Monday, January 30, 2017

Why I'm afraid to report in a Trump divided populace

Photo of Womens' March on Washington on 1/21/17 by ResistFromDay1

I'm so scared. Of the people holding "Love Trumps Hate" signs and the people holding "We Voted to Make America Pro Life Again." Of concealed weapons behind posters and smart phones already set to record, ready to politically shame and squash sensible discourse.

I got into journalism so I could talk to complete strangers as if I had known them for years. To ask the state mortician how many times a body can be used for medical science, a senator if he really thinks his bill will be passed or if he's just doing this for reelection, a Supreme Court attorney why he wont retire and to ask a state prison psychiatrist what fear looks like on heroin.

Like a broach on my lapel, I fasten this phrase near my heart: "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."-Dorothy Parker (20th century essayist and poet)

As much as I love interviewing and writing, the thought of graduating in May fills my stomach with swamp water and makes me want to blindfold myself with bed sheets until noon. The culmination of eight semesters working towards that shpanky new degree and I feel dreadful. How can I be a proper journalist when so much of the mainstream media is biased? Biased to the point where no one seems to hide it anymore. I'm not naming names. I still want to get a job. Some day. Hopefully soon...¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Last summer former Facebook Trending Team employees were sacked after they admitted to routinely suppressing conservative news. What's worse, the New York twenty-somethings were replaced by algorithms and machines that mistakenly leaked fake news on its site. We reached an era when millions of people were reading fake news daily!! And what did that cause?

I mean a man from North Carolina crossed state lines with an assault rifle in his trunk to blow a human trafficking business he believed Hillary Clinton was conducting out of a pizzeria in D.C. to smithereens, because of fake news. That's about as bad as it can get.

But let's forget the fake stuff, however confusing and unsettling that is. I'm more scared of the real news. I'm scared for my friends going out to protest, but also what would happen if they don't protest. So proud that they exercise their right to defend what they care about, but angry and confused with the county in disarray. Mostly scared to reach the boiling point, the climax of this chapter. I fear the murmuring of secession, the Union and Confederacy's rebirth. I don't fear a Trump presidency, as much as I do a Trump populace.


Practicing to become the kind of reporter I'm proud to be, means listening to a lot of opinions and reading a lot. It means playing devils advocate as the "liberal one" when I'm in Chicago and the "conservative cuckoo" when I'm in college. But playing devils advocate all the time makes forming my own opinion a living hell. By inviting so many ideas, giving each the same potential, I've only clogged my compassion and can no longer create an organic position.

Mom and I speak often. Each time I play a personal game to see how long it take her to say,
"I feel so sad that you're going into this liberal industry."

One day I'll show her I'm Noah's dove and I'll bring her back something beautiful from the abyss.

I've recently found myself returning to the prayer we recite every Shabbat for the welfare of the american government.  It talks about peace and justice, and keeping the country's leaders, government and people strong.

From now until graduation I guess I should keep praying.

I promise I'm not shivering in some corner wiping my nose on my sleeve

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Grinch that stole Hanukkah, then gave it back

I'm sure you've heard of Hatchimals. Thumb-suckers asked Mall Santas around the country to pretty please place the $200 mechanical egg-cracking dragon below their tinseled trees. For that amount of money kids could buy four ostrich eggs and have money left over to go out to the movies.
But kids don't think like that. My six-year-old nephew picked a $10 Norstrom giftcard from a Hannukah game and insisted my dad trade with him for three Pokemon cards.

Caley, my perceptive niece, was lured in by the Hatchimal gimmick and begged my sister for one this Hanukkah. Despite that maternal pang to provide, my sister and I have this competing complex of being both incredibly charitable and you'd-have-to-rip-this-dollar-from-my-stone-cold-corpse personalities. Caley did not get a Hatchimal. She got a miniature sewing machine, a dainty replica of her mother's clunky model.

Wondering whether she liked it? I'll let you be the judge.

~ ~ ~ ~ 

I pull up in front of my sister's house thinking this, this right here, is the best part of coming home. For some people, offering to babysit is a compulsory gesture, a gesture they hope their siblings will acknowledge then forget like a skirt in the back of a closet. 

I love babysitting. The chance to be silly in freeze dance, the baby with clothes abandoned, romping in nothing but a diaper.  The chance to be creative, frying something in a skillet or in the kitchen sculpting with shaving cream.  The chance for storytelling and quiet contemplation before lights-out. It's a time you reference later over Facetime states away. 

I knock once and the door opens immediately. My sister and brother-in-law are waiting to go out to dinner with friends. Caley doesn't notice I've entered until I hover over her shoulder, watching the sewing needle pierce a thread through a red felt shirt she's making for her doll. She stops to give me a hug and jumps off her chair. She runs out of the office and returns with a plump misshapen  pillow. I stare at its lines and then up at Caley. 

"I made it for you," she says. "Do you like it?" 

I do, but I get the feeling she wants to keep it. Like when you walk up to a child while she's drawing and she triumphantly holds up the picture and says, "it's for you," even though she had no way of guessing you would walk through the door and happen upon her coloring. I want her to keep it.

"It's great," I say, "but this would be a great pillow for one of your dolls, right?"

She shrugs, looks sideways. I say "come." We freeze dance, she does the splits. We skillet fry, she adds the spices. We read Curious George, she lets her brothers into her bed even though her door say "no boys allowed." She dreams.

About an hour later, my sister returns.

"So, what'd you think of Caley's gift?"

I don't understand.

"It's the very first thing she's every sewn and she said she was making it for you," my sister says. "She's been walking around the house all day asking if I think Eliana's going to like it."

 My ribcage sinks, I can hear branches knocking against each other. I am disbelief. 

I leave the pillow, hoping she can give it to me again and somehow that new memory can cloak the old one like a coat of paint. I call her in the morning, and tell her how much I love the pillow. Kids are benevolent forgivers.

Caley's pillow with an 80s Barbie.

Caley's present got me thinking of the story behind Hanukkah, how the comically puny Macabees clashed armor with the formidable Greek militia. I thought about how the Jews could only find a mini jug of oil, which should have lasted 24 hours, but miraculously sustained the menorah for seven more days.

A friend recently told me that every time I blog from home my posts sound angry. To be honest most of them are anger-filled, because it's contentious transitioning from a space of freedom to a place of rules and expectations. Especially this break, when I've sent out 34 job applications to companies that don't necessarily even afford you a rejection letter and you find yourself under-skilled and overwhelmed. It gets moody. 

But Caley's Hanukkah pillow helped fend off bad feelings that day and every day that I've used it. It makes me, the small puny army of one-entry-level-reporter feel like I can conquer the slump.  It sustains me to keep going when I'm applying to jobs or moping around the house feeling bored and uninteresting. Makes me feel like I'm not common and dispensable.

Simply, her small gift lit up the holiday. 

That girl deserves a Hatchimal