Forthcoming

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

A Young Man In Search of a Future

2015-01-16

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Carl is looking forward to his meeting tomorrow. A US army recruiter is coming to his home to see him and his mom and give Carl his first test.

Carl is barely 19. He lives with his mother, grandmother, two sisters and a brother in a depressed New York town. I met Carl when I hired him to assist with some data entry work, recommended by my librarian who also employs him 12 hours a week. During our first meeting Carl told me he was preparing for college. He’d been accepted, he said, but was awaiting approval for state financial aid. With a phone he uses only for texting, without any computer at all, it’s apparent Carl’s family is poor.

Our second session, he announces that he’s found a new girlfriend; but, he explains, she lives 20 miles away and informs him he has to have a car to pick her up. (He reports this as if her demand isn’t unreasonable.) The next week he didn’t mention her; he’d stopped talking about college too.

Carl often speaks about his mother. She drives him five miles to the library on her way to work two hours before it opens; that’s the only way he can get here. He stops at the local Laundromat where it’s warm and there are people to talk to.

I guess this is the reality for many American youths: -- bleak job prospects; a mom working long hours; no way to have a girlfriend; depending on financial aid for college.

This week Carl announces he intends to become a military policeman. (That’s where the army recruiter comes in.) He’s excited about this, maybe dreaming. “I’ll tell them to pay my salary directly to my mom, some is to help her, the rest she can use for my brother and sisters.”

Are you looking forward to being a soldier? I ask. “No. I really want to be a military policeman.” What about combat; you may be sent to a war zone. Does that worry you? Killing others? “No. I won’t be doing any of that…”, he assures me. Hopefully,” he adds awkwardly.

“I’ll go to college when I’m in the army”, he says, disputing my claim that only after active service could he qualify for that. “No. They’ll send me to college; when I finish, I’ll train as a policeman.” He pulls back his shoulders confidently, stands erect. I’ve always found Carl polite; he’s conscientious, attentive, honest.

As gently as I can, I raise the issue of America’s foreign wars. You may be sent to Afghanistan or other places where Americans are killed and wounded. Silence. Are any boys from your town in the army? He doesn’t know. None of his friends signed up. I again mention US combat. “Well”, he says, “The war in Iraq was a mistake, for real sure.”

This takes care of Iraq. Afghanistan? “In Afghanistan all we’re doing is training the people there to protect themselves. That’s why we’re there.”

What about our invasion of that country? “No; we’re only there to teach them to use weapons.”

I can’t resist and I press on with some facts about the US invasion:-- overthrowing the Taliban led-government, pursuing Bin Laden, installing an American-picked leadership, pouring billions of dollars into warfare, withdrawing after thousands of Americans and others are killed. Carl looks blankly back at me. “I told you what I learned in school-- that we went there to train them.”

Although faced with this youthful naïveté, I persist. Did you know the US trained Afghans and others as fighters to overthrow their own government backed by Russia in the 1990s? “I only know what our history teacher told us,” Carl replies languidly. “Anyway, I’m going to be a policeman.”

Have I been too hard on Carl? I tell myself, forget about the morality of war and the Afghans and Iraqis killed; just remind him of American casualties; suggest he read a war memoir; there are dozens right here in the library, I think, sardonically. American Sniper, perhaps a book his history teacher consults, sits on the shelf near us.

The thing is: I like this lad; he’s neither charlatan nor blockhead. He’s genuinely seeking options for his future.  END

 

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