free stats Carmen's Web: December 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Because we need a smile...
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 10:28 PM
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Benazir Bhutto
I met Benazir Bhutto when I was in grad school. She was a very powerful speaker and it was hard not to want to be part of her entourage. I asked her where she got the strength to deal with fear and she told me that convictions go a long way.

I think she saw that I was asking this question to find answers for myself and so she added, "You have to stand out for the principles you believe in. If you believe in your principles, your strength will come".
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:09 AM
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007
My Christmas Day
It was really easy to fall in love with Marji in Persepolis. I loved Satrapi's graphic novel and will buy anything she creates. But if you don't emotionally connect with her in the movie then there's something wrong with you.

My brother, R, and I went to see Persepolis today. Poor R was scared. I told him we were going to watch a French cartoon about the Iranian Revolution that was only playing in two theaters in NY known for showing independent films. His friends mocked him (which is probably why they're all still single) and he made me promise that he'd like it. Which he did. It's hard not to enjoy your time watching this movie.

Listen to a great interview with the fascinating Satrapi here:

The only negative thing? The Americans in the theater with us. People who now think they're experts at the Iranian Revolution and Islam because they watched a movie. Ugh.

R, my brother, and I also spent the day looking at wedding venues and I'm beginning to become truly overwhelmed with all this wedding planning. The costs and the logistics are taking away any pleasure that it supposed to be derived from this special day.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 10:12 AM
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Tuesday, December 25, 2007
My Own Archie Bunkers
Sandmonkey's heart-rendering family tale on this lovely Christmas morning stirred up memories of my own ridiculous family and the values they hold so dear.

My brother and I were raised by incredible and tolerant parents. Actions, not skin color, sex or creed determined an individual's worth. My father was always very fond of reciting the verse in the Quran that he believed preached tolerance:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
We grew up in diverse neighborhoods, went to Catholic school, celebrated Christmas with our Christian friends, Diwali with our Hindu friends. I had white friends, black friends, pink friends, green friends. I didn't differentiate between people because I never saw differences. (I did LOVE "The Beatles" and thought anyone who didn't was an unworthy human being, but was often able to put that aside).

My brother and I learned about bigotry not from our parents or even the community we lived in, but from my extended family. The racist gene that skipped BOTH my parents apparently developed fully in our aunts and uncles.

I have one aunt that's pretty much an equal opportunist. She thinks everyone, save her immediate family, is disgusting. Egyptian men are barbarians, Hispanic women are whores, Pakistanis are dirty, Indians smelly, Africans...well, Africans she avoids. Really avoids. If she's on the subway, she will move as far away as she from anything black. It's embarrassing. You know how in cartoons and sitcoms there's an extremely well-behaved dog that only barks at black people? That's my aunt.

And if you're not Muslim? Forget it, she won't have anything to do with you. And so because God don't like stupid, here's what she's ended up with: Her youngest son is dating a half-Barbadian, half-Hispanic Christian girl who he's gotten pregnant three times. Guess which pious Muslim paid for the abortions.

I have an uncle who is pretty tame, but every once in a while spouts out racist shit. When I moved out last summer he came and visited me. He loved my apartment, thought I was paying too much for it (I had to remind him that it's 2007, not 1977 when he told me rent should never exceed $600) and then asked me if it's a nice neighborhood. It's a great neighborhood, I replied. It really is. I LOVE LOVE LOVE living here. While I'm looking forward to marrying R,
the one think I'm dreading is leaving this neighborhood.

Anyway, I tell him it's a great place and then he looks at me seriously and asks, "ya3ni, mafeesh barabra?" (So there are no niggers?) Now, there's been much debate over whether "barbari" translates into "nigger". In my dictionary it does. It's not a nice term to use when referring to "darkies" and I recoil in horror when someone uses it. My uncle saw my face and told me I was being sensitive. "Barbari" simply means black, he said, and I need to stop being so politically correct. He then proceeded to sing a ditty he claims all the Sudanese sing in the streets of Cairo, "ana barbari, ana barbari". I couldn't get him out of my place quick enough.

His punishment? His 11 year old daughter has a mad crush on the only black student in the WHOLE school.

One aunt who still lives in Egypt made my brother and I get out of a pool once when an African man jumped in. I must have blocked that incident out of my mind because I had completely forgotten about it. In the past six months I've spoken to my brother a great deal about my struggle with R and the racist comments I'd been hearing from my family. He was surprised that I was surprised by these comments and reminded me of that incident.

The funny thing is that my whole family prides itself on being such good Muslims. Islam, they say, is the only religion that is all about tolerance and acceptance because we acknowledge all religions and races. When I told my father about R, he told me that I'd never be accepted by his family because their religion does not even recognize ours.

My Dominican Catholic fiance and his family are a million times more tolerant than any member of my family. They make sure that if I'm invited to dinner there's food for me to eat, going so far as to making a chicken dish available JUST for me even if they spent the whole day roasting their pig. When it's Ramadan, they'll all wait for the sun to set to eat with me. They don't allow anyone push liquor on me and will always have a great non-alcoholic drink for me, not merely give me water or soda.

What does my family think about all that love and acceptance? They're not following their religion properly. If they were I'd be persecuted by them.

You can't win with Egyptians.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:38 AM
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Saturday, December 22, 2007
Coming back (hopefully)
The past six months have been the most difficult, stressful, unbearable months of my life. I've been used to living a pretty tough life. Navigating through it has been unpleasant but I think I've managed well for the most part. When things got tough I'd be able to pull myself through by connecting to something pleasurable and so the bad times didn't seem so horrible.

This round of depression, however, has plagued me with a physical sickness that turned me into a walking, talking zombie. I really have no idea how I survived the past six months. How I managed to continue to go to work and perform my job, drive without getting into an accident (I'd blank out A LOT), not blow up into a blimp (I've gained 20 pounds, but it all went straight to my boobs so instead of looking fat I now look seven months pregnant), not lose all my friends. I've had terrifying panic attacks that made breathing difficult. I haven't been able to sleep.

I haven't tasted joy in six months. Not even fleeting joy.

And for what? For wanting to marry a man outside my faith. My mother hasn't spoken to me since June. We've gotten into loud screaming matches a couple of times between then and now, but she refuses to acknowledge me as a daughter anymore. My aunt hasn't cut me out, but I kinda wish she would. She's horrible! If I hear one more bigoted comment come out of her holier-than-thou mouth I swear I'll cut her tongue off.

My father has proven to be much more agreeable, but only after R said he would nominally convert. I explained to my father why I did not want R to convert, why I believed it to be unnecessary and hypocritical. He listened to me but told me that sixty years of indoctrination could not let him believe the way I believed. He didn't tell me I was wrong...he left room for individual interpretation but repeated one of his favorite quotes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". "Do this for me", he said, "and then live life any way you want". I hate compromising my principles but I've really got to pick and choose my battles right now.

My father, unlike all the other Muslims in my life, did not give me the bullshit that only Muslims will go to heaven. His objection to my impending marriage was not that Christians are infidels. When I mentioned to him the bigoted comments my aunt made about non-Muslims he told me not to listen to her madness. His objection did not even center on what the community or his family will think. His main objection was that he could not find an instance in Islamic history or sunnah where a Muslim woman was allowed to marry outside her faith. He wants to spend his last days on earth in the black-and-white realm, none of that gray area. I may not agree with the way he chooses to follow the majority but he's treated me with nothing but compassion so I have sympathy for his cause.

Poor R. He bore this time with much dignity. How it must have felt knowing your woman is always unhappy and you can't do a single thing about it. How it must feel "changing" your religion when you're so secure in your own.

I got really nasty with him at times and am sure attempted to push him away, but he stuck around valiantly. He gave me the strength I needed when I was just about to fall apart. He let me cry on his shoulder but refused to let me wallow in self-pity. And as corny as it may sound, he showed me that love really does pull us through the bad times.

So here I am now, attempting to start writing on this blog again. There was a time when writing here was pleasurable. Even if it was superficial and self-obsessed. Isn't that what diaries are for anyway? But when things in my life started to get really bad I was unable to take the criticism and bullshit that accompanies the airing of dirty laundry to the world. Now that my cobwebs have cleared (a little) I'm hoping my "I don't give a flying fuck what you think" attitude returns.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 1:01 PM
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Who: Carmen

xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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