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Sunday, February 26, 2017

LGBTQ and the Bible: Teaching Our Children What Love Is

I can't lie, I'm a flaming liberal when it comes to LGBTQ rights.  To me, marriage is a basic legal right that people who love each other should have.  The notion that there is a "right" or "wrong" person to love is completely foreign to me.  I believe that ANYONE should be able to love and marry whomever they want.  It's a legal right that is stemmed from love.  Love: a concept that is seen throughout religious doctrine and is a universal theme in most religions. Love, the persevering truth that the Christian faith is based in. The first bible verse I learned (which is also the license plate on my parent's car) was 1st Corinthians 13:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

This vision of what Love is shaped my views tremendously.  It is the basis for how I judge relationships.  I use this verse as a definition, or sorts, for what love is.

Here's the thing, I'm not a biblical scholar and I'm not in any way a Christian know-it-all, but I do think that many people use the bible to condemn things that they don't understand and to justify their own prejudices.  In the past, the bible has been used to justify slavery (this is an interesting exploration of this topic).  The bible was also used by Hitler to justify the Holocaust. Countless religious fanatics have fallen prey to twisting and mutating scripture to justify terrible acts and condemn entire groups of people.

Here's the thing about the bible that we need to remember: it has been written, re-written, translated, re-translated, altered and re-altered throughout history to make it "fit" into certain societal norms and political thoughts.  Don't get me wrong here, I LIKE THE BIBLE.  I believe in much that the bible offers.  I am a baptized Christian (in fact I've been baptized 3 times, as a young child in the Methodist Church, as an older child into the Presbyterian Church, and again upon my own desire after finding Christ as a teen into the Baptist Church), but I've faced my own condemnation by the church and it has significantly shaped my religious views (a story for another post perhaps). I have experienced first hand how a group of religious people can come together to judge, jury, and condemn something that they don't understand.  Practices and judgement that are used to exclude people leads to Exclusivist Christianity, and it's a dangerous thing.

I don't believe that the bible should be taken literally in all aspects of our lives.  I believe that it is a tool for learning how to live.  A tool for learning how to see the world and all it's peoples as a whole unit. A tool for globalization.  The experiences shared in the bible are the same as any other stories that have been passed down through generations; biblical stories are meant to teach a lesson or show a way of thinking.  They are not meant to be taken as 100% factual, although many of them are based in fact.  Science has proven this time and time again and we as Christians need to embrace this chance to allow our theology to grow and learn.

So, how does this relate to LGBTQ rights?  Well it's simple.  The bible teaches us to love one another. To respect one another.  To accept one another for our own gifts, talents, and beliefs.  It teaches inclusion through love.  Jesus loved the world, one world. God doesn't exclude people from his love. How can we be mirrors of God's love if we don't show that love to everyone?  This is the love that 1st Corinthians 13 shows us.  It protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, and never fails.  This is the foundation of Christianity.  A love that never goes away.

Its interesting that even our national pledge says "one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  This concept of being ONE un-dividable people that allows liberty and justice for ALL was critical to our nation's conception.  The connection between god's love, unity, and equal liberty is what defines us as Americans.

As I sit here reflecting on this Sunday morning, I'm considering how I can show my children what LOVE IS, not only in a religious context (although I will allow my children to follow their own religious paths, whatever that may be, and I personally strive to not force any one religious doctrine on them), but in a real-world context as well.  Certainly, I can make a conscious effort to expose my children to LGBTQ people and families.  And I can encourage them in their own "love journeys" when the time comes.  But, through all my internet research (which you all know I rely on tremendously) I cannot find any better way to teach my children about love than to teach them the way my parents taught me and my sisters: if it fits into 1st Corinthians 13, then it is love. It's not exclusionary, it's not based on biology, gender, or sex.  It just IS.

 As a parent, I try to teach through example.  My husband and I strive to show our children what love is by being real in our relationship.  We love each other and we show it in many ways.  But we also try to show our children what love is in a more tangible way.  If you could fit love into a "box" what would the box look like?  We believe that love looks like 1st Corinthians 13.  And when my daughter talks about someone she likes I tell her to put their name into these verses to make sure they "fit" the definition of love. No matter what shape that love takes, it is love.

How do you teach your child about love?  Please share your RESPECTFUL thoughts and opinions below.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Xenophobia: Terrorism in Politics

This is the fourth, and final, post in my Immigration mini-series (see also my reaction to The Day Without Immigrants, The history of Immigration Policy in the U.S., and my exploration of Immigration Policy impacts on Families and Children).  I was inspired by the February 16th Day Without Immigrants to do further research into the topic.  This post will focus on Xenophobia and U.S. Politics. 

Xenophobia is the intense dislike of people from other countries.  It is a fear of something foreign.  There have been a number of organized waves of Xenophobia throughout American history.  Of course the earliest form of American Xenophobia is towards Native Americans, but it has also included 1850s regulations on Irish Catholics, the late 1800s ban on Asians, to fear of Germans in the early 1900s, and of course the targeting of Japanese during WWII.  America has been plagued by Xenophobic thought and policy. 

More recently in Xenophobia towards Middle Easterners has plagued not only immigrants but also those who simply “look” like they might be Middle Eastern.  The social and structural prejudices that plague descendants and new immigrants from these countries is immense.  These Xenophobic fears have been propagated by political turmoil in U.S. Politics and are largely unsubstantiated. 

We know that a large amount of Terrorism is the result of Radical Islamics from the Middle East.  Certainly, we have seen our share of Radical Terrorists and the threat is real.  I remember 9-11.  It’s one of the few truly terrifying memories that has been etched into my mind.  One of the few days that I can remember with such clarity that I could detail almost every moment.  I believe that there is a real threat from terrorism, specifically from those who have warped and twisted their religious beliefs into Extremism.  But I do not believe that we can take the image of those radicals and superimpose the fear and pain that they caused us on the entirety of people who may look like them or who also come from a Middle Eastern country. 

Muslims are a truly peaceful people.  Islam is a peaceful religion.  Those who have warped it into Extremism are the problem.  Those who have taken Islamic teachings and mutated them to create hate are the problem.  I served on a Board not long ago with a Muslim woman.  Not knowing she was Muslim, I complemented her on her hair, to which she laughed and told me “it’s a wig”.  I was in shock!  Firstly because it looked so nice and real, but secondly, that this woman (who I’d know for quite some time) wore a wig.  I asked her why she wore the wig.  I will never forget what she said to me “My religious beliefs require me to cover my hair in modesty, but I find that if I wear my hijab I get looks, people ignore me or try to avoid being near me, and I find myself fearful of others.”  She went on to tell me that she was born and raised here in the U.S., as were her parents before her, but that in the years since 9-11 they had all moved away from wearing a Hajib because they found that they could function better in society without the stigma attached to it. 

This not only infuriates me (that my friend has had to live in fear because of the stereotypes cast on her) but also makes me incredibly shameful of being an American.  Yes, that’s right.  Ashamed to be an American.  We let a few very scary events caused by a small group of extremists twist our opinions in a way that has allowed our society to target, stereotype, and condemn not only people from the Middle East but people of an entire religion.  The Middle East had roughly 371 million people in 2010.  And we let the actions of 19 men from Al-Qaeda (which was estimated to have roughly a few thousand extended members) dictate American opinion of an entire region and religion of people.  They won.  We let them scare us enough that we cast doubt on the entire 371 million people in the Middle East.  And now, with the rise of ISIS (which the UN estimates has roughly 15,000 members) our fear has been completely reinvigorated.  Does that make any since?  15,000 people make us fear the entire 371 million?  That’s completely ridiculous!  That means that only .004% of people in the Middle East are terrorists.  In comparison, there are roughly 50,000 White Supremists (which is America’s largest Domestic Terrorist category) in the United States, which has a population of 318 million.  That means that .016% of Americans are White Supremists.  That’s 4 times the density of Domestic Terrorists already in the United States as there are Terrorists in the entire Middle East. 

Certainly, we need vetting to make sure that we don’t inadvertently allow a known terrorist to enter the United States.  The U.S. already has the most extreme vetting process of every other county.  Our vetting process requires two years of inquiry and research before allowing a Middle Easterner from specific “hot zone” countries immigrate.   I am all for making vetting intense and thorough.  What I am NOT ok with is the broad categorization and stereotyping of Muslims or Middle Easterners.  I am also not ok with political propaganda that suggests that we should be fearful or hesitant about people of the Islamic faith or immigrants from the Middle East.

Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.  I’m just going to let that sink in for a moment.  Intimidation and violence in the pursuit of political aims.  Intimidation is intentional behavior that would cause an ordinary person fear.  So, using intentional behavior that causes people fear to achieve political gain.  Unfortunately, I think we’ve seen quite a bit of terrorism lately, and it isn’t from Muslims or Middle Easterners.  The kind of terrorism we have seen is deeply rooted in our politics.  So rooted that we don’t even recognize the subtlety of it.  And so subtle that too many have been intimidated into believing it without questioning its validity. 

How does this relate to parenting? Our opinions and our actions towards other people directly impact our children's actions and opinions of those people.  By refusing to believe that a group of people should be feared based on political rhetoric and intimidation by political figures we can teach our children by example.  We can teach them by showing them in our everyday lives.  Here are a few ways you can teach your children NOT to be Xenophobic:

1.  When you see a person from another country show an interest in them.  If the opportunity arises, ask them where they are from and welcome them to America.  This is their America too.

2. Show respect and friendliness to people who are of a different ethnicity than your family.  I find this always easy to do in the grocery store check out line.  We all have to shop for food and a friendly smile and "hello" go a long way.

3. Encourage your children to widen their social circle to include a variety of people.  When your children are young this is easy, you choose who they have play dates with and which parents you engage with at their daycare/preschool.  But it's a little more tricky with other children and teens.  We have chosen to do this by going to a school that is ethnically and racially diverse.  

4. Expose your children to multicultural events. One of the funnest things to do every summer where we live is to visit the many cultural fairs.  Immersion into different cultures is critical in helping children feel at ease with differences. 

5. Talk to your children about differences and how they make each of us special.  Make sure to not put an emphasis on one type of difference being more special than another.  

6. Look at books.  Yes, this sounds kind of silly, but looking at books that show a variety of peoples, places, and traditions is essential to normalizing differences.  We always try to read about various cultures and traditions especially around holidays.  

I refuse to be intimidated into being fearful.  I refuse to stand aside while my friends are targeted because of their religion or their ethnicity.  I choose to stand with my Middle Eastern and Muslim friends because THEY ARE NOT TERRORISTS and it’s ridiculous to associate them with terrorists based solely on their religion or their ethnicity.  Please share your RESPECTFUL comments and opinions below. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Immigrant and Undocumented Families and Children

The Day without Immigrants inspired me to research Immigration Law and Policy so that I could better understand what EXACTLY has been going on and why so many people are outraged by the latest Immigration pushes by the Trump Administration.  What I learned is that there is wayyyyy too much information to cover in just one post, so I will turn this into a series of posts.  This post will be my next in this mini-series (See also my post on Xenophobia , The History of Immigration Policy, and my reaction to The Day without Immigrants) focusing on Immigrant and Undocumented Families and Children.

Immigration in the United States can be simplified into 3 different sub-categories: family-based, employment-based, and Refugees or Asylees.  Each type of immigration category has a limit on the number of approved admissions and each country has a total admissions limit.  Each President determines annually (usually in cooperation with Congress) what these limits will be.  For a full list of immigration statistics by year, please refer to the  Department of Homeland Security's page.
Presidents have taken varying views on which types of immigration (and deportations) should be considered priorities.  In times of conflict or when specific countries are facing human rights atrocities, a president can increase the number of Refugees or Asylees taken in from those counties.  The U.S. Department of State has these numbers broken down by year.  Another great source for seeing these numbers broken down by nationality and region is from the Refugee Processing Center.

I’d like to focus specifically on Family-Based Immigration because I believe this could perhaps be the most important topic on Immigration in terms of its direct impact on our children.  If you live in a metropolitan area, like we do, you probably have a large immigrant (largely Hispanic) population.  My children have many friends who are immigrants from a Central American country. 

Thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1982, undocumented children and young adults have equal rights to attend public primary and secondary schools as U.S. Citizen children.  Not only does this ruling allow undocumented children to attend public schools, it also make attending school required under State Law.  These children are not only our children’s friends, but they were our friends since 1982.

President Obama did two very important things for undocumented immigrant families and children.  First, he issued an executive order protecting high school and young college aged undocumented immigrants from deportation (coined the “DREAMers Act”).  The Second, a important directive about undocumented immigrants called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) .  This immigration policy essentially protects undocumented immigrant parents and children from deportation (by making them no longer “priority” deportees) and provides eligibility for a work permit. Interestingly, according to ABC News and regardless of the policies protecting undocumented immigrants, President Obama deported more people than any president previously.  The data released by the government stated that between 2009 and 2015 President Obama deported 2.5 million people, 91% of those deportees had been previously convicted of a crime.  It’s important to note that these numbers do not reflect deportations in President Obama’s last year in office.  Comparatively, President George W. Bush deported just over 2 million people in the combined 8 years of his presidency.  So, while Obama was working to support (by not making them a deportation priority) undocumented children and families, he was also working hard to crack-down on law-breaking undocumented immigrants, to which he was more successful than previous presidents.

So, here are the nitty-gritty complications relating to Family-Based Immigration and its accompanying acts and Executive Orders… There are moral and ethical issues to be taken into account.  Children born in the United States are U.S. Citizens, they are granted this by the 14th Amendment.  This is regardless of their parent’s immigration status.  While these children are not eligible for deportation, their undocumented parents are.  As a child, could you imagine having your parent taken away from you? As a U.S. Citizen, can you imagine having your family members taken away from you?  I cannot imagine the daily fear that these children and families live in.  Silently afraid.  The little girl that sits next your child in science class, the little boy on their soccer team, the child you see walking to their car in the school pick-up line… any of these children could be facing this emotional duress on a daily basis. 

There are economic issues to be considered.  Imagine for a moment, your child’s friend (whose parents are undocumented immigrants) are deported.  They have the choice of taking their U.S. Citizen children back to their country of origin (where they will presumably apply to come back to the U.S. but will probably not be approved because of their previous deportation) OR they can choose to leave their child in the U.S. and themselves be deported.  What would happen to these children? Remember, these are U.S. Citizens, entitled to all the benefits there-in.  If their parents cannot find (or have previously established) a guardian for their child(ren) then these children become wards-of-the-state (ie. Foster Children).  They are not 100% financially unsupported by their parents (whom presumably were working, making money on their work permits, and paying into the tax system) AND they are 100% supported by the U.S. government. According to The National Center for Child Welfare Excellence  upwards of 17 children are placed into foster care on a daily basis because their parents have been deported. The Child Welfare League of America estimates that it costs $36,500 per year for each child in Institutional Care.  That's roughly $226 million a year.  A YEAR!  This couldn’t possibly be more economically viable than allowing undocumented parents to remain in the United States on work permits! 

Under Obama’s directive, these undocumented parents were not a priority for deportation (ie, they weren’t specifically targeted) unless they were violent or felony offenders.  In fact, if they came forward as undocumented immigrants they received work permits as parents of protected children.  This gave a potentially false security to undocumented families, because now they were “day lighted” undocumented immigrants. While this protection lasted through President Obama’s administration, it had come into question in the Trump Administration. 

According to CNN,  the Trump Administration Department of Homeland Security issued a memos today that confirmed that President Obama’s Executive Orders (the DREAMers Act and DACA) wouldn’t be dismantled, in contrast to many Republicans who want to cut both programs completely.  Those memos were quickly clarified when White House Press Secretary stated that “Everyone who is here illegally is subject to removal at any time” but that those who have committed a crime would be considered priority.  Here’s the loophole: many undocumented parents have been convicted of falsifying records in an effort to get work or apply for child services (such as Medicaid).  Those parents are technically considered criminals under the Trump Administration’s definition (remember previously that the Obama Administration stated that they would focus primarily on felons and violent offenders only (not misdemeanor crimes like document falsification, which is considered a “white collar crime” subject to a fine and sometimes minor jail time).  We have already seen deportations of parents (and children) who are only guilty of misdemeanors. 

What are your thoughts?  Are misdemeanors like document falsification enough to warrant deportation of undocumented parents? Do you think that the financial burdens of supporting these children after their parents have been deported is better than having their parents here to work to support them?  Do you or your children have firsthand experience with this topic?  Please share your RESPECTFUL comments below.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Immigration Policy in the United States

This is the second in a series of posts about Immigration (see also my reaction to the Day without Immigrants, my exploration of Immigration Policy Impacts on Children and Families, and my post on Xenophobia in US Politics).  I was inspired by the protest on February 16th, 2017 A Day Without Immigrants to do some further research into Immigration in the United States.  What I learned was too much information and opinion to put into a single blog post, so I have separated it out into a mini-series of four posts.  My past college professors will probably laugh at this particular post because it so very clearly speaks to my “researchy” nature.  Most all of my projects and interests turn into research papers, books, or a project of some sort. This post will focus on the history of Immigration Policy in the United States.

As I do anytime I am seeking a summary time line of historical information about a topic, I turn to Wikipedia.  Of course we are all vaguely familiar with immigration in the United States in the early settlement and colonization days of the 1600s-1700s (which Wikipedia gives a great summary of here), but what was the beginning of Immigration law and policy? And how has that policy formed modern American opinion about Immigration?

The U.S. has had an Immigration reporting system since 1819, but US Civil Liberties.Org suggests that the first piece of immigration legislation was actually the Civil Rights Act of 1866.  While this Act was primarily meant to protect previous slaves after the Civil War, it “declared that people born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power are entitled to be citizens” which marked the first time a Birth Right to Citizenship was legally mentioned in U.S. Policy. Another important fact to note here is that Birth Right Citizenship, having been included in the Civil Rights Act, is now seen as a Civil Rights issue.  Civil Rights issues are specifically related to rights that protect against discrimination. 

Just two years later an amendment to the U.S. Constitution reinforced this policy (American History).  The 14th Amendment gave  equal protection and rights not only to former slaves but also to ANYONE BORN in the United States, whom would be given “equal protection of the laws.”  In brief, this meant that any child born on U.S. soil would be, upon their birth, a U.S. Citizen with all the rights and privileges thereof (more on this topic in my 3rd in the Immigration mini-series: Immigrant and Undocumented Families and Children).  Shortly after, many U.S. States began passing individual immigration laws until that ability was taken away by the Supreme Court ruling in 1875 that stated that “immigration was a federal responsibility” thereby taking it out of the individual State’s hands (Wikipedia).

The 1850s to early 1890s saw an increase in the movement towards exclusionary immigration policy and was supported by the 1882 Immigration Act (which was later revised in the 1891 Immigration Act) that established that certain individuals were unfit to become Americans.  What was specifically important about the Immigration Act was that it signified the first true policy in U.S. History to EXCLUDE specific people from immigrating to the Unites States.  This marks a huge shift from main stream U.S. thought from “everyone is welcome” to “only certain people are welcome”.  The availability of the American Dream was thereby narrowed to people of only certain national origins (Wikipedia).

Over the next 30 years the U.S. went through waves of immigration with the majority of immigrants coming from Central Europe (roughly 2 million), Sweden/Norway (roughly 1.5 million), and Lebanon/Syria (This is the time when my ancestors immigrated into the United States, see my post A Day without Immigrants).  With such large numbers of Immigrants seeking refuge in the United States fleeing the expanding Nazi rule and various other conflicts in Europe, Congress passed a literacy requirement in 1917 to reduce the inflow of working-class and low-skilled immigrants.  This again further limited the scope of people who were welcome to immigrate into the United States (Wikipedia).

Immigrants from Southern Europe and Russia were further restricted in the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924. These two pieces of legislation included restrictions on the number of immigrants who could enter the US from specific countries and completely restricted immigration from Asian countries.  In the 1940s a series of immigration acts allowed foreign born wives and fiances of military members and persons displaced from WWII to immigrate to the United States.  During this time over 1 million people immigrated to the US from Germany, the UK, Canada, Mexico, and Italy.  In 1953, The Refugee Relief Act expanded refugee immigration to non-Europeans (Wikipedia).

Ironically, very little legislation up to this point restricted immigration from the Western Hemisphere.  Immigrants from Mexico, the Caribbean, and most of Central America could often move much more freely across borders.  It wasn’t until the 1950s with the onset of Operation Wetback  that the U.S. (in cooperation with Mexico) began to really focus on the regulation of Mexican immigration.  This was largely a rebound response to a 6,000% increase in the number of immigrants who entered the United States from Mexico during the 1940s and early 1950s.  Interestingly, as it relates to our current political situation, the 1950s also saw a shift in political party power.  Harry Truman, a moderate Democrat who took over after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, left office in 1953 and was replaced by Dwight D. Eisenhower, a and Republican 5-star general.  What one president saw as an economic positive for our country, the next president saw as a potential for disaster.

It’s important to note here that there was a large increase in undocumented Mexican immigration happening while U.S. policy makers were busy responding to the effects of WWII on economy in the 1940s and 50s.  The U.S. began a massive industrial manufacturing push that left many farms desperate for low-cost labor.  In 1942, the U.S. and Mexico (under the direction of FDR) had created a joint labor program meant to bring more Mexican laborers into the U.S. to fill labor positions left from American citizen movement into industrial jobs (LOC.Gov).  

This labor program not only brought legal immigrants into the U.S. it also brought with it many thousands of undocumented laborers eagerly seeking American work. While there were certainly problems with the sheer numbers of undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S. boarder from Mexico, the cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. to encourage legal immigration of capable Mexican labor to help keep the American farm system running is to be commended. Without that influx of laborers American farming could very well have seen massive deterioration.  Of course, there were various (and often terrible) problems with using low-wage immigrant labor in farms, but that is a topic for a future post.

In 1986 the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed that granted amnesty to roughly 3,000,000 illegal immigrants in the United States.  Most of those immigrants were from Mexico (Wikipedia).  A rather interesting detail about this act and the amnesty that was provided to undocumented immigrants is that the President at the time was Ronald Reagan (with vice president George H. Bush), the president whom many most closely compare President Trump to.  This represents a HUGE shift in Republican thought about Immigration.  Reagan’s had an inclusionary immigration policy.  This reform gave many undocumented immigrants access to a path in which they could become American citizens, which would allow them to legally obtain jobs and pay taxes, thereby including them access to the American Dream. Reagan saw this program as an opportunity to increase the tax base and avoid spending more capital on deportation (which had been a huge investment since large scale deportations started during Operation Wetback).

In 2001, due to threats from terrorist organizations, President George W. Bush supported the USA Patriot Act (US History Timeline), which again shifted the focus of Immigration Policy to exclusionary.  While many of the exclusions in the Patriot Act were extended in 2011 by President Barack Obama (Wikipedia), the Act expired in 2015 and was replaced the following day in the 2015 Freedom Act (Wikipedia). Similar to Reagan granting Amnesty to roughly 3 million undocumented Immigrants in 1886, President Obama used an Executive Order that would potentially protect up to half (around 11 million) undocumented Immigrants and focused his efforts on deportation of criminals instead of families.  Obama's Executive Order aimed at protecting the undocumented parents of children who are legal U.S. Birth Right Citizens (more on this topic in my 3rd in the Immigration mini-series: Immigrant and Undocumented Families and Children).  

Our immigration policy since the 1850s has been largely reactionary and exclusionary, with one president making concessions and the next “tightening the belt” so-to-speak.  Reagan, a Republican President, moved away from this reactionary policy by giving amnesty to many immigrants and offering them a path to citizenship (which now is considered a largely Democratic Party idea).  President George W. Bush again moved towards a reactionary Immigration by excluding immigrants from some countries as a reaction to the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks.  Obama took an interestingly mixed approach which restricted immigration for some and provided inclusion for others. 

How does this relate to parenting? I’m not sure.  But the history of policy and how it was derived (especially around immigration from Mexico) helps us understand why the current politics around Immigration are so tensely wound.  I will delve more closely into how Immigration affects our parenting and our children in my next post on Immigration: Immigrant and Undocumented Families and Children.  Perhaps it’s time again for a Republican administration to implement Immigration Policy that isn’t reactionary, but inclusionary? Or perhaps President Trump could take a mixed approach and provide shelter for some immigrants but restrict others?  Your RESPECTFUL thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Day Without Immigrants

Yesterday, A Day Without Immigrants, was the first in a series of protests meant to show the American public and government the impact that Immigrants have on our economy and our lives.  While I didn't feel this impact personally (I spent the day catering to a sick child and only left the house to sit in the school pick-up line for my other children). I did have a chance to reflect on how immigration impacts my life and the lives of my children.  

Accounts of early immigration suggests that people came to America for one of two reasons: to flee persecution or to find new prosperous lives (seeking the American Dream).  My grandmother’s family migrated here in the early 1900s both to flee persecution and to seek new opportunities.  My grandmother used to talk for hours about her family’s origins, her early life, and why coming here was so important to her family. 

My grandmother on her 102 birthday,
 just one year before she died.
While I don’t know exactly where she came from (the boarders of many of the Eastern European countries have changed significantly in the last 100 years) I do know that it was somewhere in the Solvakia/Czech Republic area.  At the time, tensions between ethnic groups in the Kingdom of Hungary (whom controlled a large area of Eastern Europe where my grandmother’s parents lived) lead to the persecution of many Slovaks.  Between 1880 and 1910 roughly 3 million Austro-Hungarians migrated to the United States (my great-grandparents among them). 

Upon arrival to the U.S. my great grandfather found work in the coal mines.  My grandmother (who was born in the U.S. along with her brothers and sisters) often spoke about how rarely they saw him, but how hard he worked for the very little that he made.  She told me that her mother (whom was an educated woman) was some sort of secretary in an office (the details of which I regret not finding out), but that often my grandmother and siblings were left on their own seeking ways to make extra money to support their family.  She spoke fondly of a red wagon that she and her sister would pull around town trying to peddle metal wind chimes and crafts that their brother had made, making enough change to buy a treat at the local sweet shop. 

My grandmother’s ambition and her hard work of her parents allowed her to succeed in school and she went on to be one of the few women to attend college in the 1920s.  She graduated from college in 1931 (at 20 years old) and went on to study at NYU.  While at NYU she met my grandfather, who was then an Army Air Corps flight instructor.  She went on to be a pilot for the Civil Air Patrol during World War II, at a time when only 3.1% of licensed pilots were women.  After having 3 sons in the late 1940s and 1950s she went on to be the president of the local school board. 

When I think about the hardships that her family faced leaving their homes and coming to America as immigrants, then the struggles that she went through as a young woman in the 1920s, the social stigmas she must have faced as one of the few female pilots in the 1930s, and the bravery she showed in the Civil Air Patrol in the 1940s I can’t help but imagine how her life would have been different had her family never been accepted as immigrants here.  The Slovak countries were ripped apart in turmoil in the early 1900s leading to much of the area turning into a socialist state and involvement in WWII when the Nazi took over much of the territory.  With the conditions in that area in the 1920s-1940s I’m sure my grandmother’s life would have been a much different one.

It’s interesting.  Unless you are of purely Native American decent, it is easy to argue that at least some portion of your biology is from an immigrant (at some point in time some generation of your family had to come to America from some other place).  We are all immigrants in this way.  I think that the temporal element has the effect of separating us from that reality.  We don’t remember it, we don’t know the stories, and therefore we have separated ourselves from that reality.   I am thankful that my grandmother shared her stories with me because I feel a greater connection to her and her immigrant parents.  I will share these stories with my children so that they know what their family history is.  So that they know the strength and struggle that their distant relatives went through to make America their home. 

There is controversy over America’s status as a country of immigrants, but I think if we can all look back far enough we will see that this is true.  We all came from somewhere at some time, from people coming to America looking to live the “dream” of a life without persecution and a life with opportunities.

What is your family’s story?  Where are your immigrant roots?  Did your parents or grandparents share with you their immigration story?  What impact has it had on your life and your opportunities?  How will you share this past with your children? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What IS Politically Correct?

I'm an avid researcher.  I like to know every little detail of information before making a decision.  I am also an avid planner.  Not just professionally (I have a Master's Degree in Urban Planning) but also personally.  There is not a spontaneous bone in my body.  Even when we go on vacations I like to have almost every detail planned before even purchasing tickets or booking a hotel.  These personality traits are both a burden and a blessing.  They helped me complete two masters degrees simultaneously.  They helped me publish a book in the final trimester of pregnancy with my second child.  But they also have forced me to re-evaluate the way I parent, because very few aspects of parenthood are predictable and plan-able.

I spend countless hours (certainly more than I'd like to admit) scowling the internet for information about how to deal with specific parenting dilemmas, tips for helping my children's development, topics in child psychology, and ideas for how to deal with the daily complications of parenting.  Now-a-days every third Facebook post on my newsfeed relates to politics in some fashion, so I spend an equally lengthy amount of time scowling political articles, blogs, and news websites.  So, when faced with this new idea of how to address politics in my parenting I first had to do some research.  It was a can of worms, but here's what I learned...

History of Political Correctness

The term Politically Correct is "used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society" (Wikipedia).  Apparently, the term didn't have wide spread use until the 1990s when a series of articles by the The New York Times brought it into mainstream media. If your interested in the specifics of the term "Politically Correct" there is a great decade-by-decade generalized account on Wikipedia.  Certainly check out the citations at the bottom of the Wikipedia page for more detailed reading.  Otherwise, here is a chart summary of the origins and uses of the term.

Current Meaning of Politically Correct

Being "Politically Correct" has largely been criticized because it holds peoples feelings in too high a regard and has been considered by Conservatives as a way of "babying" issues and groups of people.   An article published in January 2016 in the Washington Post suggested that Conservatives often use the term to ridicule to an ideological opponent.  In contrast, it is used by Liberals as a way of showing respect and inclusion to groups of people who have been historically marginalized.

WikiHow suggests that being Politically Correct serves an "important purpose" because "it promotes equality by demonstrating an understanding that all people and groups are valuable to society". WikiHow also suggests that speaking in a Politically Correct way can actually begin to change sexist, racist, and homophobic thought.  They suggest that choosing respectful language helps others hear your respect and reciprocate it.  This suggests that being Politically Correct is about more than language use, it's about respect for others.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned in my research on being Politically Correct is the idea that it is about more than language, it is about RESPECTING OTHERS OPINIONS.  There is a line between respecting other's opinions and wanting to understand how they came to their beliefs, and accepting blatantly racist, sexist, and phobic speech (more on this line in future posts).    It is important to note that being Politically Correct doesn't mean respecting or tolerating hate speech.  Being Politically Correct means respecting that other people have opinions that you may or may not agree with.  It means understanding that their thoughts and opinions are based in their own experiences (life experiences, religious experiences, and in some cases lack of experiences with certain groups of people) and that their voices deserve to be heard.  

What does this have to do with Parenting?

I choose to take this term at it's foundation: showing respect towards others. I will wear the label Politically Correct with pride because it means that I am showing respect to ALL PEOPLE and recognizing that their thoughts and opinions (as long as they are not hate speech) are valid. It does NOT mean agreeing with political opposition, it means respecting the position of political opposition.  I think it also means trying to learn the roots of thoughts and opinions that differ from your own.  Part of respect is understanding.  As a parent, I think that this is an important example to set for our children.  Surely, none of us wish to purposefully guide our children to be racist, sexist, or phobic of any group of people.  In order to teach our children respect towards others we have to show it ourselves.

In what ways do you strive to be a Politically Correct example for your children?  Please share your thoughts on this term and it's importance in Parenting below.