name when he said he had voted for “our nominee.”

I am not a religious person. But in the slight chance that there is a god out there, I pray that Wednesday morning I wake to a world in which Americans have chosen for love to trump hate.

The New Reality 

img_2482I had never been so happy to have felt as crappy as I did last Thursday. I was dragging my tired body around to my classes. Doing my best to stifle the incessant yawns.  I felt like I had a bowling ball for a head, my eyes were stinging, my throat hurt and I was a little nauseous. But I was walking on air all day, and actually still am, with “Go Cubs Go” playing in my head all day … I’ve got Cubs Fever.

After staying awake and waking in the middle of the night in Barcelona to watch the Chicago Cubs play their hearts out for the past month of the postseason, I couldn’t wait for a good night’s sleep. But even though the games have ended, I still haven’t gotten to bed early; too many awesome stories to read and videos to watch that make me buzz with happiness. 

This buzzing all day is all about baseball and not about baseball at all. It’s the feeling that anything is possible. If the Chicago Cubs can win a World Series then what else is possible?

After being skeptical and cynical and guarded year after year this opens up a whole new world of possibilities. 

I can’t believe my nieces and nephews and children all over Chicago are going to grow up rooting for the World Champion Chicago Cubs, thinking that that’s normal.   Apparently it’s the new-normal.  Our stories of being disappointed and let down year after year will hopefully become folklore like those stories our parents and grandparents told us about walking miles to school through the snow. 

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