Thursday, March 18, 2010

When is Freedom of Speech a Crime?

I was called up to my daughter's school today as she was in tears and wanting to "leave right now, MOM!!!". As a teenager she is frequently caught up in the middle of some teenage drama but she usually handles it pretty well and life goes on. I don't get these "come take me home now" phone calls very when I do..I know something serious has happened.
When I walked into the counsellor's office the secretary seen me and her usual smile was not in place. She had a very serious look and threw me a sympathetic smile of sorts. I felt this signalled a little something more serious was going on and prepared myself for "the worst". The counsellor heard my voice asking for Ameena and came out of his office with an equally serious expression. NOW I really was worried as he ALWAYS had a welcoming smile for me.
He invited me into his office and Ameena was sitting there obviously distressed and with red burned areas under her eyes signalling she had been doing some serious crying. I was not terribly surprised when I found out the cause of all this drama.
In every high school in the world there are cliques, gangs, and the occasional loners. There are the cheerleaders, the jocks, the nerds and the rebels. There are the whites, then everyone else consisting of those considered "lower in status". What I mean to say is we either belong to a group by choice or we are labeled into that group by our "peers". And always ALWAYS there is the "low man on the totem pole" group. Those considered the lowest in class, status, race...whatever. They are generally the most persecuted group in which every school bully bullies them, every cheerleader princess ignores them, and every other student thanks God they aren't them.
And then you have the new and novel group of which my son and daughter are the only two that belong to it...they are the Terrorist of Rock Springs High School.
Apparently my children have been assigned the role of resident terrorists by their peers and the harassment and bullying has been an almost daily thing. They have mentioned to me in the past that some students will shout out terrorist at them but they handled it by giving back as good as they got for the most part. My daughter has never been one to let such a comment slide by without retaliation. She told me she could handle it...I didn't need to come down there and deal with it myself....which I what I wanted to do the moment I heard about it. Zack keeps more to himself and doesn't really let himself react to such things for the most part...but when he's had enough...they will definitely know it.
Up until now Ameena seemed to be handling it well by ignoring it for the most part but today things got out of hand and she just couldn't take it anymore. It would seem several students started harassing her and calling her terrorist and others were laughing...the hardest part for her to handle was the fact that some of the students laughing were supposed to be her friends. She has faced the backs of many a friend and family member who was supposed to care about her but showed their true colors when they were needed the she took this very hard and was overwhelmed with disappointment and hurt. She fled to the counsellor's office and I was called in.
I arrived not knowing what was going on but I quickly felt deep anger for my children who have suffered harassment all their lives for some reason or another. In Bahrain they were harassed for having an American mother (aka slutty whore). They were made to feel inferior for being a "mixed breed" Arab rather than a "pure blood" that many Arabs are so proud of. My girls, of course, were eventually harassed for having been subjected to rape by their father...and the boys for having slutty sisters etc. Not only was their Arab status criticized but so was their level of "Muslimness" simply because their mother was American and obviously corrupting Islam for them. We move to the states and now they are "terrorists" merely for being Arab. I can almost feel the pain my children must feel at the thought that they don't belong anywhere...they are always labeled different.
My question to you all here is...should calling someone a terrorist be considered a crime of some sort? I ask this simply because given the very fearful nature the word instills in people, to me it's akin to shouting "fire" in a crowded building. It automatically makes people jumpy and suspicious...and maybe even dangerous. that whole vigilante justice thing that a mob tends to decide is the right course of action is very much on my mind now. My daughter was surrounded by chanting students who could have whipped themselves up into a frenzy of sorts if enough of them had gathered and joined it...which apparently was happening before she ran to the councillor's office. We all are very well aware of what happens when a mob like mentality takes over and an individual is singled out as deserving of "justice". I might also point out that this is Wyoming and "cowboy justice" is still considered an option. She was afraid and had every right to be...but was freedom of speech on the side of the students in this case or are these considered racists or hate words and therefor a crime of sorts?
I'm very happy with the counsellors course of action in that he quickly denounced every student that took part in that little gang up and informed all the faculty and school administration staff that any student uttering that word in the future would be suspended and the police would be called to the school. I'm assuming that makes calling someone a terrorist a crime then if the police can be called...I'm not sure though. In my anger I didn't ask for specifics.
This evening Ameena is much better, kids bounce back pretty quick usually, but it's very much on my mind now. I didn't bring my kids home finally just to be faced with potential danger because of who they are or where they come from. I do know and believe with all my heart that America is a better place for them and with more opportunities but I also have to acknowledge that it also could prove dangerous for them because there are haters everywhere...and haters need something to focus their hate on. Hate often leads to violence unfortunately....I don't know what I would do if my children were harmed in anyway because I brought them here under the assumption it was better for them.
I feel the school handled this situation as well as they could but they can't be everywhere all the children will have to face these bullies again at some point for sure as bullies never go away..they just wait until no ones looking. I was assured the school has cameras everywhere but still....I hate this situation and that my children have to be part of it. And of course, that's my fault for bringing them to an intolerant city, state, country??? Which is it? Is there anywhere in America that half Arab children can live in relative peace? hmmmm?
I don't like where this is going...any suggestions for a course of action, people?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Best Part of Working in a Convenience Store is...

the never ending array of interesting conversations that I have with customers.
Along with my wonderful conversation I had with Charlie in my previous post...Ive had so many funny, exciting, and just plain eye opening conversations with customers....both regular and those that are just passing through. I try and keep some paper nearby just so I can write down some witty sayings or interesting observations but invariably forget it at work and it gets thrown away. I will try harder to keep track of them as they are definitely worthy of a book some day..LOL.
A recent conversation I had with one of my regular elderly customers had me laughing and joking but also made me stop and think about how we tend to judge someone quickly based only on looks...without knowing a single thing about what makes them tick.
Take Oliver for instance....
Oliver looks to be in his 70's, almost always wear a white t-shirt with a pair of denim bib overalls (which reminds me a great deal of my grandfather) and has a quaint air about him that is very gentlemanly and proper. He has a wonderful smile as well with just a touch of an accent that is very northern. He is a joy to converse with when time permits...and a few nights ago time permitted..our conversation when something like this.
Now when I first had a chance to have a proper conversation with him we delved into such things as philosophy, the death penalty, world events etc...and he has wonderful points of view...varied and not what you would expect...or at least not what I expected. So when our recent conversation took a twist...I was both surprised...and his thoughts on the subject.
We started talking about "trying something new" in order to keep things and life interesting. The mundane and ordinary just made life boring and not worth the says Oliver...and a lot of other people I'm sure. So, when he asked me what was I willing to try that was new and different from my "norm"...I seriously tried to shock him with this..."well, Oliver, I was thinking of giving the gay lifestyle a try"....and waited for the condemnation. The older generation tend to not "swing that way" for the most part...another assumption that was about to be shattered.
Oliver got very thoughtful for a minute then looked at me straight in the eye and said something that I will remember years from now when so many other things about working at that store will be forgotten. He said..."when it comes to love we surely can't choose whom we who are we to judge when people find love whether we agree with it or not?" While I took that wonderful statement in he hit me with another one...
He told me that he had served in the military and that while he had never "swung that way" (loved that he used that phrase) he said there was this one soldier that always "took his breath away" whenever he saw him. The faraway look in his eye and the softening of his voice told me that he was experiencing that "breathless state" once doubt many decades later.
I was amazed by the passionate tone of his voice and by the fact that I had misjudged him obviously...assuming something about his beliefs and what he accepted as "life" and what was an "abomination" according to some. How refreshing to have my assumptions shattered.
He left me with a parting thought...he told me since we can't choose whom we love...when love chooses us we should grab it with both hands...cause it is so hard to find. I was in a fantastic mood for the rest of the night despite my sore feet and unending line of secret alcoholics clamoring for more.
The next night I was off but my co-worker told me he came in again and asked about me. Apparently the conversation had left a mark on him too...he asked my co-worker if I was busy "trying something new yet"...LOL...she said give me some time...knowing me it wouldn't be long. (she was joking ...I think)
Then again...he came in last night and we discussed how kids these days need a good beating as they are so "pansy assed" and "coddled" from the assumption that "every ones a winner"....he suggested the "switch make a comeback" as a form of punishment. Something his own father used on him and see how well he turned out...LOL. While I don't agree with physically punishing children (I myself was an abused child) it was interesting to hear his thoughts.
Anyhow, I was chatting with a "chat buddy" back in Jan and I told her that this was my year to be an shake it up...get people agitated...cause mayhem and destruction if possible just to prove my one point...YOU MAY THINK YOU KNOW ME BUT YOU DON'T KNOW ME...I might be 41 but I've still got a few surprises left in you never know Oliver, I just might take you up on your try something new...
And here I was thinking college was about as much as I could handle just now...LOL. Stay tuned people for the results of my "try something new" challenge.