Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: March, 2016

This is What Democracy Looks Like

“I’m going to do something very radical in American politics, something very radical,” said Bernie Sanders when he took the stage at one of his rallies in Michigan. “I’m going to tell the truth.” Then he quoted Harry Truman, “I never gave anyone hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”

People cheered and I thought, we’ve come a long way. For decades, I watched as our leaders sedated people with the idea that we are better than any other country in the world. This larger-than-life belief makes a person too lazy to want to find out the truth for themselves and play a stronger role in their own destiny. And it makes it so easy for the government to justify their unjust decisions – like wars, sanctions, debt, imprisonment – with formal words and written documents. But now many have figured out this trickery. Many want leaders who will listen to them and not just wealthy campaigners.

Sanders said that although it’s difficult, “If we have the courage to look at our problems in the face, we can resolve them.”

Sanders then gave us a list of truths, and while that in itself was a radical thing, his ideas are really and simply called “democracy.”

  • Overturn Citizens United which essentially says that the wealthiest people in this country: “you already own much of the American economy. Now, we are going to give you the opportunity to purchase the U.S. government.”

“We are talking about a rapid movement in this country toward a political system in which a handful of very wealthy people and special interests will determine who gets elected or who does not get elected,” he said. “That is not what this country is supposed to be about. That was not Abraham Lincoln’s vision of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

This has already created a rigged democracy where 58% of all middle class income goes to the top one percent of the wealthiest people. Hillary Clinton, for instance, was recently paid $225,000 to give a private speech at Wall Street.

“It must be a fantastic speech, an extraordinary speech, a Shakespearean speech,” said Sanders, “a speech which you must want to share with the American public.”

The average citizen is working the longest hours per year than any other industrialized nation. What does that mean?

  • Marriage suffers
  • Kids don’t get the attention they deserve

As we do so, we are paying “The major welfare abuser in America is the wealthiest family in America, the Walton family,” he said, accused the Walton family, which owns Walmart, of paying its own workers so little that they rely on welfare to get by. “And who pays for this welfare and food stamps? You do!”

Low-wage employers end up relying on the kindness of taxpayers, some $153 billion in 2015.

“On behalf of the Walton family, I want to thank you very much for your contributions,” he told the people. “It’s time for Walton family to get off of welfare.”

  • Invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration. Why is it that, in the wealthiest country in the face of the world, there are more people in jail than any other country on earth? 

“Over the last 30 years, the war on drugs has ruined peoples’ lives,” he said. “Marijuana should be legalized not made equivalent to heroin. It should not be a federal crime. While whites and blacks use it just as much, blacks are arrested four times more. Drug addiction is a health issue not a criminal issue.”

Instead of building cells, he wants to build us freedom by:

  • Raising minimum wage
  • Raising Social security “The way to measure a country is by how it treats the most vulnerable amongst us,” he said. “And we do not treat our elderly well.”
  • Free healthcare – “There’s only one major country in the world without healthcare. You’re living in it!”
  • Free public college and university education – “Young people should not be forced to be hanged by their college tuition. We should not be punishing people [with debts] for getting an education. We have to think outside the box. Everyone knows that education and learning are inherent in being a human.
  • Paid maternity leave
  • Affordable daycare
  • Equal pay for women

“I know that every man in this room will stand with the women,” he said.

How will he do all this?

“Wall Street, through greed and illegal behavior, destroyed our economy and Congress bailed them out,” he said. So one way would be to make corporations pay taxes on all of the profits they have shifted to the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax haven, which Congressional Research Services estimates may currently create losses that approach $100 billion annually, and other loopholes. To learn of other ways, visit

  • So what’s the difference between him and Hillary?  

Sanders depends on the $27 average donation from the American people whereas his opponents get millions from a handful of people (i.e. Hillary’s private speeches for Wall Street for $225,000).

Sanders voted against every single TPP trade deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership. Since 2001, 60,000 factories in America have been shut down. We’re in a race to the bottom, where our wages are going down. Hillary voted for every single one of them.

Sanders did not believe what Congress said about Iraq and voted against the war in Iraq.

Clinton heard the same information that he did yet voted for the war. She said she had gone to Henry Kissinger for advice.

“I find it rather amazing that Clinton boasts about the support of Kissinger, given that he’s one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country,” said Sanders. “Why would you go to the most destructive person for approval?”

  • What’s the difference between him and Trump?

“Our Latino brothers and sisters are tired of living in fear so we will create a comprehensive immigration reform,” he said. “In America, people are angry. We should take out our anger at the people responsible, not those who are scapegoats.”

Republicans say they believe in family values, and for that, they believe that

  • No woman should have the right to control her own body.
  • Gay brothers and sisters should not be able to get married.

“My wife and I believe in family values but they’re not republican values,” he said.

Not one republican candidate is willing to listen to scientists about climate change.

“That’s scary because you can’t do public policy unless it’s based on science,” he said. “Now everything Trump does is great and big and extraordinary and he’s also the greatest scientist and he decided that climate change is a hoax penetrated by the Chinese.”

Everyone laughed.

“This shocked me,” he said. “I thought it would be perpetrated by Mexicans or the Muslims.”

He said that more important than the polls, we will beat Trump because “We don’t want a president who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims, women, or African Americans. Because togetherness Trumps selfishness. Love Trumps hatred.”

Yes, we don’t want a president that reminds me of the very one my family fled from 35 years ago. We came here for the democracy that Sanders is talking about, and however close he helps us get to it that is fine by me.

This country is becoming more undemocratic every day and that did not happen overnight. So restoring democracy will not happen overnight. But Sanders’ honesty, wisdom and intelligence will help us move in that direction, because as he says, after his disgust at the Flint water crisis which you’d think would only happen in third-world countries, “We have a moral responsibility to leave this planet healthy and habitable for our kids and grandkids.”

IMG_6093 (2)

Shabbat Shalom Olam

A Wolf Song

I want to share this powerful prayer, which for me reads like a poem, by Lisa Osina, author of A Wolf Song: A Story of Forgiveness. She too is a graduate of Lynn Andrews’ shamanic school and has been using words to spread awareness, joy and peace into the world.

She wrote this prayer in honor of Shabbat, an observance in Judaism that’s primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. It’s a time when people set aside all of their weekday concerns, engage in restful activities, and devote themselves to higher pursuits.

Her sacred words help us see how our attachments to manifestation often spoil our peace and enjoyment (sometimes even our relationships).

*                              *                          *

Shabbat Shalom Olam

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are sacred days
Each celebrates and observes in their own way.

The common is prayer and each individual has a way.

I am working on shifting the way I pray and how the manifestation of Prayer requests happens.

The first thing I learned is that it doesn’t manifest.

Prayers are not ‘answered’ the way we’ve been told
Prayers do not bring health, happiness or good fortune.
Prayer opens a person to God, the Universe and the energies that rule our world.
When we pray to a force outside of ourselves our wishes and dreams become scattered and unfocussed because our intent gets lost in the thick of it,

Relying on another will only bring you their wishes.

My prayer today is for peace within me
Because we cannot expect peace in the world until we’ve come to peace with ourselves.

Oh dear great Sprit
What is it within me that holds the peace?
Where is it stored, how can I pull it out and share?

In this day when battles are raging inside and outside
I pray for the flower to bring beauty
I pray for the people to see it
I pray to be open to for what I don’t know
and let questions be answered with echoes and mirrors.

On this night of sacred air, soft rain and dew
I see the peace, I feel the peace
Oh Lord let me be the peace

To which Lord do I speak?

She lives in the cloud on the outskirts in shades of pink and purple
He lives inside the wolf beside me
They live amongst the fairies and the elves
Where wonder thrives and rules won’t go.

I dream of light, I dream of good
Where we open to love, she returns the food.

When we ask out loud, to whom do we speak?
But her tiny self inside the heart
Her womb is ready for birth.

Where wind blows and shifts my thoughts
Where rain washes away the sorrow
and Sunshine dries my spirit from wet rag to riches.

I pray, I honor, I trust
the new day will come and I accept the unknown it holds.

I release it to the heavens.


For more information about Lisa Osina and her work, visit



ISIS Cannot Destroy our Stories

The Feminine Art

Chaldeans are an ancient people who trace their roots to Prophet Abraham as he was from Ur, land of the Chaldees. These are my ancestors and, for thousands of years, they have contributed a great deal to the birth of civilization. They were builders then and they are still builders today, despite the hundreds of years of oppression and violence they keep enduring.

After the Islamic State attacked the Christian villages of Iraq, the birthplace of my parents and grandparents, Christian Iraqis in the United States were outraged.  They helplessly watched family, friends and relatives being forced out of their homes in the most inhumane way possible. Chaldeans, Assyrians, Yazidis and other minorities were kidnapped for ransom, or killed, and others were threatened to convert or die. Women and girls were captured, like slaves, and those who survived had nothing to their name but their identification cards. They left their homes and all their belongings and became refugees.

The leaders in our community immediately reached out to political figures in Washington to help the minorities during this dire situation. As ISIS destroyed historical sites and artifacts, artists took up their brush and rebuilt these monuments on canvas, more determined than ever to bring their history back to life. Myself, I picked up the pen and I wrote and wrote and wrote.

Aside from wanting to give our community a voice, I wanted to preserve our stories. I’ve always wanted to do that, but more today than ever. We have magnificent stories that are unheard and these stories are not necessarily about war, religion, or politics. They are about love, culture, courage, and triumph.

This weekend, my three novels are for the promotional price of $0.99 (eBook), so that they reach more readers, so that more people have the opportunity to learn about an ancient people that are not victims over their lives, but victors!

My Amazon page to order these books:

The Feminine Art

The Mismatched Braid

The Flavor of Cultures




Black Filmmakers have it Made – Compared to Us!

First Day of Filmming

First day of filming The Great American Family, a documentary which is currently in post-production.

Most people know me as an author and journalist, but I’m also a filmmaker, one who has to almost work underground, using my own flashlight, like a miner. It’s difficult enough being a women filmmaker let alone one with Middle Eastern background. So when Chris Rock talked at the Oscars about the lack of blacks in Hollywood (in films, receiving awards, etc.) I thought, “They Have it Made – Compared to us!”

Over ten years ago I was at the Surrey Writer’s Conference in Vancouver and I met with three producers, one who’d produced Father of the Bride II, one who produced Pay it Forward, and the third, I forgot what he produced. Anyhow, I pitched to them and their reactions to my stories were quite unique. Even though the U.S. had been politically involved with Iraq for decades, even though my stories were of modern day Iraqis and Iraqi-Americans, these producers didn’t see how they could possibly adapt them into film.

“It would be difficult to cast an Arabic movie,” one said. “Who would we cast for the leading role? Tom Hanks?”

As if Tom Hanks is the only actor in Hollywood! It was not a problem to cast him in The Terminal, a sweet and delicate comedy, similar to my type of work – where Tom plays a man from the fictional country of Krakozhia who is stuck at John F. Kennedy International Airport.  It was possible to cast Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta as women (Tootsie and Hairspray), but it is impossible to get a good actor to play a normal Arab?

Plus, the roles of “bad” Arabs have been easily played by other western actors, starting with Rudolph Valentino. In the 1920’s he starred in The Sheik and Son of the Sheik, two films which set the stage for the exploration and negative portrayal of Arabs in Hollywood films. They both represented Arab characters as thieves, murderers, and brutes.

Jack Shaheen, in his book Reel Bad Arabs, surveyed more than 900 film appearances of Arab characters. Of those, only a dozen were positive and 50 were balanced. Shaheen writes that “Arab stereotypes are deeply ingrained in American cinema. From 1896 until today, filmmakers have collectively indicted all Arabs as Public Enemy #1 – brutal, heartless, uncivilized religious fanatics and money-mad cultural “others” bent on terrorizing civilized Westerners

I didn’t make such remarks to that particular producer, who smiled at me as though I was a naive little girl. In the middle of our conversation, he had actually winked to his colleague, as if to say, “Isn’t she a darling creature to have such profound visions?”

I walked away, uninfluenced by their discouragement, but over the years, I saw how negative images keep certain communities in the dark and without a voice. When I watched the Oscars the other day and listened to the emphasis on the lack of black peoples receiving roles and awards, I thought, they have it made – compared to filmmakers of Middle Eastern and Arab backgrounds. For us, we can’t even get our stories in the industry let alone be given roles and win awards.

Stereotypical representations of Arabs and Muslims are often manifested in a society’s media, literature, theater and other creative expressions, and often have real repercussions for people in daily interactions and in current events. Though not legally prohibited, stereotyping could put innocent people in danger.

I’m glad that black people are at least bringing this subject to light, because for humans to survive, diversity must have a home. With millions of Middle Easterners living in the US, making them the fastest growing group of immigrants, and with so many social, political and religious issues regarding that region – Iraq in particular – happening on a daily basis, it is becoming absolutely essential for Hollywood to provide film audiences everywhere true stories of the lifestyle and culture of the modern Middle Easterner. In this way, cultures will develop a better understanding of each other, and thus, the world will be pushed into another, a more diverse reality.