Sunday, October 18, 2009

My last few months in Belgrade

Oh…so sad! It is my last two months now in Serbia. Actually two months from today! I have been so happy here – I have really come to love it! And I am really sad to have to say goodbye to my life here and especially to my friends.

In my remaining time here I will be teaching two classes, one in Women’s Studies and one in American Studies (on the Civil Rights Movement). I will also be completing two book chapters for publication and continuing my volunteer work. I need to make a trip to Sarajevo still, and hope to get back to Crvenka at least once (preferably twice).

Since I’ve been back (mid-August) I’ve done some traveling, have spent some time with good friends, and have generally been trying to enjoy everything about Belgrade – savoring it bite by bite!

The Serbo-summer was long and lovely, but sometime last week it went from 70 - 80 degrees everyday to barely 40 degrees! I am hoping Fall comes back here next week! It just slipped by in the night!

I’ve been working, of course, but have really also been trying to find time to appreciate my wonderful friends and the last few moments of this amazing experience.

So much has changed! I mean when I got here I was so confused and things were so difficult – my daily life I mean. Now all those little things are so easy! I mean there are still days that suck, and times that things are hard, but my language skills have improved, I have a perfect number of friends that I like very much, I have a routine, and places I like to go…I am settled! I even joined a really beautiful gym recently. I had been walking for exercise on the path near the river, and I had passed this gorgeous gym every day. I finally decided to join and while it was not cheap, it is really cool! The work-out space overlooks the Danube and Sava rivers so you watch the world go by while you do your cardio! GREAT!

It’s funny to me that as the new American Fulbright grantees arrive, their frustrations are so similar to mine when I first arrived, and yet those things seem so far away for me now! I’ve adjusted to and come to love the loose conception of time, the multiple daily coffee breaks, and the culture in general.

Of course I am not blind to all of the things that need to change politically, and I am not blind to the poverty and daily problems people face here. I will continue to write about and work on these issues of course. It’s just that, all those things aside, I have become really happy with my daily life here.

A small example of this – last night me and some friends went to see local pop-star Severina in concert. We met up at my place first, had drinks and snacks and watched hilarious videos of horrible local turbo-folk pop stars. We then went to the show. Severina is like a Balkan Madonna, and her show was a sold-out arena spectacular! I had seen Severina before when I was in Dubrovnik, Croatia, but that was a much smaller venue – maybe 1,000 people at most. This was sooo different!

Sadly our seats were pretty bad. We had bought tickets in the standing section so we could dance, but there was no way to see the stage, and that was a shame b/c she had dancers and glitter cannons and disco balls and video footage behind her and props and special guest stars and all kinds of things! If only she had like 2 video screens mounted on the sides so that those of us in the “cheap seats” could see her, it would have been perfect!

Still, we danced and sang and really had a great time. Most of the audience knew every single song, and there was a group of high school girls in front of us who sang and danced and cried and hugged and really were enthused by every single song. I know a lot of her songs, having purchased her “greatest hits” CD about 7 years ago after seeing her shopping in a music shop in Zagreb. I then used her music to help with language study, and as such I do know a few of her songs by heart. I even translated a few of them for language study, so I actually understand the words! But for most of them, I know many of the words, but don’t fully understand the songs – I guess like when most non-native English speakers learn American pop-songs when they’re young!

Still the concert was fantastic! She played for nearly 3 hours with no intermission, and changed costume like 5 times! It was great!!

The way that people enjoy life here – the way they cherish their relationships more than money – this is something I am really going to miss. Not to idealize it. But just to stress that I have come to a point where I really love it here – the culture, the people and my life here.

I’ll try to write more again when I can. Thanks for reading.

Istanbul - Super Cool!

So, when I knew I was coming to Serbia for the year I vowed that I would try to see a few countries that I had never been to. Having a Turkish friend, “M” who I had known from my time in Holland I had planned to take a trip to Istanbul for a visit. As usual, although I had thought I would go in spring, I had become quite busy, and the plan was pushed back. But, finally, in September, I was able to make that trip to Istanbul along with my friend “A” (my Serbian friend who lives now in Holland) who was very good friends with “M” during their university study.

I am not sure what I expected Istanbul to be like really. I think my impressions were shaped in part by American Islamophobia, in part by my experiences in Holland (where many of the sketchy drug dealers are Turkish men and many of the Turkish women you see are very traditional), and in large part by the stereotypes of Turks that are so prevalent in the Balkans. With all of this I had imagined a somewhat wild frontier, with no road rules, covered women, dark mustachioed men, “Turkish toilets,” and goodness knows what else. This impression was only exaggerated by the fact that the day before we arrived in Istanbul there was a torrential rain that led to a huge flood that killed numerous people.

Well, I must say that am a little ashamed that I had such a negative idea of what Istanbul would be like – and idea formed by stereotypes I did not even know I held. And I am so happy that I went to Istanbul and am so glad to change my opinions because Istanbul was nothing like anything I had pictured in my head!

First of all, it is so so so cosmopolitan! When I first arrived, “A” was already there, and she and “M” came to meet me at the airport. We took the exceptionally clean, safe and well-maintained metro to the neighborhood where our friend lives. He runs a bakery and sweets shop, and his apartment is just above the shop. We first dropped off our things in his apartment, said hello to his two adorable Dalmatians and his equally awesome cat, and headed off to the local grocery store to get some supplies. As soon as we walked into the store I was pleasantly overwhelmed with color and selection! So many beautiful fruits and veggies, isles and isles of choices of everything! “M” laughed at me because he said I acted like I had never been in a grocery store before, but having been in Serbia for so long, and having had an idea that Turkey was like some far-flung outpost, I was both thrilled and impressed!

So, our friend “M” is a great cook and a great host and we went back to his place for dinner. We spent the first night catching up, playing with his pets and hanging out. The next morning, after breakfast, we headed out for our first day of exploring.

We took the metro to the main shopping area and again I was pleasantly overwhelmed by all the choices! Every store that you could imagine from all over Europe and the USA was there – plus about 100 Starbucks! Further, it was soon quickly clear that Turkish people come in every color and are of many different ethnic groups and, contrary to my ill-informed assumption, despite being Ramadan, there were very few covered women. On top of that, there were so many tourists from all over the world, and it seemed totally normal to smile in the street, and to speak English (unlike in Belgrade where I feel a bit stupid doing either!)

We wandered the streets and “M” showed us all the sites in this modern part of Istanbul. But, like Athens or Rome, Istanbul has thousands of years of history and there are many parts of the city from all different eras! We walked from the modern shopping street to the river where you are standing at the edge of Europe, looking over into Asia! COOL!

Modern Istanbul shopping street

A view of Asia from the edge of Europe!

We then proceeded to what is known as the Spice Market. Unlike the Grande Bazaar – which is so widely known – the Spice Market is still actually frequented by locals. It was so amazing! So beautiful! And we were really lucky to be with a local because I think we got the most authentic experience. We spent ages walking around, looking at everything, tasting local cheeses and sweets, and looking at local crafts, textiles, etc.

Spice Bazzar

Spice Baazar

Spice Baazar

Spice Bazaar

In the late afternoon that day, the local government put out a warning of another potential flood and so we went home early, made dinner together, and “A” helped “M” make his cookie order for the next day while I read to them from various websites.

Some of the cookies from our host's bakery shop

Our Host's bakery and sweets shop

The next day I wanted to see the famed Grande Bazaar. We spent a few hours there, wandering, haggling, watching in awe! It is really interesting and HUGE! It spans maybe 12 city blocks or more!
Grand Baazar

Grande Baazar
We then went on to see the famous Aya Sofia (an old Christian church that then became a mosque and is now a museum) and finished the day at the Blue Mosque (the largest mosque outside of Mecca). We spent hours inside of Aya Sofia and “M” was an amazing guide as he had led tour groups there before, so it was like a private tour! As we worked our way over to the Blue Mosque, “A” and I put on our head-scarves which were required in the mosque out of respect. We then spent about 20 minutes taking pictures of ourselves in the scarves, whereby we actually missed the last entry time to the Blue Mosque! (yes, we felt like idiots!). We made our way home, had dinner together and crashed.

Inside Aya Sofia

Inside Aya Sofia - where they are excavating the Christian Icons from under the Islamic Art

Inside Aya Sofia - the alter space

Inside Aya Sofia

Aya Sofia from the outside

Blue Mosque
Courtyard of Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque as seen from Aya Sofia

Blue Mosque

The next day we were to go to Asia! We took the boat to the Asian continent and explored the city on that side for a while. We then met up with a friend of “M” and walked around a bit, enjoying the natural beauty of the place. Afterward we went back to “M”’s house for our meal and played with the pets again. It was so great to be around these pets! They all loved me and all wanted to touch me constantly and it made me miss having a pet around sooo much!

Coming back from Asia

One of our host's Dalmations and the cat

The other Dalmatian

On my last day I went to try to see the Blue Mosque again, and was closed out for a funeral. I met “M” at one of the city’s huge mega-malls, and in the evening I caught my flight back to Belgrade.

I am thrilled to have had the chance to go to Istanbul and really had a great time. “M” was an amazing host and guide, and the three of us thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. I can’t wait to go back to Istanbul. I could easily live there and will certainly go back for a visit. It is an amazing place and I feel like I have a fuller worldview because of my time there!
I wish I could say so much more in so much more detail, but I'm afraid that is all I can manage for now. Just wanted to share a few things and some pics.
As Always...thanks for reading!

My Serbo-Family in Crvenka

In the last few months I have been travelling to Crvenka (in Vojvodina – north Serbia) to visit my landlord’s family every few weeks. I love it so much and have adopted them as my Serbian family! I feel I have really gotten an authentic perspective on Serbian culture from my time there. Although the Vojvodina region is unique in Serbia due to its largely multi-ethnic make-up (somewhere around 50% of Vojvodina is not of Serb ethnicity with many ethnic-Hungarians, ethnic-Germans, ethnic-Romanians, etc.) there are still important aspects of the every-day culture there that are fantastically representative of the best aspects of traditional Serbian culture. Foremost among these things is the hospitality!

In Belgrade, being a big city, I had not really been able to see this part of Serbian culture, though I had heard and read much about it. In fact, I had begun to think of it as a myth! But with my Serbian family in Crvenka I have felt so welcome and so at home that every time I visit it is hard to leave!

So let me back up and explain a little bit… The parents, Aci & Caca, are in their 40s. Aci is an ethnically German Serb, descended from a group of protestant Germans that settled in Vojvodina in the 17th and 18th century. After the Second World War, many of these ethnic Germans were imprisoned and/or driven out of the region (regardless of whether they were aligned with the Nazis or not – and most of them were not), and those that remained were stripped of their land and possessions under communism. Their land and possessions were re-distributed, mostly to settlers from Montenegro. There are all kinds of mythic stories in the area about the ways the Montenegrin settlers reacted to the technological advancements they found in the ethnically-German homes in which they were resettled, including utter confusion about indoor plumbing, tiled floors and stone fireplaces, but it’s hard to tell what is stereotype and what is true. The stories claim that the Montenegrins that came to Vojvodina were mainly peasants who had lived in earthen homes with dirt floors and without plumbing, but again I cannot attest to that with certainty.

Anyhow, Aci, my Serbo-family patriarch, comes from the ethnic-Germans, and identifies somewhat as such, but really seems to have a much larger allegiance to Yugoslavia. Aci moved to Belgrade with his family (his mother a professor and his father a veterinarian) when he was beginning high-school, and his mentality is quite cosmopolitan. He then went to university here in Belgrade and then worked on movie sets through the 1980s as many international films were shot here during that time. He and I spend hours talking about current events, history, local and global politics…quiet certainly we have solved all the world’s problems over a bottle of whiskey about 30 times over ;-)

The matriarch, Caca, is from a Serbian-Montenegrin family. She also studied in Belgrade and went to university for Travel and Tourism. She now runs a lovely resort/hotel in the town that neighbors Crvenka – Kula. She and I have become very close friends. We talk on the phone several times a week and I feel so much more comfortable here in Serbia knowing that she is there for me. Like for example, I know if I got sick, she would come to the doctor with me. Or if I needed to talk, or when I have questions about language or culture or whatever…she is there for me. We both feel we can talk to each other about anything! This is a great feeling here as a foreigner!

The couple met in Belgrade, and fell in love. Had it not been for the war, they would have likely stayed here, but with a new baby and the streets growing increasingly dangerous and the city increasingly expensive, the couple and their baby boy returned in Crvenka in the 1990s.

Their son, now 19, is named Julius and he is definitely one of the coolest kids I’ve met here in Serbia. When I met him he was in high-school, had hair down to his waist and was the guitar player for a locally popular punk-band. At the same time, he’s smart, funny and really globally aware. He has just started university here in Belgrade a couple weeks ago, and now lives across the street from me so he and I get together for coffee a couple times a week.

OK, so that is a quick orientation of who they are. So, how I know them…

When I arrived last January, they were here waiting for me (as they are my landlords). We instantly liked each other and they were a huge help for me in getting settled. Each month when they would come to collect the rent, we would sit for a couple of hours, drink coffee and chat. Sometimes the whole family would come, sometimes just two of them. Their stories were so interesting and we came to find that we shared a similar worldview and held the same opinions and sympathies in a lot of areas. Soon they invited me to come and spent a weekend at their place in the village – Crvenka.

Well, as you might imagine, I saw myself as far too busy to take the time to go there and I was worried that I would feel uncomfortable in someone else’s house, etc. I had intended to go in spring, but things got really busy for me here in Belgrade, so before I left for my vacation in the USA, we made a plan for me to come for a visit the weekend immediately after my return to Belgrade…and so I did.

I had intended to stay for 2 nights and enjoyed myself so much that I stayed for 5 days! They are so laid back and so cool and we just sit for hours and talk and laugh! Meanwhile, all of their friends from the village come and go throughout the day and there are some really interesting characters!

Anyhow, after my first stay in Crvenka, I was surprised by how much I missed this family, and they missed me! I decided that I would go back for my birthday weekend. I had promised to make them an American meal. As the son had asked specifically for Sloppy Joes I made that with guacamole…and I was thrilled that it was such a hit! Since then I have been back every few weeks! Also, at Julius’s request I had a package sent to him from the USA with all sorts of American junkfood (cheese whiz, mac n cheese, pop tarts, Doritos, etc.). I also included in the package, since he and his friends love to play board games, a few good games – Uno, Phase 10, Othello and Settlers of Cattan.

So, when I am there in the village I really enjoy myself! One time we spent the weekend making rakia – the local home made brandy. The family has several types of pear trees in their yard and so twice a year they make rakia from the pears. It was sooo cool! One of the villagers brings over a huge distillery and the cooking of the pears begins about 7am. All the day the men work on making the rakia (and finishing off the last batch) as well as tending to the grill while the women make coffee and other such things. The air smelled so wonderful with the scent of these cooking pears! The next day the local expert comes over and tests the batch to be sure it is of the correct balance, and then it is ready for drinking! The funny thing about rakia in Serbia is that most families make some kind of rakia, every rakia maker thinks his is the very best, and everyone in the country thinks rakia is the cure for everything! A sore throat, a broken bone, you name it! Many older people have one shot of rakia in the morning and another before lunch! It can be made of all different kinds of fruit, but the ones from pears are my favorite. That is not to say that the flavor does not take some getting used to! The first taste is like gasoline! But you get used to it. And again, while people drink this stuff and all hours of the day, you rarely see anyone drunk!

Making Rakia

Another amazing thing about my visiting my adopted Serbo-family is the grandmother’s house. She has this amazing home, behind which is a huge vegetable garden. Behind that lies what is called a “summer kitchen,” which is like a second kitchen for cooking in hot weather so your home does not get too hot. Behind the summer kitchen is a sprawling and beautiful backyard. In this beautifully maintained yard is a series of small enclosures, each containing dozens of works of art as the family hosts a sort of artists’ retreat there several times of year. It is amazing! I immediately thought it would be an amazing place for a party, and last time I visited, as it was Caca’s birthday, we were able to do just that! A wonderful, fun party with friends and neighbors and a man with a guitar and another with some sort of Serbian banjo thingy, and amazing homemade food and beautiful cakes…such a warm and wonderful place!

Fountain in Backyard of Grandma's house

Sculpture in back garden of Grandma's house

View from back garden of Grandma's house

Path from Grandma's house to the "summer kitchen"

Family party in backyard of Grandma's house

Cakes from birthday party in backyard

Man with guitar and Serbian banjo at party

It’s hard to describe why I love going to spend time there so much. Part of it is that I love this family so much and we really get along wonderfully. Part of it is that I love the chance to see some of the traditions in this place. Part of it is the consistently wholesome, organic homemade meals! But I think a lot of why I love it so much is that I really love the values and community that underlie this family and their friends. It is so clear that relationships are so much more important than money, and people live simply. They care about their neighbors and friends and take time to enjoy life. This, more than anything else I have experienced here in Serbia, makes it very hard to leave.

Of all the things I love about Serbia and all the things I will miss, it is this family I will miss the most!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The terrorists have won: A Sad commentary on the state of freedom and human rights in Serbia...

Even more troubling than my own inner conflict on whether to attend tomorrow's PRIDE event in Belgrade, as of today the event was cancelled b/c of the extreme threat of violence and the fact that not even the police could guarantee the saftey of the participants.

It is a sad fucked-up thing that the Serbian government and general population would rather allow a few right wing extremists dictate the direction of the entire nation.

Everyone...every individual is responsible for creating the community and world they want to live in.

Yes...I was scared to participate, but I thought it was such an important moment. A moment so much larger than a commentary on gay rights. A moment where Serbian people had a chance to stand up and say that they wanted to live in a world with more possibilities...a world with a broader future. A world where civil discourse and debate creates civil society, not half-wit football hooligans and criminals with baseball bats and alcohol infused group-mentality machismo. Instead it seems that he who hath the bigger gun has won.

Here are a few articles about the opposition to the PRIDE.

Friday, September 18, 2009

PRIDE vs. "Nerf Life"... "Sittin' on your biscuit, never havin' to risk it": My quest to do the right thing...

Ugh! I have a consuming dilemma. So consuming that I have had a constant nagging headache for 3 days and I can’t sleep and every moment I am still I am ruminating. I am not sure I have ever felt so morally conflicted!

So Sunday is the Pride parade here in Belgrade. Now I have been an active gay rights activist in the USA for nearly 20 years, so on the surface it is a “no brainer” right? But here’s where it gets complicated…

The last time they tried to hold a Pride event in Belgrade it became horribly violent with the right-wing nut-jobs beating the demonstrators with bats, etc. Many ended up in the hospital and one nearly died. Fast forward to now…one would think from our own lifetime of experience that cultures progress, but that does not seem to be the reality of things in the world today.

Even in Budapest, where on several occasions in the last 10 years I have attended and enjoyed fun and festive Pride parades, this year’s event was marred by violence and several people I know personally were beaten bad enough to be put in the hospital.

But that is there…as far from me in Belgrade as Chicago is from New York.

OK, but much if not all of Europe (and maybe the world) seems to have an increasingly loud and violent far-right neo-Nazi-esque movement. And honestly, Serbia is the rule rather than the exception…I would even argue the “trend setters” in this capacity.

Here you have a country dripping with machismo, which a largely snickers at if not glorifies organized crime, where residual post-war travel restrictions in conjunction with post-war poverty have made it nearly impossible for Serbs to travel. Add to that a strange mytho-historical dominant discourse that is propagated unchallenged from kindergarten through adulthood and reinforced in media an pop-culture and as a result you have younger generations who seem increasingly myopic and small-minded.

People are getting ever more religious, girls are getting pregnant younger, young people are not finishing school, etc. All of these factors make for a certain population of angry, despondent, hopeless, uneducated youth who, while not truly ideological, are happy to unleash their anger on whatever they are pointed toward.

Now within this mish-mash you have a loud and prevalent national attitude toward homosexuality that at best views gay-ness as an illness and at worst a sub-human perversity against nature which should be wiped off the planet. All of this makes for a pretty scary and aggressive right-wing movement – to say the least. One that makes O’Reilly and Glen Beck look like banal toothless kittens, Ann Coulter & Sarah Palin look like Mrs. Brady and Mrs. Clever, and Dick Cheney look like a doddering old fool!

So….like I said, I have actively worked for gay rights in the USA since I was like 17 or 18. Naturally it would make sense that I would support the Pride activities here in Belgrade. After all most people I know who are progressively minded are participating, and the cause is something I totally believe in. And quite honestly, most people here, even if they believe homosexuality to be a sin or an illness, they still do not want to kill gay people. But the problem is that loud, vocal and violent minority – which is not actually a small number!

As the Pride events draw closer, these groups have organized an equally public campaign for a counter-protest and have openly promised to be violent and aggressive toward both the Pride demonstrators and the police. I have heard promises of baseball bats, oranges stuffed with razor blades, gang rape, tear gas and other unspeakable horrors. They are advertising in the newspapers, on the internet and through graffiti in the streets.

Now, the president here has promised thousands of police and most politicians, even if not in open support of the GLBT community, have voiced support of their right to demonstrate. Further, a large community of artists, journalists, actors and other public personalities have been very public and open about their support.

Still, this violent opposition seems very well organized, and who knows what the police will actually do when it comes down to it.

Will they protect the GLBT supportive demonstrators? Will they use live ammunition if necessary? (In that case I can only think of Kent State in the 60s – who knows who will get hit). Will they step aside and let the right wingers attack?

At the same time, how can I even question my participation? I mean it is easy to sit home in the USA and state that I support (or don’t support) something when the worst I can expect is some harshly wounding words. But when it really counts, when it really matters, when there is a real risk, shouldn’t it be more important to stand up for my beliefs? Shouldn’t it be more important to turn-out when there is a real threat to the values I hold dear – people’s right to live free from the physical fear of violent death? It is reminiscent of the US Civil Rights Movement when people really took their lives into their hands to advocate for justice and equality. And if it wasn’t for those people, just imagine what our country would look like now.

Still there is the argument that this is not actually my country. And then there is the fact that I actually need my full brain for my living. And honestly I am really scared…maybe more scared than I have ever been. I can’t sleep. My head aches for 3 days now…like a mouse is in my skull eating away at my brain. My conscience tells me that to demonstrate is the right thing. It is a human rights issue. It is dear to my heart. And quite honestly, with no kids and no husband, I am actually exactly the person who should be out there. But the fear is like nothing I have ever felt.

I also believe that each individual is responsible for creating the society that s/he wants to live in…that we are all responsible for what our communities and by extension our world looks like. You can pick up your feet and go with the current, but then you are really just a cog in the machine. A leaf on the wind. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

ARGH! I am so conflicted! I keep going back and forth between deciding that I am going no matter what and hoping I come down with a horrible fever. This may seriously be the most conflicted I have ever felt. I know what the right thing to do is, but I am selfishly afraid to do it. Afraid to risk my one stupid precious self for the greater good. A braver person would not be in conflict! A braver person would be able to commit to the fact that no individual is greater than the collective good.

You know, I talk to my students about this a lot. Each of us imagines that we would have been the one to have saved our Jewish neighbor during the Holocaust. Or that we would be the one to have stood up against Apartheid in South Africa. In fact, if you are American and you are old enough, you may have even taken part in anti-Apartheid actions in the USA. Oh how easy and black-and-white things seem from far away. From far away the RIGHT and WRONG choices are so easy to see, and we all imagine that we would have been able to see it, and would easily have been strong enough to do the right thing.

Well…sorry to burst your bubble, but the truth is, 99% of us would not have stood up and risked ourselves to save the Jewish neighbor. Genocide is not made possible by the tiny percentage of people who actually engage in violence - it is made possible by the majority of people who look the other way...the bystanders who are too afraid or too selfish to or too stupid to think for themselves!

And while for most of us, the betrayal of our Jewish neighbor would have been simply self preservation, many would even have bought into Nazi ideology to rationalize their ugly choice! (We would have bought into the argument that Sadaam had Weapons of Mass Destruction for example, and that our government always has our best interest in mind).

I mean think of the Stanley Milgram experiments people! (If you don't know about it...look it up!) I think like only one person refused…and he was a Dutch guy that learned certain lessons from WWII.

Seriously…our self-preservation mechanism is sooo strong! Ever tried to wax your own bikini area or pluck out your nose hairs? Some people can do it no problem. Most…well after the first few strips their arms will no longer obey their brain…they just cannot inflict any more pain on themselves.

So at this point my thinking is that I am going to go to the demonstration…but I am going to wear running shoes! I wish I had a helmet and pepper spray, but I don’t. I want to bring a sock full of rocks to swing just in case or a mini-hair-spray with a lighter to fashion a blow-torch, but since I am going as part of an anti-militarist peace organization, I am not sure that would go over very well.

But here’s the naked truth…it is Friday night and I cannot guarantee that I won’t change my mind by Sunday morning. I also cannot guarantee that I won’t pee my pants and run away in fear once I get there.

On the other hand…they cannot possibly beat all of us down, and how can I pursue the things I care about and write about if I am not willing to live it – to live what I believe. How can I live a “nerf life” just “sittin’ on your biscuit, never having to risk it” and still advocate for larger global social justice if I am not willing to put myself out there for something I believe in?

Why should I be safe and fat and happy and live in my little McDonalds/Walmart bubble while others are suffering just b/c I had the fortune of being born in a certain place? Why should my life and safety (or any one person’s life or safety) matter more than anyone else’s? “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one”… right? “No one is free until all are free”…right? It may not be my country, but we are all human and I am living here…I am alive here…and I owe a debt to my principles if not to my host nation, right?

So that is the dilemma – risk my biscuit for what I believe in and perhaps get hurt…or stay safe at home and hate myself for being weak…for basically being the person who turned my Jewish neighbor over to the Nazis.

What would you do?