An Open Letter to my Republican Friends

Republican Elephant & Democratic Donkey by DonkeyHotey

I grew up in that swing state.

I went to University in a red state (North Carolina).
I have lived in five states across our union and have laughed at the dinner tables of atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus alike. We debated whether a black man was electable; sent each other holiday cards in distance locations, and most of all, we listened. To each other. To others. We may have disagreed with the other side but we didn’t hate or ridicule or humiliate them.
I’ve been an expat now for ten years. So maybe this is why I find what I’m seeing online and hearing on TV incomprehensible.
Maybe it isn’t the Republican or Democratic parties that need changing. Maybe it’s me.
I want to know, especially from my Republican friends (if they’re still talking to me, a liberal independent): do you think it’s okay for everyone – particularly an aspiring leader – to spout racist epithets on international media? And please help me understand how “speaking your mind” without a filter is a qualification for leadership. In that case, as we know, due to my signature bluntness, I’m candidate number one!
Remind me when we decided it was okay to fabricate videos and rumors about non profit agencies that give vital medical services to women because we don’t agree with some of the procedures?
And while we’re at it, don’t our elected leaders have an obligation to fill an opening in one of the highest courts in the land? Or will we let them shirk their duties because they think it can wait?
What, in short, is going on with our country?
Please explain to me how any of this counts as democracy. Because from where I stand, fear mongering and a desire for power are making would be leaders out of people rapidly becoming experts at how to issue farcical sound bites.
In the America I remember, the one I made my second home, the one my immigrant parents eagerly sought out as a place of intelligence and opportunity, someone like that would have disappeared years ago, long before “Super Tuesday.”
But maybe, as they say, my memory is faulty. And were I to come home now, there would be no trace of the place or people I remember.
PS: Please let’s not blame the media. After all, don’t they show what their audience wants to see?

How to be the Only Brown Person for Miles

Me and Laura
Me and Laura

This past weekend was a historic moment for several reasons. My college roommate, friend of 18 years, got married. She happens to be from Remlap, Alabama. This was a state I had not previously visited. She, however, has made countless trips back and forth over the last 8 years to see me and our growing family.

“When you get married,” I said to her years ago, “I’ll come to Alabama.”

Cue July 11, 2015.

The day was hot, reminiscent of the desert where we normally live, upwards of 100 degrees. The bride was beautiful, her skin like alabaster.

And I was the only non-white person in attendance. I had mentally prepared for this possibility. The reality of the sea of white faces reminded me of the seven other weddings I had been in. My Indian features stood out each time I stood up for my friends across various churches in North Carolina.

“I am the brownest thing here,” I said to the wedding coordinator.

She surprised me by sharing the story of her sister’s adoption of a bi-racial boy.

“When I go into stores with him, I can see people see me differently,” she said in that southern drawl I found enchanting. “It makes me sad.”

In the age of police abuse and debates about the legacy of southern states, this small conversation helped frame for me that the only way around these divisions is through our relationships with one another.

Have you had any uncomfortable encounters?

Secrets to Losing Your Phone and Not Your Mind

Sync iPhone 4 by Julien Gong Min

We bumped down the road, a friend’s custom designed home receding in the background, and I said: “I can’t find my phone.”

On the first Friday of the new year, we were on a road trip, racing back through North Carolina to dinner with another set of friends in Virginia.

In the last three weeks there had been a 14 hour flight home for Christmas, a jaunt into Rhode Island for New Year’s, and two book events.

Did I mention two children under the age of 5 were in tow?

The tail lights of my friend’s car were receding through the country lanes, guiding us to I-85.

“Tell them!” My husband, in the height of playoff season, glued to his screen, said in alarm. “This is crazy. What will do you without your phone?”

“They’ll mail it to me,” I said. A zen-like calm descended on me. He didn’t have their number, so we had no way of contacting them, even as our cars sped apart on the highway.

I have been phone free for a week and three days to the amazement of friends and colleagues.

“How are you coping?” A friend asked at the party. Her raised eyebrows signaled that I spent more time on phone while around other people than perhaps talking to them.

“I feel great!” I said. I wasn’t lying. No more reaching for the device in the middle of the night, even at 4am when the kiddos were up with jet lag. Instead I spent an hour practicing mindfulness.

Rather than ruminating on email messages or scrolling through Facebook, my mind was like a wind tunnel.

“What about the kids?” A mommy friend asked.

“I told the nursery to call his father.” And it felt great to share the responsibility.

“How can I reach you?” A friend posted on Facebook.

“Old school,” I replied. “Email me.”

This bubble can’t last. The semester is picking up and life will become increasingly hectic. There may be car accidents and spikes in fever, emergency requests for information, or bank SMS that need replies.

So I ordered a new phone, saying a farewell to the other one, wherever s/he may be: crammed in the corner of the rental car? Under the carpet in the glass paneled living room?

Next time, I’ll be sure to turn on the Find My Phone app while the battery is still on. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the chance to order a new phone.

And to prove to my friends and family that I am not glued to my screen.