I just spent most of the day in bed. Things started out well enough, and then – I got on Facebook. From then on, my day turned crappy, but I completely admit that it was partially self-induced. As I browsed my news feed, reading the articles posted by my friends on a variety of subjects, I was overcome with a sense of sadness, grief, helplessness and anger.
As a DiploMom, my friends are far-reaching, diverse, and well educated. They live on 6 of the 7 continents, speak over 25 languages. They are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, Deist, and New Age. They are black, white, Asian, and Middle Eastern. They hail from the United States, India, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, Germany, France, Peru, Columbia, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic, Palestine, Israel, and Canada – to name a few. Many hold dual citizenship, have given up their original citizenship, or hold green cards. Several have lived abroad in cultures they weren’t raised in, and are straddling the line between where they live and love and where they are from. Many raise children outside their “home country”.
So of course, such a population is going to have political opinions. And will be vocal about them. Palestine and Israel. Ferguson, MO. These items have come up repeatedly in my news feed as of late, and have just weighed on my soul more heavily than usual.
As a DiploMom, I am (rightly or wrongly) often looked to for the “American Take”. Questions from friends of other nationalities. Comments on a link I post. A discussion from a stranger on the street, initiated for no other reason than he or she can “see” my Americanness by my clothing (no matter how much black I wear in Europe, or how much batik in Africa), my skin tone and hair, or simply the way I stand. I’ve often felt that it’s unfair to ask me for my opinion, or to rail on me simply for an accident of my birth. After one particular conversation immediately post 9/11 I felt like saying, “Dude – you have as much of a chance changing U.S. foreign policy by yelling at me as I do changing German foreign policy by registering my outrage at the local Standesamt.” ( For those of you not in the know, that’s where you do all your marriage business in Germany.) Instead, I swallowed my words, smiled, and waved goodbye to him once the bus I had been waiting for finally, finally arrived. He needed an American to vent to. I fit the bill.
On the other side, some of my American friends think that my experiences abroad have equipped me with some kind of special knowledge about world events. Alternatively, they think that I am so out of it because I’ve been living among foreigners for the last several years, that I can’t possibly understand the American Point of View. Cuts both ways in that regard.
It’s a difficult thing to navigate. I am more aware of my Americanness than most of my peers who have never left the U.S. I know this, because I used to be one of them. Weekly, if not daily, I am called, albeit not officially, and not always directly, to defend or explain my home nation. Being “associated” with the Consulate or Embassy only serves to intensify the curiosity of others, and rightly or wrongly to give a sort of “rightness” to my own, personal, view.
I don’t always give my personal view. Nope, sometimes, I keep my very big mouth shut. Or I turn it about and say, “What do you think?” Honestly, I often find the opinions of others so much more interesting that what I have to say.
Politics, both national and world, definitely play a part in my life. As an FS family, we are interested in them. We read about what is going on in the world. DiploDad and I discuss it over a glass of wine once the kids are in bed, before we engage in some mind-numbing television show to try and block out the intensity. Our kids are aware of things other kids just don’t have to be, and we explain things in terms that we wish we didn’t have to sometimes.
But sometimes the opinion mill is too hard to take, the news too sordid and depressing, and the feeling of helplessness weighs around your neck like a millstone. And then you have to form your opinion anyway – even if you don’t voice it everywhere, even if you know it will hurt some people, even if it will hurt your own soul.
The way I look at it, the top two issues of the day – Ferguson, MO and the Israeli/Palestine conflict, are very similar. Hate. Fear. Love. Understanding. Lack of each of them and an excess of each of them, all at the same time and in varying degrees. Both are issues the U.S. is involved in, either because it is within her borders and a domestic issue, or because of her strong interests in peace, stability, and yes – economics. It comes up, definitely. Similarly dominant issues have come up in the past.
I can’t comment on the complexity of the issues on either subject. I am a “jack of all trades, master of none” and while I get the basics, I’m not an expert. In the Ferguson case, I’m not from Missouri. I’m not black. I’m not the mother of a black son. I’m not a police officer, and no one in my family is a cop. With respect to Israel and Palestine, I’m not a Muslim. I’m not a Jew. I’ve never visited that particular region. In some respects, it would seem that I have no dog in the fight.
Still, I watch the news feed and the events unfold and what I do feel, most intensely, is the grief that a human being would feel. That I, as a mother feel, when I see someone’s son gunned down for no reason other than his skin color and an overabundance of guns in our society. That protective feeling amps up again when I see the photographs of three Jewish teenagers who will never come home, or four little Palestine children killed while frolicking on the beach. I feel the sorrow, the anger, and the pain in these situations – something that transcends politics, world power, religion, order, and removes any kind of justification in my mind that anyone may have for such permanent damage of lives.
I do not explain my country’s reactions, involvement, or official viewpoints. That’s not my job. See my byline if you think it is and reread it until you absorb it. I am, to be sure, a DiploMom. But that was more an accident than a choice, and while I accept it and embrace it, it is not what influences me the most when I read my friends’ posts and links on the events of the day. What affects me most is being a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a mentor, and a friend. The relationships I have with others in all their joy, complications, love, and wonder. That we all have, the world over. For which I grieve, with intense sorry and empathy, when I think of all the loss that is overwhelming our world today. And I crawl back under the covers to shut the world out for a little longer.