Tag Archives: 9/11

Millennial Generation: Interview with James Queale

26 Jun

Many of you may recognize James’ name as a contributor to TSM.  He is a passionate advocate for social justice and he is a Millennial.

James grew up in New Brunswick, Canada in a conservative home with a Nazarene Preacher for a father.  James currently lives in  Philipsburg, Pennsylvania with his partner Tom. James is 21 years old and born during the Bush Sr. administration. Here is a chance to get to know James better.

On Coming Out: 

I came out when I was 14 and my friend asked if I was gay—which scared me and so I said I was bisexual, but then a week later I told her no, I’m just gay.  By the time I was 16 I was out to everyone except my family.  Even my teachers knew and really I did not experience any discrimination at school. I did face serious homophobia at home however.  I was watching an MTV show and my brother and I were watching a show with a gay kid who said he was gay and a Christian and then my brother and dad started the gay bashing.  I went downstairs and called my friend and I was very upset and it turned out that my dad and brother heard what I was saying. The next day my dad asked if I was struggling with homosexuality—I said I wouldn’t exactly call it a struggle and I was very scared.  But then he started crying and was talking about Jesus.  Then we got to the school and when I got out of the car I felt strangely free.  We went for two weeks without saying anything about it and then after two weeks my parents sat me down and asked what I meant when I said I was gay.  After a minute of silence I said, I like guys.  It kind of felt like they were trying to “cure” me from being gay.  Fortunately I was 16, so they could not legally force me into some type of “repairative therapy.”  From their point of view they now accept me, but from my perspective there is still room for growth.

On Politics:

I tend not to label myself when it comes to politics and religion. Labels come with baggage–baggage you may not realize is there. From a Canadian point of view, I have never chosen a party to follow. Honestly, other than knowing about our political system, I don’t pay attention too often. We have numerous parties to choose from which is nice, because I really feel that Americans are at a disadvantage because there are only two choices. Well, occasionally three, if an independent is running. Canadian politics are far less interesting than American. From an American point of view, I find myself most often relating to the Democrat side of things.

Historical Point of Reference:

9/11 was the biggest thing—by default for my generation this was a defining moment.  I think this is why immigration has become more difficult.  Now people are treated like criminals regardless. As a Canadian, I kept hearing that the terrorists came through Canada, but that did not make any sense.  I was in science class and a classmate said ‘oh the towers got hit.’ Of course, I was only 11, so it was difficult to make sense of it all.

LGBT Issues:

I was fortunate enough to have my rights as a gay Canadian by the time I was 15. Because of this I never knew what it was like to fight for rights until meeting my American partner when I was 18. Little did I know at the time that America was very behind on the equal rights front. I knew many things about America, but I had never REALLY paid attention until meeting Tom.

And this is when the predicament began. How were we going to be together with the law in our way? Well, we still have not figured this out. I can’t be here as his partner because of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), so we are no more than “friends.” Which is something I always tell the border guards so that I am not discriminated against or “turned away” by a homophobe. I am stuck as being a visitor because:

1. To be a student is expensive. American universities cost a lot more per year than Canadian universities. Plus, your sponsor has to have $20,000+ in the bank aside from the money I would have to have in my own bank account. And finally, you can only work on campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

2. I have no family in the US to sponsor me.

3. I do not have a “special” skill to get a company to sponsor me and hire me.

Why don’t we move to Canada? Yes, that would be cheaper and a little less tedious, but my partner has medical issues which has him reliant on his Disability. Most countries want someone who can contribute and since I am not exactly rich, I can’t sponsor him up with me.

Even if DOMA is repealed, it does not mean successful immigration. The American immigration system is broken, difficult, and expensive. I have heard numerous stories of heterosexual couples in Bi-national relationships and they have to move to their partner’s homeland instead. Like I said, that is not an option for me. So what does a young man in love do? Wait and hope.

Biggest Anxiety:

That I will not get to be with the one I love.

Biggest Dream:

1. That one day I will have a permanent home with the one I love.

2. I am an aspiring novelist and hope one day to write something good enough to get published and end up on the NYT bestsellers list. Unfortunately, I am very critical of myself and every time I start a manuscript, I throw it out and start again another time. Also, I suffer from what I call “creative ADD” so it is difficult for me to stick with one idea.

3. I hope one day to see everyone around the world treated equally and have the same rights.

Jamie, thank you for doing this interview and thank you for working so hard for social justice.

Millennial Generation: Interview with Zach Wahls

2 Jun

Zach Wahls

Many of you may remember the name Zach Wahls; he earned a Hero of the Week Award on the TSM.  Seeing the courage of this 19 year old in Iowa made me want to interview him for the Millennial Generation Series.  I have to say that, had my husband and I had children, Zach is the type of son I would be so proud to have.  His parents, Jackie and Terry must be kvelling!  Than you, Zach.  We look forward to your many more contributions to making the world a better place for all.

Zach is 19 years old and studying in college.  He has a younger sister.  He identifies as “a lifelong Unitarian Universalist.”

Politics

I’m a registered Democrat, but am not opposed to voting for intellectually honest Republicans. My biggest frustration with politicians is not about specific policies, usually, but about whether or not the politicians are being honest about what those policies will do, why they are presenting those policies, etc. Way too much of our policy making is about emotionally-charged and intellectually dishonest claims instead of realworld problem solving. Any politician with the courage to put forward solutions–that actually solve problems, even if they’re unpopular–is worth consideration in my book.

LGBT Issues

As important as marriage equality is, I think the bigger challenge facing the LGBTQ movement is the quiet, presumed homophobia of our social interactions. The casual use of the words “faggot” “queer” and “gay” in derogatory contexts is what fuels the culture of discrimination. Once we have, as a society, gotten to the point where we’re unwilling to permit such slander, I think most of the other challenges facing the movement will resolve themselves. This isn’t to say that we don’t have to do anything–quite the contrary. Getting to that point will take a *lot* of work.

Frame of Reference

Growing up, certainly 9/11 was a defining moment, politically, for most of my generation. I also vividly remember watching keynote speeches at the 2004 GOP National Convention that viciously attacked my family and me–something you hope never to hear from your elected officials, the people who are supposed to be protecting you and representing your interests.

I’ll also never forget the day that the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that same-sex couples had the constitutionally-protected right to enter civil marriage. I don’t listen to a lot of U2, but I listened to their song, “Beautiful Day” literally all day. Restored my faith in our government.

Biggest Anxiety

People have expected big things from me my whole life, and I’ve come to expect big things from myself as well. From whence these high expectations came, I’m not entirely sure, but they’re persistent–at time frustratingly so. My biggest fear is of waking up one morning, realizing I’m 40 years old and having made no significant contribution to my community–be it local, state, national or global. I often find myself walking a fine line between “Don’t try too hard,” and “Work like you’ve got a gun to your head.” I guess this is related to the previous question as well, but I look at the world and I see lots and lots of suffering. One billion people on this planet wake up every morning without a secure source of safe, clean water. One out of six. Young gay people are about eight times more likely to commit suicide than a young straight person. This is terrifying stuff. But then I look around and see so much happiness and so many people enjoying life, and I think to myself that this is what life needs to be.

Biggest Dream

Haha, I’m not one for dreams. I’m more about what we can actually do. I did really like *Inception*, though.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I’d rather make a significant contribution to something that actually mattered without recognition than canonized for doing something that didn’t matter.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

Well, I think my generation is uniquely situated. I have more technological power in my cell phone than NASA had when they put a human being on the surface of the moon. I am–and if you’re reading this on a computer, you are too–a walking, breathing technological superpower. Not only that, but we grew up with this technology in such a way that it’s really second nature to us. We’ve got the capacity to advance the average human condition on this planet in immeasurable ways. Huge potential. The question is whether or not we’ll deliver. And that remains to be seen.

Death of bin Laden: Mixed Bag

5 May

As seen from the both sidebar comments and public comments on yesterday’s Word of the Week, the death of Osama bin Laden proves to be far more complex than just killing the architect of the tragedy of 9/11.  I have some very real concerns about a mob mentality of celebration of an individual’s death and the lack of due process. I worry that in some ways we have sunk to the level of those we have accused as terrorists by summarily executing bin Laden without due process of law.  I worry about continuing a culture of violence and wonder when does it stop?

I am guessing that the Peace Movement is also asking how do we create a culture of peace and when do we say there are better alternatives to violence.  My friend James Russell just published an article for Truthout that addresses these very issues. Click here to read James’ article.  I suppose I would like to understand if we are moving towards a more peaceful time with the death of bin Laden, and does his death really provide the needed closure?

Millennial Generation: Interview with Maria Khan

14 Feb

Welcome to the third interview in the Millennial Generation Series.

As someone who has been in education most of my life, and as I hope to inspire a group of activists through my behavior and my blog, I am curious to see what Millennials think of their own generation and of our world currently. Today I had the chance to speak with a former student of mine, Maria Khan. She inspired me and I guarantee her interview will inspire you.

Maria is an Asian-American, born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. She is 21 years old and was born at the beginning of the Bush Sr. administration. Her tone, while exceedingly self-deprecating, is beautifully passionate as she talks about her dreams and anxieties. At times, her self-effacing manner has the potential to undermine her strong and brilliant voice. Maria was raised Sunni Islam and is devout.

Politics

When I moved to Pakistan and seeing how corrupt the government is, I realized how important it is to be aware of politics. Here in America I would say I am a Democrat. Every person regardless of age, sex, everyone has to be engaged in politics, it is our responsibility to use our rights and to fight for honesty, and equality. We have to raise our voice. We have to fight for the right path!  As she speaks with great passion.

LGBT Issues

People are so afraid of the concept of being gay, and people need to realize we are equal.  My generation is realizing the important thing is how honest you are– how kind you are. I have hope that people will get past the issue of sexual orientation.   We should worry: is this person honest, what kind of human being is this? It is inhumane to mistreat people for their sexual orientation.  It is our job to educate people and pull them out of the dark.  You should not judge a person by their color, or if they wrap their head or not, or who they date.  People’s personal lives are their business. My generation holds the thread of hope to stop pushing beliefs and hurtful words.

Frame of Reference

9/11 is my point of history.  The peaceful world my parents had built for me was not real, they wanted that for me, but it wasn’t real. I remember my school being attacked. I remember being attacked at the grocery store, a woman was yelling at me saying I had ruined the world. I also realized it was my duty, my responsibility, to help people not hate others, to educate people to give them peace and to give them harmony.  I am an American.  I was born here.

Biggest Anxiety

Where do I start? My biggest anxiety is the human race losing the ability to see right from wrong,–the ability to pick up a rock and hurt someone.  I look at all the injustice and the crime rates. We are citizens of this world whether we like it or not.  We have a responsibility to take care of the earth and take care of the people on the earth.  Why and how did humans get it in their heads that it is okay to kill people? These people that are being killed have mothers and family members. The thing that makes us human is kindness.  I worry about all the kids in high school committing suicide because of bullying. Did their parents not teach them to be kind?

Biggest Dream

The Fatwa issued by Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri will be used effectively to combat terrorism. I hope from the bottom of my heart that the Fatwa proves that Islam is a religion of peace! He has given his life for Islam, for peace. He has given up his life for peace and democracy.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I am going to work to educate people that Islam is a religion of peace. We have to help people and help terrorist not to be trapped into false ideologies.  It is not a religion of violence. These terrorists are not Islam. Killing people in markets in train stations is NOT Islam. If you smile that alone is a good deed. I want all the chaos in the world to end. Maybe we need to work on preserving the planet and make a world that is better for our children. The next step is to build understanding—I know this Fatwa will work and spread as far as it can spread.  My religion teaches to save people, not to kill people– that is all of our responsibility.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

I want my generation to be known for change, to stand up to the truth, to be united, to root out evil and injustice—to make justice happen, much like what they are doing in Egypt.  We have to fight for it. I am hoping and praying that the youth of Pakistan will realize how corrupt the government is.

Millennial Generation: Interview with Lex Kahn

13 Feb

Welcome to the second interview in the series about the Millennial Generation.

Most of you know Lex Kahn as a contributor to The Solipsistic Me. His witty and poignant Wednesday’s Word of Week post I look forward to with great zest. I am grateful for Lex agreeing to be interviewed for the Millennial Generation series.  After you read his interview, you will fully understand my exuberance in having him as a regular contributor to the blog.

Lex grew up near Reading, Vermont. His life has been contained for all of his 28 years in a small geographic area, hence his great passion for literature and wanting to expand his world. Although a Reagan baby, he still qualifies as part of the early Millennial generation. His father was Jewish and his mother was raised Methodist. While Lex certainly has the cultural literacy of growing up in a Christian world, he does not identify with any particular religion.  He did both his undergraduate and graduate work in Vermont.

Politics

Outspoken leftist. I was raised by a strongly anti-war Socialist father and a wannabe hippie mother who rebelled against her fairly straight-laced parents until she realized they were traditional but not conservative. I don’t have any patience for dogma without foundation, opinions without facts, or loud voices saying nothing.

LGBT Issues

I’m proud to be an outspoken straight ally of the LGBT community. I started out in the “so-what” camp, believing that there was no reason to care about anyone’s sexual orientation. I was actually the biggest prude in my family for years, frequently embarrassed by the frankness of my farming grandparents and very open-mined and outspoken parents. As I grew a political skin in college, I began to realize that sexual orientation and sex were two different things. More importantly, I discovered that just taking acceptance for granted would never move things forward for the gay people I cared about.

My best friend from my second week of college, Drew, has been out-and-proud since he was 16. He’s also very politically active. I credit him with much of my activism and political awakening.

I truly believe in the Kinsey scale and I also believe that some people move up and down the scale (at least a little bit) throughout their lives. I’m confident and comfortable in my choice to be heterosexual J and believe everyone should be respected wherever they fall on the continuum. As long as anyone is denied rights because of who they are or who they love, all of society is tarnished.

Frame of Reference

The most pivotal moment for me was the Bush v Gore decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush President. The November 2000 election was my very first as a voter. I was excited and energized. Al Gore wasn’t my ideal candidate (and Sen. Lamerman was worse), but the choice for America’s future was clear. W turned out to be so much worse than we could have ever imagined. As with most of my friends, this dealt a horrific blow to our faith in democracy. Why should we engage in the political process if our efforts could be swept away by judicial fiat? Some of my acquaintances were so embittered that they still don’t vote. Fortunately, many of us recovered enough to use this moment as a catalyst for action. That was not easy.

I suspect for most of my generation (and many others born in the last half of the last century), the most pivotal event would be the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. I can’t minimize this event, but its impact on me was blunted by family circumstances. My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2001 and died on November 11. It was hard to notice the world, much less respond to such huge events in the face of that kind of personal tragedy. I don’t want to trivialize the loss of life on Sept. 11, but I also think that the Supreme Court decision indirectly had at least as much impact on America. If Gore had been President, how would the actions of the next few months have differed? What would America be without the cynical posturing and illegitimate wars that W grandstanded out of our national tragedy? It’s almost too much to ponder.

Biggest Anxiety

That history is a cycle and we’ll never actually make any progress. Grant becomes Harding becomes Bush. Wilson becomes Reagan. Dred Scot becomes Citizens United. The wage gap and the decaying education system serve the powerful so effectively that I wonder if we can break the cycle. Unfortunately, the overall standard of basic comfort – even for any but the most abjectly poor – is sufficiently good to provide distractions and numb any instinct to rebel. Why protest health care repeal when American Idol is on and the fries are still hot? I see a great deal of political conscience in my peers but not a lot of will to action. Signing online petitions feels great, but it doesn’t move things forward. I hope that as the recession really ends and more of us find our paths that we can remember to be engaged and not become complacent.

Biggest Dream

Can I have two, or is that cheating?

I want to write something that really matters. I don’t know yet if it will be fiction or history, but there’s an important story brewing in me that will emerge someday. In the meantime, I enjoy honing my craft wherever I get the chance.

Even if the writing doesn’t emerge as I hope, my dream would be that when I’m in my waning years some flock of younger people will look to me and say, “That Lex, he really helped me see things in a new way.” I’m not a teacher per se, but I want to lend my words and deeds to others in some meaningful way.

I suppose that’s a selfish dream, in a way, but if I know even a small group improved themselves and their communities because of me, that would be a success.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I’ll go back to my answer about my biggest dream here. I want my mark to be my voice. I yearn to know that something I’ve said will matter enough to this world that it will live on long after me and inspire others.

Failing that, I’d be thrilled to write an entire paragraph that is fully alliterative, no breaks.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

Despite my cynical words when describing my Grand Anxiety, I believe this generation has the ability to push the barriers and really make a difference in how the world works. We’re reasonably well educated, we have good tools; we have the opportunity to understand how things all fit together. Statistically, we don’t care about differences as much as individuality. (Meaning, I don’t care how you differ from me – by race, class, sexual orientation, and so on – as long as you respect me as an individual.) That makes us powerful forces for change if we can harness the power of that individuality in some collective way. If we can look past our immediate toys and tribulations and work together in person, we can really make a difference.

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