Tag Archives: advocacy

Political Apathy and why I’m SO not feeling it.

So I’ve had a few readers ask me why I haven’t really blogged about the election, and I think I need to clarify that I am absolutely NOT apathetic about politics. I follow the news, subscribe to the Economist, as stressful as that is (one issue a week is a bit of an overkill, just sayin’), and generally try to stay as informed as possible. I’m just not a political blogger. There are already a ton of policy wonks writing about politics and doing it way better than I ever could. My interest is in culture and media, and when I have written about politics on this blog, it’s always through a critical cultural-media lens. That is why when I interviewed a woman on development in Afghanistan a few weeks ago, I focused on media coverage and gender issues. And when I addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I didn’t really take a side on the issue but instead critiqued the erasure of such an important topic in our public space. And I did attempt to tackle an election debate by questioning the narrow scope of the corporate media’s coverage and arguing for why we need independent media and third-party candidates.

As I wrote in my first post,  I’m uncomfortable with the divisive nature of partisan politics, the Bill O’Reilly vs. Chris Matthews screaming matches that our news media has fostered, and the corporatization of our culture that is diminishing our public space. I agree with rapper Killer Mike that our country tends to think in ‘teams,’ and ultimately, I believe that change comes from the people. That’s one of the reasons why I was behind so much of what the Occupy movement did. It’s also why I absolutely loved this article on how a performance-poetry group who have cared for their children through extreme poverty are now working with the Occupy movement and other advocacy groups to teach people about poverty. It makes sense that poor people would actually have the best anti-poverty ideas. If only policy-makers and politicians would listen to the people more, and if only the news media would represent these groups instead of constantly interviewing elites with the same recycled opinions. It’s frustrating, and it needs to change.

But here’s the thing. I DO think elections matter, and very few things annoy me more than apathy. And this is where I’m going to abandon all of my Kumbaya inclinations of always wanting to bring people together by avoiding divisive talk, and I’m just going to BUST. Because I have come to the realization that people who make arguments like ‘the president is just a figurehead’ or “Obama did nothing these past four years, he’s no different than Bush,” are really annoying and need to be called out. Honestly, I don’t care who you vote for. But if you’re a liberal who is ‘disappointed’ with Obama’s presidency because he didn’t get as much done as they wanted, well…he ended up with a Republican Congress!! What did you expect him to do?? The government got gridlocked because of that. That’s the way politics works in this country people. Did you miss the massive health care bill he passed? Or how he ended torture? He bailed out the auto industry (I have friends and family who live in Ohio and Detroit who have seen real effects from this…ie, no economic meltdown). He protected women’s reproductive rights and passed the historic Lilly Ledbetter bill that protects women from discriminatory pay. He got rid of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and vouched his support for marriage equality. Oh, and he got us out of Iraq and caught Bin Laden. So people are pissed because he didn’t do every little thing he wanted to do. They wanted public health care. They’re mad that he cracked down so hard on immigrants. I get these concerns, but here’s the thing, change doesn’t happen overnight. I think a lot of people in my generation were raised on these ridiculous expectations a la Veruca Salt of “I want the world to change overnight NOW DADDY!” And that’s not how the world works. How many years did it take for women to achieve the right to vote? For the Civil Rights movement to win their demands?

I’m going to argue that Obama was effective in planting the progressive seeds that, if given the opportunity, he and other presidents afterwards will help shape. Whether you agree with those politics is neither here or there, but for everyone who says crap like ‘The president is just a figurehead…” PLEASE SPARE ME. Maybe you should check out this link from ‘On the Media’ that discusses Kennedy’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. You know, like how it was basically him against his cabinet. How he won out. How a president DOES shape policy.

I am done with apathy and cynicism. DONE. And I’ve never bought it. Your cynicism does not make you superior to me because I actually fucking care and am fighting to make this world a better place. It just means you aren’t informed. Yeah that’s right, I said it. You’re LAZY. You haven’t done your research. You’re using your holier-than-thou attitude as a guise for your ignorance. And your apathy insults me. Yes, this is what a Nadia bust looks like. I’m sorry, but as someone who has lived and voted in swing states for the last decade, who realizes the importance of every little vote, I am really losing patience for this kind of attitude.

Do I believe that change comes from the people? YES. Am I frustrated with the two-party system, with the gross amount of money that is pumped into political ads when there are so many people living in poverty? YES. But that doesn’t take away from my belief that politicians and elections matter. Don’t kid yourself by believing that your vote doesn’t make a difference. Do you really think a Bush presidency was identical to an Obama one?! Really?? If so, then maybe you should stay home and not vote. Yup, now I’m being rude. Again, I don’t care who you vote for, as long as you stay engaged and realize that your engagement matters. And there really is no excuse anymore to not stay engaged. I’m going to end with Saturday Night Live‘s brilliant parody on ‘the undecided voter.’ Because I’m done. I’ll be back tomorrow blogging about all things culture and engaging with peeps who actually give a damn and have some faith in the power of their voices.

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Filed under Media & Culture

In Iraq, abandoning our allies

It is no mystery that human beings have short memories.

Playing with young Iraqi refugee clients at a refugee awareness event at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Americans certainly, are no exception, especially when it comes to our international policy. We alternate our heavy involvement in military conflicts with a rabid isolationism, choosing to forget about those who suffer in the wake of the choices we have made. Our geographical isolation allows it, and our Western privilege allows it. And when it comes to the Second Gulf War, it seems we would rather forget about the many Iraqis who were our allies for those seven long years.

In a way, it’s understandable that Americans are sick of a country that permeated our every news story, orange alert, and political talking point. Polls taken towards the end of the war revealed a strong opposition to renewed military involvement  as well as a majority of Americans who considered the Iraq War to be a mistake. We witnessed too many lives lost, too many resources used, and too many mistruths spoken. It seems that most Americans are embracing Obama’s message of change by moving on from a war that we would much rather forget.

But if Obama’s inspiring message was predicated on the belief that we should build a more peaceful world by protecting the vulnerable, then our current policy towards Iraqi refugees contradicts that message. Kirk Johnson, founder of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Refugees, wrote an eye-opening article in The New York Times opinion page about the current refugee crisis, and how Obama’s administration has not lived up to his promise to help the ‘interpreters, embassy workers, and subcontractors targeted for assassination’ because of their involvement with the U.S. government. In the article and on his website, Johnson outlines the dangers that our Iraqi allies are facing now that they have been left behind in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal. “The sorry issue,” Kirk Johnson writes, “is that we don’t need them anymore now that we’re leaving, and resettling refugees is not a winning campaign issue.”

Kirk Johnson’s article was one of the few in the past year that The New York Times published about Iraqi refugees. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why when I tell people that most of the clients we are receiving at the refugee resettlement agency I am involved with are from Iraq, they looked surprised. Most get quiet. And to be honest, I understand why. After all, if our involvement was supposed to instill democracy in Iraq, then why are so many people fleeing?

And that question, perhaps, is one that we would just not prefer to answer.

Here are the facts:

Additional Resources:

  • To learn more about Kirk Johnson’s project to help resettle Iraqi refugees and how you can help, click here.
  • To learn more about the Iraqi refugee crisis, please watch PBS’s documentary Iraqi Exodus
  • To learn of other ways in which you can help, either by donating or getting involved with a local refugee organization, contact the International Rescue Committee.

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Filed under Inspirations

So … what I hope we can do with this blog!

Here’s the thing. I am not a partisan, and I have never aligned myself with any particular party. I believe that ideology and identity are far more fluid than what being on a certain ‘side’ allows. I agree with rapper Killer Mike when he notes that our country conditions people to “think in teams,” whether it’s sports, or the clubs you should join starting in high school, or your religious affiliation. It is hard, as he put it, to just ‘be.’ Being curious, asking questions, and trying to form common ground are becoming more and more difficult in our seriously divided, increasingly corporatized culture.

Here’s what I hope to do …

  • I hope to blog regularly (several times per week).
  • My blogs will focus on three broad topics that I find myself always writing/talking about: critical media and culture; gender and sexuality; and critical posts on the fashion industry. I will also have a space for ‘inspirations,’ which will feature—you guessed it—all the amazing things that inspire me that week, from mantras to street art, poetry to speeches.
  • These posts will include links to relevant articles, radio shows, videos, magazines, academic material, podcasts and other blogs that have related and interested content.
  • I already have a ton of ideas (a review of the documentary film, Girl Model, about exploited underage models, the so-called elitism of the sustainability movement in fashion and other industries, why gender matters as much as sexuality in the marriage equality debate, why I love Frank Ocean in all of his gorgeous, ambiguous sexual identity, how the character Spinelli in General Hospital is challenging gender norms in ways I’ve never seen on a television show, and how the CW’s show Gossip Girl is selling haute couture and ideals of neoliberalism to millions of young women everywhere).

And here’s what I would like from you!

  • Please comment! I really want to hear your feedback! Tell me what you think about my posts and share your ideas, and definitely engage with each other! Feel free to share your constructive criticism as well.
  • Keep the conversation going and share! Feel free to send me interesting links—I’m always looking for new ideas to blog about! Also, link me to your blog so that we can keep the conversation going.
  • Let’s keep it respectful! Reading the comment sections of cultural and political blogs (more so political), really depresses me. How can most people be so civil in public but so hateful when the anonymity of the Internet allows it? I’m really not feeling that, and I don’t respect the opinions of people who feel the need to resort to that kind of dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE heated debate and dialogue, as long as it is respectful and actually engages with the other person!

My hope is that this space will encourage this dialogue, to engage others from different backgrounds and belief systems to join in the conversation, and really listen to each other, girlfriends. And yes, I call my friends, family and strangers on the street ‘girlfriend,’ including my guy friends. It could just be that I formed a subconscious response to the ubiquitous use of ‘guys’ to refer to any group of people, even if it is a group of girls! Or maybe it’s just because I watched the film Clueless one too many times during my all important, formative middle school years, and I have a bit of Cher/Valley Girl in me. 🙂

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Filed under Why I created this blog