Utica: The City That Needs Refugees (A Part of a “Fuck Trump” Series)

Yesterday, we had an all-staff meeting and the director was straight-forward: Trump, who is currently executive-ordering his cheddary balls off, wants to effectively shut down the refugee program in America. If he gets his way, there will be a 120-day blackout barring any and all refugees and immigrants from coming into the country. There will also be a slash at the number of those who will be allowed to come into the United States (from 110,000 to a jarring 50,000, which, if you put into perspective the fact we’ve already resettled 36,000 is heart-stopping). Refugees from countries such as Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia (basically anywhere with a Muslim majority or a big-enough Muslim populous) will be banned from entering. AND, to top off the Islamophobia-Wet-Dream-Cum-Splooge, WHEN refugees ARE allowed to be resettled there will be given preferential treatment to those of a religious minority (GUESS WHO’S A RELIGIOUS MINORITY NOW? YEP. CHRISTIANS).

If President Shit-Cock gets his infantile way, refugee centers across the nation will succumb to drastic budget cuts and lay-offs. People’s lives who couldn’t get any shittier will be jeopardized EXPONENTIALLY. Those who’ve been desperate to breathe freely might as well get a scuba suit or some shit because guess what? Our President and his Death-Eater staff have no love for your situation. No love.

Which is ridiculous in the sense of if Trump was HALF the savvy business man he tricked millions of people into thinking he is, he’d see the economic gain there is to letting refugees into the country. After spending 5+ years living in plastic tents eating the same bag of rice and shit, alternating from extreme distress and extreme boredom all day, you know who’s eager as a motherfucker to work? REFUGEES.

The city I’m from, when I was growing up, was poor as fuck because during the 80’s all the factories left and a lot of jobs were gone. A lot of people left for bigger cities and the ones who stayed behind were either the poverty-stricken, the stubborn or some immigrants (there was a joke bumper sticker that you’d see everywhere: Last One To Leave, Turn Off The Lights. It’s not that funny honestly but neither is the economic decline of an entire city).

Then, the refugees came. The Bosnians came and all those houses that were once boarded up and dilapidated were converted and rebuilt into Slavic-inspired PENTHOUSES. Vietnamese came and suddenly there’s restaurants everywhere again and THEY’VE GOT EGGROLLS THAT I’D SHOOT MY MOTHER FOR (sorry mom). Then the Cambodian and the Russian and all the other Slavs and Puerto-Ricans and Dominicans and soon this city, that was once only known for our beer, our Halfmoons and our drugs, we’re known for something much more profound: our diversity.

It took a while, but a city that was once made fun of for being the armpit of Central New York, and suddenly we’re famous for our compassion. We’re literally known as “the City Who Loves Refugees” “The Second Chance City”. But honestly, we’re not the city who loves refugees. We’re the city that NEEDS refugees. Without them we would have been on our way to just being another Sin City; another wasteland of good food and a lot of drugs. (We have a huuuuuge drug problem in Utica. I’m not even saying that to be funny. I’m saying that because it’s an issue that needs to be addressed: In the 90’s it was crack, in 2012-2013 there was an international drug prevention seminar held in Utica because of our Bath Salts Dilemma, and now we’re just like everyone else in the nation and have a heroin problem. But you know, you brag about the good you gotta own up to the bad)

It’s fair to say that America is way past due having this unnatural hatred towards refugees and immigrants. But then again, when you have a leader with orange skin, Thumbelina hands and enough neck fat to yank down and make a poncho out of, everything’s just the wrong amount of backwards right now.

Anaranjado Pendejo

Anaranjado Pendejo (A Promise To The President)

 

Like flowers filled with smoke

Like a horse split to the bone

Like an inaugurated fear

Like a fire coming from an asunder roof that flattened me just as I thought I survived the hurricane

I am overwhelmed.

But I am with reckless fear

Because there are promises being oppressed and truths being squelched

And to bear witness without doing shit is like getting shot in the goddamn eye.

For those promises were not necessary

But they were sold like they were

And those promises were not exclusionary (you cannot pick who will and will not collect take up Your offers)

You cannot use them like fishing lures

And hook them into our cheeks until they tear and impale us onto a spear before you toss our worthless bones into the water

Keep goading us with the half you slain and blow the shavings of the ones you erased into our eyes

Watch—watch——as the Debt Collector comes—For they will—(Oh, they’ll come)—

Out of the very fucking Earth

And devour the gunpowder from the fire

And the bones from the blood

And your lies from your promises

And we the people with the will to be will see which of us will last

And which of us will melt like dirty March snow off of a sun-burnt cliff

The Way She Goes: Diatribe of An Upset White Girl

 

I’m not going to lie to you: I’ve been writing since I was 7 or 8. I’ve written 13 full length novels, 5 or 6 novellas, hundreds of short stories, and possibly thousands of poems/ diary entries. This doesn’t even count all the half-drafts (incompletes) that I’ve either tossed or abandoned over the years and let me tell you– I really fucking hate being a writer. I’d honestly rather aspire to be anything else in this world, ANYTHING ELSE, than be a writer. I’d rather set myself on fire. I’d rather develop a harrowing drug addiction. I’d rather shoot myself in the goddamn face and live forever being shunned from society as a scary Hole-Face Monster–then be a goddamn writer.

It fucking sucks having a deep sense of self-loathing towards anything creative you try to do. It’s fucking DREADFUL having your self-worth be so intrinsically intertwined with something that is SO heavily based upon other people’s approval. Do you even know how many days I’ve had that were in all other facets absolutely perfect but the fact that I didn’t write more than 50 words made it “miserable”? Last Wednesday I got my car back after getting into a car accident from three weeks prior, I got paid thanks to accounting error at work 2 days earlier than expected, I had Subway for lunch thanks to an intern, AND my mechanic knocked 500 bucks off of my deductible for me. ALL ON THE SAME DAY. But did that matter? Nope. Because I didn’t write that day, it automatically made it an “average” day.

What kind of brooding, moody, spoiled-white-girl-living-in-a-first-world-country kind of bullshit IS THAT?

My most memorable, fantastical, euphoric days are usually the days that either: a) the day I finished writing a novel or b) the day I spent writing with the adage of other external greatness happening as well (“wow today was so great! It was Halloween, I got to meet the queen, oh AND I didn’t delete 500 words after painstakingly typing out 15,000 words beforehand.”) Which, in itself, is a whole other level of utter CRAP because my writing should give me ADDED joy not be contingent on ALL my happiness in life.

Sadly, this is how it is. As Ray from “Trailer Park Boys” says, “That’s the way she goes. That’s the way she fucking goes.”

Well I’m over “She” and How “She Fucking Goes” because I’m over having my emotional well-being be twisted and mangled just because the book I spent 9 months writing my ass off on (current book is titled “Lack of Purpose Makes A Girl Nervous” if anybody cares D:) get rejected for the 40th time. I’m sick of . I’m tired of seeing every quote upon quote upon quote from famous writers telling me that unless I write every day and unless I just deal with the crippling self-doubt and just write and write and write hard enough, eventually somebody will validate me. My soul is exhausted from all this self-doubt and external antipathy but that’s just an average day in the life of a writer, which can I also add is just zenith level donkey excrement.

Because that’s all writing is: Wanting others to see what you have done and say to you, “Yes. This is good. This is worth all the time and crying and self-castigation. This is good and so is you.”

I guess what I’m saying is: All of this is just a long, unnecessary diatribe and I’ll probably go back to my self-destructive habits tomorrow. But for now, I’m just letting others out there know: Writing is hard but, hey, that’s the way she goes.

S/O To Things That Made Me Cry: This Week Ahmed Danny Ramadan

Shout Out To Things That Made Me Cry is a brand new segment that I want to do where I basically talk about articles, essays and editorial pieces that made me cry.

This week, the thing that made me cry was Ahmed Danny Ramadan’s essay titled “Searching For A Home: One Man’s Story of Survival in the Syrian Civil War” (linked here for any of y’all who likes to hurting your own feelings).

How can you not feel for Ahmed, a dude whose homeland is furrowed beneath the weight of the Arab Spring, who not only has to deal with the theatres of war and military infiltration but has to lead this double life as a gay man in a thoroughly anti-gay environment? See in Syria people don’t judge you for being gay. They don’t make snide comments about your sex life or get uncomfortable around you; they take your job, they take your house, shit they’ll arrest your ass and nobody’s going to come to your defense because being gay is just another societal deviance that only prison can cure.

But he does a much better job of explaining all that in the essay.

I have nothing new to add. For I am probably the exact opposite of this guy: I’m not gay, I’m not a refugee (can’t say though that the looming prospect of Trump Rule doesn’t me wonder if I’ll be able to say that in years to come) and I’m not Arabic. But you don’t have to be for your heart to break for him and wonder if how many lifetimes is Ahmed and his fellow LGBTQ community away from the love and acceptance that is still hard to come by even in progressive countries such as mine.

But like all written works of tragedy and human suffering, this essay has an element of hope at the end. “As a former refugee, I feel responsible to be a successful citizen here [in Canada]; not just for me but also for all other Syrian refugees, and all the LGBT refugees will come after me. I want to show Canadians and westerners that LGBT refugees, with the right support, can and will embrace their new home. I want to show that LGBT refugees can give back to the community that opens its arms for them. To do this, I need to be resilient. I need to be strong.”

 

 

Rasputin: A Review and Reflection

Rasputin: A Review and Reflection of Douglas Smith’s “Rasputin: Faith, Power and the Twilight of the Romanovs”

I come from a long line of obsessers: ranging from sports and work fanatics to actual addicts. I myself am a fangirl. I’ve always obsessed with something: From 4th grade me who was obsessed with knowing everything there is to know about the Sinking of the Titanic to Adult Me who recently got a Screamapillar tattooed on her leg to solidify my 20 yearlong love affair with the Simpsons. The list ranges on: From the IRA, Alan Rickman, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Biggie Smalls, Emilie Autumn, the Columbian telenovela Las Mucheñas de la Mafia, the Hunchback of Norte Dame soundtrack (played all day every day the entire summer of 2015) and, my earliest and deadliest fixation, writing.

Of course none of those compare to my most bewildering preoccupation which is, my boy, notorious mad monk extraordinaire, Grigory Yefimovich Ra-Ra-Rasputin.

I honestly can’t give you one solid explanation for this fixation like I could with the others (even fourth grade me got a huge kick out of éclat of Irony that is the “Unsinkable Ship” Sinking). I can’t even remember when it all started but for whatever reason my nerd idiosyncrasies has always held a soft spot for both Russian History so when, at whatever age, I found out about Rasputin I was hooked.

And why wouldn’t I be? Douglas Smith, author of Rasputin: Faith, Power and the Twilight of the Romanov Dynasty, said it best: “The Life of Rasputin is one of the most remarkable in modern history. It reads like a dark fairy tale.” Out of all the biographies, documentaries, historical narratives and that one movie Rasputin: the Dark Servant of Destiny that I watched half of (not gonna lie I lost respect for the movie’s historical credibility once Snape started dicking the Tsarist) pertaining to Rasputin, this is the only one that felt like it was giving him a fair and balanced rendering of his life. Personally speaking, almost everything I’ve ever read of the guy gave off two clear and present biases: Either he was a pussy-obsessed peasant or a dirty-ass villain. That’s it.

Smith, on the other hand, does something most Rasputin historians haven’t bother to do and that was make him human. It’s easy to forget that at one point Rasputin Mad Monk began as Rasputin, Family Man but Smith does. In fact his approach is both shocking and charming: He went to archives and pulled out unrefuted documents about the guy. He brings up letters, diaries, correspondences, police reports. Hell, he even uses some of Rasputin’s own writings, something I have never seen in a biography about him before since everyone loves to dismiss him as an illiterate. One of the recurring themes I was damn-well shocked to discover from his writings was the overall message of love:

“Love does not allow you to see people’s weaknesses.” “Love is great suffering, it won’t let you eat, it doesn’t let you sleep. It is mixed with sin. Still is better to love.”

Who would’ve thought? Not me. I only knew what I read about him from Wikipedia or that one documentary that tried telling me he was going around sexing up prostitutes in his home village at the age of 9 (linked here if you wanna watch historian say with a straight face “Rasputin was promiscuous by the age of 10”).

That is not to say his life isn’t shrouded in mystery or that his actions were always scrupulous. The biography delves in his straight forward lechery. He used his influence to his advantages. He drank a lot, partied too much and made a fool out of himself. He loved other women even with his wife, Praskovia, back home taking care of his many female followers that wouldn’t leave his home. He loved prostitutes too. He even loved his Tsarist and her family, who returned his affections but of course in an un-fleshly manner. What really intrigued me about the book was how Smith described Rasputin and Tsarist Alexandra’s bond, something history liked to blur or fabricate with raunchy tales of adultery, sex-slavery, mind-control and/ or religious manipulation.

It turns out he, lowly Serbian generational farmer, and she, classy maiden of English and German royalty, had some things in common. Religious, family-orientated, stricken repeatedly with tragedy and surrounded by enemies, they were, as it seemed at times, of like mind: “She [Alexandra] viewed the world much as he did and one can see how Rasputin’s worlds would have been welcomed by her and how they helped create a bond between them.”

I won’t spoil the ending for you (that was a joke. Seriously if you don’t know what happens to Rasputin and the Romanovs, go Google it or forever be ignorant). I’m just going to end with Smith’s choice of proem a poem written by random German Heinrich Heine:

“It is also said that these fools/ Upon reaching the ocean-shore/ And having seen how the sky/ Was reflected in the blue tide below/ Believed that the sea/ Must be Heaven, and in they plunged/ With Faith in God/ And all were drowned.”

The book is 600+ pages long, it’s got way too many names to remember and there’s a lot of parts where you’re going to have to decide for yourself what to believe but that’s the best part about history: In the end, it’s all just about story-telling.