I had promised myself that I would not, absolutely not opine on the issue of Noor Tagouri and her hijab in Playboy.
Last night, I dreamed that I had a brand new job. No, it was a real dream, not a figurative one.
I was at this great big hotel, or hostel, where all the employees were milling around, living, talking, preparing to go to work.
But as I sat near a room, I overheard some of the employees discussing in hushed tones. They were talking about a friend or a cousin who was trapped in trying to pay off the employer, endlessly. The new faceless employer was covertly owning and enslaving people. People were trying to buy their freedom from the job. Some people were abusing substances, and the employer was facilitating their addiction.
I realized my new job was a total loss of freedom. A disconnection from yourself. It was a terrible thing. It was a mafia. It was a system where you would get consumed and never escape. After the celebratory moment where you land the job, become identified with the status of employment and salary, you discover you are trapped forever.
Then I looked at my watch, and realized I was late to work. I freaked out, and thought, I must get to work! I’m late!
Capitalism? The time-bound enslavement and apportionment of humans in hours and minutes? The job, the work that you feel bound to, identified by, even when it destroys you?
In most cases, it sounds like the very nature of work today. We struggle to carve out an existence, a weekend, maybe if we’re lucky a vacation once or twice a year, – around the Pac-Man of work. Work threatens our hobbies, our leisure, our families, our marriages, our children.
When my daughter was six, she used to say, “When I grow up, I will have 100 children. And I will not go to work, so my children are not sad.”
And yet, without work, we are worthless. The “job” defines us. We emerge from high school and college, shiny and hopeful. We parade our cv’s around. If no faceless corporation checks our teeth and our muscles and takes possession of all our working hours, we hang our heads in shame: we have failed. We are without value. Our value is defined by the employer.
When I sought a career, I sought freedom. I saw how many women who didn’t have professional careers struggled to be beautiful, accomplished cooks, excellent housekeepers, and elegant, polite ladies, and celebrated the moment when Someone put a ring on all that. Without that Man, their futures were uncertain. Who would give them a home after their parents died?
I said, f*** that. I’ll be a person in my own right. I’ll put value to myself. I’ll earn my own living and enjoy my work and my leisure.
Then I discovered employment under Western capitalism.
That was the dream.
I wept so profusely while watching Kubo & the Two Strings, I thought I would never stop weeping. This humorous, playful, artistically innovative, visually stunning, and musically delicious film also engages head-on with grief, loss, death, and trauma. It plunges into the difficult problems of love and mortality, avoiding the Disney happy ending while rooting its reassurance in the profundity of the experience of love.
Oh, I guess I forgot to give readers a spoiler alert.
Initially, I was extremely distracted, glancing over to check and see that my fairly sensitive daughter wasn’t scared and upset. The movie keeps a snappy pace, so there isn’t too much time devoting to dwelling on horror. The aunts, with their Kabuki masks, are absolutely terrifying. One moment I was moved to tears
at the painful sight of Kubo’s mother’s post-traumatic stress disorder, and her dissociative condition, and Kubo’s “parenting” of this woman. Then, however, she battles and defends her child against her sisters.
Kubo’s magical imagination and musical creativity express his capacity for love and joy. The film beautifully uses Shinto ritual, origami, Japanese cultural practices in food, music, dress, art, architecture, and lifestyle. It is a treat for the senses.
I’ve come to hold death, grief, and loss as heartache that I am not really sure how to resolve. Kubo won’t magick pain away, but I had a taste of the catharsis that consumers of Greek tragedy experienced. “‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all” (Tennyson) may work for you. In the moment of grief and loss, it’s unlikely to help, but the Moon Beast’s dissociation of raging resentment offers no promise of healing. The world is aflame with fear, pain, and rage. Can the Moon Kings of our world replace their rage and loss with love and grief? Can the Mothers, after trauma, come back to life and return to their lost selves? Can the children, having sacrificed eyes and hearts, return to joy, music, and love?
Apparently it’s Eid al-Scooter today. I couldn’t make it to Eid namaz for various reasons and decided to let this one have the kind of holiday she wanted.
On this gorgeous September day on a pretty quiet tree lined street in Chicago, when all the neighborhood children are at school, and we took a day off for Eid – even if it’s not a traditional community Eid – I’m grateful my child can have a real childhood.
On this day, my conscience and friend Najeeba Syeed shared the picture below, via Naveed Iqbal, of Syrian children celebrating Eid on an unexploded bomb in Aleppo.
I’m wishing and praying all the children and their families can have such normal, ordinary, calm days to celebrate, free from fear and free from the struggle to survive.
Ameen and Eid Mubarak to all of my living family, on the planet and beyond!
This video gave me chills. Shivers all down my body.
Day 1 at my kid’s new school was a success. As you can see from that huge dramatic scowl in that picture, she had a wonderful day at school.
We had sleepless nights worrying about that first day. We wondered how her teachers would read her. We worried that they would not be able to see the laughter in her eyes past the frown. We wondered, will they see her spirit blazing behind the eyebrows drawn together? Will they know her, or will she sit in the corner, in her lonely soul?
I cannot express how grateful I am to the underpaid, overworked teachers in these schools. They work hard. They make music in those classrooms. Surrounded by these children. These brilliant, fragile, powerful children with their blossoming minds, struggling to grow and flourish in spite of all their grown-ups and their inhibitions, their stereotypes, their nightmares. These children, these unique souls, who love to smile and to scowl and
shout and jump with all their hearts, who are being trained to enter the world of adults where they must NOT do anything with all their hearts, and definitely NOT to scowl and shout and jump and laugh too much.
I’m trying, I’m really trying, to help her be herself, my intentions are good, but then, too often, I keep demanding that she become me. I keep slipping into asking, pushing her to become a grown-up, an inhibited, conformist, anal retentive adult. But she keeps coming back, with that irrepressible scowl, that bright eyed raucous laugh, and telling me, THIS IS WHO I AM. Get used to it.
Keep doing that, girl. Keep fighting me.