Sunday, March 26, 2017

O.J.: Made in America. 45: Making America SAD!



Going from having his number on a football jersey to his number beneath a police mug shot, O.J. Simpson’s rise from ghetto to NFL glory and then his precipitous downfall, is like something out of Shakespeare. I just ended an addictive relationship with the series, O.J.: Made in America. The documentary series is a paradigm of justice prevailing. It’s also a cautionary tale to beware of charming sociopaths, people like our fake president, who despite all their fatal flaws, manipulate people into liking them.

I was twelve when the verdict came out, so I was probably more interested in my hair color at the time than seeing the killer get his comeuppance, but I remember being disappointed in the jury’s decision. Hearing Nicole Brown’s 911 calls and seeing her bruised and battered face on TV had scarred me. Around the time of the O.J. Simpson case, I could hear my neighbor beating his wife at night, his thunderous, incoherent rage and her pleading screams creating the most gut-wrenching dissonance my twelve-year-old eardrums had ever endured. I didn’t know anything at the time about the mental and emotional abuse that came with physical abuse and how all that abuse could warp a woman’s judgment, so I could not figure it out and kept asking myself, “Why doesn’t she leave him?”

O.J. Simpson was a classic sociopath who used people for his own benefit. He cared nothing about the Civil Rights Movement. He didn’t want to be involved or show support to the black community struggling to stay alive and fighting for their rights. He was content with being called a football hero, although in reality, he was no hero in any sense of the word. He cared only about himself. When the mostly black jury went on a completely irrelevant tour of his home, his defense team had already redecorated in an attempt to make O.J. seem blacker and more caring about just causes. Down went all the framed photos of himself and his white friends that had covered the walls. They were replaced with photos O.J. had probably never seen before of him and black people. A Norman Rockwell painting of Ruby Bridges went up as well, a deceitful attempt to portray a wolf in sheep’s clothing to a very gullible jury.

One of the photos that had been deemed too white and possibly off-putting to the jury was of O.J. and our fake president. It was taken down and replaced with something that made O.J. seem a little more down-to-earth. When I saw the photo, it struck me just how similar these two reprehensible characters are. Both like to decorate with photos and paintings of themselves. Both are capable of manipulating a large population of people into thinking they care about them. But in reality, they don’t care about them. Just like a child abuser will select the most vulnerable victim, these two were able to sap all the support they could from marginalized communities. In O.J.’s case, it was the black community which had been suffering under systematic racism, and in 45’s case it was lower-, working-class white people who were struggling to make ends meet and watching too much FOX News.

Now we’re seeing how little 45 cares about the American people. People are starting to learn that just because someone badmouths Mexicans and Muslims, doesn’t mean he cares about poor white people either. That group of people is just a means for him to rise to power.

I am already referring to our fake president as a number. That’s because I don’t want to contribute, even in a minuscule way, to him profiting off of his own name brand. Hopefully, as more evidence bubbles to the surface, he will become more impeachable, and perhaps even imprisonable. After watching O.J.: Made in America I have witnessed the fact that this level of hubris doesn’t bode well, even for the most wealthy and charming of sociopaths. God willing, 45 will soon be an inmate number as well. 


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Microfriendliness

In an attempt to explain the racial subtext of the movie Get Out to a class of Turkish high school students, I gave some American perspective on why it’s such an interesting idea for a film. I mentioned microaggression and gave a couple examples, such as fondling black women’s hair, or squeezing a black man’s muscles in an inappropriate display of flattery. This kind of invasiveness is reminiscent of the days of slavery when white people felt entitled to put their hands on black people and inspect them physically on the auction block. I gave an example of a Turkish woman jokingly telling me she has “black person’s throat” before bursting into gravely song. No matter the good intentions, comments like these reinforce stereotypes that black people sing like Louis Armstrong and Howlin’ Wolf, or that it’s okay to treat black people like physical objects of white people’s fascination.

A student with an unwavering smile offered the paradoxical expression “positive racism” and I couldn’t help but laugh. Amidst all of the awful news reports I hear every time 45 says or tweets something stupid, I’m grateful to those who make me laugh and help me see the bright side of life. Kellyanne Conway coined the expression “alternative facts,” but I found that to be less charming and funny, probably because she doesn’t have the luxury of being fifteen. I’m still reeling from Ben Carson calling slaves immigrants who “worked harder for less” and had a dream that their descendants might pursue prosperity.

Anyway, I believe that when people lose control of big things, they turn their attention to minor things, even on a subconscious level. British people lost their empire and later they turned their efforts to defending the Falkland Islands. Early Americans lost the right to own slaves, so they substituted slaveholding with discrimination and violence and microagrression.

Where big problems loom, but no one knows how to fix them, people turn to petty gossip, micromanaging, and being nitpicky and rude. When the problems of the world seem overwhelming, I think, “So many people need help. How is it possible to help so many people?” Since microaggression is so prominent, I wonder why can’t we have microfriendliness or microempathy? Just give a little here and there.

This idea came to me when my friend mentioned a charity to help someone we know who is going through very hard times. I needed something uplifting, like people helping other people, to lift me out of my microcomplaining mindset. (The grocery store was out of strawberry milk!) I haven’t given my contribution yet, but my resolve to do so has me already feeling better, strawberry milk or no strawberry milk.

A couple of my friends have suggested that I keep a gratitude journal, but I think I might instead keep track of the opportunities I take to help or somehow uplift other people. Even just smiling and displaying a friendly face to people who have had a hard day is an act of microfriendliness.  Although a simple smile or small contribution may not seem like much, it can reverberate like an echo and reach many people in the end. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Walking My Imaginary Dog


A Turkish friend has recently introduced me to an old sport, and when I say, “old sport,” I’m not talking about terms of endearment in The Great Gatsby, although I would much prefer reading The Great Gatsby and relaxing in my recliner to participating in any sports these days. This sport isn’t tennis or discus throwing or anything that requires skill. It’s walking. Just plain old, ordinary walking. I used to love walking in Portland, back when I had a dog, and back when I lived downtown. But these days all I want to do is read. I might as well buy one of those mermaid sleeping bags that keep popping up in online advertisements. Who needs legs anyway? I can be a mermaid who reads all day.

Today I struck a deal with my lazy mermaid self and purchased three new books while I was on my walk. Now I have new books by Julio Cortazar, Margaret Atwood, and Evelyn Waugh. I really don’t need new books, but I figured after so many steps, I had earned them.

My walking buddy sends me photos of the sights she sees on her walks. Sometimes we meet up for our therapeutic walks and appreciate the sights together. We slipped into a very interesting store in Kadikoy that doubled as a woman’s home. She sold everything from action figures to furniture. A surplus of cats had taken over the home/store and the shop keeper greeted us in her pajamas and bathrobe. She apologized for the smell and told us, “I’m also living here.” I enjoy these quirky encounters on our walks.

My friend and I snap pictures of dilapidated Ottoman houses, and ramshackle gates that people have built out of found materials. For some reason, I take interest in things that are literally falling apart and deem them photo-worthy. But when I walk along the Bosporus and take in a gorgeous view of this city I love, I think about principles that are falling apart, trust that is falling apart, standards and ideals that are falling apart. Like America, Turkey has a sturdy foundation and a brave founder to whom people owe everything. Without Ataturk, there would be no Turkey. Without our founding fathers, there would be no America as we know it. I think about the strong foundation and the great minds who helped build our country and then I think about the mad man who is currently running the show. When that thought creeps into my mind, even the most beautiful view becomes clouded with melancholy.

An ex-boyfriend wrote to me yesterday to ask if I had participated in the Women’s March in Washington, DC. No, but I have the pink yarn to make a hat. A Women’s March was going to be held in Istanbul on Women’s Day, which is March 8th, but it was banned by Turkish authorities. No big surprise there. I honestly wouldn’t have participated in the march, for the same reason I don’t go out walking with a bullseye on my chest. My best bet is to take part in my own one-woman marches on a daily basis. I don’t need a lousy Women’s Day as some kind of consolation prize for all the discrimination and crimes against women. Do you want to know how to make this year’s Women’s Day really special? Impeach 45. That would be a good way to start making amends.