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Screw a Border Wall, Let’s Build a DOME

My daughter came home last night from her first job as a barista for a local Boba Tea eatery, crying.

“They don’t like me, mom! I’m doing the exact same level of work that all the new kids are, and they keep calling ME out cuz I’m not Asian.”

Several other barista type jobs at various locally businesses to which she applied told her flat out they only hire Asians (which, at least in my neighborhood, includes Indians, from India). Since most of the fast food and convenience stores here are owned by Asians, this has severely limited her choices for simple, flexible, part-time work.

The first day of this job, a month back, she came home and said, “My manager called me their ‘diversity hire,’ since I’m the only White person who works there. It hurt my feelings. He made me feel like I didn’t get the job cuz I deserved it.” Every day since, she’s come home with other racist comments most of her managers continue to make.

Our daughter has a 4.3 gpa, is a hard worker academically, and socially. She is the only White person in her group of friends. She’s worked very hard, and continues to do so, to be a part of this Asian crowd, that is now well over 75% of her high school in an East Bay suburb of the San Francisco Bay area.

My son wasn’t so lucky. Boys going through puberty are all about bravado, one-upping each other. Girls are about connecting, communicating, building their community. Our son was excluded and bullied for not being “A”sian, throughout middle and high school. He had no friends at all, though he tried again and again to ‘fit in’ with them, from Karate to Robotics to Chess clubs and more. It broke his heart daily, and mine as well, watching my beautiful, open, kind kid ostracized for being White. He will likely struggle with a damaged self-image the rest of his life because of these formative experiences.

Yet, neither of my children are racists, like so many of their Asian friends and associates. My daughter gets bullied often, even from her ‘friends’ with thoughtless comments: “I only date Asians. I don’t find White girls attractive,” from the 4 out of 5 boys in her group. My daughter would love to get asked to proms, on dates. She watches her Asian girlfriends get asked out. She does not.*

These are REALITIES for all of us, Asians and Whites, here in the global melting pot of the San Francisco Bay Area, and yet my children are still not racists. Why, when so many are?

My husband is a software architect. He’s been creating and deploying SaaS offerings for over 25 years here in Silicon Valley. Every job he’s ever had in the software industry, and trust me, he’s had a lot of jobs, he’s worked almost exclusively with Asians. While offshore H1B labor has been brought here by the tech industry since 1990, this massive Asian influx globally was not anticipated. In the last five yrs, the companies he’s worked for, whether the staff is 30 or 3000, in IT, or any other department now—close to 60% are of Asian descent. And yet, my husband is not racist, though he’s been passed up for many position by Asians on work visas and H1Bs.**

I invited my daughter’s best friend and her family to our Thanksgiving dinner last year. I’d met Yi, the mom, only once before, but my daughter spoke of her often when she’d visited her BF’s home: “Her mom is really nice. And she says the same stuff you do. She jokes that you must really be Asian, the way you get on me about homework.” I was grateful my daughter found the humor in her comment, instead of the likely unintended slight. “You guys should get together. You can make a new girl friend, mom.”

The girls arranged a late January lunch, and the four of us went out for Thai food. Yi and I eased into a smooth dialog. Fifteen yrs my junior, she was quite express, articulate when I asked her questions, but she rarely turned my interest around, which I’d say goes for most people I’ve met. A tech-visa transplant from China in her early 20s, she’d been a single mom since divorcing her White husband a decade before. And while I did not feel a personal connection, with few common interests, a profound one existed between us. Raising two kids, a boy my son’s age, and a girl, my daughter’s best friend, Yi loves her children the exact same way, with the same intensity as I do mine.

She suggested we get together again at the end of our luncheon, but I did not pursue it, and neither did she. Thanksgiving came around eleven month later. The girls were having a school vacation sleepover celebration the weekend before the holiday, and my daughter’s BF told us her family didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But she confessed she’d like to, as I served breakfast the next morning. Well, of course I invited her, her mom and brother right then. She was so excited she texted them, and the girls were jumping up and down, cheering, moments later with her mom’s response.

The seven of us ate turkey, and stuffing, and shared stories of thanks around the table that night. We played Pictionary after dinner, and laughed and laughed. When the kids exited the scene to play video games, Yi, my husband and I spoke of politics, religion, crossing all social lines of decorum. I was pleasantly surprised how open she was to dialog beyond the surface. And though we have radically different perspectives, the exchange was engaging, educational, and thoroughly enjoyable for all three of us. Even better, the kids bonded that Thanksgiving, and since have established a once-a-month excursion.

Globalization is a REALITY. It’s happening, right now. Most first world nations are being inundated with immigrants looking for that illusive ‘better life.’ Like it, or not, global integration is here, and, as my husband, and our kids know, it is mandatory, simply must happen, for humanity, and our very small planet to survive us.

“One wish,” my mom asked my sister and me on our drive home from elementary school back in the old days. “Anything you want, what would it be.”

“World peace,” I’d said. It was the mid-1970s, and a common catch phrase, but I meant it. Without war, or economic disparity, I believed in our creative potential to problem solve, and our unique ability to work together to realize our fantastical visions. I didn’t know about the hunger of greed then, insatiable, and colorblind.

It has been particularly hard on my kids, this globalization process. It deeply saddens me that they must suffer the slights of blind prejudice, just as the Asians in past generations had to suffer the racism of the ignorant Whites here. It terrifies me—the global competition for fewer jobs my kids will be competing for after college. Yet, I still advocate for globalization. This very small planet must integrate, or we will perish, and likely take much of the life here with us, with the destructive technology we’ve already invented.

My daughter worries she’ll never meet anyone to date, yet alone marry, but I assure her she likely will. And it’s even likely that man will be Asian, since 36.4% of the global population are Asian*** and more than half of them are men. “It doesn’t matter where someone came from, what their heritage, or place of origin on the planet,” I’ve preached to my kids. “Choose to be with someone kind.”

A border wall surrounding the U.S. entirely will not stop Asians from flying in from China and India, Korea, Viet Nam, Indonesia and other emerging Asian nations. Nor will it stop the Middle East, South Americans, Cubans from coming here. Seeking to keep us separate is a fool’s play. Communication is key to build bridges over our differences, allowing us to meet in the middle and mutually benefit from our strengths. Ignorance and mistrust breed with distance. Nationalism is just thinly disguised racism.

Asians, Latinos, Syrian’s, and Palestinians, are all different cultures, not separate races from Caucasian. We are one race, the human race. Globalization—the blending of cultures—is hard for everyone, scary, new, threatening to our social structure, but a must if humanity is to survive, even thrive. The beauty of interracial marriage is the same thing that bonds Yi and I, as parents. We both passionately love our kids. She can’t possible hate Whites, since her children are Asian/White. Combine two cultures, at least on a localize level, defeats racism, as most every parent loves their kids with intensity Yi and I do. It’s one of our best bits about being human—the magnificent, spectacular, all-encompassing love we get to feel for our children.

*Regardless of the sociology, it is unusual in the extreme to see an Asian man partner with a White women (though common the other way around), both here in the States and abroad.

**Hiring offshore for less money, now being exploited by every social network from Facebook to YouTube, to Mr. Trump’s summer staff at his Mar-a-Lago estate, lowers the pay rate for all of us. It’s no wonder U.S. income levels have been stagnant for years.

***As of July, 2019, there are approx. 1.43+ billion Chinese (in China), or 18.41% of the global population. Indians (in India) are a close second, with approx. 1.37+ billion, or 17.4% of the total world population. Combining just these two Asian cultures, their world population is 4.1 billion people, or 36.14% of the world population, and that is just within their respective countries, not actual global numbers including visa work-holders and undocumented immigrants abroad.

https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/

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Why Do You Choose to Live?

Actor Robin Williams. Fashion designer, Kate Spade. Aaron Swartz, a prodigal computer programmer, political organizer, and internet hacktivist hung himself at 26 years old. In 2017, it’s estimated 1.4 million of U.S. attempted suicide, and over 120 a day actually succeed in killing themselves. Suicide is the 5th leading cause of death globally, after cancer, car crashes, and HIV.*

Clearly living is a choice we all make every day we live.

Almost 4,000 of U.S. will consider suicide today. Have you? I have. Not once or twice during hard times, and in passing, but many times throughout my lifetime, from my tween years, likely till I die. Yet, virtually daily, I make a conscious choice to stay living.

I don’t believe in any higher power than the laws of physics. There is no “Jealous God” (Exodus 34:14) watching, or judging our behavior from ‘beyond’. There is no heaven or hell. I’ve never been able to pretend we are more than the collection of cells that make up our bodies and consciousness. I can choose to go hang myself in the doorjamb of my office after I finish writing this blog without fear of damnation. The only eternal soul we possess is humanity’s hope that we matter past our limited time alive. But we don’t. Not really, beyond our affect on the lives we touch while we are living, like our family, and a handful of friends and colleagues. Even if you’ve done DNA ancestry, other than their genetic contribution to your existence, your dead lineage are names in a ledger, nothing more.

Too dark a view for ya? It ain’t depression. It’s reality, and a scary one knowing that regardless of what we believe, our life adds up to what we DO with our short time of awareness.

Individually, we really have very little effect on, well, anything beyond our small realm. Even those who have ‘made it,’ like the opening list of celebrities, most will be forgotten over time, and lost to later generations. And we’ll never even know the names of most innovators, especially women, who invented the tech we use today.

For the religious reader, this blog probably isn’t for you. I’ve likely lost you in the opening bit, as suicide in most sects is a ‘sin’. If you are a true believe, it is equally likely you won’t off yourself. The only reason to continue reading is if you want to help someone who seems like they may.

How do you know if someone is suicidal? You don’t, and likely won’t. Each of the above celebs were either flat out rich, wealthy, or at the very least financially ‘comfortable.’ So, it wasn’t poverty that drove them to suicide. They ‘made it’ doing what they loved, instead of a lifetime at some crappy job just to pay the rent. Yet, each made a choice to die. Why?

Every day I make a conscious choice to keep living, but a lot of days the choice to stay is hard. Very hard. Some days, hope drives me with purpose, that I can make a positive contribution to those I touch. But other days, on days where it feels as if I reach no one, or I get nothing done, or humanity is doomed to our own stupidity, hope abandons me.

Give it up. Walk away. Stop trying so hard. You’re getting nowhere. If there is nothing beyond death, and what I do doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things, then why not just check out, be done. At times, my life feels as if it defaults to the mean of hardship, and I obsess about exiting the scene, fading to black.

How do you stop the voices of fear, either before they ramp, or even after they do, when you look up from your laptop to notice you aren’t breathing? I think of checking out, conjure my exit strategy. I imagine I’m taking pills, or maybe going into the garage, turning on my car and rolling down the windows.

What stops me?

I picture coming on to the oxycontin, or choking on carbon monoxide, then throwing up, then blacking out. Then nothing. Ever again. No awareness, no consciousness once the neurons stop firing. No taking it back. No second chance. No waking up. Feel nothing, ever again. Or I try and feel what it feels like to feel nothing, but obviously, this is an oxymoron. Living and feeling are synonymous, as are death and nonexistence.

When I’ve lost all belief in myself, my work, my world, I’m left with only one reason that keeps me here. Regardless of how lost I feel, how insignificant, how hopeless, I hold on to the one truth I know is real.

Every day I make a conscious choice to stay living—to FEEL.

Living is all about FEELING—glad, sad, mad, good, bad, proud, humbled, jealous, accomplished. And the list goes on… I get to feel them all, and many more throughout my lifetime, expressed in a thousand ways. Enjoying chocolate mint ice cream while watching TV. In awe of natural wonders. Heartbroken with loss. Swooning in love. From the physical to the surreal, we all get to feel—experience being alive.

Strip away the religious sales pitch that rewards us for charitable behavior, in exchange for an eternity in paradise. Ignore the social pressure that tell us our value lies our physicality, or our job title, or the acquisition of wealth. Let go of the pretense we are going to make a substantive difference to anyone beyond our small circle of connections. And the point of living becomes to feel the moments of our life.

Death—feeling nothing ever again—will come, regardless if I hasten it. The permanence of suicide becomes daunting when I consider I’d never get to taste anything again. I’d never see, smell, or feel rain on my skin, or someone hold my hand. If I take my own life, I kill even the possibility of change, and finding ways to enjoy more moments of my brief existence.

I teeter on the edge of suicide when all reason and purpose has abandoned me. But you can help me during these times, or others who stand at precipice of ending their life. When I’m consumed by doubt, black and sticky, pulling me under, please don’t tell me to “Hang in there, it’ll get better.” It feels like bullshit in those moments of darkness. With empathy, simply remind me to FEEL.

*American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2018

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Kate Spade, 1962 – 2018
Anthony Bourdain, 1956 – 2108
Aaron Swartz, 1986 – 2013

On Being Cool

Had a meltdown on my tween son when he asked, yet again, for an iPad at breakfast this morning.

Before the iPad he wanted a laptop. He insisted he needed my HP the moment I purchased my Toshiba, though could give no reason why he had to have it since he had a powerful PC with an enhanced graphics card for gaming in his room. After weeks of needling me I finally gave him my old HP to share after backing up [mostly] everything. He loaded the same games he had on his PC and played them in bed on the laptop for about a week, until he inadvertently downloaded a virus [that ironically sold security software] which destroyed every program, every file including seven years of my labor. Between ‘mostly’ and ‘everything’ turned out to be the Grand F**king Canyon.

Prior to the laptop he needed an iPhone. He’s had a cellphone since the 5th grade, when he started walking the quarter mile home from school. In the two years he’s had it, he forgets it at home most of the time unless I remind him to bring it with him. More often than not the phone has no charge because he doesn’t remember to charge it. Though all his friends have cellphones, he’s exchanged numbers with no one, and this seems fairly typical among his contemporaries upon inquiry.

Before the iPhone he had to have a video camera, which he used a few times to tape episodes of Sponge Bob off the TV so he could view them later through the camera’s viewfinder. That lasted about a month until he tired of it and he hasn’t touched the camera since.

An iPod was before the video camera. I use his iPod when I’m recharging mine since in the four years he’s owned it he’s used it maybe 10 times collectively.

He sat at the kitchen table this morning eating his cold cereal telling me how badly he needed an iPad. They are so cool, he insisted, giving me his puppy face, and good for school, though was unable to define how since a PC with internet access was all his middle-school required. He kept at it throughout breakfast, bargaining away all other gifts for his upcoming birthday in exchange for just one iPad2.

And I blew a gasket.

He wanted too damn much! He asked for too much with no purpose. What the hell was the point of all these things when he didn’t even use them?

To be cool, mom, he said through tears.

His palpable shame was a knife through my heart. At 12 years old, crying had ceased to be acceptable except in tragic situation, and me yelling at him wasn’t one. I sat down at the table adjacent to him and stared at my son, fighting tears from overwhelming me as well.

Being cool isn’t about what you have, I reminded him gently. Cool is about what you are, who you are, what you do that makes you special, separates you from the crowd. He was a straight A student, in advanced at math, played electric guitar, but every accomplishment I pointed out just made him cry harder.

None of that matters, he insisted. No one cares about that stuff. And being a nerd might pay off later but right now no one his age knew or cared who Bill Gates was, he said, throwing my refrain back at me.

Your dad would ask why cool matters, was the lame response I came up with. I knew cool mattered, even to me, but especially for a kid becoming a teen.

It just does, my son assured me. And I’m not, he added shakily, unable to stop the new round of tears.

My heart in my throat and struggling to swallow back my own tears stopped me from lecturing, but I again reminded my son that iPads and iPhones and video cameras are tools, nothing more, and possessing them doesn’t make one cool.

Yes, mom, he patronized me. But an iPhone is still cool, and so are iPads. I felt him lighten before I saw him grinning to himself.

They are cool, undeniably, which makes the engineers who invent Apple’s products cool, but not so much the people who use them. I needed to be sure he understood what cool really is, and perhaps remind myself as well.

Michael has an iPhone and an iPad and he’s totally popular, my son insisted. Everyone likes him. He has tons of friends and no one picks on him, ever.

Cool means Popular when you’re 12, and I suppose even for adults. Most of us want to be liked, admired, feel special, unique, seen as cool. But I knew Michael wasn’t popular because of his iPad and went about trying to enlighten my son without losing his attention. I spoke of Michael’s extensive involvement with his church, attended by many in our area. I pointed out Michael’s rather jovial demeanor, and reminded my son that his friend was also an avid sportsman, into soccer, basketball, baseball…etc, the ultimate key to cool for kids in school.

Perhaps Michael’s popularity had nothing to do with his iPad, I suggested. And to further my reasoning I asked, If Evan had an iPhone or iPad do you think he’d be more popular?

Evan is a jerk, my son proclaimed. He’s mean and rowdy, and he has an iPhone, mom. His eyes seem to sparkle with awareness of his own words. Then he smiled. He got it, and I smiled, too, for about a second, until his expression darkened again. But I’ll never be like Micheal, do what he does. I’m not discovering religion any time soon, and I suck at sports and don’t really care about ’em, and I’m not exactly what you’d call upbeat.

And I’ll never write like Stephen King, or Ray Bradbury, or John Fowles—

Who are they?

Famous authors you’ve obviously never heard of. Forget it. Tell me, who else is cool, dude? Name five, other than your friend Michael. Anyone, doesn’t have to be one of your contemporaries…

Greenday, he looked to me for approval.

Okay. Who else?

Death Cab [for Cutie] (another rock band). Thomas Edison. Einstein. And Jason, at school. All the girls really like him.

I laughed. Why?

I don’t know. He’s short but kind of buff already, I guess. He’s on the track team and the basketball team and he tells everyone he lifts his dad’s weights. He’s really into working out.

And what do all five you just named have in common?

He fiddled with the remainder of the Crispex in his bowl as he pondered my question.

They’re all good at something.

And how do you get good at anything? yet another of my canonical refrains.

Practice.

You bet. Find something you love, that turns you on, and work at it, my beautiful son. Practice your guitar more and become a great musician. Invent a new video game instead of playing someone elses creation. Learn how to program and develop apps, show us you need an iPad as a tool to create with.

He brightened, smiled at me. I had his full attention again, my reason for slipping in the iPad comment.

Owning an iPad is easy, my baby, and meaningless, just one of many who do and more who will. Creating with one is cool. Cool is as cool does, kid. Pursue a passion and you’ll be engaged, entertained, and so enraptured in the process you won’t notice or care if you’re popular. And how cool is that! ; – )