Monday, January 30, 2017

Beyond Gratitude

A recent headline states "Forty-one years ago, the US took a big gamble on Vietnamese refugees."

This gratitude narrative makes me ill.

Accepting refugees is this country's responsibility.

I likely would not exist if my parents had not come to the US-- AND US foreign policy caused them to be refugees.

Highlighting economic successes achieved by refugees in this country is a distraction from the broad impact of US imperialism and its war economy.  It feeds into the colorism and anti-blackness that we must actively work against. The model minority myth is used to pit Asians against black and brown communities when what we need is solidarity.

People survive as best they can according to what white supremacy and colonization have allowed them.

If it were possible, I would trade my existence in a second for my parents to not have gone through the horrors that they did.

I can be thankful for my life and my loved ones and still hold this government accountable for what it's done and for what it does.

Our country has entered a new era of constant urgency and protest. This is an opportunity to shift our perspectives, to deeply examine history, and to investigate a new way forward.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Let Today Be A Beginning

I am worn down. Weary. Wary.

For various reasons, I am not out in the streets as I would like to be.

I know that I am not alone in this. Whether for physical, mental, emotional, or economic health reasons, there are many of us not out there.

But there are things to do, still, from where we are.

Today, I am lessening my consumption of social media. My internet time has spiked in these last months, as I've sought for communication, information, comfort. Also, coping in the form of sob/laugh-inducing memes.

It is hard to ignore all of the input, all that is floating through the air, all the bytes and images and tweets and messages and articles. It is hard not to engage.

Social media has both enriched my ability to engage with the world, and stifled it. It has allowed me to stay in touch with friends across long and painful distances. It has allowed me to make new connections. And it has also invited trolls into my life (e.g., this exchange over Twitter, which is the perfect medium for non-communication and antipathy) about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

A few pieces of media that have provided me fortitude in these times:

13TH by Ava DuVernay. A documentary covering the history of the 13th Amendment and how it abolished slavery “except as punishment for a crime,” and how those words were a loophole through which the criminalization and mass incarceration of black and brown bodies were set into play. The same economic—that is, capitalist— imperative that created slavery is what has millions of people in prison today, where there is massive exploitation of inmates and their non-incarcerated loved ones. Watch this, and challenge socialized assumptions about crime, drugs policies, economics, and our punitive system.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am late to this one. Published in 2013, it is a beautifully written novel that observes race relations in America and England through the eyes of Nigerian immigrants Ifemulu and Obinze, respectively. It is a love story. It gives insight into the experience of the African diaspora, being undocumented in England, and describes an immigrant experience that resonated with me immensely as part of the Khmer diaspora. The most engrossing read I’ve had in a very long time.

An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis by James Baldwin. Written after Newseek published an issue with Angela Davis in chains on the cover. I was directed to this by a friend. Written in 1970, it is chilling (yet unsurprising) how relevant the letter remains today:
“The will of the people, in America, has always been at the mercy of an ignorance not merely phenomenal, but sacred, and sacredly cultivated: the better to be used by a carnivorous economy which democratically slaughters and victimizes whites and blacks alike. But most white Americans do not dare admit this (though they suspect it) and this fact contains mortal danger for the blacks and tragedy for the nation.”
Last night I came across the video below of Valarie Kaur at a Watch Night Service on New Year’s Eve. I watched it again this morning. It contains a story that needs to be known, a mourning for what is coming to pass, and a message of hope and strength for what's next.

At some point the feeling in my chest now will lessen from its pounding anxiety to a dull murmur.

I’ll be at home this weekend-- and I'll be making, writing, sharing.

I posted this status on election night: Tomorrow, let yourself make something. Beautiful or ugly, whatever. Remind yourself it's possible to change the world.

As difficult as these times are, the worst thing is the false belief that there is nothing we can do.
No matter what, we'll keep going.

I want today to be a beginning.

A day when I begin to focus more fiercely on loving acts for the people around me, the people within arms’ reach, the people who may not be physically near but are incredibly dear to my heart.

I have to start at this touchable scale, and to believe in my ability to grow from there.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Year, New Chapbook, New Shop

It appears that I never wrote about completing from somewhere along the way, my 2015 collection of writing. Better late than never?

make / mend came into the world on December 31, 2016.

Since 2013, I haven't finished a chapbook earlier than December. A part of me scoffs at the fact that I clearly procrastinated, and another part of me is relieved that I've actually met my annual chapbook goal, albeit by the skin of my teeth.

I also opened an online shop, with all of my chapbooks from past years on it, at discounted prices. I may include my pottery on it someday, but for now they are objects I believe need to be touched before they are purchased.

The last weeks of the year were stressful, with an unplanned return to car-free life (a somewhat inaccurate description because I still have access to friends' cars), and with the impending sense of doom hanging over the coming administration. Our government has never felt, in my lifetime, as blatantly corrupt as it does now. My illusions of America as the land of the free have been stripped away and replaced with a painful awareness of how ruthless capitalism is, and how deadly it is, interwoven with structural racism and neocolonialism.

And yet, the mundanity of life, for many of us, carries on. There are banks and businesses and manufacturers some are trying to stay away from moreso than before.

Those of us who fear for ourselves and our communities are each trying our best to do what we can in the face of what's to come.

It is strange, this feeling that terrible changes are taking place, but that the concerns of rent money, how to support myself, my community, and, someday, my aging parents, are still very much present. It feels like we are fighting for our survival, and at the same time, life does not feel so much different.

There is a sinking feeling in the air, we are wary of the coming administration-- and the fact that this country has not encountered this situation before. Another country meddling in our election rather than the other way around. A reality show figure elected despite the many marks against his character.

Is this what it feels like to live under a failing government?

Meanwhile, I am trying to cultivate change, in what small ways I can. Gardening projects. Making pots. Writing.

To be honest, it sounds a bit ridiculous.