Stories

” Not All Americans Are like this Jackhole”

  One important marker of membership in a privileged group is the luxury of being perceived and judged as an individual. There is no guilt by association. The lone gunman narrative invokes a history of mental illness that is carefully scrutinized by the media. Criminal behavior is often traced back to a specific family history or to a socially dysfunctional situation. The culture at large, however, is rarely interrogated for producing or glorifying violent behavior. Jimmy Kimmel’s video about Walter Palmer, the American dentist who murdered a lion in Africa, seems to signal a very slight shift.  Something different appears to be happening. In the opening shot, for instance, the comedian humanizes the victim of American violence in way that members of demonized minorities rarely enjoy. Cecil the lion is rightly portrayed as a beautiful animal. He may live in the wild but he possess the attributes of a family pet. This is not some random lion. We are told that he is a local favorite and that he is part of an Oxford research project that has been tracking him for years with a GPS. He was a tourist attraction and people loved to see him on Safaris. In other words, […]

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Endangered Things of Beauty & the Beauty Response

”Never forget things of beauty”, I tell myself as I pick up my camera and prepare to capture images of beautiful things. But that is no longer enough. I often find myself thinking about how fragile beautiful things can be. This is a photo taken in Mostar, a city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina that is situated on the Neretva River. It is a city of breathtaking beauty. Below is a view of the Old Bridge  overlooking the Neretva River. One can sometimes see local divers take the plunge into the river provided that there are enough tourists willing to pay enough money to witness the risky dive. That kind of bargaining can be painful to watch. In 1468 Mostar came under the rule of the Ottomans.  The city developed and flourished as an urban settlement during four centuries of Ottoman rule. Mostar is famous for its Old Bridge and Turkish house. The Old Bridge was designed by Mimar Hayruddin, an Ottoman architect, in 1556. During the 19th and 20th centuries Mostar was occupied by the Austro-Hungarians. The bridge was destroyed by Croat Bosnian forces in 1993 and rebuilt in 2014. For many people, myself included, the Old Bridge is […]

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Breast Cancer: Loss & Recovery

Breast Cancer can hit a woman really hard in her looks. It creeps up on you, an invisible tumor growing inside your body and all of a sudden a  surgeon is sitting right there in front of you and things begin to change really drastically. I had a high-grade tumor. We have to act quickly.   The tumor will have to be removed surgically. Fine. I can live with that. It didn’t take too long for her to say the C word. I don’t mean cancer. I mean chemotherapy. That’s when the break down really begins and you watch pieces of your body falling off piece by piece. The invisible would soon alter the visible and disrupt any notion I had of being an attractive sexual being. It begins with the hair. After the second cycle of chemo clumps of hair begin to fall out.  You wake up in the morning and one half of your head is scattered on the pillow like fallen autumn leaves.  It wasn’t working for me. The gradual loss was making me feel powerless. I went to a hairdresser who helps cancer victims and provides them with custom made wigs. We chopped it all off. Once and for […]

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Beyond Slut Shaming: Hala Mona

Mona Hala- an Egyptian actress and comedian- managed to get a lot of media attention for posting pictures of herself on Instagram wearing a bikini. Imagine that! Oh and did I forget to mention that she was on the beach? Even more shocking were the pictures she posted of her boyfriend with his hands ‘’inappropriately’’ placed on her butt. Horror of horrors! And all this at a time when the sexual harassment of women  has reached epic proportions on Egyptian streets. The voluntary touching proved too shocking for the easily shocked and the crude insults and self-righteous critiques began pouring into Mona Hala’s Instagram account. There are now youtube videos recapturing clips of her scandalous photos. Somebody actually took the time to put those clips together, as if spreading the memes that threatened public morality were an effective strategy for protecting public morality. In effect, it was an instance of slut shaming. Well, the strategy failed miserably. Mona Hala- far from being publicly shamed- made a mockery of the shaming process  itself and turned the tables on her would be detractors. And it failed largely because shaming depends upon the fear and duplicity of the shamed. Mona Hala’s real crime is […]

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