Friday, June 24, 2016

Well done, Britain, on democratically ruining your future

I've never cried because of politics. Politics are my biggest hobby, my chosen career, really the content of everything I've done in the past 10 years. I was raised to believe in unity and cooperation. Being a child of the 90s, when Idealism wasn't as dead as it clearly now is, I never even considered giving up and accepting defeat. My future, I believed, wouldn't be defined by animosity and xenophobia, like the past of my country and continent is. And then today, as I woke up to the news that some old folk in England had actually voted to leave the European Union, an institution that cost money to give them stability, security and, above all, peace after 2000 years of perpetual European war, the tears were there, and they haven't gone.

Voting for conservative governments infuriates me. Voting against Scottish Independence surprised me. Voting to leave the EU, however, is a clear sign that reason has ceased to exist. Months of information, all speaking the same language, have literally not translated into brain cells. I'm not one to oppose the opposition, but in this case, I have lost respect for those who have made that decision, even though it was a majority. There is but one reason people would be voting for a Brexit, and these reasons are the definition of what I had hoped to be banning from our collective future: fear of change, isolationism, xenophobia and, worst, nationalism. For me it is clear that if people make this choice, they could be selfish enough to vote for President Trump. Good thing he seems to be losing and American statisticians actually know how to do their jobs, unlike their British counterparts...

How do most laws need a 2/3 majority to pass, and governmental decisions in referendums are passing with half the population being in huge opposition? I thought I was all for democracy, but referendums on issues that can make or break a country clearly don't have a legitimate point if all that's left is a huge divide. Unfortunately, in both British referendums in the last two years, the old made the decision for the young. Quite a large number of Scots who decided to stay part of the Union, which resulted in continued membership of the European Union, are dead already or will shortly be. The young, however, who want to go to college, like me, and have the chance of studying in an international setting, get to know the world and embrace everyone wherever they come from or what they look like, like I had it, are stripped of what our forefathers worked so hard for. If the old were old enough to remember Britain in 1942, we wouldn't have the result we have today.

Which brings me to the most basic argument that I cannot believe has disappeared into thin air: are we still interested in peace, or have we forgotten what the perils of war are because we haven't survived one? Even on the darkest day of the European Union, when tax money was spent on saving banks and bail out Greeks who are completely unwilling to save, I have proudly called myself a member of the European Union which has secured me a full, 27-year-long life so far in which I have crossed borders, studied abroad, become a tolerant person who sees no color and, most importantly, never had to adjust my life or dreams to the need to seek shelter from bombs. I, unlike the vast majority of this Earth's population, have no idea what war, hunger or poverty is, and I owe that exclusively to a 1958 decision that tried again to bring peace and prosperity to our continent. The only answer I have to those who consider the influx of immigrants a threat is one finger on each of my hands. Y'all have never seen threats...

Next to mad, I feel sad. The best four years of my life were spent on that island, and that was only possible due to the wonderful existence of a mutual agreement among European nations. That agreement will no longer be. 2016 high school grads have less opportunities than me, and here I was believing that the world would change for the better and create more opportunities for everyone. After 10 years of constant study of politics I have to concede today that the world is not changing for the better. People are loudly exclaiming that they have no room for friendship, cooperation and respect. 52% of Britain, mainly the English, still believe they are powerful and deserve that power. And when you deserve it, you don't want to share. I'm happy I don't live like that.

Remember War, Britain? Oops, must have slipped the mind... 
The powerful have a way of believing that power is a result of doing the right thing, whereas I sit here in a small village in Germany and ask myself how the English are explaining losing an empire, remaining with four countries (soon only three) and wanting to rely on themselves to shape their future. If history has shown anything it is that you "can't go it alone", even Joseph Nye knew that, and he was talking about the United States of America. Remember, the superpower? Even the USA can't do what the Brits are hoping to do now. Hitler couldn't do it either, and he was in the center of the continent and much more powerful than Boris Johnson will be. If Woodrow Wilson was alive he'd be laughing right now; he couldn't even isolate the Americans, how is Boris gonna do it? But 52% believe it's a great idea. One has gotta ask themselves if they went to school a single day in their lives...

I'm so lucky that I got to learn what I learned in time before it was impossible: Thank you, EU, for allowing what you did. Yes, I have to wait a little longer for my light bulb to light up because you said so, but considering I got a free, international education I didn't bother to complain. Sure, Germany pays a lot of totally senseless money for benefiting the union rather than Germany, and sure, we have a huge immigration problem because those supposed friends and fellow members are useless in that field, but we are still friends. I'd rather have friends. I'd rather have cooperation. And yes, we are slowly but surely all becoming realists again and forgot about idealism in the 90s, but I was (thankfully) raised to believe in that, and I will continue to do that. The EU isn't dead, just a bit poorer and less powerful, but the young still see its value, it just isn't a monetary one. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

After #Pulse, is it worse to be Muslim or gay?

That I love gay people, to an extent where I actually find them more fun and interesting than heterosexuals, is no secret; that I also at the very least don't mind Muslims, since I date them and all, this argument should be as unbiased as possible. I am neither gay nor Muslim, yet I've seen lots of people hate on them. I personally understand homophobia less than Islamophobia, but who cares, they're both totally senseless in a progressive society. While the overwhelming majority of my Muslim friends indeed don't share my enthusiasm for the LGBT community, I am astonished by the hate that is coming towards the Middle and Far East's favorite religion from the likes of, hmm, some orange buffoon that wants to be President of the Segregated States, I mean, United States. Like they weren't hated enough already by the uninformed Western masses, Muslims are now earning hate for the hate the LGBT community received last week. So what actually sucks more: being gay or being Muslim?

Only yesterday I was chatting to a Syrian refugee who explained how "gays are not human beings", that they are "sick" and that he would never talk to one. Thankfully, this kind of rhetoric is illegal in Germany, meaning that if this guy wants to have this pathetic opinion he will have to keep it to himself. Also, we must acknowledge that not everyone who comes to Germany from his direction shares his views, nor that he was religious, just from Syria where that stance is perfectly acceptable. As a minority that experiences quite a lot of hate in Germany I was especially appalled by this behavior, though. If everybody in Germany had treated him like he suggests to be treating a gay person, he would quite frankly be dead, and only a week after the Orlando Shooting he needs to learn that this is not how things are done around here. Yes, we do have homophobia, but at least it is already largely illegal, although of course we're far away from reaching equal rights for everyone.

Islamophobia, at the same time, is fine with the German Constitution. Well, of course hate crimes fueled by any hate aren't cool (and illegal), but hating Muslims seems to be rather trending than declining. We can never know for sure, but it seems there are more refugee homes ablaze than gay people beaten up, and even if we take violence out of the equation, being mindful of Muslims isn't nearly as frowned upon as openly expressing not to want to associate with gay people. After Pulse, Muslims now have to accept the blame from American presidential candidates because one homophobic asshole claimed to be a member of their faith, legitimizing the West to conduct an anti-Muslim rhetoric as an answer to a religious hate crime against LGBT people. Funnily enough the LGBT community around the world receives hate from non-Muslims, too. Not one of them would blame Islam alone for their fear to be themselves...

Gay people are being hated for what they are, Muslims for what they believe (or, as I like to put it, to what they were raised to believe). All of the Muslim people I met are not terrorists, yet they usually have ideas and values we in the West do not agree with, and their rejection of homosexuality is, of course, horrible, yet completely normal in their circles. I hate that, but I understand, too. The comparison I like to make is that the American Founding Fathers, largely regarded as racists today, lived in times in which racism was a lot more nonchalant than today. To judge them on our 21st century culture would be wrong. The same goes for Muslims. I have very little patience for homophobia; to turn away from a Muslim (or homophobe, not automatically the same thing), alienate, judge and stop the conversation, due to their convictions towards the LGBT community, doesn't solve our problem. So what is happening right now doesn't help them becoming more tolerant and therefore does little to improve the world.

In the West, we just make the choice too often: either someone accepts our values which we fought hard for, or they're not with us. If this is the notion we continue to live by, Muslims will not be part of our society. Most of them oppose homosexuality, we love freedom, so we believe we can't have both freedom and homophobia at the same time. And when I consider this reasoning I have to ask myself where all them Christian people from Greensboro Baptist Church are at. Too many LGBTQ+ whatever are still in the closet out of fear, and what keeps them in there probably isn't the fear of being gunned down by an Islamic terrorist. Funnily enough, most gay people are scared of the religious in our own countries, and they are most likely those who oppose a Muslim influx. It's become hard for bigots after Orlando to decide on who to oppose more; it seems the term "unrighteous" has its own meaning in the West.

My opinion of justice is distorted by the rejection of religious bias on the one hand and the love for individuality on the other. I lived among Muslims and haven't perceived Islam as a religion any less prejudiced than the likes of Christianity. These doctrines against homosexuality are what drove me away from my religion, and I believe it made me a better person. Without Jesus, Mohammed or any other figure that seems to be standing for "only men and women" to some people, I am able to focus on their principal message: love each other! If I really listen to these guys, I will love and let love, and I will accept that some people are raised to not agree with that. This is what I, personally, consider the best and fairest truth, and in that sense I will have to be Team LGBT. The faster we can get to sit on one table, stop blaming Muslims for the action of a couple madmen and actually have a talk with them that they are wrong, the better. Even liberal Scotland didn't love gays as much as they do now 50 years ago, but with conversation comes a solution, and being Muslim and gay, even at the same time, won't be as much of a problem in the future... 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

10 Years After My Father's Death: No Pain Lasts Forever, Trust Me!

For the past few years, on June 14, we always said "in ___ years it will have been a decade since Dad died", and today I can actually say that my father has been dead for 10 years. Today, around this time, I was stroking a dead man's hair and tried to remember every detail of his face. I must have been successful, because I remember the mole under his lips, his teeth and the dimple in his chin. I can even remember hearing his voice just a few hours before seeing him lie there in the hospital. And all that has now been 10 years ago, and for those who felt like I did that day, which is not great, I have only one thing to say: Time really does heal all wounds!

For someone of my age and background to claim I have experienced hardship is sort of ignorant. However, to learn from the lessons life gives us all it takes is a bad grade in Kindergarten or a childhood bully: almost all of us experienced that, yet nobody thinks about it now, right? At the time it did suck, though, and we were embarrassed, hurt or sad. I have felt sad so often, probably more often than I felt happy, but when I look back at the entire 27 years of my life all I see is laughter, rainbows and unicorns. That just happens because our brain tries to delete traumatic experiences, and slowly but surely it succeeds in doing that. The death of my father is no different.

Oh gee, the few months after my dad passed away I didn't even get out of bed. Nothing, I thought, would ever be as bad, and I was wrong about that. Eventually, lying in bed and wallowing just didn't sound good anymore, partially because I just realized that life goes on, and that what happened had silver linings, too. At the same time, I had people help me in person, on the phone and by praying for me which is a great thing that happens when people suffer, and my own faith did a lot of good as well, although that faith is no longer in place to help me today. Today, ten years later, I remember feeling terrible, but I don't feel terrible anymore. I miss my father, still, but I got used to him being gone and never coming back. The next time I buried somebody close, which was a few weeks later, it wasn't as bad. And the time after. And the time after that (it happened a lot...).

There's no such thing as just a bad experience that will ruin our lives. I personally find it hard to imagine getting over losing your child to a gunman in Newtown, CT or watching your kid kick it from cancer, but whenever a bad thing happens, it can always get worse. Once I understood that I started appreciating the good times much more. By losing my father at age 17 the loss of my grandma, two good friends and my pets brought a tear to my eye, but not a hundred like I'm confident it would have if death hadn't claimed my dad' life before. So in the end, the worst thing that ever happened to me became the biggest lesson for me to not fall apart again next time.

So many people could benefit from looking at hardship like that. I said goodbye to more things than I could ever count. Not all of them are dead, some are just out of reach never to come back again for a number of reasons. But all the goodbyes prepared me for the goodbyes I had to say after. This year, for instance, I said goodbye to two boys, one because I had to leave his country and one because he didn't care about me. If I was a beginner at moving on I'd still have these guys around because who really likes goodbyes? The fact is that I would never have been able to make the decision to walk away if I didn't know that the pain of losing someone is temporary. Taken by force of by choice, losing people sucks. But the only truth is that every day that goes by it will suck less.

My father won't come back and I don't even believe I will ever see him again as part of an afterlife. Thinking about that blows big time. Sure, my life would have been so much better if he was still around, but in German we accurately have a saying that claims that "life is not a request show"; take it or leave it. I personally thought about leaving it then, and I'm glad I didn't because what came after was pretty freaking awesome. It could have been a lot easier but it could have been a lot harder, too. All I know is that I've been half-orphaned for a decade now, and I rarely ever think about it. If I, a weak and emotional person who needs love, like that of a father, much more than a lot of other people, can get over the death of the man who loved her most, anything is possible...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

High School... 10 Years Later!

As often stated, I am a walking Timehop App. Not only do I remember most dates, I also relive the feelings of that day almost exclusively. June 8, 2006, I graduated high school, waving to some borrowed parents who had just found out that their father had passed away. Little did I know that just a few days later I would know what that feels like. But on June 8, I was a happy camper, achieving something for the first time in my life that warrants some congratulations. For many, a high school diploma is the first step into adulthood, and now 10 years later I am watching people who still haven't made that step. That day I had dreams and plans. I was looking forward to my adult life. Now, on June 8, 2016, I'm 10 years in, and to reminisce about those plans I had about adulthood is a sobering thing to do.

Without any melancholy, I can safely claim that none of my dreams and plans came true. That's ok, but it's true! Growing up, my dream had been to live the American high school experience I saw on TV, and today 10 years ago that dream came true. From that day on, none of my dreams came true again, due in part to the dream of seeing my parents back together or being able to come back to the States after the summer to go to college dying with my father the next week. Only a few days after those dreams were born on Graduation Day I should have known they were never going to come true. Yet, some of them took 10 years to say goodbye to. One relic of the high school days, a person I failed to say goodbye to since that day, finally dropped the mic a few months ago, and with that the last piece of connection to that Thursday in June 2006 exited my life.

In the meantime, I did incredible things I didn't even dare to dream about that day. Let's face it, 17-year-old Sina who believed a high school diploma was an achievement is pretty laughable now. I am super happy about my plan of going back to school in the US not working out. Today, there would be no Scotland, no journalism, no Master education and no 30 countries visited in my resumé if I had been able to make these plans reality. Today, I look back and think I dodged a bullet, although I had to go through the pain of losing my father, a dark, dark summer (and various even darker times after that) and being bullied for my faith, my decision not to drink or have sex. The six months after high school taught me more than the 12 years prior, and when I returned to Hanford, CA that Christmas I already wasn't the same anymore, and I said goodbye to more dreams. I'm sad about shattered dreams but it just simply had to happen...

Then, in the beginning of 2007, I actually realized that I had failed, for now, to make these dreams come true. When you're 17, though, you rightly believe that "not now" doesn't mean "never". It turns out, I was wrong about that. The same place, my adopted family's house in California, where I said goodbye to the plan of going back to the US became the place where I assumed that not going to study in China in 2010 wouldn't mean I'll never go live there. Another six years later, "not now" actually became "never", as it is highly unlikely I will find the strength to start over (again!) for the 5th or 6th time. I was young and thought I could do anything, because that's what high school taught me. What a farce! Most of the things I haven't been able to do didn't fail because I didn't try hard enough; usually it was money, health or people who died on me that prevented my plans from coming into motion.

I would love to say "I can't believe it's been 10 years, I remember everything about graduation", but I'd be lying. In fact, I don't even know where I went after graduation. Those ten years did not pass like a blink of an eye. Instead, they dragged out a horrendously long process of making realistic plans. There is now officially no remainder of my high school days after I quit talking to my last remaining friend from the class this year. That is certainly not my choice, but 10 years isn't nothing. You lose people, lots of them, they get married or move, you just don't keep up with them. To think I managed to keep one of them around for 10 years is actually quite incredible. In the end, I can conclude that our graduation speech definitely didn't apply to me: "Work hard and you will prosper", they said. Total lie! "There are no friends like your high school friends!" Another inaccuracy, fueled by my bitterness! "You will remember high school all your life!" I don't remember s***.

Like most of my memories, high school has become one that is being rated as either a good one or a bad one. I don't remember why, but it was a wonderful time, that's all I need to know. People do reunions because they like to revisit times when they didn't have to think about bills and bulls***! But at the same time, I have to attribute my chronic dissatisfaction to having had dreams one day and seeing them shatter over time. If I could tell my 17-year-old self one thing it'd be to not expect too much. None of my alternatives were bad, and watching my achievements makes me feel great. The only time I don't is when I consider what didn't work out, for whatever reason. My connection to the California days ripping might be sad but is, arguably, the better way. It's only sad when considering that I had once made the plan to not have that connection rip. Advice on graduation shouldn't be "anything is possible", it should be "make possible whatever you get the chance to get!" and then maybe looking back on 10 years post-high school wouldn't be a parade of broken dreams, but solely a celebration of achievements. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Why I Can't Do Tinder...

Momma's back in the Fatherland and all of her friends are hooked up. Now, I'm 27 years old, so engagements and weddings shouldn't be surprising anymore. My not so many attempts at love obviously suffered from my ambition and the corresponding inability for men to date chicks with ambition. My friends, however, seem to all be comfortable in their relationships, sponsored by the popular "dating" app Tinder. I move a lot, so one could think Tinder was made for me, only that there is a huge reluctance within me to use Tinder. My constant moving pretty much killed all of my romantic potential in the past, would be time to capitalize on that fact, right? I just can't do it with the help of Tinder...

I haven't even been single for very long. Well, I feel like I have been single for about a year, but it's really only been a couple of weeks. Needless to say, after quite some time of being "alone", or at least feeling like I am, a little romance would be welcomed. The fastest way to make that happen would be the internet. I wouldn't even need me to leave my house. Since I'm not looking for the love of my life either before I know which country I'm gonna reside in next the superficiality of Tinder could be a welcomed asset. Now here is the catch: I'm simply not superficial. I'm many things: dramatic, annoying, opinionated and pessimistic at times, but I am definitely not superficial. I thoroughly reject claims that I make judgements on people based on their appearance, that hasn't happened pretty much since I befriended a guy that looks homeless. Today, he's my best friend...

If you look at the people that meant most to me in my life you will find some of them not attractive, including my exes. The first time I met the guy I was seeing earlier this year, he was wearing a bright orange jacket and looked like a Beatle, just in Mexican. My most recent boyfriend, although probably assessed as quite good-looking, didn't even catch my eye the first three times we attended events together. It took me three days of constant, and I mean constant, hanging out to realize he was a cute guy, which then turned into me believing he was eye candy. In both cases, I would probably have swiped left if I just saw a picture of them because, I like to believe, I liked their wit, or the way they treated me, or something you can't put your finger on, not their weird haircuts. Tinder would have missed that!

Choosing people to hang out with, never mind sleep with, by pictures they even got to choose themselves, does not work for me. Like, it totally couldn't. If I think about my own representation on social media I can't begin to explain how inaccurate it is. Granted, on Tinder nobody seeks to marry me, but people who think it's a cool idea to date me based on the easy-going, open-minded person on Facebook who fights for refugee rights and justice a lot should be warned, because based on that dating me sounds a lot more fun than it probably is. There's lots of good pictures of me but in reality I almost exclusively look really crappy and I don't actually enjoy doing very much but, well, writing this blog or drink wine (while writing). Tinder just doesn't sell the truth, and that would be a problem for me.

Even for a one-night-stand, I like to believe I have a standard of not wanting to sleep with a complete idiot, which is probably why I don't have one-night-stands just now. That doesn't mean everyone's an idiot, it just takes a while to find out if they are, therefore making Tinder not an accessible tool to make sure. I hear a lot of stories of successful hook ups from Tinder, and unfortunately the men my friends slept with sound like clowns almost exclusively. Meeh, I'll pass. I don't want romance enough to forego the quality of a romance. I like running into a stranger, and thinking within a few minutes that this person could be special. I like being interested in what they say about their passions. I like them making good jokes, or bad ones. And if they aren't attractive to me, they could end up being a good friend. I like that! Tinder doesn't have that...