Thursday, November 10, 2016

Forgiveness

Half of America and the rest of the world are stunned by the outcome of the Elections. 

Rage. 

Anger. 

Fear.

Hurt.

Disappointment. 

How did this happen?  How did one of the (apparently) most liberal, progressive, inclusive countries in the world allowed to pick someone like him to represent them?  We all have our opinions about the American government but we can all agree on the fact that there are very few places in the world where people live side by side the way we do here.  Yes, there are many imperfections and injustices all around us but that core value has always been there and now I am questioning it.  Over twenty years ago, I was a child in a senseless conflict and I vividly remember one instance of feeling scared, vulnerable.  I remember that debilitating fear while sitting in the bus with bombs flying over us, holding my mother's hand.  I also, remember feeling small, shrinking into her lap, violently forcing my eyes to close and waiting for this excruciating moment to pass.  That is how  I felt as I was watching him take the lead and eventually become the 45th US President.  Diminutive version of myself sat there feeling helpless and lost.  Disbelief overwhelmed me and it is not going away for some time.  I am scared again, in the same way I was scared those years ago in my mother's lap.  

See, they are calling out for unity, compassion, tolerance but how are we supposed to look over our significant ideological differences that are threatening so many people?  How am I to forgive them for electing someone who is a racist, egotistical maniac, misogynist, simply a horrible human being?  How am I to call him my President?  How do I forgive all of those that hate me because I come form somewhere else, and my name is funny and I sound even funnier?  Few days ago, racism was legitimized in the national elections.  The extremists were empowered and given the opportunity to do as they please.  How are we to trust our police officers that endorsed him?  How are we supposed to feel safe if some of us wear a hijab, look differently, speak differently, feel differently??  We have to protect each other and stand up to all the bullies out there.  First, we need to observe them, listen to them and wait for them to make the first move.  If we react irrationally now, we will shoot ourselves in the foot.  Let's step back and marinate for a minute and see how they adjust to their new, legitimized roles.  Let's see if they are going to show us tolerance and compassion they seemingly call for.  Let's learn how to make our government accountable for its actions.  We have plenty of time to protest, to voice out our opinions but we should do it in a smart, measured way.  This part is important.
I personally, made a couple of mistakes on the Election Day as I got engaged in unnecessary conversations both in person and online.  I should not have done that.  There is no point.  But let me be clear, I want to be loud as loud as I can be through positive actions filled with intellect and facts.  I want to make this opportunity to become a better person devoid of hate and anger.  I will never allow any government, any disagreeing individual to silence me.  This is my right, my prerogative!!!  But I want to do it in a classy, polished manner rather than in an incoherent banter.  



But please, do not ask for my forgiveness and respect because you have to be worthy of it and so far you are not.  Maybe in the future, maybe you will take a high road but until then I cannot forgive.    

Friday, November 28, 2014

National Day of Mourning



Plymouth, Mass.  11.27.2014
Plymouth, Mass. 11.27.2014
The holiday season officially begins on Thanksgiving Day as many are gearing to give thanks to their loved ones and participate in Black Friday shopping frenzy.  Every year, I casually observed this national holiday and accepted it as a part of American tradition.  Time is usually allocated to friends and family and many enjoy great feasts and celebrations.  However, this year’s “thanksgiving” took on a different shape and coincidences or circumstances in life took me to the origin of the holiday itself, Plymouth, Mass.  Only this time, I did not sit around, cooked or drank in a gluttonous fashion, instead I came to observe the true, often neglected story produced by the consequences of this bona fide anniversary.  Since 1970, United American Indians of New England (UAINE), march through the streets of Plymouth to remember all of those victims who not only succumbed to the violence of the colonizers, but continue to remain oppressed, forgotten and undermined as people whose land was looted, ravaged and destroyed throughout the centuries.  It was truly a day of mourning.
Emotionally charged and symbolically executed, the National Day Of Mourning, brought tears to the participants’ eyes as several community leaders took the stand to share their grievances.  Indescribable energy consumed the place as everyone respectfully participated in the opening prayer ceremony led by a Mayan Indian who guided the crowds to pray in unity in whatever language or whatever way they deemed appropriate for themselves.  Solidarity and undisputed human connection bound all the observers together and the glimpse of hope for better future glowed somewhere in between the tears and in between the rages of protest against transnational corporations, ineffective government and simply hate itself.
Yet, the reality and the realization how far our world keeps moving away from the principles that make us all decent human beings into some divided enclaves where greed, hate and apathy continuously dominate our world, struck deeply.  Sadly, there were very few Natives themselves due to the centuries long systematic genocide and isolation policies that led to social problems Natives face in the reservations and elsewhere.  With only, 0.9 percent of the total US population, they stood as a reminder of a destruction, racism and perpetual ignorance executed towards them and many other minorities alike.  The unheard voices of those leaders keep on echoing, too silently I must add.
The streets of Plymouth appeared desolate as most of the businesses were closed for the observation of the other holiday.  A few passers took pictures and observed the procession, only to forget a minute later as they sat down to indulge in their turkeys.  However, those of us who joined the crowd, experienced something extraordinary.  On the first glance, the diversity of people striked me the most as we marched through the empty streets shouting slogans of solidarity.  No one looked alike, no one was the same, yet the same message echoed in the thoughts of all of us. The message carried hope and unity for there are people who understand how important is to exercise human principles of freedom, rights and justice.
Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier
Justice, an ambiguous term of a due process, leaves room for duality and exclusion depending on the actors involved.  For over 30 years, UAINE has been advocating for a release of Leonard Peltier who has been convicted for murders of two FBI agents in 1977.  He had been sentenced to two lifetime terms and continues to serve them.  The evidence and circumstances surrounding the case was often incomplete and unsubstantial.  The accounts of witness intimidation and other irregularities were brought to light, however, every appeal was turned down.  UAINE believes that Mr. Peltier did not get the trial he deserves and they continuously raise funds for his defense in hopes to get him out of prison before it is too late; he is 70 now in declining health.
Currently, with Ferguson Case and the nationwide protests taking place, the accountability and transparency become two powerful weapons of our time that may aid in bringing up some type of change.  However, militarization of police and their authority may hinder the progress of spread of ideas and this government may use all the means necessary to stop individuals from expressing their opinions.  The government has powerful tools to silence those who fight ideologically for a change and forces some to take action through more radical channels.  With loosely defined terrorism, Patriot Act and closing a blind eye on police activities, we may be moving toward the totalitarian regime, similar to those that the US government has been trying to “liberate”.  Duality and contradictory practices of the government make us all uncertain of what future may hold.
National Day of Mourning remind us all of how important is to remember the struggles of those left in the days behind us.  History is a great teacher if observed with a clear mind and conscientious heart.  Despite of all the atrocities committed on Native Indians, not just in North America, but everywhere in the world, there is hope as presented by UAINE.  They uphold global principles that value life through freedom, tolerance and respect.  Peaceful, non-violent processions give power to the crowds more important than physical weapons; they breed ideas which no one can destroy.

Friday, August 1, 2014

No Title

It doesn't rain much this time of the year..
Arid climate dries out the earth.
Yet, recently it started raining, raining
rockets from the sky.
This type of rain doesn't soothe the dryness;
it doesn't help cracked land to recover..
The rocket outpour echoes lightning sounds intensly, mercilessly.
And then it shines on places hidden
and swallowed by the darkness of the night..
Smell of fear combines with the smoke of exploded droplets
that hit the targets of crunching people underneath the furniture,
or the luckier ones who spend days underneath the ground.
The consolation comes in with the seizing of the loud,
penetrating sounds allowing the breath to flow with an ease.
Until it rains next.
(To Hilda from me..MA '14)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I Refuse to be defined by war...

       Every World Cup has a newcomer with some sensational narrative that touches hearts of the sympathizing spectators around the world.   The World Cup in Brazil has started and  Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) qualified for the first time since the country had gained the independence in the early 90s.  The soccer federation went through several changes and had shuffled many players who were molded enough to represent our fragile country.  While half of us supports the efforts of the soccer team, the other half sometimes silently, at other times vehemently calls for the failure of BiH national team.  Overall, we are proud!  Finally, we are moving away from our violent recent history into some new era, era of deceit.  Overnight, we have become an underdog who went through so much suffering and death in the course of our lives and now we are represented by those players who endured the siege in Sarajevo, or who experienced ethnic cleansing in Banja Luka.  Suddenly, we became a symbol of endurance and a success story of the first timers among the traditional stars of football.  Croatia is there too, yet it is portrayed as a distant relative of ours who hasn't gone through as much as we have.  Perhaps, it is due to recent fascist chants that FIFA proudly condemned and fined during a soccer match in Croatia.  For whatever reasons, we are the story of perseverance told through a bloody fairy tail and transformed into an undoubted success.
        Yet, all this does not sit quite well with me.  The constant mentioning of our redundant history comes as old news or something already left behind a decade ago.  I am a product of diaspora with the strong ties to my home country but something smells fishy every time BiH is portrayed through a tale of war.  Every time I meet someone and I tell them where I am from, I hear the empathetic statements about the place where I hail from.  Sometimes, I feel that people do not see me beyond where I am from and that sucks because I am a person as much as anyone else from anywhere else.  I am not defined by the war. 
        The 90s conflict changed the course of my life but along the way I accumulated the experiences I would have never had a chance to live through if I had stayed behind.  I have developed into an individual devoid from my background and although I am sometimes guilty of that melancholic repetition of the days left in the motherland, I am an individual after all and I would like others to see me for me rather than a child of war or some other definition.  Sometimes I feel as if Bosnians are proud of all the suffering and negativity the war had brought because without it they would not know who or what to blame for their insufficiencies.  If its not the war itself, then history for sure is our biggest enemy.  So, we make excuses and patriotically remember the slaughterings and blood spilled on our soil.  I am not saying to forget, but the toning down of the significance of the war should occur.  We have all lost our homes, family members, countrymen, our childhoods but I refuse to sit around and glorify the war as a defining moment in my life.  And those who continuously present themselves as victims of some conflict that occurred almost 20 years ago, I say stand up to it and own up to your own existence.  Shit happens all over the world, people die and live in far worse conditions that what we had experienced and they are not even mentioned in the media because they will never make it to the World Cup.  They will never have a chance to be depicted as a sob story of our humanity.  We finally have to understand that every single individual goes through a war of their own and to them it is the most horrific experience.    
         Our problem is that we have nothing else to be proud of but the event that left us all fucked up and instead of joining forces and becoming individuals we fall back into the same group mentality where others think for us so we can go on blaming and attacking circumstances in life.  I will be rooting for Bosnia in the World CUp with pride and patriotic sentiments but not for the reasons of surviving the war but for better future where culture and diversity will be introduced once again in our backward Balkans.  And I hope that all this mushy, hollywood-y approach would disseminate into forgetting once we learn to accept life for what it is stripped of all unnecessary kitsch.  The truth is in the essence.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Missing Links

As far as I can remember, I loved snow.  All of the activities and fun games associated with cold winters brought joy to me.  I recall waking up to the first snow of the season with wide grin on my face and exhilarating feeling of happiness when I glanced onto white covering spread out on the streets and trees.  The bliss that followed would last the entire season.  Playing in the snow, sledding, building snowmen and bunkers or simply walking on the white surface brought positive, resonating sentiments.  Then when the thawing occurred, a different kind of excitement emerged with first warm sunny rays and early chirping sounds of birds bringing the coziness of warmer days.  Little things mattered, seasons counted and eagerness spread accompanied with exultation. 

Years passed by and every new one carried less and less enjoyment about the seasonal transformations.  Lately, it has been snowing quite frequently but the old feelings did not come to the surface at all.  Snow became a hassle, heat nuisance and only in cool spring and autumn blips of satisfaction protrude, only occasionally and too subtly.  Maybe, I just got used to changes or I failed to pay attention to the metamorphosis.  Or perhaps, something died inside unable to produce childish ardor for simple things in life. 

I often wonder where did I disappear?  The walls that I surround myself with became impenetrable and too sturdy to bring down with an ease of earlier days.  Nothing feels the same; nothing looks the same.  Perhaps, I became jaded by the years of struggles and unfulfilled dreams driven only by the pure survival.  Missing links in my existence seem too many to mention but when I was a child I did not have as many understandings and knowledge to rationalize everything around me.  I guess this is a period when I realize that I am an adult and nothing will seem as exciting or groundbreaking as it used to.  It makes me rather sad to think that way because never again will I have the same outlook on the snow, or sun, or sea, or anything else.  I have loved and I have been loved; I have succeeded and have failed, I have experienced, well I simply have lived a number of years that started to add up, yet not to amount to anything tangible or worth mentioning.  And I know I am not alone.  I do not know a single person who has accomplished what they wanted to and most of the people settled and have mistaken the circumstances for opportunities.  Now, we all struggle through years searching for lost enjoyments, hanging tightly hoping for the former highs that life somehow adorned us with.  Perhaps, I am a pessimist and rationalist with quiet hopes for storms that would awaken old, jovial purity of happiness.  We look for it in other people, in hobbies, in careers, in simple things but for me the end is nowhere near the accomplishment of my ultimate high.  Perhaps, I have a lot of things to look forward to and I have only entered a different sphere of existence where I feel less and think more.  No one ever told me that life quiets down so abruptly and resolutely into the quiescence of existence.  Those minimal islands of hope are the last lingering emotions that I have left in me secretly waiting for the winds to carry me into new horizons devoid of redundancy.

Monday, August 12, 2013

All Things Fall Apart

The fast pace traveling takes a toll on the body and the state of mind.  Trembling buses covering long distances become more of a hassle than an adventure.  After spending a couple of days in Lake Ohrid, Macedonia, we had decided to head to Croatia where we can spend some extended time in one place without a worry where to get next.  But before we get on the road, Ohrid deserves a few lines of notations.  

     Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in the world and has been put under the conservancy of the UN, attracting curious tourists from around the world.  Macedonia's historical duality has created a unique atmosphere in the land touched by Greeks, Illyrians and contemporarily Yugoslavians.  This mesh of heritage left a toll on the mentality of the inhabitants along with the influx of Albanians taking up a significant amounts of land.  There is a sense of division and separation between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians.  Cities and villages are labeled by flags, religious objects and even dress code to differentiate two cultures and two ways of life.  

     Especially, during the month of Ramadan these differences come to the surface more prominently than ever.  Even in this desolate location of Ohrid, 400 kilometers away from the capital, located close to the border of Greece, the line of separation is thick.  The downtown area laying by the lake and resembling more of a sea city than one occupying the lake, is filled with historical sights, modern restaurants and cafes.  One of the oldest Christian non-denominational churches dating back to the 10th century, St. Sofia, erects humbly in the midst of centuries of changes.  The city comes to life at the early evening where locals and visitors both take strolls around this combination of new and old, Macedonian and Albanian, while constantly being reminded of historical duality and its legacy.  

      Not too far away from the lake and mentioned church, the second part of downtown area extends into shopping center, more cafes and different wardrobe choices.  As I mentioned, the Ramadan was in full swing during our stay, so people were coming out late to enjoy a bit of a nighttime after challenging fast.  As we were passing by all these sights, I could not help but sense the separation unavoidably evident among the locals.  In this part of town, dominated by ethnic Albanians and Islamic influences, instead of a church, a mosque stays erected and instead of loud music, Ezan (a call to prayer) can be heard.  Women were veiled while men enjoyed Turkish coffee commemorating the most important month of a year.  These two separate worlds merge as one in the most odd fashion, when one stands on the imaginary border between the two areas.  On that crossing, people mesh up together and the overlapping voices of distinct languages, loud music and Ezan create demiurgic experience where those crowds become unified blurring the lines of separation.  In a split of a second, they become same in their differences.  Unfortunately,  this occurrence does not last long as everyone at some point heads home to their ethnically divided neighborhoods. 

        A couple of days were sufficient to absorb the oddity and beauty of Ohrid.  The next stop was Croatia, Orebic, at least 15 hours away.  Another long journey ahead on the buses of discomfort and pain.  But before we hit the road, the observation I have discovered in Ohrid is that all things do fall apart.  That split of a second that combines people together disappears into forgetting sooner than it appears.  So, that all things do fall apart is evident, but what is more important is how long can they last put together??  Perhaps, that is the question to significant number of contemplations I ponder on.  Even if everything falls apart, there is that moment when synchronization of life and those around us harmonizes into a unified form, erasing our differences and allowing this shortly lived second to echoes longer after it falls apart.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On the Road Again

     The time has come to move along with my trip.  After spending a month or so with my family, I've decided to raise the anchor and embark on a new traveling adventure.  So, I bought an airplane ticket to Vienna in order to meet up with Amber.  A sense of anxiety and nervousness took over as I was readying to continue this trip.  Things haven't been going on as planned, so a dose of skepticism lingered on every corner awaiting for something unwelcomed to happen.  In contrary, the smoothness of it all surprised me quite pleasantly.

Initially, Amber told me that she was going to meet me a day later so, just a thought of staying in this unknown city by myself raised a lot of scared emotions and uncomfortable feelings.  Luckily, she changed her plans and met up with me as planned.  Was I relieved!!

Honestly, I was quite nervous about meeting up with her again because I didn't want to impose on her own travelling experience since she has been doing so well on her own.  However, two hours into the reunion, we both felt a sense of a relief that we are doing this together, once again.


     If I have learnt anything so far, is that the world is becoming a big pile of different cultures leaving no spot untouched by diversity and heterogeneity wiping the authenticity out and destroying the locality of nation states.  Vienna felt so familiar despite the fact that I've visited the place 13 years ago.  It seems that cities are resembling each other due to the influences of migration, globalization and economic dependencies.  Various languages echo more than the official one, completely overpowering the Austrian presence.  Surprisingly, I found myself in the center of Serbian diaspora in Europe where everything is run by Serbians themselves in a Serbian language.  Even the bus station from where we took the bus to Belgrade, was operated explicitly by Serbians.  Finding local spots and enjoying domestic atmosphere presented a challenge but nothing feels better than accidental encounters without any expectations.  Despite of all the obstacles somehow we found ourselves on the outskirts of Vienna passing by a small outing that looked like a restaurant.  However, it was a club meeting and we definitely crashed their little gathering.  Hosptiable Austrians allowed us to sit with them and enjoy a cup of coffee with some homemade cakes. 


     Vienna felt random and uncategorized.  Obviously, it became a melting pot of different micronationalities ruling the city through the cuisine, loud immigrant presence and diminishing macronationalistic inclanations of Austrians themselves.  I have a hard time deciding whether such change is for better or worse.  Like all the cliches, this particular movement toward shuffling of groups of people and intergrating them into different societies than their own deffinitely has its possitives and negatives.  Eventually, a lot more countries will follow this course of action but there is still a place in the southeastern Europe that strongly clinges onto traditional values and hardcore essence for identity - my overused term appears again - the Balkans!  After couple of days of dining in Mexican restaurant whle conversing about American socioeconomic state, sightseeing and drinking with a South Korean guy Amber met in Budapest, we decided to move more south; to a more distinct region.  


     After a long ride on the bus, we finally approached Belgrade, the capital of Serbia located nowhere else but on the Balkan Peninsula.  The city bleeds communist era through its architecture while contemporary political situation of so called democracy and capitalism resembles the state the country is in -- afraid to move forward with the western concept of "progress" that created a limbo for the citizens of this country with now way back but only one way forward.  And that way forward is pricey.  The bulidings are decaying yet some new structures can be seen on the horizon.  Even the buildings destroyed during the Nato bombarding in 98' are left untouched to commemorate and remind on everyday basis injustices of Clinton presidency.  Partly, the reminder serves nationalistic agenda and "inat" (spite), while on the other hand is the lack of government funding.  Although, a metropolitan city with the reputation of partying has lost its label becasue of the governmental attempt to regulate working hours of bars and to bring about some kind of order.  Yet, nothing happens gradually in the Balkans; our extremity surfaces in every aspect of life so, politicians decided to close down bars relatively early crippling Belgrade and its people to do what they do best.  


     I managed to pay a hommage to the grave of our lifelong president Josip Broz Tito.  It was quite intriguing to do so and see how a person can be adhered to such heights of respect and attention.  Whether it was a cult or true love for a leader, it is difficult to say from my stance but even though he died before I was born that man was truly something.  Even though I have never seen him or exprience him, the mysticism around him and my parents devotion allowed him to enter into my life as an inspiring figure and some that has become timeless for better or worse.  Seeing other tourists visiting his grave reminded me of his greatness.  This dividing line between the west and the "east", from occidental and oriental lingers still in this region through holding onto the past and digging deeper into history in order to refrain from looking where the west is going and it is sad that we cannot pave our own way without restrictions, judgements and someone else telling us how to live.  The arbitrary west continues to impose "righteous" ways  by completely taking over entire Europe and erasing the balance of difference and distinctivness that harmonized the world at some point.  The Balkans are truly the crossroads of history, of our Earth.  Once they succumb to the ways of the west, there is no stopping this vigorous force of globalization.  l


Either way, I am on the road again.