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To Bully a Sikh
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
"Being alone somewhere where you’re the only individual of that type really takes a toll on you. Being the only Sikh going around with a turban, or with a patka in this case, it really made me stand out."
The definition of bullying is difficult to pin down sometimes. Harneel “Neel” Singh shares his experiences of going to school in the U.S. and wearing his patka. He helps us understand that what some consider talking smack or harmless kidding are more injurious than that. They are demeaning a person who demonstrates his faith as a young Sikh in the public education system in the United States.
This infographic from the National Post does an incredible job of illustrating what is politically important at the current moment and in moments of the SOTU past, at least since 2001. As a public media project that focuses on issues of meaning and the big questions at the center of human life, some of the “softer” words that get at the human condition this — ideas such as hope, future, peace, and family — take a back seat to grittier, more practical issues: jobs, energy, taxes, and house/home. For this observer, the expected word choices of these two U.S. presidents gets turned on its head.
Riven means broken, it means shattered or wounded or unhealed, and I think that notion is very important to me and my notion of God and of religion: that we are broken creatures, very broken creatures. And I don’t think of God as necessarily healing that brokeness as much as participating in it.
Raindrops pour down the statue of late U.S. author Gertrude Stein in New York’s Bryant Park. (photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)
"You always have in your writing the resistance outside of you and inside of you, a shadow upon you, and the thing which you must express. In the beginning of your writing this struggle is so tremendous that the result is ugly…but the essence of that ugliness is the thing which will always make it beautiful. I myself think it is much more interesting when it seems ugly, because in it you see the element of the fight … the vitality of the struggle." —Gertrude Stein, How Writing Is Written
Naturalist and author Terry Tempest Williams used the phrase “the vitality of the struggle” in our interview to explain that she doesn’t have the answers to the broad rhetorical questions (e.g., “What do we do?”) people sometimes bring to her.
This phrase resonated with our senior editor, and Krista soon supplanted the show’s working title with this instead. Williams noted on our reflections page that this phrase is inspired by American writer and thinker Gertrude Stein. Williams writes:
"I have always held that phrase close. It does feel like poetry because it holds the paradox of our human condition."
In 2005, just a few months after Ta’er Hamad had been arrested, she wrote:
After your son was captured, I spent many sleepless nights thinking about what to do, should I ignore the whole thing, or will I be true to my integrity and to the work that I am doing and try to find a way for closure and reconciliation…
…I understand that your son is considered a hero by many of the Palestinian people, he is considered to be a freedom fighter, fighting for justice and for an independent viable Palestinian state, but I also feel that if he understood that taking the life of another may not be the way and that if he understood the consequences of his act, he could see that a non-violent solution is the only way for both nations to live together in peace.
Over three years later, Robi indirectly received a defiant, militant reply from Mr. Hamad via its publication by a Palestinian news agency:
"Just as I refused to directly address the soldier’s mother, I cannot wish to meet her. I cannot meet with the occupier of our land on the same land. I carried out the operation as part of the struggle for freedom, justice and the establishment of an independent state, not out of a lust or love for killing. Acts of violence are a necessity imposed upon us by the occupation and I shall not abandon this path for as long as the occupation continues."
"Ta’er, how ironic, the people who most wanted to protect me from the words in your letter were my Palestinian friends and other bereaved parents in our group. They of all people have the right to talk about my actions and who I am for we have worked together for more than 6 years to try to end this terrible conflict and to give both sides a chance to live with a sense of dignity free from the terrible fear which engulfs us and gives us all the excuse for violence. The tears I saw in the eyes of my Palestinian partners in the Parents Circle when they met me after you chose to publish the letter were tears of understanding and yes friendship and love…"
"… The wisest reaction I had to the words of your letter came from my wonderful son Eran, who I thought would be terribly angry. Well he said, listen mum, perhaps this is the beginning of a dialog."
In the audio embedded up top, Trent recently spoke with Robi from her home in Tel Aviv to learn more about how she’s reflecting on this exchange, and what it means for her work with the Parents Circle - Families Forum. It’s worth a listen to hear her ongoing tenacity.