First Vine Shaving

Those People – Esa Gente

I realized long ago (but quite early when moving here to the US) that I had become one of “those people.” I was given my label and not just by some people, but everyone seemed to have a label for me that was supposed to identify me. I work with people from all over the world, and not just because the US is full of immigrants, but actual international clients that are based all over the globe. Recently I’ve been working a lot with Latin America and the funny thing is that even though I am Colombian by birth and very proud of it, I still got a label… I am now the “Colombian Gringo.”

The labels don’t bother me, while I know that everything that people say and think about you does affect you to a certain degree that is not the issue. Some labels are about inclusion, most of them are about belonging. Immigrants here in the US is immediately attached to Mexican people crossing the border, by association (skin tone I guess) I am a Mexican as well. I have felt the discrimination and exclusion. Infiltrators is what some Israelis call African immigrants, same issue, same label… again skin color?

The hard part starts when people think you are not like the others. Like when people hear me speak English in a professional setting and they don’t notice my accent… then they start with the, well you are not like those people that don’t learn English… inside my head I am thinking, like my parents that speak broken English because they came here as adults and have done nothing but work hard in this country? or like my Grandma that had no interest in learning more than just the basics because there was no point to learn any more than that.

Even when the color of the skin does not give me away, I am not black… that does not mean that one of my closest friends that feels like a brother to me isn’t. Or the fact that I am not Mexican, yet my niece and nephew share half of that heritage in their blood. I am not trying to make you walk on eggshells around me either, I am just challenging you to think about your perception about what “those people” are.

Poverty is something that has had an effect on my better half growing up. While color might not be something she has dealt with as much as I have she has dealt with the poor thing before. Poor people are also looked down upon by others, “those people” that can’t afford this or that. Unless you have lived it in some way it is hard to relate to it, I understand. Just try to think about it before you generalize a group of people that you know nothing about. Try to find common ground and understand them rather than slap a label on them and call it a day.

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Secular

I like how the world sounds, it rolls off the tongue almost like popular. What is not very popular is discussing religion in this country of ours. While I do have many friends that are very open about their atheism and others very open about their faith, I find it very difficult to have an intelligent conversation about the subject in public. There is a category in my blog about the bible. I like the bible, I like bible study. I like discussion about the topic of faith… however, I hate religion.

I first became more aware of the weight of the world secular while attending an evangelical church. The indoctrination consisted of separating yourself from things of “the world” as if it was not something we were a part of. As a nerd, the concept of alternate realities is a common one and one that is fun to play with; but to constantly try to feel myself separate than the reality that I lived in was kind of weird to me. Eventually there was a breakdown on the whole facade. People that were “higher up” would constantly listen to the music that they told others to cast away. That whole duality did not sit well with me. The concept did stick with me though, if you don’t do things in the name of “insert imaginary friend” you are of the world.

I like dancing quite a bit, I grew up dancing salsa and giving that up is like giving up something that brings many wonderful memories I have with my Mom. One of my favorite moments that will stick with me forever is when she got remarried and I had the chance to dance with her. As we danced together I could see so many emotions in her teary eyes and I could see how happy she was. Some religions call that “of the world” and dancing is a bad thing that leads to sin. Stuff like that makes me take Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris a lot more seriously.

But is the universe really random? Is there no force that unite us all? Are we all alone?

So many constructs out there are meant to make us feel better, secure, happy and fall in line with society. Religion, god could be some of them. I find myself constantly wondering if a prayer is really not as powerful as it feels. Or also how it feels weird to just send positive thoughts to someone. Am I even as spiritual as I profess to be?

I wish I had more answers than questions. I do know that I don’t need religion as a moral compass, but dam this new pope is pretty awesome. I also go back and think about the conversation I had with a devout catholic and his very firm belief that Muslims were multiplying and we needed to keep up. I don’t understand the whole world, I don’t think anyone does. Not sure if I am becoming more secular as I get older but I do know I live in the world.

Somewhat Personal

Everyone feels pain in a different way, and I think part of the human condition is to think that your pain is greater than what others are feeling. Then you see someone in a worse position that you are mentally, physically or financially and you are grateful for what you have. At least I am… at least I try to be that way. I used to try to entice some conversation by bringing up a topic that I thought needed exploring and further understanding. I even at times resorted to “trollin” a bit for fun, then a good friend called me out on it and made me realize that truly you don’t gain anything (not even entertainment value) from the practice. True and honest communication is more important.

I lost my dog Friday night. I have been separated from a beloved pet before by someone else taking it, or having to move to another country or just the proverbial toilet flush of a dead fish that you had for years… but this week for the first time I lost my dog. Lucy had been the first animal to give me this level of unconditional love, ever. Sure my cat Shayla is still around and it will be hard to deal with when she is not since she has been with me for now 13 years… but she is a cat. She does give a crap sometimes but most of the time she is just, well, a cat. Lucy was not like that. We lost our other dog earlier this year and he liked me… well he kind of tolerated me and was not at all cool with me being the new alpha. He accepted it but did not have to like it. Lucy even though she was the biggest dog and capable of probably ripping anything to shreds in her path was gentle. She was always happy to see me, she was always looking for a chance to lick my elbow (I think she knew I hated that) and was content with simply just laying down close to me by the couch or in the office.

We don’t know what took her away from us… the vet has theories, but no real answers. She did not whimper, she did not cry out, she just went to sleep forever very peacefully right next to my side of the bed.

There is a post that I drafted years ago and never posted. It has to do with pets and pet ownership. I probably will never post it because it is in a way a form of trying to entice people to a conversation on pet ownership.

I hate having pets. Mostly because they are a huge responsibility in a world already full of those. I am also highly allergic to them (touch a cat, then touch my eye and yea watch them puff up.) I hate getting close to them and the fact that in American life we (see I said we) value more the life of an animal right next to us than other human beings. I hate the fact that there are so many irresponsible pet owners out there. I hate the fact that we create connections with these animals and at times those are stronger bonds we have with other humans.

In the end I love Lucy because of the unconditional love she provided to me during at times some very difficult moments. Life changes, I have a lot to be happy about right now… but it truly sucks that I lost my dog.

Ex·cep·tion·al

/ikˈsepSHənəl/
adjective
1.unusual; not typical.
“crimes of exceptional callousness and cruelty”
synonyms: unusual, uncommon, abnormal, atypical, extraordinary, out of the ordinary, rare, unprecedented, unexpected, surprising; strange, odd, freakish, anomalous, peculiar, weird;
“the drought was exceptional”

I have a huge chip on my shoulder. Every time someone that has never been outside of the U.S. of A. and they call ‘Murrica the best country in the world, it irks me. Not because I think that Colombia is the best country in the world (even though I think it is a happier nation.) but because I think to call something the best you at least have to have something to compare it to. I also discount military that have been “off base” during their duties because like tourists they probably never “lived” in those countries. For a country so set on assimilation and propagating democracy, this country does little to get to know anyone else. So again, unless you have lived in another country and has actually tried to learn a little about their culture you have no business calling America the best country in the world.

That said, America is great and exceptional. Careful though, exceptional does not mean necessarily better. If you did have the chance to read what Putin addressed to us “A Plea for Caution” it is quite a well crafted piece. I’ve had some time to digest it now and while I don’t dismiss it as propaganda I do see it as somewhat of a slap in the face. Not of America, not even of Obama, but it is a slap on the “World Police” mentality. The UN is or was supposed to be that… but are they?

What Putin wrote bothers me. It bothers me not because some of what he says is correct, heck most of what he says is correct… but how can a piece that ends up being somewhat arrogant calls the US arrogant. The part that bothers me the most is the “exceptional” comment. The US is exceptional in many ways, it is not a perfect country and I am quite critical of it and its society at times, but it is the land of opportunity. It is the land of inequality, just hidden a little better than in other places.

You have to understand that even though I was born in another country and sometimes feel more part of the “Fifth Estate” than anything else, I am American. I finished my schooling here, I have worked most of my life here, I continue to shape who I am as a human being here. I am an American. While I do dream of retiring somewhere else, I will always be grateful for the opportunities this exceptional country gave me and still gives me.

So to Mr. Putin (I almost called you “Pootie Poot” which is what we call him in our household) while I am not against the notion that we are all created equal under God, this country houses a lot of different people, and yes different does things out of the ordinary. This is an exceptional nation, and while maybe not the best or better than any other country in many respects This is still America and we will continue trucking on.

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