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The [Censored] States of America

The [Censored] States of America

 

Out of many, one

While the recent refugee ban has gotten more attention in the media, the unprecedented reshuffling of the National Security Council might be as significant as any other issue in the news right now: a weak-minded, insecure president surrounds himself with persuasive, unelected advisors and cuts himself off from some of the most experienced voices on the NSC. From gag orders to “shock events” and classic autocratic power consolidation, the current administration is working to silence dissent, delegitimize critics, and undermine the free press.

Trust in government is currently at a record low both globally and in the US, but compared to much of the world Americans still enjoy a relatively high degree of trust in their government. That trust is now causing a lot of cognitive dissonance—we’re still working under the assumption that the goal of the administration is to govern well. While I was uncomfortable with things that both Bush and Obama did, I generally assumed (maybe naively) that their motives were more or less good, and that they were at least trying to do what they thought was the right thing. We may not have the luxury of assuming that anymore. The goal of the current administration might actually be to destabilize, to distract, and to create chaos so that they will have less resistance and scrutiny. (I’ve never been in the tin-foil hat camp before but we’re in uncharted waters here.)

 



Who are we?

All of this cuts at the foundations of what we say is true about our country, and feels more like Putin’s Russia, or Venezuela under Hugo Chavez. Do we believe in checks and balances, a limited executive branch, and in separation of powers? Do we want a president or an autocrat? What about our character as a country—are we a “land of opportunity?” Is this country a “melting pot” where people from every corner of the world contribute to a greater whole?

 



We decide what America will be

We get to decide, collectively, who and what we are. We decide if we will work together with people who aren’t like us; if we will defend free speech (even for the people we disagree with); if we will work to make our country a “land of opportunity” for others. We get to decide if we will be a nation divided or if we will be “out of many, one.” Will we be the United States, or a nation of us and of them?

 



 

(Feel free to use the [Censored] States of America images above as you find them helpful – option-click / right-click and Save As on a laptop or long press on a mobile device.)
 

Being Human, Community, Ideas

Home, by Warsan Shire

Home, by Warsan Shire 

Warsan Shire was born in Kenya to Somali parents and moved to the UK when she was one year old. Her poem Home and its depiction of the refugee experience has haunted me since I first read it some time last year. This is something of a departure from my usual posts, but because of the growing anti-refugee climate I hope to amplify and extend the reach of this poem.


 

Home

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

it’s not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did –
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.

you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.

who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.

no one would choose

no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive
and you are greeted on the other side
with
go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage—
look what they’ve done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child’s body
in pieces—for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don’t know what
i’ve become.


Note: There are many versions of this poem available online, and it’s not clear which is the most recent or which is preferred by the poet. I’ve chosen the one that seemed most complete but different versions can be found here, here and here.

Please consider signing this petition asking the current administration to not make a scapegoat of this vulnerable population.

Being Human, Community

When I try to focus

A Halloween lesson in civic duty

A Halloween lesson in civic duty

“Well Sam, it seemed smart at the time, but those last few houses put you into the 2-lbs candy tax bracket. You could claim a deduction for those terrible black and orange candies, but that full-sized Snickers cancels it out. You’ll have to donate at least half a pound to your sister to avoid more penalties.”

Luckily his little sister ate a significant amount of his candy last year, so at least he has a loss he can carry forward.

Community, Illustration

Don’t design without a plan

Don’t design without a plan

Know what you’re building before you start

Seeing your good work go unused is one of the most draining things about working as a designer. It’s hard to pour your heart, creativity and time into a piece and then watch it languish in your sketchbook or on your hard drive. There are a number of reasons your work may end up in the graveyard of good ideas, and often it’s an unavoidable part of the process. But many times good design work can’t be used because the designer didn’t work to get a clear enough idea of what the project’s goal was.

What’s the real goal?

The client may be asking for a brochure, but “having a brochure” is not their real goal. (If that is their real goal they have a boring life, and they need better goals.) Are they asking for a brochure because they need a way to explain their offerings to potential customers? Or are they trying to get customers to take a specific action? Ask yourself, or ask your client, “If I do my job well, how will we know? What will be different?” It’s also helpful to ask, “What need are they hoping this piece will fill?”

You can’t design a solution until you know what the problem is.

Don’t start creating your “design solution” until you know what the problem is. You’ll spin your wheels, and you may create some awesome and beautiful things. When you finally show your client the beautiful thing you’ve poured your heart into, they may like it, but they won’t be able to use it. A good design brief will define the project clearly and help you avoid a lot of heartache.

Give your designer good direction

The same thing holds true if you’re hiring a designer. You wouldn’t ask a carpenter to start building you a house without a plan–don’t ask your designer to get started until you have a really clear sense of what you want them to accomplish for you.

Creativity, Design, Illustration

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