Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sicko

I went to see Michael Moore's Sicko today. If you live in the United States, you need to see this movie because it is about your health care, or lack of it.

I expected the theatre to be packed but it was nearly empty. I guess people are much more interested in forgetting about their life struggles by watching some romantic comedy or a movie full of suspense and gore than to see what they may already be going through or what they might go through in the near future.

In typical Michael Moore fashion he jumps around from Denver to Los Angeles to Canada to London to Flint, Michigan to France, to New York and finally to Cuba just to name a few places. But the geographical jumps work and he surely puts reality in people's faces if there is still a soul out there who does not believe that
the health care system in the U.S. is in serious need of reform.

One of the strengths of this film is that Moore debunks the myth that if you work hard, put in your time at your job, and contribute to your community, you will be fine. WRONG. Moore gives examples of people who have worked all of their lives and raised children and now are left foreclosing on their house because of health care costs. Another sad example is a little girl who died because her mom's insurance was not eligible at the nearest hospital. Even 9/11 volunteers were left with health complications and no medical assistance not to mention examples of people without means being dumped in the street...

He also reverses the myths that the health care systems in Canada, Britain, and France give substandard care to patients. Preventitive care is encouraged and doctors don't have to think about cost when they care for patients.

I could go on and on, but I would like people to see the film. Many already know that our system needs an overhaul. It touches almost all of us including me who has what is considered to be somewhat decent insurance. Our deductibles are skyrocketing and some employees can't even afford to insure their kids on the plan. If I were to give a rough estimate, I would say that I pay $1000 a year in copays, predeductible costs, prescriptions and services like counseling that my insurance barely covers. And I am healthy. As far as I know, I don't have cancer, diabetes, or any other serious ailment. If you are a senior citizen or have health problems beware, you may be denied insurance or may have to pay huge monthly fees. For instance, I feel that my parents have to pay too much for health insurance. They are retired and on fixed incomes for goodness sake.

A friend of mine who is about ten years younger than me asked me, "Was this how it was for our parents, when they were raising us? Did they have to pay such high deductibles and co-payments?" My answer was no. They didn't. As historical memory fades we will no longer realize that our health care system has deteriorated. In addition, as our xenophobia and fear of other countries including France increases, we will be less likely to know that there is a better health care system available.

In the film, a former British cabinent minister or member of Parliament, I can't remember which, is interviewed. What he said that struck me most was that "Britain was a democracy, and because of this Britain has universal health care." He also said that when people are without hope and when they are afraid they do not stand up to their government. Our current healthcare system and the state of our social services in this country lead to hopelessness. So does a war that is just plain wrong. And we in the U.S. are encouraged to be fearful. I still remember those orange alerts in the airport when I was leaving the country for Lebanon and the ones I would see on television, when I had one. We are encouraged to be afraid because this keeps us from acting and allows Bush and his cohorts to stay in power.

The end of the film was my favorite part. They went to Cuba and the Cubans were so friendly and open. The fire department came to attention for the 9/11 workers. Next they were all hugging. As Moore said, if enemies can treat each other this way, what else can happen on a larger scale? "Me" has to be changed to a "we." Ending with Cat Stevens' "Don't be Shy" was also great. I love that song. I had to sing along:

You know love is better than a song
Love is where all of us belong
So don't be shy just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there ...

I hope I didn't give too much away. But I think Sicko is worth seeing as long as you consider the reality it exposes. Moore's site has a list of links and organizations that are working on this issue. I also encourage you to keep reading and pressuring our elected officials to actually do something about this. If you have other thoughts or suggestions, feel free to include them in the comments. This way ideas spread and we can eventually create a world where everyone has access to affordable and excellent health care. We all deserve it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Martyrs or Traitors

L. sent this article to me, Martyrs or Traitors; A choice the West must be careful not to force on the people of the Middle East, published in the June 21st Economist print edition. It is worth reading.

The best line is the last:
... to offer the moderates money and no visible progress towards statehood is to treat them with contempt—and to invite Arabs everywhere to do the same.

It's been a good week so far

I have been figuring things out about my present and my future and being inspired by life and human beings along the way.

To begin with, I am reading a book written by a Lebanese author, Alexandre Najjar, who is my age and lived in Beirut during the Civil War. School of War/L'Ecole de la Guerre is an account of his experience during this time. It is very sad sometimes and at other times quite funny. I tried to explain the funny parts to some people in my life today, but it is hard to understand if you haven't grown up in war. I was relatively safe growing up but I still laughed hysterically and then cried moments later when another description was too close for comfort. I am looking forward to having L. read the book. We are no longer dating but we still share the connection of having grown up in the same time and place.

I also discovered a women's project in Seattle that inspired me, Rewa: Refugee Women's Alliance. My favorite part of the website was that it says you are welcome in three languages that I know and one that I still hope to learn (besides many others that I do not know). In fact, I could see myself working at Rewa someday.

This inspired me to call our local domestic violence center and offer to volunteer at the shelter. The woman called me back saying that they do not usually take volunteers at the shelter but when I said that I would be willing to facilitate an art group, she was very excited. I was too. For me, shelter work is a must for my life resume and I have not done it yet. For me, it's almost a flaw in my character.

My wanderings also took me to Peace Brigades International's Peace Education Program. I was ready to sign up until I realized that I don't speak Indonesian!

Regretfully, I moved on and discovered that there are others who are interested in peace education in the country of my childhood. Her blog name is Worried Lebanese.

And in conclusion, I need to share the song that I started my week with whether I wanted to or not. I can't believe it has taken me this long to discover Pink.




P.S. I have been listening to this song quite a few times this evening and I must add that I am very fortunate to have a father who votes in favor of my rights as a woman and who has no problem with my sexual orientation. He even checks my blog from time to time.
I love you, Dad. Happy belated blog Father's Day!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Tonight's Meal

I made this yummy meal tonight. I have no name for it. Call it as you will. I sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil, added free range chicken breasts, tomatoes, chickpea juice, artichoke marinade, white wine, zucchini, cumin, and cayenne. Later, I added the artchoke hearts, chick peas and kalamata olives and laid it all over a bed of jasmine brown rice.

It was delish. M, M, and M thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Maya got the bone.

My advice to my readers is to believe in yourself and to experiment. Follow recipes only if you want to. If the meal doesn't come out as you would like the first time, perhaps it will in the future.

Undocumented

I went to hear Olga Vives from NOW speak about comprehensive immigration reform that takes women and children into account. The crowd that attended was a well meaning group of white women with large eyes and who knew just about nothing about the issue. I realized that they were still stuck on using the word "illegal!" And so for clarification:

Actions are "illegal", people aren't.
People can be without papers, "undocumented", coming here because of harsh economic circumstances at home. Don't dehumanize people.


If you want to read a few blogs about immigration, I recommend:

Lucky White Girl and Born in the U.S.A.

It's 2:00 am...

I went kayaking with a friend of mine today and had a blast. Sorry no photos. I was afraid of getting my camera wet and decided to be completely present in the experience instead. We kayaked two small calm lakes, followed a heron, and saw yellow breasted blackbirds. The air smelled of sage and algae. The basalt cliffs were painted with green lichen. D. and I shared our possibilities in order to bring them one step closer to realities. She is a real cool woman, D. Definitely a kindred spirit.

I took a nap when I got home, had breakfast at 8:30 pm and hung out by the fire. Even Maya smells of firewood smoke now. Yum.

Breakfast includes coffee and so its nearly 2:00 am and I am still charged. I've been involved in a favorite past time, following my bibliographic interests wherever they take me. Reading a passage here, a blog entry there, searching through previously read books for that one sentence that I just know I underlined...

A quote that I found after some searching:

A story begins at the margins. It's where we do our math. Where we check our spelling. Where we dream.

-Suheir Hammad (see previous post)

I also want to acknowledge three blogs that have caused me to think tonight:

One is by one of my favorite dear former profs, MTH, Born in the U.S.A.

The second is Body on the Line,

and the third is Pomegranate Queen.
I am rediscovering a poet that I like, Suheir Hammad.

Here are a few short pieces by her found on YouTube:





Friday, June 22, 2007

Today

I am bubbling with ideas










Slowly bursting
with possibility







Am I feeling overwhelmed or elated?






A friend of mine made a good point today:

Most if not all of the people who have done incredible things that I admire in the world,
took risks.




There is more to come even though I am unsure what it is.

And one last quote that I may have posted before:

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

-Dawna Markova

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

In Search of Arts-Based Social Change Projects

I am thinking through the possibility of my next travel experience. I would like to visit a project or projects that is/are using the arts to make an impact in people's lives. I am specifically thinking of projects that use the visual arts, theatre,... to create postive and perhaps even sustainable social change.

What countries and areas of the world am I thinking about? Right now Palestine and the entire continent of Africa are on my mind. Palestine may not be the wisest choice right now, but perhaps it is a sane decision in an insane world (to borrow from Lang.)

bUT HONESTLY, IF YOU KNOW OF ANy AWESOME ARTS-BASED PROJECTs ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, i'D LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT THEM.

So please if you know of any projects, would you post a comment and let me know how to get in touch with them or learn more about them?

Thanks in advance.

Peace, Salaam, Paz, Paix-

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Loyal to the Sky

I just finished reading the book Loyal to the Sky: Notes from an Activist by Marisa Handler. What I like about the book is that Marisa forges her own path. She believes in doing her part in making the world just and equitable and she is determined to use her gifts to do this. When she wants to travel, she finds a way to support herself through her writing without sacrificing her principles. There is also a spiritual quality to the book that I appreciated. Basically, she believes that any change in the world must first happen within oneself. As I think through new possibilities for myself, this book has been very helpful. I am including some quotes from the book to ponder...

I have come to believe that every one of us is an activist, and that every action taken in the name of our interconnection - every action that brings us closer to ourselves, to each other, to the planet births a better world (p. 254).
...the way we change the world needs to reflect the world we wish to create (p. 156).
"Nonviolence," Gandhi said, "is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseperable part of our very being" (p. 217).
I have my ideas. I love my ideas. I bask in them, cling to them, noisily impose them. And then I move beyond my bubble and they get wrecked. I grieve them. They really were beautiful, in their oblivious idealism, in their purity. Later I am grateful... Life, it seems, pushes me ever wider, deeper, in an ongoing struggle to accomodate things I never imagined existed" (p. 68).
Every society assumes that its way is the the norm, the natural way. It takes a flying leap beyond the frame to conceive of other possibilities. To believe in them (p. 7).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Challenged Hope

While my last post was an example of the positive impact that art can make, the three articles from Common Dreams that follow are just further examples of how f----- up our world is and that the possibility of peace needs to be reinvented in people's minds and hearts.

Welcome to 'Palestine' by Robert Fisk is very discouraging.

Blowback in Lebanon by Reese Erlich suggests a Hariri/Fatah-el Islam connection that went sour.

Gaza: Not just a Prison, a Laboratory by Naomi Klein describes Israel's post 9/11 industry and the product testing sites that are the West Bank and Gaza.

I have hope, I have to. But it sure is being challenged.

Following through with a Possibility



Kudos to Eve S. Mosher for inventing and following through with a possibility that makes people think. She is using light blue colored chalk to draw lines around Brooklyn and later Manhattan to indicate potential flood lines created by global warming. She has met with community boards, city/park officials and environmental groups to do this project and engages everyone who passes by about her project. She even passes out a packet of information on green living. In the words of Wendy, she is a brave soul! For more information, see the New York Times article The Handwriting on the Road.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Cat Sitting Duty



I love my neighbor. This is what she hangs up when she is on cat sitting duty to remind her. The dear soul is often taking care of my dear dear Maya. She takes care of her so often that if I stay late at work, Maya will automatically go to my neighbor's house to be fed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In case you were wondering...

I have been doing much better personally. Friday night was very difficult and I was pretty raw on Saturday. I slowly started to see that I had been projecting alot of meaning onto L.. I haven't been super happy with the way my life has been going recently and in some unconscious crevice of my complicated mind, I decided that L. was part of the fix. Not that I do not adore her, because I do. I am just much more willing to accept our differences than I was.

And so, as I had taken the day off to recuperate mentally and emotionally from my weekend, I decided to wear myself out physically by taking a walk through Ballard and past Shilshole Bay to Golden Gardens Park where I was able to rejoice in a sunny day and look out onto the Puget Sound.




I love ...

the smell of seaweed strewn on the beach by the tide. It crunches under my feet when it dries.

The sound of grains of sand being carried along the beach by the wind,

the open expanse that enfolds in front of me,



the lines that masts are against the sky,

and the ability of human beings to be creative by knitting a sweater for a pole,

just because.



I also love. . .



using my eyes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Compassion and Possibilities

A displaced family from Nahr al-Bared stay in a UNRWA school in Baddawi refugee camp, as Lebanese schools have not opened their doors to the refugees. (Tanya Traboulsi)


The last few days have been full of insights.

For one, E. sent me the essay "Where do I Stand?" by Rania Masri that appeared in Electronic Lebanon. It's very much worth reading. It makes a case for compassion. Everyone suffers in conflict. I do not support Fatah El-Islam and to a point I am happy that Lebanon is trying to make a stand. What I am not in agreement with is the false idea that being united and supportive of Lebanon means that certain people are expendable, namely the Palestinian refugees who have called Nahr El-Badr their home for nearly 50 years. As Rania Masri explains, Palestinians opened their homes to the Lebanese people last July. Why isn't Lebanon showing the Palestinians the same goodwill?


I spent my Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in an intense course called the Landmark Forum. I was skeptical at first but did get quite alot out of it, so much so that I signed up for the Advanced Course. What I liked about it was that it gave me some basic tools to really improve my quality of life by identifying different types of thinking patterns I get myself into. We also had time to share with other participants which really helped. On Tuesday evening, we will make a declaration of some of the possibilities we want for our lives. I am looking forward to it. As of right now, I would like to create the possibility of creating a life in which I fully acknowledge and appreciate all of the wonderful people that I connect with and in which I fully appreciate the nature that surrounds me.
I am working on other possibilities but these are not solidified yet. I will say though that I had a short yet impactful conversation with a man who is from Israel. I told him that I grew up in Lebanon and we talked about how violence spared no one in Lebanon, Israel, ad Palestine. All are being affected in one way or another. He told me how tense and anxious his friends in Israel are. And the Palestinians are going through even more. What a sad way to have to live life. The man said that most people that he knows in Israel want peace even if this peace requires compromise. I shared with him that I so wish for peace there, since the area has a personal significance to me. I need to believe that peace is possible. Unfortunately, so many have lost hope.
The man's next comment is the one that impacted me the most. He said that maybe this was the possibility that I could create for myself, helping others regain hope and peace. It was as if he had read my mind. Nothing is defined as of yet, but I do feel a possibility blossoming.
I hope that everyone that reads this blog is living a life that they love.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Fun

I had fun tonight.
We made costumes out of expired condoms for our community's Pride events.
I won't be in town, but I did contribute this neckpiece.



Sunday, June 03, 2007

My Temple



I ended up getting up super early today and going on a short hike before it got too hot. I hadn't been on this trail before. It was the perfect way to focus my mind as I have had a plethora of emotions the last few days.

Last year, I told one of my neighbors that nature was my temple. It really is. Everything makes sense out here. I am part of a larger whole and life is buzzing on around me in ways that I cannot always perceive much less comprehend.




I have been thinking alot about myself the last couple of days as I sit with a deep sadness. I realize that I have not been content and at peace with my life for awhile now, even though I am doing work that I believe in and am surrounded by nature. I wonder if L. was filling a void I have within myself. Perhaps I should not try to be in a relationship until I reconcile this.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Trip to the Farmer's Market

It is a beautiful sunny day and I walked down to the farmers' market and bought cherries. Cherries are not ripe where I live yet but they are in the central part of the state where this farmer was from. The beginning of the cherry season always makes me happy. I have already finished eating the pound that I bought.

Despite the sun and the cherries, I am not feeling amazing today. My relationship with L. is not working out and oh how I wish it would. I spent a good part of last night crying and I predict there will be more tears later at some point. Tears are cathartic for me and help me work through my anger, insecurities, and most of all my fear of change. I was reading some of Frida's posts and one quote that struck me was:

Most of the pain of change comes from our resistance to it.

I really love L. I wish it would work but I cannot change myself or my feelings to make this happen, nor can she change hers. I so enjoy the time we spend together. Even though we have only been dating for a few months, I now feel this huge void. As far as I was concerned, I could have spent the rest of my life with her. That's a big load for a person to live up to, I know.

So now I must once again embrace change as best I can. For me, the change is going back to solitude. Luckily, as my counselor reminded me yesterday, I am good at solitude. I have lived most of my life alone.

On my way to the market, I walked by a woman in a wheelchair who was pushing herself backwards up a hill with her feet. Having a disabled mother who likes to do everything for herself I was careful how I spoke to the woman, "Good Morning, the sun is beautiful isn't it? Would you like me to help push you up the hill or are you doing O.K on your own?" "I am doing O.K., thank you," was her reply.

I was happy that I didn't assume that this woman needed help and was reminded of mother's and even my own determination to do things on our own.

Yes, I will be alright. I can get up the hill on my own. I just wish I didn't have to.