In 1998, when my husband & I were mere babies and just dating, he was sent off to fight in support of Operation Desert Fox. Back then, as a 19 year old, I had no clue what was really going on, other than the fact that he was being deployed. It was then, while worried sick about him, that I started learning about politics and global affairs. I would wake up every morning, and read the latest news over coffee, so I could understand what was going on in the world, and why we were involved in the conflicts we were involved in. That's something I've done every day since.
In 2000, Rich & I made it official and I married into a Muslim family. My last name may be an Irish McDonald, but make no mistake: it is the Persian side only of my husband's family that exists today and it is the Persian side I interact with on a daily basis. My husband's Mother, herself an Iranian Immigrant, saw the writing on the wall and came over just before the Fall of the Shah. Other family members came as Political Refugees as the conditions worsened. My husband, and his brother, both joined the Military as a thank you to our Country for the kindness to their family. Several other family members have done the same.
In 2001 I had a baby, and gave her a Persian name in honor of her Persian heritage. At the same time, I welcomed my little brother into the family, himself the son of an Illegal Mexican Immigrant Migrant Worker who swam across the Rio Grande (sidenote: she is now a legal citizen, and legal for many years).
I watched helplessly from a hotel room in Arizona as planes flew into the World Trade Center on September 11. Then the Pentagon. I sat in fear, those early days, as I listened to the rhetoric on the news about "Muslims" and worried about what that meant for my family and child. Then became thankful, as the media pressed to make sure Americans knew the difference between "terrorists" and a normal American citizen of Islamic Faith.
Inevitably, I watched, with my heart in my throat, as my husband strapped on his boots and walked away that very first deployment. to Iraq. I watched my friends, also active duty military, do the same. I watched our economy surge, because War stimulates the Economy, right (read further)? I watched the Rise of Fox News, who, at the time, differentiated between terrorist and Muslim American Citizen.
At the same time, I watched my husband get sent to the Uprising of Al Sadr. I watched my ENTIRE American Community in Germany "go dark" as we watched our loved ones on CNN, Infantry and Armored units fighting in the 2nd Battle of Fallujah - which would turn out to be one of the worst points of conflict in the war, and the worst since Vietnam. Stories in Rolling Stone, Time, and other major press would be written about our soldiers in this conflict, as Press was imbedded with them. Incidentally, this would be the very same Infantry community CPT Kahn, whose father stood on stage at the DNC this past year, belonged to. The memory of his death twisted to fit a political narrative, at a time when our military has been gutted to a record low, our soldiers thrown by the wayside and we're actively fighting for our rights......
.....but I digress....
I watched as our community learned of CPT Kahn's death, and then all the deaths that came after. I watched as our neighbors and friends died. I watched, and felt myself, the ABSOLUTE TERROR at an unexpected knock on the door. The fear of answering it because it meant your life was about to change forever. The unwritten rule was you called before you knocked.
I witnessed an ENTIRE community mourn, blinds drawn, complete and eery silence outside. I watched again and again as my husband was deployed. Each time they asked, and it became asking as we went more to "training teams" vs unit deployments - he went, no questions asked. I delivered my 2nd child alone, in a foreign country, and raised him and my daughter a year by myself while my husband fought again - a feat not uncommon at all by the women I was surrounded by. So many of us did this.
I watched on CNN as my husband's base blew up, an ammo dump having been hit by mortars - not knowing if he was alive or dead, until hours later he was able to call via a Satellite phone and say he was alive.
At the same time, I watched as my Father's Rental business, which depends heavily on Immigration (as Agriculture brings the biggest jobs back home), was gutted and he nearly went belly up during the Immigration Raids of 2006 in rural SE Georgia. I watched helplessly, across the ocean in Germany, as families hid in the woods and families were ripped apart during those raids. I heard about Illegal Migrant mothers giving away their American born children to families in hopes that they could have a better life here. I watched my husband deploy over and over. Each time, he came home more and more different from the person I remembered. They kept giving him medals, hell, General Pittard even flew in to pin him as Major, but that could hardly take away the changes happening in our family.
I watched our Economy go belly up. I watched the money we'd put away into our IRA's -- money that we'd been saving from all those deployments -- amount to absolutely nothing. I watched, in the suburbs of D.C,, as our Government stopped compromising. I watched, furious, as our Government shut down. I watched as my neighbors, government employees - the typical resident for that area, fretted over how to pay their mortgages and feed their families. I watched as Budget cuts, an AUTOMATIC and known consequence brought on by a shut down government, defunded our Military. This was not unexpected. This was known. The very same people who sent our men and women to war, now felt it was ok to defund our military because they refused to find common ground. And I'm talking about ALL of them, BOTH sides let this happen. I was there and I was paying attention.
I watched as Veterans fought to receive care. I watched as they continuously took those budget cuts out on the backs of our men and women in uniform, instead of buying/developing new toys. I watched as they tried to come for our heath care. I watched as they tried to come for our benefits. I watched every sneaky way they tried to take from our men and women, and I watched which elected officials were actually out there fighting for us, vs who was just giving lip service. Words mean nothing when your voting record doesn't back it up.
I watched, FURIOUS, as they sent pink slips to soldiers serving down range. I watched as suicides were swept under the rug in Korea from soldiers given pink slips. Yes, this actually happened. I watched well respected Generals removed from their posts. I watched, COMPLETELY LIVID, as my husband, despite having 2 bronze stars and a perfect record, was told he, too, had to go. I watched as the VA rated him as a 90% disabled Veteran from his injuries in Combat.
Then, our dynamic changed. At the start of our new life, our family moved into a predominately Pilipino/Mexican Urban neighborhood, where I, a white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, became a minority. I listened as the community around me railed against their displacement due to gentrification. I noticed how a typical NORMAL SIZED HOME value here in my Los Angeles neighborhood of Eagle Rock went from averaging 300,000 to a million. 1 million dollars for an 1800 sq ft Craftsman. Does that seem reasonable to you for a working class community? I watched as, at the same time, my Dad bought over an acre of land, complete with 2 houses for $10,000 back home in Rural Georgia. Something he did several times, actually, to the point that he bought nearly a whole town.
I watched then, as our Government and our media continued to divide, the feigned premise of unbiased news LONG gone. Our elected officials stopped doing their damn jobs of Compromising and, instead, went on Social Media and on TV shows to plead their case. Because winning became more important. I watched and shook my head as campaigns of half truths came out on both sides. I watched people share stories they didn't bother to read or fact check on Facebook. I watched the Rise of the Orange Orangutan. I listened, in SHOCK, as I learned how many in my Persian - MUSLIM - family, staunch Republicans, planned to vote for Donald Trump. Then I listened to their reasons, and tried to understand. I listened to my Armenian Doctor, himself an immigrant with a thick accent, say the same thing. I saw entire towns turned into nothing more than abandoned buildings and rubble as I drove back and forth across the Country, twice. I saw my very own hometown, a once booming small Southern town, slowly boarding up business that have been around since before I was born. I've watched as they move to close down the Hospital my Grandfather, one of the very first doctors in my hometown, helped build. I listened to friends back home talk about the jobs they once held, factory jobs, and how they went away. Some of them gone bankrupt, some of them bought out, some of them moved overseas.
As I drove and road tripped around the country these past 2 years, I started actually noticing the changing landscape across rural America. It was impossible to ignore. I started noticing the population booms in cities around the Nation. I noticed ENTIRE TOWNS in Rural Southern Georgia boarded up and wasting away. ENTIRE TOWNS. And then, I watched slack jawed, as Donald Trump become President. Since then, I've watched people I once admired and respected reduced to hypocritical and childish bullying and name calling - people I actually agree with politically.
I believe in Science. I believe in Climate Change. I believe Social Programs are important. I believe in Inclusion and tolerance - tolerance INCLUDING people you don't agree with. I HATE racism and if I see you mistreating someone based on these things, I'll get ALL UP IN YOUR FACE. Anyone who knows me, actually KNOWS me - not Internet knows me - knows that. I believe in human rights, I believe in the importance of migrant workers. I believe strongly in the right to choose, even if I know, deep in my heart, I could never have one because an abortion is against my personal code of ethics. I believe in the rights of LGBT. I believe, whole heartedly, that black lives matter. I believe White Privilege absolutely exists. At the same time, I also believe cop lives matter. I believe we've reduced the controversy to simplistic terms, and it's just not a simple issue. It's a HUMANITY issue and it starts and ends with one another.
I HATE war -- but I believe, by God, we take care of our military. Especially if we're going to have the audacity to ship them off to one to line our pockets. I believe we take care of the poor, and I believe the solution to that in rural areas is very different from the solution in Urban areas. I don't believe there's a one size fits all solution to our Country, yet we're trying to impose one size fits all solutions to a population of people who are very different from one another. In the process, we're denigrating an entire population of people we don't even know just because they don't fit a mold we think they should fit. I believe that is how Donald Trump won the Presidency. Most of all, I believe in Democracy. That is what my husband fought for. I believe in Compromise. Even if I'm not a Republican, I believe we need Republicans, and their Conservative fiscal policies, to balance the financially giving nature of Democrats. I believe right now we do need balance, as we're 19 trillion dollars in debt. That is a fact. No, I don't believe we're going about it the right way, but I do believe we have to do something. Our Country is in crisis, as evident by rural America in decay. And just, FTR, I also believe Democrats don't have a monopoly on kindness, compassion and/or intellect, despite the current popular social media narrative. I don't believe all Republicans are racists and/or Xenophobes. I do believe Donald Trump is an idiot, and only got into this for publicity, and then to line his own pockets once he realized he had something. I also believe (based on historical facts) he is not a Republican. I believe we've stopped listening to each other. I believe we are no longer a democracy BECAUSE of this. I believe we the people ARE ALL fighting for the same damn thing, but we're just so caught up in our own constructed labels, and what the media tells us that looks like (despite what it ACTUALLY looks like), that we're too blind to see it. I believe I'm sick and tired of half/fake/click bait news, and people from all sides of the political spectrum crowing superiority from the security of their little echo chamber bubble without having a clue how those outside that bubble live. Finally, I'm sick and tired of people crowing for civil war, when they have NO CLUE what actual war looks/and or feels like.
If we're going to see our way out of this chaos, then I'm sorry, war ISN'T the answer. You know what is? COMPROMISE. That's how a Democratic Government is supposed to run.