On Missing My Father 10/2/2016

This is beautiful for the emotions it evokes. Billy, an intellectual man, takes time to just be honestly emotional in writing. Leaves the reader not thinking too much and feeling a lot. Very well done.

Billy Glidden

I’m in the bathroom when the grief descends. I am caught defenseless. One minute, I’m thinking about a blog post, feeling annoyed by a phone call; the next, an old memory comes to me, one I haven’t replayed in months, if not years, and I find myself lying on my bathroom and sobbing.

It has been six years since my dad died. It’s a fact as much a part of my reality as the rain or sun. It simply is. Thus it is something I can go many days without fully noticing. When there is occasion for me to talk about him, or his absence, I draw from my repository of well-worn dad anecdotes, and can usually get through them with the ease one feels recounting the outcome of a sports game or describing the weather.

Not so on this night. It could be fatigue; I really haven’t been sleeping…

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To my friends blasting Muslims for the Paris attacks

This post was inspired by a particular exchange with a friend online, but is intended for every one of my friends who is tempted to respond to the violence in Paris by blocking all Syrian refugees from coming to the US, screening immigrants by religion, or painting all Muslims with the same brush.


 

Dear Friend,

We recently had a spirited exchange online about Syrian refugees and Islam. It started with me seeing a few anti-Muslim posts you shared. Then I shared this video with you and the conversation really got started:

 

I suspect the following exchange mirrors many that have taken place over the last few days.

You brought up some quotes from the Quran that incite violence. I pointed out that the Bible has similar verses, and a mutual friend of ours chimed in with some of these Bible quotes. We went back and forth. You questioned whether the refugees fleeing violence in Syria are really in need, using photo memes of what are apparently healthy-looking male refugees. Do these memes accurately represent the situation? Do a Google image search for “Syrian refugees” and you’ll find your answer. Include the words “boat”, “drown”, or “boy” and you’ll really have your heart broken.


 

You’ve only known me for a few years, so you don’t know much about the time I spent in the Muslim world in 2009 and 2011.

In 2009 I traveled to northwest India on a study abroad program with Principia College. We each designed our own ethnographic research project, and I chose to study Hindu-Muslim relations. India, the world’s largest democracy, is a Hindu-majority country, but also houses the world’s second largest Muslim population, approximately tying Pakistan and trailing only Indonesia. I got to interview many different people as I assembled a representative sample of Indians young and old, rich and poor, rural and urban, educated and uneducated, Brahmin and lower class, female and male, Hindu and Muslim. Two people stood out.

Siraj was a thirty-year-old family man who hosted me and another American student for a short homestay. He was a Muslim living in Udaipur, a predominantly Hindu city. He was tremendously kind, warm, and talkative. We sat on his rooftop at night and he would philosophize in English about Gandhi, peace, love, his dreams for his children, and his hopes for India.

Kamil was a Muslim that a group of us met in the middle of the bustle of the Delhi train station. He was an impressive, inspiring, spiritual man who deeply affected all of us after just a short conversation. And he had no legs. Our encounter with him inspired the most thoughtful of my blog posts from that trip: Dignity On Two Arms.

In 2011 I got my second experience in Muslim society. I spent three months in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan, and traveled through a range of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities. I was fed by Muslim cave-dwellers in the deserts of the West Bank, housed by Israeli Jews in several kibbutz (intentional communities), and educated in non-violent activism by Palestinian Christian leaders.

Together these experiences make it impossible for me to judge and condemn an entire religion of over 1 billion people because of the violence of a few.


 

Though I think some of what you’re sharing is misinformation and/or hateful propaganda, I don’t blame you for sharing it. I just wanted to explain the life experience I’m coming from. I also think I understand, at least in part, where you’re coming from.

I know when you come home at the end of a long day, you’re physically exhausted and emotionally drained, you’ve been dealing with other people’s problems, and you don’t have time to become an expert in both foreign policy and religion. The world is a vast, overwhelming place (for me, too), and your life is stressful enough as it is. For the few minutes you spend on the internet in the evening, you just want to enjoy a video of a puppy cuddling with a lion cub, a nice landscape scenery shot taken by an old high school buddy, and maybe a post with a minion in it. You want to laugh and be inspired. You want a diversion from the craziness of daily life. We probably all feel this way sometimes.

However, I also know that you’re a person, like me, with a full range of emotions, and sometimes the emotional outlet you need is not just a cat video but a channel for your more aggressive feelings. Sometimes you’re angry and BuzzFeed just isn’t enough to brighten your day. This is where the Islamophobic messages come in. They satisfy that little part of you that wants to feel outrage. It seems that most of us experience moments when it’s comforting to find an evil in the world and indulge in pure, uncomplicated anger. There are plenty of people, acts, and even countries worthy of outrage, after all. But in these meme-ified moments, complexity and compassion go by the wayside, and that’s where we go wrong.

The way I see it, when you indulge in a simplistic message of hate, you’re being taken advantage of. Maybe by someone with a political agenda. Maybe by someone else who needs an emotional outlet. Maybe by someone trying to generate clicks and impressions for their “news” blog. They’re playing on your fatigue and your emotion and encouraging you to react in a simple, thoughtless way.

The need to express emotion
+ information overload
+ fatigue
= inadvertent bigotry.

Don’t be taken advantage of. You can’t be blamed for the hateful messages, cherry-picked facts, circumstantial evidence, and photo-memes that fire up so many passionate Facebookers. You can’t really be blamed for believing it, either. It’s a problem much bigger than you and me. But you are at fault if you close your eyes and ears and resist reason and new information. Or if you refuse to let compassion into your outlook.

Sincerely,

Your friend Adrian


 

An aside:

wpid-img_20151114_150350.jpg
I climbed to the top of Mt Tom in Holyoke, MA and found a rearranged French flag.

 

The Constant Internal Battle…Love or Success?

This is me right now. A daily internal conflict. Inside there are forces “constantly at war with one another…external success and internal value”. I know that the most important things are friendship, family, forgiveness, warmth, solidarity, selflessness, love. I recall a time when these qualities primarily occupied my mind and how, as a result, they radiated from me. But my days now are filled with thoughts of the future. My current job, next job, dream jobs. Startup ideas, behavioral economics, law school. Power, politics, progress. The war wages. Can they both win? I cross my fingers, hoping they couldn’t possibly both lose. I sleep, and awake to fight the same battles, a predictable result never slowing the march. I’ve never been one to focus on happiness, but Einstein had a point: “A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future.”

Why the Electoral College is Bad for America

Tomorrow America will stop by its local polling station and cast a ballot for the next President of the United States. Millions of engaged citizens will remind their friends, families and neighbors, “even your vote matters”. I’m one of them; on Saturday I canvassed in my small Massachusetts city and made this plea to dozens of people. But still, in a dark little corner of my mind, I know this isn’t true, because across America tomorrow, more than half of the ballots won’t matter.

Of course each ballot matters to the person who casts it, and people who care deeply about democratic participation will continue to urge others to vote, but in the eyes of the two major Presidential campaigns, more than half of the ballots don’t matter.

Over the last several weeks, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have spent most of their time focused on seven states: Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. These seven states saw the heaviest activity on the ground, and they hosted the greatest number of rallies for Romney and Obama. They had the greatest number of canvassers going door-to-door and talking with voters about issues. Polling numbers from these seven states got the most attention. Issues affecting these states were discussed most in the national media. Seven states out of fifty. Is it okay that presidential politics in the electoral system makes only the Significant Seven matter?

No.

Over the weekend Chris Hayes complained that “no presidential candidate cares about what people there think,” referring to the Bronx, home to that MSNBC host and almost 1.4 million other people. If presidential candidates did care about the Bronx, he argued, “they would find an issue landscape very different from the one we’ve been talking about nationally.” This is the problem.

The electoral college narrows the national political discourse to cover a tight, convenient list of issues that affect seven states. It works like this:
1) The importance of the electoral votes belonging to the Significant Seven forces presidential campaigns to focus there;
2) canvassers cover the Seven, taking polls, asking questions and urging voters to think about what matters to them;
3) pollsters learn that voters in the Seven care about a, b and c;
4) the candidates develop opinions and then talk a lot about a, b and c;
5) the national media follow the candidates;
6) national talking heads discuss a, b and c;
7) Joe and Jane Doe watch the national news from State #46 and hear about a, b and c. They meet no canvassers. No one asks them what they think. On election day, they cast a vote for the man whose opinions about a, b and c they prefer.

So what do a, b and c not include? There’s at least one elephant of planetary proportions: climate change. We also didn’t hear about immigration, poverty, civil rights, campaign finance or foreign policy other than soundbites about Iran, Libya and China. Oh, and there are probably a whole bunch of other important things that I can’t even think of, because I’m from Massachusetts, not Mississippi.

Here’s my point: pluralism is not just about a range of opinions on an issue; it’s about a range of issues. The “melting pot” self-image we glorify amounts to a pretty, many-colored facade unless each ingredient in that pot affects the flavor. Mixed metaphors (and puns) aside, our political culture can’t be called “pluralistic” unless it includes a big mess of different issues, arguments and perspectives. We won’t get that big, beautiful mess unless every state, every issue, every social group and every individual gets a voice. Every individual won’t get a voice until civic engagement knocks on every door. Civic engagement won’t exist in forty-three states (at the presidential level) until the candidates turn their gaze in fifty directions at once. I admit, that’s asking a lot. You better f*cking believe it’s asking a lot.

I’m not pissed that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama didn’t bother to come to Holyoke, MA (I mean, it’d be nice), but I’m disappointed they hardly came to my state (Michelle Obama did make a visit to Springfield, and Mitt probably stopped by his Massachusetts home on his way to Maine’s Congressional District #2). I’m disappointed that my neighbors won’t be asked to participate beyond an obedient vote on one fall day. I wish every Masshole were challenged to think about the wide range of tough questions facing our country. I’m an Obama voter, but I wish his party’s dominance in Massachusetts were questioned more often. I wish all of the Other Forty-Three were shown the love Obama gives to his Ohio auto workers. I wish more citizens felt the rush of knocking on a stranger’s door and the peculiar reward of stepping back down the driveway thirty unexpected minutes later.

Why Every Environmentalist Should Study Abroad

This article originally appeared at http://www.blog.greenlinktufts.com.

As you look over GreenLink, this new website with a unique mix of offerings, you may wonder why we have built a site with a major section that focuses on study abroad programs related to the environment. Why study the environment abroad? It’s a good question.

Most students who study abroad find that it enriches their young lives. It introduces them to new sights, sounds, tastes, smells and ideas, which give rise to new interests and ambitions. It teaches them about the diversity of the world, makes them more comfortable around people unlike themselves and gives them a new perspective on their own society. It literally makes the world a bigger place for the student and makes humanity a vast, multifarious community.

Rajasthan, India

For an environmentalist, studying abroad has this impact, but with the added benefit of a more complete sense of environmentalism itself.

Supporting the environment on an international, global scale is completely different from joining the environmental movement in the United States. Here it’s too easy for environmentalism to become centered around symbolic goals like protecting trees and polar bears or fighting big oil or around simple changes like using a Nalgene or switching to fluorescent light bulbs. In contrast, around the world, especially in developing countries, the motives beneath the movement are very different, and they are more urgent. In many places, people feel the effects of their environmental challenges on a daily basis in an unavoidable way. In these localities it’s about health and basic standard of living. On a global scale, it’s about fighting corruption in government, it’s about cooperative resource management, it’s about survival and adaptation and it’s about ethics and social justice.

As international negotiations over climate change – like the COP17 conference beginning in South Africa today – continue to flounder, it becomes increasingly clear that the international initiatives required to protect our shared future cannot succeed without the US adopting domestic policies that will better support efforts at the UN. For the US to pass the legislation that would protect its own population and its neighbors around the globe, it needs citizen demand, and before that political will can be mustered, Americans must better understand their country’s place in the world.

By studying abroad, you become a globally-minded citizen, and you enable yourself to teach those around you how they can contribute to the global environmental movement.

Check back often to the World section of Rising Green and read more stories from students who have studied the environment abroad. If you have learned about the environment while traveling abroad and would like to share your story with us, please submit an article under 500 words to adrian@greenlinktufts.com.

Study Abroad → Serve the Planet

Read more articles like this at http://www.blog.greenlinktufts.com

GreenLink: The New Environmental Movement

This post originally appeared at blog.greenlinktufts.com. Presented by the GreenLink team.

Welcome to the new environmental movement.

This blog represents the birth of GreenLink, a force that will change the way people get involved in the environmental movement. What is GreenLink? At its heart, GreenLink aims to connect people with enriching opportunities that will change their perspective of the world and help them discover their place in it.

GreenLink was conceived by Adrian Dahlin, a Tufts University student who got to study abroad twice and fulfill two internships at environmental NGOs before graduating from college. These programs left him with a desire to help other people find similar opportunities, so he built a team, and GreenLink was born.

Like you, we care deeply about our natural environment. We also care about the connection between humanity and its environment, and we know that this relationship is struggling. We see an opportunity, however, and this is where GreenLink comes in. GreenLink aims to accelerate change by educating citizens and equipping them with the power to make a difference. We’re the bridge-builder.

We want to help you study abroad, so that you can learn about other cultures and gain a global, holistic understanding of our environmental challenges. We want to connect you with an internship, so that you can develop your talents and find the kind of work that inspires and invigorates you. We want to help you find a job, so that you can use what you’ve learned to build a career within the green sector and improve our world.

We will help you become a globally-conscious green-collar citizen.

Want to change the world? We know where you can have an impact and find the partners and mentors you’ll need. Regardless of your interests, skills, degree or experience, the environmental sector has need of you. Let us help you find your place.

Visit this blog often for updates about the development of GreenLink. In addition to company news, we’ll publish travel stories, career advice, industry news and other articles from guest writers. If you’d like to write for us, email adrian@greenlinktufts.com.

Study Abroad → Intern → Get a Job        →        Serve the Planet

A Movement With Legs

By Amber Dahlin

The movement of many voices, also known as Occupy Wall Street, has just as many commentators—bloggers, bankers and barbers alike. Still, few seem to know what it’s really about. Let’s begin with some recent history in an attempt to understand what gave rise to this movement and what it hopes to accomplish.

Occupy’s inspiration comes largely from the protests in Cairo beginning on January 25, 2011, and the more recent Spanish “Acampada” (camp-in). Egypt’s revolution was excited by the Tunisian uprising that started in December 2010 against the corrupted regime of former president Ben Ali, who had ruled for over two decades. On January 25, Egyptians took to Cairo’s central Tahrir Square to demonstrate against Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for almost thirty years. In Madrid, what began on Sunday, May 15 as a march in protest of Europe’s highest unemployment rate of 21% turned into a camp-in at a square in the middle of the city.

Occupy Wall Street officially began in British Columbia, Canada, with a blog posted on July 13 by Adbusters, a network of self-proclaimed “culture jammers and creatives.” The post begins, “#OCCUPYWALLSTREET: Are you ready for a Tahrir moment? On September 17, flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades, and occupy Wall Street.” And that is just what an estimated 5000 people did, amassed with help from a group called “US Day of Rage” which calls for free and fair elections, as well as the “hacktivist” network known as “Anonymous.”

These original occupiers were soon followed by groups in Chicago and San Francisco, and then Boston, Saint Louis, and Los Angeles. Since then, groups have sprung up in solidarity in hundreds of cities and towns in the US and around the world. Updates from many of these are posted on occupytogether.org. Students show their solidarity at occupycolleges.org.

While many of these groups have withstood arrests and police violence, they’ve largely remained peaceful, and have been democratically organized from day one. Each occupation holds regular “General Assembly” (GA) meetings, in which all decisions are made by consensus, giving everyone present the power to block a decision if they feel it’s discordant with the community’s values or otherwise inappropriate.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I spent a Saturday night in Kiener Plaza with Occupy Saint Louis. I was surprised at how many tents there were—one whole side of the plaza was packed with them—and from the get-go the scene manifested a sense of community. Signs posted around the plaza discouraged drugs and alcohol and a simple breakfast menu was ready for morning in the food tent.

On Sunday we got to participate in one of the twice-daily GA meetings. People presented various proposals—from marking people’s hands when they’ve gotten a plate of food to adopting a statement against the Bush-era tax cuts. Each time, healthy discussion ensued, and each time, either consensus was reached or the presenter agreed to rework or otherwise rescind her or his proposal. Find more about consensus under “Resources” at occupystl.org.

The occupiers didn’t separate between those that were actually living there and those who were just visiting or who only came during the day. In fact, a proposal for more permanent community members to wear identifying pins was diverted. Truly anyone can be part of the occupy community.

Many occupations hold teach-ins, welcoming speakers from every walk of life to share their wisdom and ideas. Occupy Boston recently heard speeches from MIT Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky and attorney, author and activist Van Jones, among others.

A “people’s microphone” is often employed to conduct meetings or spread the messages of those who wish to share. The speaker shares thoughts in small segments, which the immediate audience then echoes, followed, if the crowd is big enough, by those beyond them, and so on. Thus, not only is a sound system unnecessary, but people are invited to really imbibe each other’s messages and help make each other’s voices heard.

Music and other arts play a big role in New York’s Zucotti park and other occupied spaces. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello recently won a special award from MTV for his performance at Occupy Wall Street.

As temperatures plummet in many occupied cities, people are wondering how long the assemblies will last. But the occupiers seem determined to overwinter, using emergency funds and accepting donations for warm clothing and blankets.

More than a protest—more than a movement, even—“Occupy” is a wake-up call. Citizens are realizing that their government is not delivering and that it represents special interests, not its people. They’re realizing that bigger issues surround and underlie the rising unemployment rate and soaring executive salaries, issues beyond political parties.

The Christian Science Monitor’s October 31 cover story explains that the Spanish Acampada was about more than just jobs. It was about “what it means to be human; what values and truths to accept; how people should be treated; how democracy should work; the role of free markets, money, the social contract, community,” writes Robert Marquand. He goes on to quote the Acampada’s informational flier: “‘We are here to claim dignity … [and] a new society that gives more priority to life than economic interest.’”

Although Occupy’s original target was corporate greed rather than simply high unemployment, the movement has a similar subtext: the 99% wants life to be valued over political and economic interests. People want dignity as participants in a democracy that seems to be getting progressively less democratic, and they want to see more dignity in and among those who are letting that happen.

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo explains that we need this “groundswell movement” because the people in power who can make the necessary changes don’t want the change.

A New York Times Op-ed column by Ban Ki-Moon points to an important undercurrent: “In these difficult times, the biggest challenge facing governments is not a deficit of resources; it is a deficit of trust. People are losing faith in leaders and public institutions to do the right thing. … The leaders of the world’s largest economies have an historic opportunity—and an historic responsibility—to reduce the trust deficit.”

In this case, reducing that trust deficit means giving the voice that’s been handed over to corporations back to the people.

Thomas Quiggin, a Senior Research Fellow at the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies, explained that the central banking system is keeping more open-minded tabs on the movement than the corporate banks whose CEO salaries and million-dollar bailouts are just what the 99% are protesting. It is the central bank’s responsibility to maintain the economy. The middle class drives the economy, and when, in our case, much of the middle class is foreclosed on and jobless, something must be done.

Keep an eye on this movement as time goes on, if not a foot in it. As Quiggin said, “It is a movement with legs.”

Never before have we seen the kinds of protests and revolutions that have evolved around the world in the past year, largely energized by younger generations. Thanks to the organizational potential of various social media networks, the global community is more connected than ever before. Occupy signifies American’s engagement in a worldwide call for justice.

This is a guest post by Amber Dahlin, my sister. She’s a senior at Principia College majoring in Environmental Studies.