Posts Tagged ‘Refugees’

I’ve been trying to think of the words to say for hours. I’ve been wondering if I should say anything. I’ve wanted to throw myself into anime or a book or into any form of entertainment, because sometimes the made-up worlds are better than the real one we inhabit. In the end though, I had to say something. I think I knew I was going to the moment I heard what happened today. And I had to let you know, I’m afraid in a way I don’t like to be.

Earlier today, a man named Robert Bowers opened fire at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Three different services for three different congregations were being held that morning, with nearly a hundred people in the synagogue. Eleven people were killed and several more were injured, including four of the police officers who showed up to subdue Bowers, who has made numerous statements on social media about the Jews and “invaders,” aka immigrants and refugees. Tree of Life has been active with organizations that help out immigrants and refugees, including most notably HIAS, which may have played a role in Bowers’s selection of Tree of Life as his target. He has been captured and is awaiting being charged, including federal hate crime charges.

I found out about the shooting this afternoon while out with my cousin, who is here in Columbus for an internship. A friend sent me a link to an article about it. I felt my blood go cold, but I didn’t tell my cousin. I didn’t want to ruin the day for him. I’m sure by now he knows. And he’s probably as scared as me.

This is the second mass shooting in the United States that has been associated with one of the facets of my identity. The last one was when Pulse was shot up in Orlando, Florida, two days after my twenty-third birthday. Pulse was a gay nightclub. Fort-nine people died. I’m bisexual. I wasn’t affected directly, but I was affected.

This was worse. I’ve been Jewish, knew I was Jewish well before I was aware I was bisexual. I feel connected to my religion in so many ways. In college, I studied the Holocaust and have pursued it further since. I’ve noticed the climb in anti-Semitism in the United States over the last two years.

And I knew people from Tree of Life. In high school, my synagogue’s youth group would meet up with other youth groups from throughout the region several times a year to hang out and be Jewish as a group. Tree of Life would sometimes join us.

And before my family moved to Columbus, we considered living in Pittsburgh. We even visited to look at houses and to see what the schools and synagogues were like. I don’t remember what synagogue we were considering joining, but for all I know, it could’ve been Tree of Life. And even if it wasn’t, who knows where I might’ve ended up worshiping later in life. Who knows what might’ve happened if my parents had decided Pittsburgh was a better choice than Columbus?

I’m afraid. I’ve known for a while how anti-Semitism in the US and around the world have been making a comeback. I knew it was real. But it’s no longer that far removed from me. It struck close today.

I’m terrified. But I don’t want to be terrified. And, as happens when I’m scared, I have to fight and conquer what scares me.

We need to do more to stop monsters like this poor excuse for a man. Or more like him will copy him. And many more may die.

The Anti-Defamation League said this was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in this country, and that it’s “unthinkable that it would happen in the United States of America in this day and age.” I say that it was not only thinkable, but more than likely to happen at some point. And that’s the problem we need to fix.

People are going to offer thoughts and prayers and suggest armed guards to stop this from happening again. The thing is, the people at Tree of Life were thinking and praying. Among our liturgy are prayers to be kept safe from the enemies of our people. And many synagogues already have security in the form of retired or off-duty police officers. And as we saw at the Stoneman Douglas shooting earlier this year, the presence of an armed guard doesn’t always deter a violent man with a gun and a goal in mind.

I’m a big believer in the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” I also believe that if you take a step towards a goal, the universe takes a step with you. And I think it’s high-time we treat this chronic disease we’ve been dealing with in the United States for far too long. Very soon, Americans everywhere will have the chance to set the course of our country for the next couple years. I’m asking every American reading this, and all the ones who aren’t, to take advantage of this opportunity to set this course. And to please set a course that involves making the requirements to own a gun as stringent as the ones to drive a car, as well as increased care and research for mental illness, and for higher tolerance for all peoples, not just the Jewish people.

Because in the end, we are all one humanity. Forty-six genes in every cell, five fingers and toes on each limb, same organs and blood that is red and carries oxygen to our cells. And if we can’t make members of our species realize that, what good are we as a whole?

I also encourage you to donate to HIAS and other organizations that try to foster understanding and help those less fortunate than others. Because in the face of hate, the most powerful weapon we have is love. So show love.

Make your voice heard.

Take action.

Because all evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing. And we can’t allow that to happen.

Be brave. Fight back against evil. And above all, be safe.

Thanks for listening.

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Around this time of year, it’s customary for many bloggers to do a post reflecting on the last year and their hopes for the coming year. I decided to wait a few days to do mine because I posted a lot of stuff during the first couple of days of the New Year, and I didn’t want you guys to get sick of me (especially since a lot of what I posted was advertisement). And I won’t be doing the sort of post with the odd comparisons to famous venues and the listing stats, because I dislike doing those sorts of posts. Instead, I think I’ll just do what writers and bloggers do best, and write.

So, how was 2015? Well, I was surprised by how many people found 2015 to be a really bad year for them. So many people on Facebook and in daily conversation went so far to call 2015 “shitty”. Even my sister, who accomplished so much this past year, including getting her driver’s license and car and becoming a certified professional baker (so proud of her on that). This is especially odd when you think about how these people don’t live in war zones or aren’t homeless or anything, but then again we can’t always be expected to compare ourselves to those who have it worse, can we?

Personally, I feel that 2015 was a bit of a roller coaster with all sorts of ups and downs. I had a pretty mellow final semester with only three classes and a thesis to do, but at the same time I had a job search that sometimes felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. During graduation and the two-three weeks surrounding it, I felt like the prom queen, with all the attention on me, showering praise and good wishes. Not too long afterward I got to go see some of my favorite metal bands in concert, and got the chance to intern in Germany. Of course, the trip to Germany got delayed, and one set of tickets I couldn’t fully refund, so that was money wasted.

Life’s a rollercoaster, is it not?

When I finally did get to Germany, it was a great experience. I learned a lot working with the US Army, explored as much of Germany as I could in the four months I was there, and made some memories and friendships that I hope will stay with me for a long time. On the other hand, I could get very tired, and if things didn’t go as planned, that stressed me out. I didn’t get to stay, and even when you’re making a good living and have a place to stay on base, which is much cheaper than getting your own apartment, living abroad is expensive. I came back to the States with about the same amount of money in my bank account as when I left.

And finally, when I got back home, I found a lot a lot of people wanting to know how I did in Germany and what it was like. I also got a lot of support as I started up the job search again, and I finished editing one novel and made significant progress on another. And I even got a narrator for that audio book for Reborn City I’ve been trying to get off the ground! On the other hand…still jobless for the moment, and until I have some income, I can’t get an editor to look at Video Rage for one final touch-up before publication.

All in all, I felt this year reflected life in general. There are things that don’t always go your way and you could live without, but there are plenty of good things to even it out, and in the end you wouldn’t give up the experiences you’ve had for the world. That’s certainly been my experience. While I would’ve loved to not have those delays with Germany and still have some more money in my bank account, and I had hoped to be employed by this point, I am very happy that I’ve had the experiences and learned the lessons that I did this year.

As for this coming year…well, I have my hopes. I want to get a job, obviously, and without getting into specifics, I’ve had some luck with that, thanks in part to the help I’ve gotten from numerous sources. I want to publish at least one book this year, though I’m aiming for two, plus some short stories here and there. And I would definitely like to move out into my own place (preferably a one-bedroom apartment that allows pets, like cute little kitty cats).

Oh, and I would definitely like to finish editing a few more stories, make some more progress on my new collection of short stories Teenage Wasteland, and get that audio book of Reborn City released.

Will any of this happen? I can’t say, because the future is not certain. However, a lot of stuff is very likely, including the stuff listed above. And I’m hoping that along with those, a lot of other stuff happens this year. While I had a pretty good 2015, I know that on a global scale things were, to say the least, messed up. Gun violence, terrorism, refugees not given the treatment they deserve, continued abuse of the environment. There was plenty of good–gay marriage is now legal all throughout the nation, thank God–but I feel we need to see a lot more of that sort of good to outweigh the bad. Already I’ve seen what I feel is good action from the President, but it’s going to take a lot more than that before I’m satisfied.

Cheers to a fresh start.

Well, I’ve rambled on enough for one evening. I’ll finish off with a reminder that all of my books are on sale through January 14th from Amazon, Createspace, and Smashwords, and that I hope we all accomplish the goals we set ourselves this year. And I guess that includes new year’s resolutions, though I know those rarely last long. Oh well, good luck with those too I guess.

Happy 2016, my Followers of Fear!

RC cover

It’s been a long time in the making, and a lot of work since I announced that I was planning on turning Reborn City, my science-fiction novel, into an audio book back in August. I listened to a lot of audio samples, contacted a bunch of potential narrators, and even received a couple of auditions. But as of today, I am very pleased to announce that Reborn City has a narrator!

If you’re unfamiliar with Reborn City, it’s a dystopian science fiction novel that follows Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager who’s forced to join a street gang called the Hydras, and her involvement in a strange plot involving the gang’s superpowered leaders and the shadowy corporation that rules the city they live in. The novel contains themes of Islamaphobia, racism, gang violence, drug addiction and several others.

It also is a world that has much more resemblance to our own than Hunger Games or Divergent does (just look at the refugee situation these days and how some governments have responded to refugees these days) and I like to think it makes a little more sense than those books.

The audio book will be narrated by Barron Bass, an actor and voice artist based out of New York (check out his website here). I heard some of his samples on ACX, the website I’m using to produce the audio book (see my article on that site here). I liked what I heard, and I started corresponding with him. Once I heard his audition, I had a pretty good feeling I’d found my man. After some more weeks of correspondence, I sent him an offer and he accepted.

Our esteemed narrator, Barron Bass.

Now, I’m hoping we’ll have the whole thing done by early March, but I’m flexible. If Mr. Bass needs more time, I’m willing to give it to him. You can’t rush perfection, after all.

So I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next, which following the production process on ACX is that the first fifteen minutes of the book are recorded for my approval. After that, I give some feedback, and we work chapter by chapter on the book. Once it’s all done and it’s uploaded onto Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, I’m hoping a lot of people decide to check it out and take a listen. Maybe leave a few reviews while they’re at it.

And if RC does well, then maybe I’ll do Snake as well, and any other book I decide to publish from here on out. We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I’m going to go do my happy dance. Have a good rest of your day, my Followers of Fear. I know I am.

pray for paris

This past weekend in Paris, a city I’ve visited and which I’ve often thought about returning to, was attacked by terrorists affiliated with ISIS. They attacked six different locations throughout the City of Light, including a concert hall, the Stade de France, and two restaurants. At last count, nearly a hundred and thirty people are dead, including seven of the terrorists, and over three-hundred and fifty wounded. The terror threat is apparently still high, and the search for the remaining perpetrators are still ongoing.

And in the midst of the death and horrors, people have come together from around the world for Paris. Through the power of globalization and connection, human beings have shouted out, in tweets and status updates, in blog posts and videos, through television broadcasts and press conferences, through offers of help and condemnations of the terrorists, to stand by France as she works to bring the rest of the terrorists to justice, to take on the sickness that is ISIS, and to heal her wounds after such a horrific series of events.

Still, there’s a dark underbelly to this show of solidarity. My mother and I were discussing this underbelly in the car after dinner last night. Barely two days after the attacks, some people have been condemning Muslims and the refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East for the attack (despite the fact that most of the terrorists appear to be European and only one is confirmed to be from Syria). People of all sorts, from members of France’s far-right political party the National Front, including its leader Marine La Pen and US representatives, to bloggers and common people from all over the world. In the need to blame someone for this attack, some are turning to two very large, and lately very popular, scapegoats: those who follow the teachings of Muhammad, and those who left their homes with very little, if anything, just to escape violence and fear.

RC cover

My mom then turned to me and said, “Kind of reminds me of Reborn City. There are people who see a woman with a hijab and feel afraid. Zahara gave that up and even dyed her hair blond to avoid that fear.” That surprised me, but then I realized she had a point. In a small way, the world is beginning to resemble the world of Reborn City.

If you’re not familiar with RC, Islamaphobia is a big theme in the novel. The war on terror devolved into a huge, worldwide conflict, so that by the time of the story most of the world is suspicious of Muslims. Zahara Bakur and her family take measures so that they will be at the very least tolerated by a population that is suspicious of them. Still, it doesn’t always work, and there is still a lot of discrimination in that world that goes unchecked.

While the real world is not at the level that the world of RC is, there are places that have made it difficult to be a Muslim. Angola and Tajikistan actively shut down mosques all the time, and certain European countries have banned burqas and hijabs. France’s Interior Minister has discussed the possibility of shutting down mosques perceived to be preaching dangerous interpretations of Islam. Here in the States,  Donald Trump has said that if elected President he may pursue that course of action.

And because many of the Syrian refugees are Muslim and one of the terrorists was from Syria, some are reacting against refugees. Poland has already said they will not be accepting new refugees, and several US states are now refusing to take in any. Some in the US now wish to screen refugees based on a religious test.

The refugees are not the people we should be lashing out against.

You can’t judge an entire group based on the actions of a few. I don’t judge all Christians based on the actions of Westboro Baptist Church, nor do I judge all football players because a few have been charged and sometimes convicted for violent crimes. But so many people insist on judging Muslims and the Syrian refugees that way. And based on my own experience with Muslims, that isn’t right. That’s nonsensical.

Zahara’s experiences in the book reflect that. Early on she becomes aware that people don’t like her because she’s a Muslim, that they’re afraid of her for things that occurred in her parents’ and grandparents’ generations. She takes steps to be accepted by society by changing her appearance and taking part in “normal” interests and hobbies, but no matter what she tires, people see her as different. They see her as dangerous without even getting to know her. And it’s how people see her that spurs Zahara throughout RC (and its sequel, Video Rage, and probably the final book too) to show people that she is not what people think of her. To show them that she can be kind, and brave. And even good.

In the wake of Paris, we all want to fight back against the evil that caused the attacks. But the evil isn’t the refugees, nor is it Islam and its adherents. No, the evil is ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and the other terrorist organizations, wearing Islam like a Halloween costume, scary but not the real thing. The real Muslims are standing up to these fakers, standing in solidarity with Paris and showing their disdain towards these inhuman monsters hijacking a respected religion. The last thing we want to do is turn our backs on them, punish them for being who they are.

Instead, we should be thanking them for being allies we can count on for support in hard times, like Zahara is for her friends in the Hydras. Because after all, if we show them the love they deserve, they may return the favor and, like Zahara does, surprise us in all the best ways.

Today is my last day in Germany. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been here for four months; it feels more like I’ve been here for ages. The day I arrived, all the way back in July, feels like it happened years and years ago. Heading home to Columbus feels almost a little weird. Almost like I’m heading to a place that only exists in my memories. I know that sounds weird, but after being away from home for longer than I’ve ever been before (the record before this was five weeks in Israel back in high school), that’s what it feels like.

I am looking forward to coming home to Columbus.* It’s where my family is, and where I’ve spent a majority of my life. It’s familiar, it’s got a lot of people I know. And our football team is undefeated this season, which is always something to be proud of. Go Buckeyes!

Still, I will miss being here in Germany. I’ve become so used to this nation, it’s become something like a really nice foster home for me. Every day there was something new to learn or see, and I got to go to all these wonderful places while I was here. Germany is filled with such history, and I was lucky to be able to explore that history in so many ways, from traveling to the many WWII-related sites in Munich to a Roman wall in Wiesbaden and everything in-between. I even got to see a castle, something no trip Europe is complete without. No matter what the cost, it was worth going out to see all these things.

The Roman Wall. I'm going to miss seeing stuff like this.

The Roman Wall. I’m going to miss seeing stuff like this.

And the people here are very awesome as well: more than once when I got turned around trying to get somewhere, I was able to find someone who was able to point me in the right direction. Even at the grocery store, people were more courteous than I could imagine: yesterday a woman at the grocery store saw I had just the one item (a bottle of wine for my dad and his wife), and she let me go right in front of her. I usually don’t get that even in the States, so I was very grateful for her kindness. When I heard reports about how Germany was the only European country willingly accepting refugees while other countries closed their borders, I wasn’t at all surprised, because that’s just the sort of country Germany is, a kind and accepting place where you can feel as welcome as you might in your own home.

Plus I got to watch Doctor Who several hours before my Whovian comrades in the Western Hemisphere, seeing as the show airs in Europe before it does over there. That was nice. I will miss that.

But yeah, I will miss Germany. My time here was well-spent and I learned and experienced so much, and one day I would like to return, see old friends and do some more exploring of the country if possible. If I could do that, I’d be one very happy horror novelist.

Here's looking at you, Germany.

Here’s looking at you, Germany.

So thank you Germany, for being my home away from home. I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve been here (even the more stressful minutes) and I can’t thank you enough for all you, your people, and the other guests who call your lands home have done for me. It has truly been a wonderful experience getting to know you firsthand. So auf wiedersehen, and I hope we can one day meet again.

Until that day comes though, you will be alive in my thoughts, my memories, and in my stories (horrifying as those are).

*And apparently Columbus is preparing for me to come home as well. Already the National Guard has been called out, people have been praying for salvation like mad. There’s even been strange activity reported amongst animals, like a bridge full of spiders (not kidding, it made the local news). I guess they know I plan on jumpstarting the Apocalypse, huh?