Archive by Author | Mariam Pera

When Justice Failed

Today’s Google Doodle honors Fred Korematsu, an American civil rights activist who objected to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. As a child in elementary school, I read When Justice Failed: The Fred Korematsu Story as required summer reading, and it changed my life. It was the first time I had heard about Japanese Internment. This book shaped my broader interest in social policy, especially in regards to how immigrants and first-generation Americans are viewed.

Being Assyrian-American, I have never felt I quite fit in; not with white Americans or with other brown people. Quite frankly, I fly under the radar and can “blend in” a lot more than many of my Asian, other Middle Eastern, Latino or Black friends, simply because of my physical appearance. But as a child of immigrants, I have always been conscious of the fact that–while I love my country and am an American patriot–others do not view me as American. This has been reinforced time and time again thanks to the wonders of the internet, where people have told me to “go back home” or “go back to your hooker country” (I don’t even know what that one means). These interactions have happened on the comments of this blog as well as on Twitter. And the funniest part to me is that, technically, I am considered “White” (thanks for the privilege, US Census!), and I legitimately don’t look that different from Americans whose families have been in this country for a few more generations than mine. This is how I know first-hand that racism is not limited to skin color. It is not based in fact or truth about who other people actually are. Racism is taught and learned behavior. It is an attitude that promotes fear of the other.

For those who are saying that President Trump’s Executive Order temporarily banning immigration from specific countries is not racist, or who disagree that it is dangerous, I implore you to read about how Japanese-Americans were treated in the US. All this while Jews, gypsies, Poles, Slavs, and people with disabilities (to name a few) were being rounded up and executed en masse by Nazis in Europe. I encourage everyone to read Mr. Korematsu’s amazing story, and about the stain this tragedy left on the American story. Less literary, I recommend watching “The Siege” with Denzel Washington, Annette Benning, and Bruce Willis. The eerie part is that it was made before September 11.

I want to say that the response to President Trump’s policy agenda is not a bunch of leftist sore losers. This is not hysteria. This is genuine fear of known, fairly recent history repeating itself. It can happen here unless we stop it. And the most selfish reason it is so important for me to personally stand and speak against these actions, to condemn them as racist, and to give voice to those harmed is that I know if I do not stand for them now, there will be no one to stand for me later.

I will leave you with Luthern Pastor Martin Niemöller‘s poem in response to indifference to discrimination in Nazi Germany:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Book Review: Shadow and Bone

Cover of "Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1)" by Leigh Bardugo

Cover of “Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1)” by Leigh Bardugo

Fresh off ending my love affair with Cassandra Clare’s shadowhunters, I needed a new fantasy to get lost in this summer (although it was hard to say goodbye). Although I’m a little late to the party, Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy was just the ticket, taking me on a journey through Ravka, a fictional Russian-esque land torn in two by an ominous “swath of near impenetrable darkness” where carnivorous monsters dwell called the Shadow Fold.

An action-packed page-turner, Shadow and Bone takes some common YA themes–isolation, trust and betrayal, self-acceptance, and even love triangles–to a deeper level. The story opens with a girl and boy at an orphange being tested for powers by the Grisha, Ravka’s “magical elite.” Neither are found to be very promising. Fast forward a dozen or so years and our orphan heroine, Alina Starkov, is an all-grown-up but lonely mapmaker in the Ravkan Army. Her best friend, Mal (Malyen Oretsev), has grown into a handsome and well-liked tracker, who also happens to be very popular with the ladies. (Womp, womp for our leading lady.)

While entering the Shadow Fold, their regiment is attacked by the volcra (monsters), and Mal is hurt. In response, Alina unknowingly unleashes pillars of light to fight off the volcra, giving the regiment enough time to retreat. Turns out Alina’s power is unique. She is then taken to the Darkling (what’s in a name, indeed), the leader of the Grisha. He tells Alina he wants her help in destroying the Shadow Fold and the volcra, and decides to send her to the Ravkan palace to train with the other Grisha.

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To intervene or not to intervene. (That is the question.)

I’ve generally withheld my opinion on US involvement in Syria for mostly this reason: How can government officials support American intervention if it’s done “narrowly,” but claim they don’t want to actually be involved in regime change? How does that even make sense?

This is exactly why intervention in the Middle East and the Maghreb/North Africa has been such a debacle. We aren’t even sure how much we *want* to be involved, and we certainly don’t want to be dragged into another decade(s) long conflict. Not that I blame members of Congress for caution; certainly in the face of mixed international support, it makes perfect sense. In many ways, the US is the boy who cried wolf when it comes to Arab countries. (Check out Rachel Maddow’s thoughts on the Iraq War Architects weighing in on Syria.) We burned ourselves with Iraq, selling ourselves and the rest of the world a false bill of goods, and it hasn’t done anyone much good. Now when intervention seems to actually be more appropriate, we’re gun-shy and so is everybody else (except the trigger happy people, of course).

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Security vs. Safety

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This morning during my daily news intake, I read this article on the Obama administration defending the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting the phone records of “millions of U.S. citizens.” The administration official of course spoke anonymously, and he/she only defended the practice of collecting this information–he/she didn’t confirm that it had actually been done. Being of the mind that where there’s smoke, there’s usually some kind of fire (and I witnessed one in the alley next to my house last night), I think this deserves some of my attention.

First of all, I am outraged. What happened to the Obama of the 2004 DNC that said one person or group’s rights being eschewed in the name of ‘national security’ was a threat to all of our civil liberties? Or the 2008 Obama that penned this piece on FISA? Has the audacity of hope really fallen that far?

I’m not going to pretend to understand the intense level of responsibility that presidents and their administration officials feel toward protecting our nation’s security (one hopes). Can’t even begin to comprehend it. But I do understand what it means to protect someone. And that is what’s being lost here–no one person is being protected and no one person/group is the threat. Someone’s, let’s say mine (because they could be mine), privacy has been compromised with no legal cause or due process. And that is scary. The ironic half-jokes from the early 2000s about the Patriot Act’s invasive nature must have fallen on deaf ears (gotta love that photo). The same people that were standing at podiums talking about protecting our privacy against George W. Bush and his cronies are now committing the same sins in the name of the same gods or devils: national security. From who? At this moment, I’m more afraid of the government than Al Qaeda, because let’s be honest, which is more likely to happen? I will be involved in an act of mass terrorism, or my government will invade my privacy and neglect my legal rights? Which one do we all know is more likely to happen? Exactly. (And yes, I accept that maybe the latter is more likely to happen because of actions like this one in the name of national security, but I also tend to believe if someone has the intent of hurting people, they’ll find some way to do it.) Read More…

What’s the deal with journalism? I don’t get it!

The other day, I woke to a CNN news alert on my phone that the Department of Justice had confiscated materials from the Associated Press. As a journalist, I was fuming. Such action contradicts our very constitution!! So how do these things happen?

As a philosophical matter–what gives the government the right to take into it’s possession the property of individual reporters or news outlets?–the answer has been clear: nothing. But these things happen, more often than we hear about them, everywhere in the world. Here it’s a matter of press and public outcry. We understand the importance of the so called “free press” (never mind how often the media is vilified in political discourse). Read More…

Why do you care who gets married?

For the record, I would never vote against any initiative that called for gay couples to have equal rights under the law (I’m remembering Tommy Lee Jones’ scene in Lincoln right now). And also for the record, I am a Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior (maybe that should’ve gone first). I have a somewhat odd opinion about the term “gay marriage,” though. Honestly, my biggest issue with this debate is that I fundamentally do not understand why anyone cares whether or not other people get married. As Frank from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia says, “Who gives a s**t if gays want to be miserable like everyone else and get married. Let em do it. No skin off my ass.” (I know, I’m so eloquent and open-minded).

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London calling

I am waiting at my terminal at O’hare International Airport, and it’s the first time I’ve traveled alone. I won’t lie, I have some anxiety.

The last time I felt this way, I was hugging my mom goodbye here and on my way to Rome. The minute any nerves kicked in, I heard someone yelling my name: “Mariam!!” It was Alex, my classmate, calling me to join her at the terminal. She became my best friend on that trip. And I met another great friend, Colleen, the girl I sat next to on the flight (and kind of lost in Milan). And I’m going to London to stay with Catherine, a friend I made while in Rome with my best friend, Kamil.

On my list of things to see are Stonehenge, Bath as Oxford. And, of course, as much of London as possible in a week.

Traveling is exciting and meeting new people is great; but I think the relief of not being alone is what makes meeting these friends so exhilarating. I’m hoping this will continue, and I’m looking forward to all London and the UK has to offer (except the exchange rate). I’d like to say I’ll blog while abroad, but I’m hoping I’ll be completely unable to find the time.

Wish me luck, blogosphere!

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Social media and social justice when you’re anti-social.

It’s no secret here on Real Talk that Angelo is the prime contributor and facilitator of this blog. He alone is responsible for any success or traction it has had, and I am so excited to see what he’s going to continue to do moving forward.

I know it’s been unfair of me to neglect the blog and leave the responsibility on him. I’ve had a hard time explaining to him, and to myself, why I stopped thinking about this blog and took some time away from social media all together. Last night, I heard a presentation that resonated with me so well, it served as the explanation for my radio silence. I don’t want to share things.

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Romney thinks “gifts” won Obama the election

RomneyAh, the 47% remark comes back once again to bite Romney, even after losing to Obama. Here is my open letter to ol’ Mittens.

Dear Mittens,

On a call with your campaign donors, you alleged that President Obama was re-elected because of “gifts” (read ‘charity’) he had given to target groups: blacks, Hispanics, low-income earners, young people, and women. The gifts in question include:

  • Free health care “in perpetuity,” which Romney said was highly motivational to black and Hispanic voters as well as for voters making $25,000 to $35,000 a year.
  • Obama’s promise to offer what Romney called “amnesty” to the children of illegal immigrants.
  • The administration’s plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest and allowing young people to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans.
  • Free contraception coverage for women under the president’s health care plan.

“I’m very sorry that we didn’t win,” you told donors. “I know that you expected to win. We expected to win. We were disappointed; we hadn’t anticipated it.”

Here are three points of frustration I wish to express about this. Read More…

Ode to My Country

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Barack Obama has just been reelected as the president of the United States of America. Let that sink in.

Today I cast my ballot for a biracial man, and the most empowering part of it was that it didn’t even phase me. I am proud of his leadership and his willingness to hear from all sides. While I am elated that the president will get four more years to see his policies through, I am cautiously optimistic about what the next term will look like.

Here’s to hoping that everyone can put party aside and unite under our flag, our love of country. The responsibility of lawmakers is to come to consensus on behalf of the electorate.

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