18 October 2020

No Justice, at all

In one of my previous posts, I said that your average dictatorship usually has lovely, complete, and just laws are written. When you read them, they are marvelous. For example, in my country of origin, there are written laws and procedures on how to deal with the inheritance so that nobody can con no heirs after losing the loved one. By those rules, courts, when the person dies, will start the inheritance procedure and inform all the heirs about the procedure. The statements of each heir will be taken, and the judge decides what is the fairest distribution of the deceased’s property. That’s what lawmakers wrote.

The catch is that law, as all others are simply not enforced as they should be, so something different happens. 

But I will backtrack a bit, pointing out what was going on in Poland in the last few years, and let you draw the parallels with the situation in the USA. So you probably heard that in Poland the current ruler is doing his best to remove old judges and install new ones. His argument is, he needs to remove judges from the old regime. The catch is the previous dictatorship did the same, removed old judges, and installed new-regime friendly ones. That is the standard approach in every dictatorship. After the second world war, when my country of origin transferred from Kingdom to socialism, all old judges were killed, and the new regime put new judges. The government informed people that the government is doing its best to remove remains of the old oppressive system who considered ordinary people unacceptable to live or decide for themselves and put the new judges who respect ordinary men and put the needs and wishes of the ordinary men first. 

That was an excuse. Every new judge was carefully vetted to show loyalty to the dictator and new leadership. If they were not supporting the “great leader”, they could not even get nominated for the position. Oh, there was a sham process to choose judges. I say sham because the last thing anyone was worried about was merit. No, who cares can the nominated person do the job and actually be a judge. It was important that the nominee supports the government and dictator. 

This results in no justice for the average citizen. Every court decision is made to support the dictator and government, and anything else is ignored or botched up. So now, let us go to the above example about the inheritance laws. For the average person, courts do not start the procedure. It waits till one of the surviving heirs requests it. Because courts do not care about the law. The person who requests it is the one who names other heirs, and I know about the case where the name of the other heir is spelled wrong, so the court does not inform them. After several times of no-show up, the judge usually just gives everything to the heirs who appeared and ignores the heirs who did not. So the very law, made to prevent trickery of the heirs, is in fact used for effective cons. 

Meaning, courts in a dictatorship are not there to help citizens but to ensure everyone stays in their places and follows the prevailing ideology. 

That’s what is behind Mitch’s court-packing during this presidential term and refusing to confirm any judge during the previous presidential term. In a real representative democracy, merit, not ideology, and political leaning should lead judges picking. 

20 September 2020

Why is not good when president is above the law?

The brief answer is because of corruption. 

When you have a ruler above the law, soon, citizens will lose respect toward that law, and corruption will grow. This happens simply because of human nature.

The current levels of governmental corruption and disregard of the laws are appalling to some of my USA friends and colleague.  All I can say, it can get worse. 

As a comparison, here is how your everyday life in a corrupt dictatorship looks like. 

Every dictatorship has two sets of laws. The official one that is fully valid for anyone without money or connection, and another, the unofficial one, for everyone who has either money or connections. 

Or to put it bluntly, if you have enough money or influence you do not have to worry about laws. Any laws.  

Things that the current USA administration does breaks laws and regulations brazenly because DOJ and Senate are enabling them is another illustration of how the average government in Dictatorship functions. That is an essential part of the dictatorship. Laws do not apply to a dictator and his cronies. 

Every dictatorship has laws, they are written, and marvelous, and just. But those rules are just words on paper because society does not enforce those laws and rules. The dictator, his cronies, family, and supporters are always above the law. 

Everyone else has to be subject to both laws and whims of a protected class. Because if you are wronged by a member of the protected class, even when the law is on your side, you’re screwed.

So what that mean in everyday life?

I will describe an interaction with the police. Because for me, descriptions of the Black people's police experience are uncannily similar to the dealing with the police in a dictatorship. 

Police stop you, a traffic stop. They do not explain why, and you should not ask. If you do, you’ll get in more trouble. The way white males treat police here in the USA is the fastest way to get into serious trouble in dictatorships. If you visiting one as a tourist, keep that in mind.

So, as soon as we hit pre-puberty and venture outside the family protection we get, let me call it, tips on how to deal with the police. I got those too. Accurate explanations on how to deal with police and why I should not look at them as good guys. 

So tips. The first one was, be polite. Always offer exactly the same story, no matter how many times they ask you the same question. Do not ask why they stopped you. Do not anger them, because the last thing you wish is to be arrested. Arresting means, in the best-case scenario, serious bodily harm. 

I was lucky; I had a cousin who ended up being a police officer. So my tips included mention your cousin. Ask them do they know him. Or do they know my neighbor who just recently joined the force? That diffuses negativity and increases the chances of you being released like nothing happened. I never wondered why. It works. Mention relative or friend who is a police officer and traffic stop turns into chit-chatting.

Usually, a police officer in a dictatorship just wishes a bribe. Then a dance starts. Officer will not ask directly for money, nor a person who is stopped should offer money directly. The whole procedure is done with winks, nods, and careful passing of the folded bill. 

Because paying a police officer is illegal. But since the dictator does not respect laws, citizens skim and cheat and break rules at every opportunity they can. Laws are something to show to your neighboring country as proof of how great a country we are, and not something that citizen follow. An adult version of ‘my dad is taller than your dad.’

I’ve seen these accouters countless times, with my father, uncle, friends. The corrupt dance is familiar, and one quickly learns how to dance. It happened to me, too. As a female, I also had to endure flirting, and flirt back, no matter how gross the male police officer was. Mentioning my cousin helped things stay, let me say, polite. 

The same goes for any other governmental service in a dictatorship. If you need something from the government, you have to follow the rules and pay the bribe to the clerk.  If you do not, you do not get the permit, or documents you need. There was a code name for a bribe. A blue envelope. Blue envelope was used for business and official governmental correspondence. And as a perfect vessel to give a bribe in plain sight. All sides could say that you were just offering the requested documents. We knew the better service we needed the thicker envelope will have to be.  

As I mentioned above, you are in a better position if you have any kind of influence, any kind of connection.  If you have a friend or relative that works in government or is a police officer, then you can get away without paying. Instead, you go to that friend or relative and ask them for a favor and they either give you a document, or make a ticket disappear. Depending on the position of your relative or friend, you can make even serious charges disappear. The higher up you or your friend are in dictatorship government, you can get away with more. 

Dictators and their family members could get away even with the heinous crimes. 

You will owe the favor to your connection. And that is another layer of dictatorship societies. Government is unreliable, so to have justice or any kind of protection, join a ‘tribe’.  Depending on the ideology that stands behind the dictatorship, your ‘tribe’ might be based on family, religion, or both. 

In such societies, there is another, hidden and crooked, a structure that is more important than the official society structure. It is a power structure that stems from the dictator and his cronies and seeps down, in pecking order until it reaches the lowest of the lowest. 

In such societies, organized crimes flourish. Because if you have a family member in some kind of mafia, you’re golden. You get protection from criminals, from racketeers, from government, and from the police. Usually, because Mafia has some connection with the dictator too, helping him earn more money. 

For average Joe, it is hard to live in such societies, because foremost, you have to blend in. Accept prescribed role in society. If you deviate from that role, you can either hide the deviation or leave. In my country of origin, they call anyone who deviates from the norm crazy. And they can call you crazy for the most innocent deviation. Nothing outside the norm is allowed. 

Once I was chatting with some fellows ex-pats from dictatorship (different dictators, same ideology used as an excuse). We were discussing some lady who liked to use a bicycle to commute. Those fellows ex-pats declared that lady was crazy, because she used a bicycle instead of car, like everyone in that area of the USA. And they were serious. The habits of generations living in dictatorship leave a mark. It is hard even to realize one needs not to be part of the tribe anymore. The urge to conform, to show that one belongs to normal members of the tribe, to the majority, and thus deserves the protection of the tribe was something those people could not get rid of. They left the dictatorship, but they brought their ‘tribe’ with them.

Anyway, I objected to the declaration of a woman being crazy for using a bicycle for commuting,  because I left the dictatorship mentality behind me. I spent time with people who grew up outside dictatorships and learned that there are countries where governments work, and laws apply to everyone, including government, president, and police. But that basically marked me as an enemy to those ex-pats. And they treated me like one. 

Everyday life is way better if you can live somewhere where laws are valid for everyone, and there is no need to form a tribe to have some kind of resemblance of normal life. It is way nicer if you can ride a bike to work without being declared crazy, just because riding a bike is a rare thing in your neighborhood. 

In my country of origin, I was declared crazy too, because I liked science fiction and engineering, things that were not seen as normal for a female. I will leave to your imagination what happened to LGTBQ people or people who were in any way different than the majority (names, religion, coloration, accents, anything really.) Because that is a hidden and ultimate cost of the dictatorship. Blend in to survive. And that means giving up anything that is not a norm in your environment. 

Letting a president be above law is the first step towards dictatorship. The question is, will you allow your society to take that step?

30 August 2020

Privatized Post Office

There is a big uproar about how USPS is not profitable. And current Postmaster General is excusing the changes he is doing by attempts to make USPS profitable. I call that bulls… t, but that is the topic for a different post. 

There are also grumblings that privatization of the service would make it better. 

It will not.

I’ve seen it happen. 

In another country. 

Let me tell you how privatization of the Post office there went. Before privatization, the post office was functioning, and was cheap enough that during the holiday season the only worry was to make sure that your holiday card is postmarked BEFORE your relatives send theirs to you! It was a bit of ridiculous competition, but I guess people need to have fun. 

Then the war came, the government and all government-funded services collapsed. The postal office was among them. There was a great excuse, “It’s war, what do you expect!”

I will not describe how pathetic postal service was during the war. Again, it was the war, and yes, sometimes it took 2 years for a letter to arrive from abroad. 

My brother received one of those. Fun.

Then war was over, and the general rush to privatize everything started. 

The post office was one target. 

It did not go well.

Because of war, people were poor, no jobs, so few of them send stuff through post. And prices climbed up. Last time I visited the country, in 2015, to send one postcard one had to pay around 0.003% of the median salary. 

For people who do not understand percentages, that’s like if you have median US salary of $4147 per month and you have to pay for postcard $13.47, letter abroad would cost you $25.92 and if you tried to send a standard package, shell out $580.58

You can guess what happened. People stopped using the post. If one needed to send anything to anyone, that person would find a friend or acquaintance and sent the package through them. 

Letters were not sent at all, because the post office is not only expensive but unreliable too.

With most of the population around the poverty line, it is common practice for postal workers to open letters and packages and steal content. And if there is nothing to steal, the letter is tossed in the trash to eliminate evidence. 

When I send holiday cards to my relatives in the old country, I do not close the envelope, if I do, they do not receive it. I get no cards from them, and because of the prices, I do not expect any cards. 

Serious documents are sent, usually with a return receipt, like correspondence from courts. That passes, but for one to send something to the court, boy, it is safer and smarter just to bring that to the court yourself.

Courier services exist. There is FedEx there, UPS, and a European version of USP, DHS. When I was there, I needed to send some documents abroad, and I had to pay for that pleasure approximately 0.345% of the local average income. Or to translate it to the USA salary range, an equivalent of $1430.72.

Actually, it was more expensive to send a document from my country of origin to the USA than from the USA to send the same document to my country of origin. I know, I checked. 

It pisses me off big time. 

This all the above is for urban centers. Fun is immense if you are living in a rural area. Courier services do not deliver in rural areas. They send you a notice, through the standard post office, that there is a shipment for you to pick up. And there is no standard post office delivery either. 

As a rural resident, you get a code, not a PO box, but a code, and you have to go to the assigned post office to pick up your own mail from time to time. 

The real trouble arose with shrinking profits. Because profits shrank, small post offices in various villages closed. So residents had to go to, first, bigger villages, and then, to the small towns, and then to bigger towns. See, no one trusts the post office anymore. No one sends anything, and because shareholders wish to profit, more staff and offices get closed. Only with shrinking post office investors can get some dividends. 

Quickly people learned that sending anything of value through the mail is equal as throwing it in the trash, and with rising prices of postage, even standard silly stuff, like holiday or birthday cards ceased. You can send text messages, or call, if a person is important, or send their wishes on Facebook. That’s free. 

And prices rose, and small post offices got closed down. 

Another illustration of how the situation is bad. Amazon does not send any packages to my country of origin. The only thing people there can buy from Amazon are digital deliveries (eBooks, music, downloadable movies, stuff like that). 

There is still a post office in my country of origin. As my relatives die, I get notification from the court in an envelope that confuses postal workers here. So I know there is still some kind of post office there. 

But it never got profitable after privatization. 

It got destroyed instead. 

Because the constitution of my country of origin does not state that the government has to establish a post office. 

You in the USA are lucky, your constitution says that. People in the USA have a recourse to save the post office. 

Police country tactics

Did you ever stop and think about the broader implication of the police stamping down the protests?

Let me put that question in a different form.

Did you ever wonder how come that Northern Koreans do not raise against their dictator after decades of mistreatment?

If you asked yourself that second question but not the first, then you are not realizing how lucky you are to live in the country that has First Amendment. 

I grew up in the country with no protection of the speech. And citizens considered criticizing government particularly dangerous. 

My country of origin did not start like that. My grandparents were telling me that after the second world war, everything was full of vigor and passion and wish for a better society. But then, slowly, the government started squeezing the population. 

It started very similar to what is going on now with police and protests. The government got an excuse with a rise of Stalin to remove itself from the Eastern block and stamp down the evil Stalinist who wanted to turn our country into Soviet Union colony, as they did with most of the other Eastern block countries. 

My grandparents told me, police beat people who dared to protest. The police came and took away people who organized protests. No one ever saw those people again. 

My grandparents told me that’s how it started.

It did not stop.

The danger of Stalin went away. But the tactic used by the government of my country of origin did not change. There were always some other enemies. 

No one ever protested. I grew up in a country where only protests appeared just before the country slid into civil war. Nothing before. Regardless of how bad it was.

The police stamping down protests is usually just the first step in securing dictatorship. There is another little action dictators do to make sure people do not organize. 

The next step declared that there are spies among us. And that genuine patriots report spies and suspicious behavior. It did not take long before people seized such tactics as a great way to get rid of annoying people. 

Your neighbor is pissing you off? Easy, say he was glorifying Stalin. Police arrests troublesome neighbors and your problem is gone. 

I grew up watching TV comedy shows about such incidents, a funny story about two neighbors where one neighbor caused the other to be shipped off to “Goli Otok”, a desolate island with political prisoners. All my family laughed at the show. And the entire family ignored the inconvenient fact that I grew up with my mother snarling at me not to repeat anything I hear in the house. 

During my parent’s generation times, the government declared Sorosh an enemy who was sending spies. Yes, believe or not, a country with officially Communist, the left government considered Sorosh evil. Do not be surprised. Sorosh promoted democracy, and the government at the time was de facto dictatorship and oligarchy. Communism was just a handy ideology to exploit. Dictatorships do that, they use religion, ideology, conspiracies, whatever works to convince people there are enemies around and only dictator can save them. 

So the same tactics continued. I grew up with parents telling me not to trust anyone outside our family. I should not even trust family members who had friends that worked as police. 

My family had an awful experience with family members who were working for the police. This happened when I was too little to remember details. But, according to my mother, a distant relative who worked as a police officer arrested my uncle to push up his own career. My uncle was a stupid teenager hanging out with other stupid teenagers and doing silly stuff. According to my mother, my uncle did nothing wrong but ended up going to prison because he did not wish to snitch on his friends. 

What was behind the entire event, I do not know. I never heard the other side. But I know that my mother’s version was considered possible. It was well known that one has to be careful about whom to believe. 

And that’s how dictators take full control. First, you beat the crap out of the protesters, arrest, and kill protest leaders declaring them the enemy of the society. And to prevent protests even to appear, start awarding people who report their neighbors as enemies.  

In the end, governments end up with a population who can see that things are going badly but cannot do or say anything because they do not trust other people around them. If you say something police will grab you and kill you in the night.  If someone else says something, how can you be sure they are not government agents trying to provoke you to say something wrong and get into trouble? 

In the end, that’s how the civil war started in my country. A bunch of extremists started yelling, and everyone else went silent. People like me thought they were the only ones who thought that war is wrong, that ideas which were pushed were wrong. I and countless others never dared to raise a voice in protest. And I still wonder if we did, maybe all that bloodshed would not happen.

So, I will finish up this by saying treasure your First Amendment. The ability to criticize the government, to assemble, is precious. Treasure it. 

As long as there is First Amendment neither you nor your neighbor will end up being tortured and killed. 

Protect First Amendment and do not trust any government that tells you protests are riots. In 9 out of 10 cases, they are not.

21 August 2020

Civilian view of a war

I survived one civil war. And I live among the Trump supporters, although I’m not one. So, I keep thinking about how the situation here is similar to the situation just before the war started in my country of origin. 

My newest pet peeve is idiocrasy of people around me believing that somehow, civil war will make the situation better for them. 

It will not. 

When a war starts, your life, as it was before the war will never come back. Never. 

If you are in a shitty situation now, you might think the disruption of today’s society will do you good. War might be a good idea. You hope you will end up on top. 

Wrong. I can tell you that every single person in my country of origin thought they will be one that will end up on top.  After the war finished, none of them ended up better than they were before the war. Every single one was worse off. 

Everything you have will be lost, and more stuff you have and more savings you have, more you’ll lose. So all property, all retirement savings, all little mementos you find precious, all will be lost. All your plans for the future will be tanked. Everything. Especially if you live in the area surrounded by people that see you as an enemy. 

The only persons who suffer the least damage from the war are people rich enough to transfer their life and everything they have outside the war zone, or sociopaths who focus on their personal gain. Because war, civil war, is not like in the movies. Remember movies have to be exciting, make sense and end up on an up note for creators to earn money. I guess you have enough life experience to know life is not like that. 

So what happens? Well, people try to cling to the idea of saving the old life, somehow returning things to pre-war normal. So society does not disappear, instead, it turns into some kind of zombie where bullies and sociopaths get to set the rules. An average person is just trying to get by. An average person is hoping beyond hope that somehow old life will come back. And sociopaths use that hope to force people to work without pay, to pretend that everything is just a small minor crisis and it will be over soon, you’ll see. 

“Be patriotic”, they say while they steal the last bit of food you have. 

Sociopaths use hope to trick other people into sacrificing for “a greater good”. Often sociopaths use the same ideology used to justify war. But, sociopaths are just sucking the life out of the rest of population for the personal gain.  

So, the least damage happens if you leave at the very beginning with all of your belongings. Then you can keep most of its previous life. 

Very few people leave. There is another characteristic which never fails — people don’t believe that war will start. 

So, when a war starts, it takes some time for people to accept that their life is irreparably changed. 

Some people never do. They linger for years after the war, bitterly complaining about their awful luck and how other people f- them over. 

You are in a bit better position if you’re surrounded by people on your side. Then you just need to pretend, and pretend good, that you are fully and with no reservation devoted to your side. Every day you have to show the belief that no matter what your side does, an action cannot be wrong. 

Depending on how good you are in that pretending less damage you will suffer. But you will suffer some damage and loss because the entire country, the entire society will. One cannot get a decent slice of the pie when there is no pie left. And war, especially civil war, destroys the whole pie. 

Oh, you might think I’m with good guys. The catch is, good guys, do not win. Because every side thinks of themselves to be good guys. Winners later declare themselves good guys. And winners conveniently paper overall actions that are not suitable for the good guys. Just think about how in the USA you have two different perceptions of what was going on in the last Civil war. 

Ideas that your group is good, and the other side is subhuman is the standard tactic used throughout history to make wars more acceptable to the general population. It has nothing to do with the truth. You believe that you are better than the other side is a just symptom of manipulation by your leaders. People and life are way more complex and never so simple as binary good and evil.

I’ve heard options of running away and camping in the forest, while the things calm down. Yes. People do that. And they are called refugees. Running for your life means you run with what you can grab to carry. And that is ALL you will have from your old life. Running away throws you at the mercy of the others. And people have little mercy. I’ve seen how refugees are treated during the war. Even refugees that are supposedly on your side. 

I’ve seen refugees digging through the trash to fight off starvation. Often they could not. Yes, I’ve seen refugees dying from starvation. And no, I could not give them anything, because neither I nor my family had enough to eat. During the war, I lost so much weight that my period stopped. For males in the audience, that means weight loss similar to one caused by anorexia. Mercy does not even cross your mind when you’re hungry and suffering. Your own stomach overpowers it. 

All inclusions, all rights, you think you have, disappear. If you are not in your life prime,  strong,  without scruples, you are automatically second or even third-class citizen. Women, disabled, minorities, children, old people, anyone different  loses rights. Even if you a young, strong male of the right color, if you dare to have morals and point out wrongdoings of your side, you lose rights. That’s why I hate dystopian movies and shows that ignore this “minor” fact.

There is another complication in the USA that did not exist during the war in my country of origin. My country of origin was tiny, and the world could force the bloodthirsty sociopaths to put down the weapons and make peace. Even then it took 2-3 years. 

The USA is not small, and it is geographically isolated. I cannot speculate how things will go in the USA. But I know that in my country of origin sociopaths and so-called “leaders” prolonged war because they also controlled the black market. Although I am not sure one can call market black when it is controlled by leaders. 

There is no happy ending with war. 

If you think the economy is bad now, think twice. After the war,  most of the factories and companies are moved away, or destroyed, or looted. In my country of origin the unemployment rate before the war was around 11%, after the war it was 70%. 

And profiteers, the same bastards that were selling humanitarian aid to you instead of giving it, they end up connecting themselves with politics so they are protected when new society and new order takes place after the war. Yep, that happens too. If you thought corruption is rampant now, wait till war starts. My country of origin now is more corrupt than it was before the war. War does not remove corruption. In the best-case scenario, it exchanges one set of corrupt people to a fresh set. But in the average case, war makes corruption blossom. I was not joking about selling humanitarian aid. Throughout the war, I was eating cans of food, purchased in a local grocery store, that stated in English “not for sale”. But when profiteers are people who set rules, you cannot complain. 

Wars drag out the worse in humans. If you think humanity is bad, you saw nothing till you see what we do in the war. 

People you thought are nice, people you thought you know, end up being or behaving as a war criminal. The boys, I played with, turned to be war criminals. A nice lovely neighbor who was so friendly, a war criminal. There is no knowing who will turn to be a monster. 

See if the monsters think you’re on their side, they will behave nicely towards you. The only red flag is the way they talk about “the others”. But if you make a wrong step, or disagree with something they said about “the others” soon, you will feel the full brunt of their monstrosity. 

I’ll finish this long post by repeating the most important point you need to take from all this. War will not make you better off. No matter where is your starting point, you will end up worse off. Even if you lose nothing material, you will end up with PTSD. That part is unavoidable for anyone who survives the war. The only intensity of PTSD varies.

Do not get sucked into the warmongering. Nothing good comes from war. Nothing.

21 June 2020

Writing as non-native speaker

The start of this blog will sound superfluous. I’m as any other wannabe writer. Voracious reader, read and written stories since childhood. 
I published my first short story when I was 19 in my native language, but then civil war broke, and my writing ran, not merely to a back-burner, but got buried and forgotten in the basement.
Not that I fled the stories. No, I love stories, and enjoy reading/watching stories every day. And Star Trek and science fiction stories were part of the thread that kept me sane during the war. Those stories helped me preserve some hope in humanity and future. 
Finally, I revisited that basement, and I got an idea of writing in English. And my long trek towards that goal started.
Before I began with the writing adventure, I already spoke the English language well. I had to, as a scientist. I had to write scientific papers in English. I had to give public talks and lectures in English. I attended grad-school lessons in English.
But that knowledge was not sufficient for writing. When I started writing stories, I learned that I still have to work on my English. I imbedded my writing syntax and logic into logic and syntax of my native language. And I’m still fighting with that issue. Seems like it is a never-ending struggle. 

So, in 2018 I published my first fan-fiction story, and it elated me. Not much because fan site published my story, but because editor corrected a handful of my words, and added that the rest is perfectly fine for reading. 

That gave me a boost to continue. Now I’m writing a bunch of short stories and submitting them to the magazines. And with every story, I’m learning more, applying what I learn and seeing my short story adventure as a test of my English language. When I get good enough in English, I will sell the original fiction story, not just fan-fiction. 

I’m still taking courses, immersing myself into writers' community, and visiting the writer’s conferences. 
Right now I’m taking part in Summer Festival of Writing, organized by Jericho Writers. It is an online show, which I find a blessing now. It is easy to take part, and it reduces all expenses to the ticket price. It is harder to socialize and make connections, but somehow acceptable for the first attempt at the attending a writer’s event.
And I just completed the Workshop, online, from The Writers of the Future. So I’m continuing with my efforts. And who knows, maybe I will sell the story this year…

14 June 2020

Review: So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me start with a little personal introduction. I'm an immigrant, arrived in the USA in 2008 after Obama was elected. When I fulfilled conditions for citizenship, I took it because I considered the USA's overall direction to be the correct one. Today is actually the anniversary of my taking the oath and becoming a citizen. I still treasure the letter that I got from Obama for the occasion.
Growing up in a small, south-eastern European country, poor enough not to attract any people of color to immigrate, made me utterly ignorant of race-related problems. 
So when the protests erupted, I bought this book and read it faster than I read any other book in the last decade.

And content hit me hard. The experiences the author describes as her everyday life, as something that every person of color has to go through daily, is horrific.
And I say that because I went through similar emotional anguish during the civil war in my country of origin. That fear of uniformed and armed people is something I experienced too.  Being hungry, being in rags, being judged, being forced to conform or risk beating and death, a dread of being stopped by people in uniforms, I went through all of that. 
I know how damaging such experience is to a person, how hard it is to live a life under such constant pressure. It is not living, but mere survival. 
I was lucky, the war lasted only 5 years, and then I could continue living. 
But now, a knowledge there are humans around me that experience such horror throughout their lives, it makes me sick. That has to change. That really has to change. No one deserves to live in such constant terror. 
When you decide to read this book, keep my words in your mind. As a civilian who survived a war, I can tell you that the book's experiences are eerily similar to the average experience of civilian war survivors. 
So whatever melatonin levels are in your skin, you should try to do something to help your fellow humans. 

And, as a white person, I cannot end this post without actually giving opinions about white supremacy.  My skin color exposed me to the direct excuses those eejits use to justify themselves. And those excuses can be boiled down to a pure fear of competition, lack of significant talents or skills, and ultimate laziness.  Every single racist I meet was either lazy, stupid, talentless, or any combination of three. In conditions of the increased and more robust competition, they cannot succeed. The racist answer is to use aggression to eliminate competition instead of exerting an honest effort to become a better human.  That's why I despise them. 
People like that will not limit themselves to just eliminate competition based on skin color. In situations where everyone is the same color, people like this find different ways to "thin the competition." They will use gender, religion, a particular region of origin, anything. Any excuse to declare other groups of humans less then is acceptable. Any reason to eliminate competition is a good one for them. If you know such a person, call them up for what they truly are and call up excuses for what they truly are.

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