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Protected: Things I Learned This Week

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A bunch of different things I wanted to write about today, far more than I feel I can put into one coherent journal entry, so just jumping around here…

Self-care – for the longest time, I used to beat up on myself for not having the energy to do those things that I knew would be good for me and that I needed to do, but I just wasn’t motivated to do them right then.  I don’t apply to jobs constantly (though I work near-constantly), and I don’t have a regular, full-time job.  I don’t write my screenplay or the screenplays many people have pegged me to write for them consistently, nor do I write my many comic book ideas up for submission on a regular basis.  I know I should be doing these things, but I don’t, and I used to tear myself up about that.  Here’s the thing: this year I turn forty, and I still have a chronic illness.  I think I need to give myself a break now.

Do I apply for jobs?  Of course.  All the time?  No.  I do whenever I have energy, though.  Do I write formally all the time?  No.  Are you reading this, though?  Where did it come from?  Here’s something my therapist said: if I make even one tiny movement toward my goals on a regular basis, I’m making progress.  It’s slow, but at my age, and with recent improvements to my health, I have time.  I don’t believe giving up is the answer, and neither is punishing myself when I fall short.  Starting all over again, or doing what I can when I feel up to it is.  I get calls back; I get interviews, and most importantly, I work.  When I tweet, people tend to respond.  I resolved that as soon as I can afford it, I’m investing in my writing and taking formal writing classes, so people can see my work, just as they did back in high school when I used to get work submitted to every writing contest by my teachers and kept winning them.  In short, I’m doing fine, because I haven’t quit yet.  As long as I keep working at it, I will be better off in the long run, and I truly believe that.  So if I’m not doing it every free second of ever day, that’s not a bad thing.  That’s self-care.  In my opinion, everybody needs that.

Online Dating, round 2  – here’s what my sister told me works on her in online dating: when the guy reads her profile, and writes her with a joke about it, and my old life coach wrote a great blog entry about managing the “Friend Zone” where she said that the best way to go is forward, without fear of being hurt.  If a particular girl is not interested, I think I should back off, but not give up altogether on online dating itself.  Just like with applying for jobs or writing, I need to keep it moving, as my boss says.  So if I find a girl online who she says she likes hiking, for example, I think I’ll respond with something like, “I did too until I fell off a mountain and had to go REVENANT (Alejandro Inarritu, 2016) with a bear.”  That statement tells you a couple of things about me right away: I’m silly, I’m a film geek, I read her profile, and I may not be into hiking.  If she responds to that, in my opinion, she’s probably my kind of girl.  If not, I think I’m better off, because we’d have nothing to talk about.  I also think I need to start doing this on Ishqr – every time OKCupid sends me one of their bulletins, I need to log on to Ishqr too, see if anybody likes me and vice versa, and joke away.  I am Muslim, after all.  Which leads me to…

Wahhabism / Salafism.  One of the nice things about being in my home town is that I get to spend time with my cousins, one of which is a devout Muslim, and with my sister, who was a history major and graduated from the same master’s degree program as Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and Dick Cheney.  When I admitted to my cousin that in the days following the San Bernardino shooting that I feared that he might become a Wahhabist, he was really surprised by that, and said, “bhai, you KNOW me.  How could you think I would ever do something like that?”  What it reminded me of is that if we’re not careful, I fear even Muslims can fall into the media narrative about us because, as my cousin pointed out, whenever a Muslim does something wrong, the media states his / her religion.  They do not typically do that of any other religion.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist generally, so I don’t want to speculate as to why that is, but I have to admit, I’ve had it up to here with the way they describe Wahhabism like it’s synonymous with Islam, when nothing could be further from the truth, any more than Mormons are representative of all of Christianity, and even that’s not a perfect comparison, because I’m pretty sure Mormons are an even bigger percentage of Christians than Wahhabis are of Muslims!  Worse, to my dismay, I couldn’t find any decent definitions of Wahhabism (or its related ideology, Salafism) online, forcing me to make this layperson’s blog entry about “the war on terror” and all of its players, so here goes:

Muslims are not at war with Jews or the west.  Wahhabis are at war with Zionism (which it’s also difficult to find a simple definition of online, *sigh*).

Okay, so what is Wahhabism?  It’s an ideology named after 18th Century Muslim scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab that teaches that modernization of Islam is wrong, and that we should follow the strictest interpretation of the our holy book, the Qur’an (which only Wahabis do, in my experience).  (Salafism is basically the same thing, named after a different scholar whose followers were friendly with Wahhab.)  When Israel came into being (Zionism is what led to this, the belief that Jews are the chosen people, and that God guaranteed them a homeland) and worse, invaded its neighbors and persecuted the Palestinians (“the philistines,” as it literally were – all this is factually true), this ideology became popular in the Middle East, and eventually became the official version of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries.  ISIS, Pakistan, the current rulers of Iran – in short, all of the world’s terrorist groups claiming to be Muslim – are Wahabis, typically, and no, I am not going to deny that these are populous countries, and that there are many of them.  Here’s the problem, as I see it: Islam is the second largest religion in the world.  We are in every country, and I guarantee you, far from a majority of us are Wahabis.  I personally have never actually known one, and the unique thing about my childhood, according to friends, is that we moved around a lot growing up, so I’ve lived all over the country.  Things like suicide bombings and honor killings are pretty foreign to those of us who live in the United States, just as outright taking someone’s home at gunpoint or bulldozing Palestinian homes and calling them “settlements” are atypical of every Jewish person I’ve ever known, though common on the West Bank in Israel.  For whatever reason, it seems that it’s easier for our media to call terrorists claiming Islam Muslims, and to present Zionists as Jewish victims, despite Israel’s very militaristic society (all confirmed by friends and relatives who are either Palestinian or have been to Israel multiple times).  To quote “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,”  “the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that,” and as a result, I’m not calling Wahhabis anything but that from here on out, just as I’m calling an Israeli an Israeli and a Zionist a Zionist.  I have too many Jewish friends to do otherwise, and I’m fed up with getting lumped in with Wahhabis, when I don’t believe in what they believe in.  A Wahhabi and a Muslim are not the same, IMO.

Whew!  Glad I got all that off my chest.  Now to respond to an email from my friend, and as I said before, keep it moving…

Judge Not, ‘Lest…


Last week, Ted Cruz decided to pull one of his campaign ads because it featured Amy Lindsay, an actress who’s appeared in softcore adult films, and I was disappointed to hear it.

Not because I’m a fan of softcore adult films (though I am) or because I dabbled in adult entertainment myself (though I have). Nor am I saying this because I think he made the wrong decision, because let’s face it, even though Ms. Lindsay is a Conservative, a Republican candidate is going to have to win over judgmental (my opinion), evangelical voters. I’m saying it because I regret that it seems we have a culture that evaluates people by the most complicated parts of who they are.

Look, being a person in this society is hard. I’m not even going to preface that with, “in my opinion,” because I’m fairly confident that even people living lives of relative ease and pleasure will confirm that they worked damn hard to get there. Being human is also an imperfect proposition – we all know that to be true to the point that “nobody’s perfect” is a common platitude. The thing is, I feel that we have a tendency to judge people not by what they do or have done well, but by the things about the way they live their lives that we don’t like. To use myself as an example, I come from a family who moved around a lot, and as a result, have lived in many different places – in elementary school, first and fifth grades were the only ones in which I began and ended the school year in the same school. I graduated from high school outside of Chicago with a high GPA, and earned my bachelor’s in central Illinois with high distinction, before going to grad school in upstate New York and then moving out to Southern California, having networked a great job in entertainment with a credit on a TV show fresh out of grad school. I made a lot of friends as a result of all that moving, am proud to say that I have contact with the vast majority of them, and one of them even gave me an organ when I needed a transplant.

But I hate myself.

I hate myself because I have a tendency to get angry, an anger that cost me the friendship with the person who gave me her kidney. I hate myself because right now I don’t have a job (though my last one lasted seven years), and because I’m not getting along with my sister, who gave up her life to take care of my father, a guy who loved, but didn’t really care for my health like she takes care of his. I hate myself because when you look at all of the great things I’ve done – the writing awards I’ve won, the amazing, famous people I’ve met, the people who’ve met me just because they liked my writing – none of them make up for the friendships and career my anger has cost me. Like everyone else in our society, what I’ve done is as worthless to me as how many people went to college because of Bill Cosby is to the public, or how many poor people Michael Jackson fed. What matters is what they might have done on their worst day, not who they are as a whole.

And to me that sucks.

Again, I’m not trying to let Cosby off the hook, as I urge everybody to read Kiese Laymon’s article analyzing what his negative behavior means in a greater social context, nor am I saying Ms. Lindsay is anything like any of those people, or like OJ, or anybody else who might deserve media fed scorn. All I’m saying is that when we deal with any individual, in any situation, I wish we would treat them like people, not like some whipping boy we use to feel better about ourselves. Because of my self-hatred and my various health issues, I see a therapist, and one of the things my therapist pointed out to me (besides the fact that Cosby’s scorned as much because he’s denying the whole thing, rather than taking responsibility and apologizing) is that when you make somebody into a symbol of “wrong,” deserved or no, you’re not really improving anything, you’re just trying to feel better about yourself. My therapist feels that putting somebody else down has a purpose, and nine times out of ten, that purpose seems to be to make a person feel high by showing how the victim of his or her attack is low by contrast. I feel that Ted Cruz saying that he wants nothing to do with a person who decided to star in softcore films to make a living is his way of saying that he and the followers who judge her behavior are somehow “above” that behavior, when in fact, I am pretty confident Ms. Lindsay made what she felt was the best decision for her, survival wise. In addition to dabbling in adult, I also worked in mainstream entertainment, as I said, and as a casting intern I feld that acting seems to be one of the hardest entertainment gigs you can get. I don’t wish that life on my worst enemy, because I’d be super insecure if I was an actor, terrified of how I’d make the rent each month after my latest project ended, and wondering what would become of me when I got old. I had a big job in mainstream, on a television show, and when it ended, I found myself unemployed for a long time. Like I said, I have health issues, and back then, we didn’t have an Affordable Care Act, so I had to grab whatever job I could find. Luckily for me, I have a college education from two big schools, so I found one that gave me great health care. I’m not sure how many actors are able to do that.

Long story short, I wouldn’t have bought in to the way Ted Cruz’s voters judged Amy Lindsay, nor do I judge Cruz for making the decision to pull the ad she was in. Really, I only know one thing for sure.

Ted Cruz lost the subsequent primary vote, coming in third behind Marco Rubio. I am sure the two events are purely coincidental.

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