Fading in and out, I wait for the bird of sleep to come and take me away with it.  I twist my head on the pillow and turn the radio up slightly, a murmur in the dark.

 

Finally, the bird swoops in and I glide away on its back.  Into the fog at first, then we circle over a lush green valley.  It’s beautiful.  In this valley, the woman found her husband and baby, their bellies carved open.  I look around, is that why this place is so empty?  Yes, the kidnapped girls were never found…there’s not a trace of them….

 

Oh, no!  I say.  What can we do about this?  The bird’s eyes are big and sad.  We have to understand, it says, that we cannot bomb our way out of this situation.  So in that case…?  The bird bows its head and weeps as it says, perhaps, economic sanctions….

 

The clouds are purple and red underneath us.  Once again, we swoop in for a landing, this time on a gleaming beach.  I find a giant shell and kneel down next to it in the sand.  The sapphire waves roll in.  What a perfect day!  There’s a history of discrimination here, whispers a voice inside the shell.  What’s that?  I want to look for treasure!  Years of oppression cannot be reversed in five minutes, you know.  Whoever’s living inside that shell is ruining my dream.

 

Take me somewhere else, bird of dreams.  But it’s too late.  The bird’s wings are drooping.  It’s tired.  I tried to pull my family out of the rubble, but I wasn’t able to.  Everything was on fire their bodies were bloodied charred my eyes fly open.

 

And that is why I stopped listening to the BBC World Service at night.

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Yes, even after President Obama’s inaugural speech.  In this Palm Beach story, a gay man has been told he is required to put his pride flag in the back of his property, where it will be out of sight, because other residents have started to complain.  And his landlady claims he’s “trying to disrupt the community”.

The article suggests that many residents of the same neighborhood fly American flags on their homes.  I can’t help but imagine the storm of protest that would ensue if one of them was asked to put their American flag away in their backyard.  There have been multiple incidents in past years in which people have had their lives threatened and their jobs taken away because of some (often imagined) slight against our country’s flag.  Perhaps that is the LGBT community’s mistake–maybe they need to start issuing threats or brandishing weapons every time the rainbow flag gets disrespected.  I’m guessing most of them are too classy for that sort of thing, though.

Interesting quote from David French, director of “How to Survive a Plague”, commenting on why today’s LGBT generation might be less radical about their political fight:  “Hasn’t all identity politics hit a wall?  Feminism as identity politics is nothing like it was in the ’70s and ’80s, the way we talk about race is all kind of blurred now.  I don’t know how to describe the period we’re in, but it’s post-identity politics.”

Post-identity politics.  As a woman, I would agree with this statement, especially the part referring to feminism.  My question is, would this be a positive development–a sign that there is less discrimination for these various groups to worry about?  Or does it simply mean that people are not speaking out as much about the problems which are still in existence?  After all, these days when you draw attention to racist innuendo against the President you’re playing the “race card”.  If you argue too loudly for women’s rights, you are an angry feminist requesting special birth control perks from the government.

I think it’s obvious that the undercurrent of bigotry is still there.  Witness the 2012 election, with its food stamps race-baiting and the male politicians fixating on women’s health, the angry red staters arming themselves to the teeth because that African guy got re-elected.  Perhaps the real issue is that the way talk about all this is, as French said, “blurred”.  Maybe we shouldn’t be afraid of playing our cards and stating our identities, and shouldn’t be in such a hurry to be post-everything.

My family recently received an e-mail from relatives in Poland telling us how the “true Polish national identity” is the Catholic one, and going so far as to say that anyone outside that Catholic identity is not only indifferent to the well-being of the country, but might in fact be an evil Commie.  (Sound familiar?)  Being that my parents have for most of their lives been practitioners of Buddhism and yoga, this rubbed them the wrong way.  When my mother tried to suggest that perhaps non-Catholics, atheists, gay and Jewish people should also have a place in Polish society, the relative came back with the pleasant response that he hoped those atheists, gays and Jews would be well served by the euthanasia and abortion they so strongly believed in.

This is a growing movement in Poland right now, and many of our old friends—people who used to be rebels and freethinkers—are more and more often making these kinds of shocking statements to us.  Of course, all I have to do is turn on the right radio station or website here in America and I can hear all about how this is a Christian country and only those who are Christian in the correct way are truly a part of it.  Except that over here this kind of talk will be prefaced by the disclaimer that the talker believes in everyone’s right to have a different opinion or belief…it’s just that those with the different opinion are a “darkness” or a “cancer”.  And a cancer needs to be removed from the body, right?

Is it just me, or does anybody else feel the gathering stormy weather?  That pounding drumbeat of “those who are not like us”?  I suppose that drumbeat is always there, but there are times when it seems to flare up, and right now the tension is building up so tight it feels like the planet needs to clear its sinuses.  Then again, since the sinus-clearing usually entails a world war of some sort, maybe it’s better if we remain clogged.

One thing we cannot do is allow ourselves to be fooled by the relative calm.  After all, Western Europe in the 20th century was a very polite, civilized society as well, wasn’t it?  For now we still smile at each other on the train and give each other the fake “I’m doing great!”  In a moment of real crisis, how quickly could that turn into “You are the problem and you need to go”?  It has happened over and over again.

Maybe those times of horror are part of a strange birthing process by which our species grows.  Hey, I have the right to delude myself as much as anyone else.  All I know is that no matter where you go, you will always meet that group of people which needs to hold on to some type of dogma to be secure.  And I have met those people both on the right and the left, by the way.  I’m from Poland, so I’ve dealt with real Commies, not the bugaboo ones that conservatives invent over here.  No matter which side the true believers are on, they are bound by one common quality:  they can’t handle it when someone else thinks differently from them.  It rocks their world too much.  They lash out against it.  Under certain circumstances, they even kill.

And no matter which time we live in, it is the duty of those of us who don’t have a closed mind to stop them from doing so.  It may be a struggle which never ends.  And probably one I’m not strong enough for.