Thursday, September 15, 2016

a 38 billion dollar boomerang

On September 14, 2016 the U.S. signed off on a $38 billion military aid deal with Israel.

That number, one more time,


The US just allocated $4,750 PER CITIZEN OF ISRAEL for military spending for the next ten years. And, if you really want to get technical (because you know Israel is really big on being a bit exclusive *coughapartheidstatecough*) it's really more like $6,333.00 per Israeli Jewish (that includes secular and religious) citizen. 

That's the equivalent of the US telling Israel that for the next 1,250 days, every. single. citizen of Israel will get a free Starbucks coffee. (or, if the coffee is only for Israeli citizens whose ID reads "Jewish", the coffee could flow for 1,666 days).

It's fine, Obama, I didn't want your money anyway. 

Oh wait. 

What's that...
Source: Facebook, Brea Baker

crippling loan debt?

insufficient job creation? 

expensive health care?

astronomical housing costs?

increasing wage gap? 

*sits nervously in corner chewing nails and laughing*

So what's the deal with all of this anyway?

According to The Guardian the deal isn't just a fancy giant lottery style check for $38 billion dollars.
It's being dispersed over the next ten years
It limits Israel from asking congress for additional military funding (because in our last round of military aid, the US pledged 30 billion, and congress allocated an additional 5 billion for missile defense in 2014....because blowing Gaza to bits wasn't enough, they had to annihilate it)

There's also another condition which I found most interesting.
"Israel would no longer be allowed to spend over a quarter of the military aid on home-produced weaponry, and would instead be required the full amount on US arms. Nor would it be able to spend any of the aid on fuel for its armed forces."
which means...
Israel has to spend the money the on US created weaponry.

Which really makes sense if you think about it.

I remember, back in my college days, sitting in a guest lecture with Jeff Halper (the founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions). One thing he said has stuck with me for years and has become central to my understanding of the unparalleled support that the US provides to Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people.

As always seems to happen in a presentation on Palestine and Israel, someone asked why the US is such a big supporter of a nation who is clearly in violation of human rights and causing so much destruction. Jeff said, "The US really needs a testing ground for its weapons"

It's true. during 2014's Operation Protective Edge, the US designed "Iron Dome" defense system proved successful. It's only a matter of time (if it hasn't secretly been done already) until the Iron Dome is installed as a protector of potential terrorist targets on US soil.

There's also been a great deal of attention given in the conversation about police brutality in regards to militarized police forces and military equipment that gets passed onto police units nationwide. If you have spent any time in Jerusalem the concept of a militarized police force becomes shockingly normalized. And that entire conversation gets amplified whenever we stop and realize that our own police forces in NYC, Chicago, and all across the US have been trained by Israeli special forces.

The point is this. The more military aid the US gives to Israel, the more militarized the US becomes in the long term. So, the US isn't just pledging $38 billion to support one of the strongest, most heavily armed state-supported militaries in the world, it's pledging billions of dollars to support its own military development, increasing our military force abroad (watch out, ISIS) and domestically (I feel so safe.)

Personally, this scares me deeply. Especially as presidential nominees praise the new US-Israel deal
"Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who has expressed opposition to universal health care and free college tuition, cheered the aid deal [in a statement released by her campaign:]  'Senator [Tim] Kaine and I applaud the agreement on a new memorandum of understanding regarding American security assistance to Israel.' " (source: electronic intifada)
It is terrifying to consider that, as a recent college graduate who is grappling with the realities of debt and unemployment, the US is essentially self-funding its own military strength through the facade of military aid.

It is terrifying enough to know that Israel will have 3 billion more dollars over the next ten years to fund missile attacks on Gaza and to increase "security" and surveillance on Palestinians living in the West Bank and the 1948.

It is unsettling to me that, as voices in the US that support BDS and other movements to liberate Palestine are being silenced, there is less and less power to raise a collective voice to put an end to increased military aid spending in Israel.

The longer this progresses, the more I feel like I'm stuck in a nightmare where my screams are choked back and muffled.

So cheers, Obama, and the democratic party, on your charitable giving. You did promise us change, after all. We just hoped it would benefit us, the people who voted you in twice.

Monday, August 1, 2016


this blog post is not meant to belittle the experience of any people group or historical oppression or to try to equate myself in any way with the suffering of indigenous and minority peoples everywhere. I see you, I see your struggle as greater than my own, and I am sorry.

About five months ago I skyped my parents as I prepared to leave for Palestine.
My dad told me then that he would probably be leaving Reedwood.

Reedwood, for all intensive purposes-despite how messy it can be-had been the most constant source of community in my life for fifteen years. It was on those old orange pews that I sat through countless open worship times and learned to appreciate and love the Quaker process. It was in those classrooms where I learned bible stories from foam figurines, and Friends history from paper puppets, that I first learned that it was okay (and essential) to question one's own faith.

Reedwood is the place that gave me a voice. Where recitations taught me the importance of annunciation and the power of words. Where being the only girl in youth group taught me to see myself outside of traditional gender roles. Reedwood saw me as more than just "Ken's daughter" and let me speak my piece if necessary. They empowered me. They held me through the angsty teenage years and the questioning and searching college years. They celebrated the big things, and mourned the hurts.

I knew there would always be a hug, a jar of jam, a kind word, and at least a few dinner invitations when I came home.

But that all changed five months ago.

I graduated college and came back to Oregon without a church home. My family being displaced by  church politics and power dynamics. This summer, it has felt like (in so many ways) like i'm coming home to an empty house.

Last Sunday was the first time I sat on a pew in Friends church since  December. It wasn't my church. And the whole time I sat there I choked back tears as I thought about  how lonely it is to be displaced.

There's not a lot of difference between being a refugee and being diaspora. The two things relate to being displaced and leaving homeland because of hardship. But while refugees often live in camps or are offered services by governements; the diaspora is left to fend for itself.

I can recognize that I am loved. That NWYM is my spiritual home. That I am a Quaker through and through. But being displaced and expelled from the place that instilled that in me has been hard.
It has been hard not to be angry. Not to be calloused or flippant. It has been hard to answer questions like "where do you go to church" or "what does your dad do", because very few people care to hear the hardship that you've endured at the hand of an overzealous elder's committee.

I can recognize that it was probably time for us to leave Reedwood, that this provides a space to redefine my faith community and to be vulnerable in ways I have not ever had to be in church. But it is hard to enter into a new building and to feel like they already have what I had--and how will I ever catch up, or fit in, or feel safe again?

I miss those bright orange pews and my dad's cluttered office.
I miss feeling secure in where I attended and knowing exactly who I was.
I miss the security of having a place that was mine, instead of always being the visitor.

And all I can do right now is just to be honest about the hardship of that.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


A week ago I was wearing an Arab Catholic Scout uniform and marching all over Jerusalem with the Palestinian Christian community to celebrate Palm Sunday.
Between now and then I have traveled home, contracted a cold virus, spent too many hours awake, and have made pilgrimage to Bloomington-Normal, Illinois for my Easter break traditions with my bestfriend (hi, Hannah, I love you).

I struggle with knowing how to talk about two places that are so diametrically opposed.
I don't know how to be happy in each place when my heart just really wishes a tectonic shift would make Chicago and Bethlehem neighbors. (it'd save me a couple bucks, too)
Honestly, coming home often feels really empty.

So today, as I put on lipstick and wedges and sang hymns that my Grandma loved; I was also thinking a lot about those I love who celebrate Easter by playing bagpipes and celebrating holy fire miracles and making special cookies.
Coming home often feels really empty.

But today (as I felt the emptiness of Western adapted traditions, as I wished that I was in a place where Easter was a day which celebrated identity as much as salvation), the pastor opened an empty egg. "what's in here?" she asked a crowd of sleepy-eyed children. Nothing. There is nothing in the egg. One sassy kid said "air," and, of course, the polite midwestern crowd laughed at how scientifically witty this small child was. But really. There was nothing in the egg.

And today (as I sat in church thinking about how I have no idea what I can do next year, and feeling stressed that I needed to send a resume to the alumni relations office, and feeling overwhelmed that I have no idea how diversity and modernity interact for my upcoming sociology comprehensive exam), the pastor proclaimed that the egg was "FULL OF POSSIBILITIES". To someone who considers herself an academic, this seemed ridiculous.

I'm used to Easter sermons that dive deep into the Greek translation of resurrection, which emphasize our rebirth in Christ. And here we are, getting all giddy and motivational about empty plastic eggs.
and besides that...
Coming home feels really empty. (and that emptiness is not all full of possibilities)

Then, transitioning to a more adult-directed sermon,  she talked about how the tomb of Jesus was also empty. And because it was empty and Jesus was resurrected, the possibilities of what Jesus can do through us are endless. After all, he used women and Peter to spread the word of his resurrection. Because the tomb was left empty, our faith is made possible and beyond that-God's ability to work in and through us is made possible. And then I had to stop being such a skeptic because it made sense, and its simplicity was pretty refreshing (and honestly, all that I could handle).

The emptiness that I have felt coming home from Palestine after three weeks in nothing compared to what it was last July. And, it's nothing compared to what I know is coming in May when I am released from the burdens of an undergraduate degree.
Instead, this time, the emptiness has felt warm. Maybe even full of possibilities.

Today, I was reminded that when Jesus left the tomb empty, he went and did a great thing.
And if I am feeling empty, what an opportunity for Jesus to do a great thing in and through me as well. Of course, I still wish that I had been in Jerusalem today. To celebrate with Palestinian Christians and to celebrate identity and connection to the Land . But today, Bloomington Normal, Illinois felt just as sanctified as the Churches of East Jerusalem, and that has made coming home a lot less empty.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Processing Paris

Last February I took a trip called Sankofa.
It's essentially a multi-day road trip with stops scheduled intermittently so we can keep our brains on overdrive and stretch our legs. The point of Sankofa is to reconsider how we talk and and process race. It's a conversation that is ongoing, and the trip helps it get started.

Each year looks different depending on the group of students who participate. Last year we stopped on a plantation, at the location of the Mike Brown Shooting, and at an old underground railroad house. Historically the trip has been focused on white-on-black racism, as that narrative is hardly taught and greatly misunderstood. But the trip last year boasted other minorities as well. Students of non-black ethnic backgrounds, of alternative sexual orientation, of non-evangelical religions, and of the mental health community all started raising their voices by the second day saying "what about my pain?"

On Sankofa I learned that when we become afraid of scarcity, things get ugly.
When people's stories weren't told completely, when they felt that they might be minimized to a footnote or an anecdote, the pain came out. #blacklivesmatter turned into #blacklivesmatterasmuchbutnotlessthanlatinalivesandqueerlives #anddontforgetmentalhealth #orwhitepeople And by the time we were done hash-tagging, there was no room for another message. Our character limit had been met, and our characters were worn thin.

I've seen this happening in an odd way with the Paris bombings. Statuses calling for attention for Kenya, Beirut, Nigeria, Chicago, and Palestine came pouring in. And the feelings of scarcity began to overflow.

At first I was also angered by the focus, then I completely disengaged. Because, if Paris is overshadowing Beirut and Palestine and Pakistan, maybe I should just close my eyes to all of this.
I'm tired. And overwhelmed. And I have a paper to write. You know?

Instead of letting ourselves sit in the shock of Paris, we were attacked for caring.

And yes, white people caring about white people and not brown people is ANNOYING. I agree. Our ethnocentric response of "that could happen to me" when Paris gets hit and not when Beirut does is wrong.
When we hear that children are dying in Gaza and that roads are shut down in Hebron and we say "makes sense, that place is a mess," we have learned nothing.

Let us stop this battle for headlines and status updates and instead start a battle for humanity. Paris is the whole world. Paris is Palestine. Paris is Beirut. Paris is Chicago. So let's stop acting like if we all have blue white and red profile photos that Paris will just be Paris, and instead let's let our hearts mourn with refugees and Muslims and Parisians alike.

If sitting on that Sankofa bus taught me anything it was that people desire for their pain to be acknowledged, but sometimes we need a gateway into understanding.
If Paris teaches us nothing else, let it teach us to have our hearts broken.
Let it teach us to mourn violence as a whole--not just victims, but also victimizers
Let us seek to deeper understand global desperation.
Let us light candles. Not just at vigils but as a daily practice for reminding us how crumbly this world can start to feel.
And let us get on the bus, and never get off as we partner in a the journey to humanizing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It overflowed

Wednesdays for the past few weeks have been total train-wrecks.
From drinking a couple glasses too much of the cheap, three dollar wine I picked up at TJ's and barfing it up, to finding out about new relationships on painful anniversaries, to getting unexpected messages which throw your entire day into chaos; hump-day has presented some pretty difficult humps to slump myself over.

Today was not really any different. I woke up, saw the mountain of clothes on my floor, remembered how anxious I had been the past three days, remembered how I had a midterm exam to do tonight and how I had to go to my internship earlier than usual. I don't do well with inconsistencies, and today was full of them. So I did something consistent

I took my morning poop.

And I clogged the toilet (this is not consistent)

Which would all be fine, if this had not been the second time this had happened this year. And that would not matter if toilet clogging was not one of my "top five more irrational triggers of anxiety and shame". (it's been a thing since sleepaway camp, ask anyone who was ever in my cabin if they knew I pooped [they didn't, because I never did])

So I huffed a big sigh, grabbed the plunger and did what I know how to do well.

and it didn't work

all day
it didn't work

So when I got home at 10:30 tonight, after a long day of work, headaches, messy rooms and stupid exams, and it was STILL CLOGGED, I felt nothing.

Which is new for me.

usually, this would have set me over, and my roommates got that. They apologized profusely for not attending to it. They asked if they could help. and I was so calm.

I knew it had to be done. I knew it would be fine.
It overflowed once. It took half a roll of paper towels to sopp it up. I got some on my shoes. It's fine.

The point is. That today the literal shit overflowed and it dodn't phase me like it should have.

I think, if this year has taught me anything, it's that I can roll with the punches. Because after terrible Wednesdays there is literally always a wonderful Thursday.

If the toilet clogs, there is always a promise that it will loosen up and release. Today, for the first time, I don't want to cry because my poop sometimes doesn't flush the right way.

So, c'mon Wednesdays, keep it coming. I have a plunger, and I am ready.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Someone told me I'd be good at radio once.

It's because I used to be able to fooling people into thinking I had a passionate voice.

But lately,
my voice just feels flat.
Like any air I had in my lungs that inflated what I said
got let out.
Like I've let it out.

What's scary about this is that passion is pretty much the only word I would use to define myself.

Passion drives me.
God made me passionate.
I get passionate about most things (like doughnuts, and injustice, and feminism, and Palestine, and boots)

but now anytime I have to talk about that
it feels routine.

Like when radio announcers have to do plugs for brands of businesses that sponsor them,
And you can tell that the announcer really does like the hair salon he goes to, but he's so tired of telling people that he just wants to be quiet.

I'm in that boat.
I feel like a regurgitated sound track
Like the last stop of a stand-up-comedy-world-tour.
(There is no way those jokes feel funny 100 stops later).

What's scary about feeling like a slightly dilapidated balloon,
is that this is a lack of buoyancy is not something I have ever felt.

It isn't empty, I have felt empty.

It just feels like there's something that used to help intensify this passion which I suppressed or internalized in some weird, unconscious way. It feels like I'm protecting myself from the failure that I feel is inevitable with graduation looming around the corner.

It feels like my whole life is two baggy, sleep deprived eyes. And like there is no way I could ever pretend that I could do radio announcements anymore.

I don't know how to tend to this decaying space.
I don't know how to rejuvinate.

I feel helpless.

Like a radio announcer who has lost her voice.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fine, I'll settle.

When I was very little I planted a Scrub Pine seed in the ground and a tree began to grow.
It's planted at the camp where I committed to Christ, grew up, and spent a summer of college. I remember, as an eight year old, being filled with anxiety about planting the tree at our home in Oregon. I didn't want to ever lose my tree. I didn't want it to get chopped down, or taken for granted, or neglected. I wanted it to be deeply rooted in a place where it would thrive forever.

For a long time, I compared my own life to my tree. I saw its struggle to grow in poor soil as my own failure to find a healthy community throughout middle and high school. I saw its stunted growth as my struggle with self-worth and anxiety. I compared both of our opportunities to be planted and rooted deeply as my journey of leaving Oregon and moving to Chicago.

Now I envy my tree. For over ten years it has grown taller than I can understand and has gotten to stay in the same place. After high school my solution to being hurt by Church and community was to move to Chicago. Over the last two years, I have felt a stronger and stronger desire to move and live in Palestine--something I had the opportunity to do this past summer. Now, quite unlike my tree, I feel my roots being splintered between three distinct communities.

The life I feared for my tree is the life I have led for the last three years. The night before I left to come back to North Park I wrote "I'm tired of being transplanted". I am tired of putting roots down for a few weeks and then leaving. I am tired of processing self, past, future, and present in different places.

Right now, if I could choose where I would go, I would take root in Palestine. I would move to Bethlehem. I would learn Arabic,  do research, and coordinate college students. I would find community among like-minded scholars, activists, and peacemakers. I would get a master's degree.

But right now, in reality, I have thirty-two weeks of college left. Right now, my roots get to hold tight in an eight-person house. Right now, I am planted at North Park for one more year. I'm resistant to this.
For one thing, it feels backward to go to Palestine for the summer and then to be forced to come home and to sit though meetings and classes when six weeks ago I was LIVING THE DREAM.

So there isn't a lot compelling me to really enjoy and embrace this season of life.
I need to admit that. I need to be honest about that.
I don't want to be here.

So right now I'm learning to settle; in all senses.
To settle into a place that feels temporary and transient and irrelevant.
And to settle for the fact that this is not a season of life in which I can be rooted in the way I wish to be; where I choose to be.

So I'll start working up the courage to drop some seeds into the ground where I am. And I need to have faith that something might actually grow; like it did so many years ago.