Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Diversity of Iraq as seen on Iraqi TV

I am often surprised at how much people misunderstand about the Middle East. For example, when I mention not all women in the Middle East, not even all Muslim women, wear the scarf or even dress like me, I am always met with shock - if not out-right claims that I am lying.

Despite the Middle East only making up 20% or less of the total 1.6 Billion Muslim population in the world, somehow the Middle East has become the poster child for all things Muslim.

It is a big responsibility with many obstacles. The main obstacles being 1) assumptions made about the Middle East based on generalizations and limited images on television, and 2) misinformation deliberately publicized for various political, religious, and personal agendas.

Muslims, and even others who have traveled to the Middle East, have been trying for years to correct the misinformation through information, statistics, and logic - with very little success.

Today, while watching the New Year's countdown celebrations around the world on an Iraqi television station, it occurred to me that actual pictures, specifically live television programs, might be more effective.

These (approximately 2 minute) videos show the reality of what Iraq looks like and how the Iraqi people are not only celebrating New Year's Eve, but how they dress and look and act - their diversity.

Warning: For most people these images will be quite shocking.

Baghdad Park - getting ready for New Year's Eve celebrations, Part 1

Baghdad Park - getting ready for New Year's Eve celebrations, Part 2

Baghdad Hotel - getting ready for New Year's Eve celebrations

Iraqi Musician & Singer

Iraqi Musician

Dubai New Year's Eve Fireworks, Part 1

Dubai New Year's Eve Fireworks, Part 2

Iraqi TV Music Videos

Baghdad Streets

Tigris River in Baghdad

Baghdad Police on the street, New Year's Eve 2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Real Americans Message to Muslim-Americans

Because real Americans understand America was founded on religious freedom and has over 313 religions and denominations in the US alone.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Gifts Soften the Heart

I have been observing some discussions of Muslims on the subject of whether Muslims can give gifts to, or receive gifts from, non-Muslims during the Christmas season.

It was a very disappointing to hear the words coming out of the mouth of Muslims.

Kufar In Islam

First, several Muslims referred to Christians as Kufar.  This demonstrates the extreme ignorance from the beginning. Muslims without knowledge sometimes refer to people who are not Muslims, or even Muslims who are not practicing according to their standards, as Kufar.

This is wrong on so many levels.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Religions as Advil v. Tylenol

When I see people (including Muslims) trying to discredit another religion to "prove" their religion is right, I imagine the subject is Advil v. Tylenol. 

Is one better than the other? It depends on who you ask. 

If Advil works better for you, great! 

If Tylenol works better for you, great! 

You do not have to be wrong for me to be right. 

If you have to discredit someone else's faith to feel better about your own, your current choice of medicine is not working. 

Please take a higher dose of your medicine of choice or consider changing your medicine.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Silver Lining of Hate

Several years ago, before Katrina even, I was on a panel at Arizona State University to discuss racism in the present day United States. After we each made our presentations, we opened it up for questions from the audience.

A woman stood up and said she felt from our presentations that racism in the United States was really bad but she believed it was better than before. She asked whether we believed it was better.

I responded that no, I did not believe it was better, just different.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

There is No Muslim War on Christmas

During the years I worked as a community advocate for Muslim organizations, I often listened to conservative talk radio.  In early 2003, while listening to one of the local hosts, I decided to call in to counter the misinformation being said about Muslims. I did get through. I did counter with facts and statistics. The host disconnected the call and said, on air, that the screener would be fired if I ever got through again.

For the rest of the year, the host attacked me, personally, almost every day. Any commentary against Muslims included my name. [Barry Young, KFYI 550AM, retired]

By December, the hot topic was the War on Christmas – somehow the Muslims were the cause, and I was the poster child for the anti-Christmas movement.

You've been had. There is no Muslim War on Christmas.

Muslims as a whole are not advocating, and have never advocated, against Christmas celebrations. That is not to say a small number of Muslim clerics and government officials have not made exclusive or hateful statements - but then, the same can be said about the rhetoric from some religious leaders and politicians in the United States, past and present.

Muslims may not celebrate Christmas as part of our religion, but that does not mean Muslims are, by definition, opposed to others celebrating it. In fact, some Muslims actually participate in the culture of Christmas themselves.

A few facts about Muslims and Christmas

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Workplace Accommodation

In my younger years I worked in a lot of restaurants.  Never fast food, always sit-down style. In the mid-nineties it was Steak & Ale, a fancy steak restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas. Always a top choice for romantic dinners and special occasions. The lighting was low and the chairs had high backs, reminiscent of royalty chairs meant to remind us of the Renaissance Era and make us all feel like kings. I worked there for several years as a hostess and office assistant. Our uniforms were khaki knee length skirts, white button-up shirts, a navy blazer, and a red bow-tie.

Another girl worked there as a bar tender.  She had been there for many years, long before I started. She was probably in her late twenties or mid-thirties. About a year after I started, this girl got caught up in a drug bust. She was not involved in drugs herself but her boyfriend, who she did not live with, was evidently a drug dealer.  Unbeknownst to them, he was also well known to the DEA who was watching him closely.  One day the DEA decided to bust him. Unfortunately for her, they decided to do it while she was visiting him between shifts. She got arrested too.  Even though the DEA testified she was not involved, she was sentenced to a few years in Federal Prison (minimum sentencing requirements...whole other story).

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Unintended Lesson From Joy Riding

When I was fifteen and living in Arkansas, a friend of mine and I decided to “borrow” her stepfather’s car in the middle of the night and drive around.

I cannot say exactly why we did it. We were basically good kids. She was all about boys and I was all about “being a good friend.” She would come up with ideas, and I would figure out how to make them work.

She wanted to go see her boyfriend in the next town.  We came up with a plan. I would sneak out of my house and walk the couple of miles under cover of darkness to her home. She would pass the keys to the car out of her bedroom window; I would start the car and drive it down the block. If no one woke up, she sneaks out of the house and joins me. If anyone woke up, she would stay innocently in her bed . . . leaving me, alone, to deal with the consequences.

Somehow that part did not sink in for me.

As intelligent as I was, I was a straight “A” student, obviously I was not that smart.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The World Needs You Right Where You Are

I took a semester of classes through Seton Hall Law School on Islamic Finance, Sharia Law, and Comparative Law. Every student expressed a desire to work in international law – specifically international human rights.

I had no such desire.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Be A Voice Not An Echo - This Is Who We Are

After September 11th, the Muslim community was bombarded with media requests and presence. Still few people saw them. 

By 2008, media were only interested after a major event or controversy. We were lucky if we got one media outlet to show up for a press conference or after a press release. 

Muslims have had anti-ISIS, anti-terrorism, and peace rallies across the country. No body knows. The media does not cover it. 

After San Bernardino, crickets. 

Muslims have tried to issue statements and have press conferences. The media rarely shows up anymore. 

The most active local mosque received only 3 media contacts this week, even with the political rhetoric against Muslims. 

The people may want to hear more Muslims speaking out, but the media has zero interest in it - not that previous Muslim's speaking out has made any difference.

We are left with trying to figure out what to do

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Open Letter to Congress from a Muslim Woman

Dear Members of the United States Congress:

My name is Deedra Abboud. I was born in Arkansas and live in Arizona. I am a Muslim, attorney, and wife of a Naturalized citizen originally from Iraq.

I am writing to you not only to express my support for increased national security efforts against Muslims, but also to urge you to move more quickly.

The current rhetoric of Muslim ID badges and internment in case there might be enemies among the 3 million Muslims living in the U.S., followed by piece-meal legislation, such as the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 158), is exhausting.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Abortion. Just a Distraction

Sometimes I have the television playing as I am working. As result, I am going through a lot of movies and television series on Netflix and Amazon.

I just finished four seasons of Boardwalk Empire. Though loosely based on real people, it does not actually reflect true events. Still, the historical backdrop, particularly the first two seasons, was very interesting and enjoyable.

One of the things I noticed was the poetic language. The series shows both the time when our language was elegant and cultured, intelligent banter and social graces, as well as the change to “getting straight to the point” by the younger generations.

The second thing I noticed was an exploration of background social issues: racial, ethnic, and gender struggles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Muslim Target, Latino Bulls Eye

The rhetoric against Muslims is ramping up again. Trump’s rhetoric, which sounds a lot like praise of Hitler’s policies, has hit levels never seen in United States before – not even after the worst attack against the United States since Pearl Harbor. Some media outlets and politicians are riding Trump’s fumes, even adding to it at times. The silence of the majority of politicians, on both sides of the aisle, has been deafening.

Muslims suffered backlash after September 11th, there is no denying it. Innocent Muslims going about their daily lives were picked on and bullied at work, school, and on the street. Some experienced physical violence. Those mistaken for Muslims suffered too.

The FBI began “voluntary” interviews, which rarely felt voluntary, for Muslims across the country - sometimes for no other reason than having a Muslim sounding name on the U.S. Census records. Records that were “conveniently” turned over to the FBI despite the U.S. Census promising never to do so again after their involvement in the Japanese internment. 

The interviews continue even today - attorneys allowed at FBI agent discretion only, despite, or maybe because, the subject is not yet suspected of anything.

Muslims were even subject to “Special Registration,” where, based only on national origin, our community reported to a government center to give fingerprints and biographical information. Information the government already had from immigration records. 

But it made people feel like the government was “doing something,” so all was acceptable.

Yes the Muslims suffered following the 9/11 attacks – pure guilt by association, regardless of the remoteness of the association.

The rhetoric of fear and blame was sometimes quite ferocious, though nothing like today.

But the real victims of the rhetoric were members of the Latino community.

Arizona Love Revolution

Sunday night I posted a meme on Facebook:

The energies coming to earth are so powerful now that everything not of love is being pushed to the surface for healing.

I liked the thought of it.

The idea that all the hate and anger we are seeing in the world has a purpose and that it will come to an end. An end with more love . . . of healing . . . of love.

Then Monday was a crazy day. Everywhere I went I encountered happy people.

At the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts, the guy at the window seemed so happy to see me as he chatted me up and then wished me a great day.

Lunch at Schlotzky’s was the same. The cashier loved the picture on my credit card (my husband and I), complimented my wardrobe, wished me a wonderful day and happy holidays. People at every single office I visited, and every phone call I had, seemed on top of the world.

And it wasn’t just me.

Monday, December 7, 2015

What I Learned From Romance Novels

When I was a teenager, I read a lot of romance novels. Harlequin was my publisher of choice.

It scared the crap out of my mom. She was so afraid the romance novels would give me an unrealistic expectation about romance - particularly that I would look for knight on a white horse to save me. 

Anyone who has ever read a romance novel should well understand her concern. Romance novels do include a lot of sexist behavior and themes.

But what I got out of the books was a clear understanding about communication and human behavior. I recognized that almost all problems are the result of failures to communicate. None of the characters really talk about the important stuff and everyone is always hiding their feelings or making assumptions - most of it out of fear of getting hurt.

I met my husband at work and we started courting - many Muslims, as do members of other conservative faith traditions, “court” rather than date.

Courtship takes the position that the two people have no physical contact at all (no touching, no hand-holding, no kissing) until marriage. Many in a courtship relationship will only spend time together when family members, preferably parents, are present. In addition, courting couples state up front that their intentions are to see if the other person is a suitable potential marriage partner. Courtship advocates claim that courtship allows for the two people to truly get to know each other in a more platonic setting without the pressures of physical intimacy or emotions clouding their view.

You know, like scenes from Little House on the Prairie - boy and girl sit on the porch or in the living room of the girl's family home.

From the beginning, I made communication priority number one.  Every night I would compile about a hundred questions to ask my husband. Literally.  Every night. We courted for four months. I am sure I made his brain quite tired, but he was a real champ about it.

I asked everything imaginable, from inconsequential (What is your favorite color?) to major life decisions (What would you do if our teenage daughter came home pregnant?). 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What to do? That is the Conundrum

I have been thinking a lot about what to do as a Muslim since Paris . . . then San Bernardino.  A lot of Muslims have. Across the country Muslims are having discussions. And meetings. And more meetings.

In person and on conference calls. 

Not just Muslim leaders. Not just Muslims who attend Mosques (less than 20%). Every Muslim.

Everyone is scared.

Will there be broad backlash against non-suspecting and innocent Muslims randomly going about their daily lives?

Will Trump’s ideas catch on?
Killing family members of terrorists
Closing all Mosques
Institutionalizing torture
Requiring Muslim IDs or badges
Establishing internment camps for Muslims

What to do?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Surviving in the Present

Today I got in my car to drive somewhere. While I am often on auto-pilot, consumed in my brain while driving to my destination, today I took a moment to remind myself that I needed to be present.

My husband has been out of the country on business since August. We met for a short vacation during November in Malaysia. He returned to his work overseas and I returned to Arizona, mere hours before the Paris attacks.

Political grandstanding followed this as well as media sensationalism that stoked the levels of fear for all susceptible.

Every shooting in the United States that followed, and they have been almost daily, raised the levels of fear of who the next perpetrator or victim might be. Waiting for the next shoe to drop. Hoping it is not a shoe related to you in any way.

Then came San Bernardino.

Monday, November 30, 2015

How Far Would You Go To Make Peace?

When I was about thirteen I really wanted to go to a youth lock-in being held at the church I attended.  A youth lock-in is where the Christian youth go to a church or another location for fun and games mixed with some Christian teaching all night. After the set arrival time, the doors are locked and no one can come or go until the set departure time after sunrise.

I was so excited to go and had chosen a nice dress, pink with gray designs outlined in black. But I did not have any dress shoes.

I was the youngest of three sisters, all of who had dress shoes and we all wore the same size. 

I went to one of my sisters who had both gray and black dress shoes, either of which would match my dress perfectly. I asked her if I could borrow a pair. She replied that she had plans too and would need shoes as well. I asked her which shoes she would wear because either would work for me.  She replied she had not decided which ones yet, so she could not let me borrow either.

This went on for a while and the time to leave for the lock-in was getting closer. I began to panic. I started begging and pleading with my sister to borrow her shoes. She was relentless in her indecisiveness.

She then told me to get on my knees and beg. Without even a thought, I did just that while I began to cry. She started laughing. I looked up at her in complete confusion.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Discovering Malaysia

I have always wanted to go to Malaysia - since the first time I saw pictures of the Petronas Towers. I didn’t know anything else about Malaysia; just those iconic towers were enough.

My husband often asks me why I want to go to certain places and I always respond, “Because it’s there.” Everywhere has something to see and enjoy, even if it is just to interact with different people and see how they live differently than we do – that includes different cites and states within the United States.

My husband travels for business. A lot. We try to limit his time away from home to six weeks or less. Sometimes that does not work out.

That was the case this year. He left at the beginning of September and was supposed to return mid-October. Then we got word that, due to several conferences he needed to attend in Europe and Asia, he would not be returning until mid-December.

That is simply too long.

To make matters worse, we decided to cancel our annual New Year’s trip because our niece is having a baby on December 27th.

So a "meet in the middle" to break up the time apart and replace our New Year’s trip was in order.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Fall of Islam

While on a recent panel, an Imam (Muslim religious leader) sharing the stage made the comment that the persecution of Jesus was the fall of Judaism, the Spanish Inquisition was the fall of Christianity, and ISIS/ISIL/Da’esh will be the fall of Islam.

That got me thinking. It was a very interesting comment. The “fall” he referred to was not the extinction of the religion, or even the curtailing of its numbers, but rather a power check following a reflection of values.

The persecution of Jesus was a grave injustice and Jews were in control of the area at the time. The Spanish inquisition was a grave injustice and Christians were in control of the area at the time.

But I think that the analysis can be taken further. The fall of the Greek and Roman Empires followed their own progressions into grave injustice. The fall of Germany also followed Hitler’s grave injustices. The British Empire is not what it used to be, largely due to the injustice Gandhi brought to the world’s attention.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Boat is Getting Crowded

Within days after the Paris attacks, I saw a Facebook post from a fellow lawyer that said, “Why are illegals such bad drivers?”  I responded, “You can tell status from behind the wheel?”

On the same day politicians were proudly exclaiming that more “Mexicans” were leaving the US than entering.  

Even now with the obsession over national security and whether any Muslims can be trusted, those perceived as “Mexican*” still cannot catch a break.

Politicians throw in the threat of unchecked people crossing the border. While it is couched in National Security and the “Muslim threat,” people from south of the border know exactly who will bear the brunt of the negative rhetoric and legal implications.  Few countries south of the border are included in the refugee program, but I cannot imagine anyone really thinks the fear mongering will stop with the refugees.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How Can You Not Hate the United States?

My husband came to the United States in 1997. He is from Iraq. He was a de facto refugee. I will give you the short, unemotional version.

During the first Iraq war, he and his family sought shelter from the bombing in his father’s basement. In Iraq the homes are made of stone and the doors are solid wood. One time a piece of shrapnel blew their front door off the hinges and into the foyer.  Fortunately, no one was nearby. The bombs were often unexpected and close – the blasts sometimes relocated people and furniture around the rooms.

His mother suffered from diabetes. She required insulin. Under the United Nations sanctions against Iraq, insulin was considered dual purpose (potential for use other than the intended purpose), so insulin was not available.

His mother got gangrene on her foot, a common symptom of untreated high diabetes. The doctors had no choice but to surgically remove her foot. She went into a diabetic coma and the gangrene spread to her leg. The doctors wanted to surgically remove her leg in an attempt to save her from the gangrene, but the risk of death was high due to the coma and the sanctions prevented even the hospital from having insulin. They decided to operate. She died on the operating table.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Is All Hope Lost After Paris?

I woke up bright and early this weekend feeling so happy and grateful. I got up and watched the sunrise before driving to Waffle House for breakfast – my happy place.

While I was enjoying my lovely cheese eggs, raisin toast, and grits, my waitress gave me a beautiful pin that says, “I’m a Waffle House kid.” And yes I am.

You might wonder how I could feel so happy considering what has been going on in the world over the past few days. Believe me, I was reeling. I just returned from vacation in Malaysia. (It was outstanding!)

I left Malaysia and upon my first stop over in China, my husband texted me that several ISIS bombs had exploded in Iraq. When I changed planes in Los Angeles, 15 hours later, I saw a news report that “Jihadi John” had been killed. Six hour later when I landed in Phoenix, the friend who picked me up from the airport explained the many ISIS explosions in Lebanon. I woke up the next morning in my own bed to the news of the ISIS bombs in Paris and Kenya as well as the earthquake in Japan, then Mexico.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Does Teaching Religion In Schools Help or Hurt?

In the United States, every child learns Christopher Columbus discovered America. When I attended school, the books talked about the Native Americans that were already here, but it was presented in such a way that we totally accepted the “reasonableness” of taking over the land. It was not until later, outside of school instruction, that I learned about Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci's historical omission is rather puzzling considering the continent is named after him. It was also not until later that I understood how the Native Americans suffered as a result of Columbus’ “discovery.” The Columbus story told in schools is somewhat a useful fairytale.

Every child is also taught about George Washington. When I went to school, the schoolbooks wrote beautiful things about him. I never read a bad word about him in any school book. There was a reverence quality to the descriptions of the “Founding Fathers,” especially Washington. But I also remember my Social Studies teacher mentioning Washington was the “father of America for more reasons than one.” She explained he was full-on adulterer who slept with any woman available, and even some that weren’t. I had never read that in a school textbook!

The first time I heard about Islam was my sixth grade Social Studies class. The subject was not actually Islam but cultures around the world. The most I remember is what we learned about the Middle East - that the women could only wear black, were forced to wear a scarf on their head as a form of oppression, were the property of men (first their fathers and then their husbands), and had to walk two steps behind men with their head down. That is what the book said. I remember asking Mrs. Carroll why women had to walk two steps behind men and she replied, “It is required by their religion to remind women of their low status.”

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why is the Head Scarf Taboo?

I was reading an article by an aspiring journalist who decided to wear the headscarf (hijab) for a month and record her experiences. In her resulting article, ‘Undercover in hijab’: unveiling one month later, she mentions that none of her classmates or co-workers asked any questions and made no comments about her suddenly having a scarf on. When she asked some of them later “why,” “several said it was too ‘touchy’ or insensitive to bring up.”

I have observed this myself. Much like the aspiring journalist, I too forget I have it on. Sometimes when I return home, my husband will ask me where I am going. When I reply, “no where,” he will ask why I still have my scarf on. I forget I have it on, so I sometimes forget to take it off.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Should We Bomb The Wedding?

While in law school, I took an intercession class. It was a class cramming an entire semester of legal knowledge into one week, 8am until 5pm. The class was International Human Rights Law.

For half of one day, our class agreed to help another class with a role-play simulation. The Modern Terrorism and International Security class needed opposing groups for a mock national security meeting. Members of that class were assigned various roles in the United States government: State Department, Department of Defense, Secretary of State, Presidential Cabinet members, etc. The professor played the President. Members of our class were assigned roles in various international organizations: United Nations, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Boarders, Human Rights Watch, etc.

In real life, the organizations my class represented would never be invited to such a meeting, but the professor wanted to open up the discussion to more perspectives.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Moderate, Backhanded Compliment?

While scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post with a half and half picture. The top was a picture of the Ku Klux Klan all decked out in their white sheets, with the statement, “No one thinks these people are representative of Christians.” On the bottom was a picture of ISIS all decked out in their black ninja-looking out-fits, with the statement, “So why do so many think that these people are representative of Muslims?”

I had seen the post before. I casually scrolled down, planning to move on to the next post, when I happened to notice the comments.

Commenter 2:  too many people behave like lemmings.
Commenter 2:  they don’t think for themselves
Commenter 3: It boils down to racism. Plain and simple.
Commenter 4: Maybe because “regular/non-violent/moderate muslims” don’t speak out or condemn them. Or maybe the afore mentioned muslims seem to turn violent so easily or often.
Commenter 5:  Many “moderate” Muslims speak out. They are just not given much coverage in the media.

Several things crossed my mind.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How Do I Tell My Mom I Changed My Religion?

I became Muslim in the fall of 1998. Though I had been interested in Islam for many years, it was not until I moved to Arizona, from Arkansas, that I converted.

But I had not told my mom.

I was very blessed to have mentors who truly understood the essence of Islam in addition to the teachings. I was never told I had to wear the scarf.  I was taught to study Islam first - to understand the teachings and essence of Islam – the reasons for everything, including the scarf.

This fit into my personality perfectly. I asked a lot of questions. I always ask a lot of questions. I need to understand things, the reason behind things. Even my mother will tell you I loved the question "why" and always had a problem with “because I said so.”

In December 1998, I decided to go back to Arkansas to visit her for Christmas. I was worried about how she would react. What would I say to my mom when I got off the plane and she saw me in the scarf?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Are We Doing the Mechanics and Missing the Message?

A lady I know called me to ask for advice (as a person not an attorney).  We will call her "Ann." Ann’s family is very religious. They pray regularly and often refer to God in their daily lives, decisions, and conversations.

Ann gave her adult son, we will call him "Joe," a car registered and financed in her name. She is making the payments and told him the only thing he had to do was pay for the insurance.

Surprise, surprise, he failed to keep insurance . . . and rear-ended another lady.  His car was a little banged up and, according to him, “she just had a couple of scratches on her bumper.”

Joe talked the lady into not making a police report, getting an estimate, and letting him pay directly for the repairs.

A week or so later the lady came back with an estimate for $1,200. Joe told her he did not have the money and wanted to make payments. The lady responded that she wanted the whole amount.

At that point Joe decided to tell Ann.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Do You Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right?

I saw a post on Facebook about the right way to put on a bra.  I did not click on the story but happened to read a comment as I was passing by.  The comment said, “People put their bra on backwards and then twist it around?!”  I stopped.  “Ummm, there is another way to put on a bra?” I thought. I cannot even remember how or when I learned how to put on a bra. Nor has it ever entered my mind that there were other ways to do it. [Surely it is not a shocker that, as a woman, bras are part of my life . . . ?]

Funny how we take things we “know” for granted. Another example is when I first moved to Arizona and ordered a soft drink at a restaurant. I asked the waiter for a coke. She said, “regular or diet.” I said Dr. Pepper. She said, “You want a Coke or Dr. Pepper?” I answered, “Dr. Pepper” . . .  and then sat in slight bewilderment.  I had never thought about it.

In Arkansas when someone takes a drink order, it is normal to answer “a coke.” The server then asks, ”What kind?” To which I would reply, “Dr. Pepper.” I never thought of it any other way. I did see in movies people calling soft-drinks by other names: soda pop, soda, pop, soft-drink, etc, but it never really registered.

After I got married, I explained it to my husband.  He thought it was one of the craziest things he had ever heard. “Why would you order a Coke if you want a Dr. Pepper?”  Yes, I do now realize the irony but to us coke was what we called all soft-drinks. It just was.

This is a recurring theme in my life. As a speaker and attorney, I interact with a very large and diverse group of people so I encounter different perspectives, and different ways of doing, or thinking about, things - a lot. It keeps me on my toes.  But it also reminds me that humans are a very diverse creation and cultures are the result of more than just ethnicity or religion.

That understanding is why so many questions I answer are multi-faceted and multi-leveled.  It almost always “depends.” (Yes I am a lawyer but I spoke in “ it depends” long before I went to law school).  It depends on culture, background, beliefs, situation, justifications, personal preference, and even personal decisions, among many other factors. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

You Can Call It "Apples," But It's Still Hate

There is a social event I attend somewhat regularly. A Muslim man also attends and always searches me out for conversations. I have a hard time shaking him off – though I desperately try. He has only two topics of interest: Shia and Islamophobia.

Of the two, Shia is his favorite topic. He wants to tell me how bad the Shia are. I do not happen to be Shia.  He will tell me stories and constantly pull up ‘YouTube’ videos on his phone to show me how bad they are.  Usually, I try to change the subject.

Recently, I guess I was just tired, I decided to ask him some questions.

I asked, Why do you hate Shia so much?”

He replied, “I do not hate anyone. Islam teaches us not to hate. I just really don’t like Shia a lot.”

I replied, “Your obsession demonstrates otherwise.”

He replied, “I am not obsessed.”

I asked, “How many times a day do you look at, or search for, videos about Shia? You understand those videos are not posted by Shia but by people who want to show Shia are bad? If you just didn’t like them, you would ignore them – not look for more and more reasons to justify why you should dislike them. And you would not want to always talk to everyone about how bad they are. This is the very definition of hate.”

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Are You Working for a Living?

I often speak on relationships. Sometimes I specifically talk about marriage relationships. A lot of people who know me ask me about marriage relationships because my husband and I have been happily married for just under two decades – despite not having kids within two cultures (mine - Southern & his - Middle Eastern) that place a high emphasis on having kids. [A common joke is that the day after the honeymoon, people start asking the girl if she is pregnant yet . . . if they wait that long.]

Anyone who knows either me or my husband will testify that I work, hard. I am the worker-bee. I have taken on that role. [My husband and I travel a lot for work, separately, and while distance "may make the heart grow fonder," it also makes the "connection grow weaker" unless you work at it.] 

Before I entered law school, I made the conscious decision that, despite the massive workload and stress of law school, my marriage came first. [Law school and the legal field have one of the highest, if not the highest, divorce rate.] That did not mean I slacked on my studies, but rather, that I was clear on my priorities and had very clear expectation discussions with my husband.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Do Women Even Know What Rape Is?

Dr. Phil had a couple on his show where the man had “trapped” his wife into marriage by getting her pregnant. That is not my interpretation; the show was actually about people, men and women, who “trapped” their partners with pregnancy.

The man did not believe he could keep the girl, so while they were dating he got her drunk and coxed her into having sex without birth control, both of them knowing she was within her ovulation time. She did get pregnant and they did get married.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Would Outlawing Guns Be Enough?

I grew up around guns. In Arkansas, my grandparents and parents were avid hunters. My grandmother was a “Hunter’s Widow.” Every November my grandmother would pack food for my grandfather and he would leave for deer season, usually at least two weeks at a time. His CB Radio name was “EightPoint” because he had shot an eight-point deer and had the antlers hanging in his living room. He hunted during other seasons throughout the year too.

We had guns in the house, in a large unlocked gun case, but my parents constantly reminded us that the guns were never to be touched. We never did touch them without our parents present. We knew better. [My parents instilled a very strong belief in us about their punishment in general.]

From a young age, my family would take us out to the woods to target practice. I remember the shotgun was heavy and I often got bruises on my shoulder from the “kick.”  The pistol was better, but still heavy.