Thoughts on those who seek refuge

I am basically a very cowardly woman.   I am afraid of big crowds of people; I don’t like the feeling of being squashed in among strangers with no way out.

I am afraid of physical pain. I do not ski or snowboard or ride roller coasters.  All of those activities give me an overwhelming sense of fear.

When it comes to anxiety about my children or my grandchild, I can bring myself to the point of near hysteria just by waiting for a blood test result. I am scared when my kids are on the road in snowy weather.  I am afraid when they travel.  I lie awake an night worried that they will become sick, will break bones, will crash or fall or use drugs or be mugged.

And I am terrified of guns!!  Really, truly terrified. I am afraid of thieves with guns, angry neighbors with guns, strangers with guns, accidental shooting of guns.

When I was still teaching fifth grade, I reacted in total shock and horror to the events at the Sandy Hook School. I bought little magnets for the doorframe in my classroom and those of my close friends, just in case a crazed gunman came in and I had to lock my door quickly. I worked out possible reactions to an attack, trying to think of a way to save my students. I placed a broom near the door, imagining myself slamming the handle into the kidneys of an intruder.

I am a truly fearful person.

But I try very very hard NOT to let my fear rule my life. I try very hard to hold onto facts and to live my life based on the reality of the threats that face me, rather than my own overblown terror.

For example, I am scared of guns and of a gunman shooting up the movie theater or the mall or the classroom where I am spending my time.  But I refuse to let that fear keep me out of those places where so much of life takes place.  To do so, to give in to that fear, would be to give up far too much of myself.  Every time I venture into a crowd to go Christmas shopping or to see a concert or to teach a class, I have to remind myself that the odds of something terrible happening are truly miniscule. I force myself to react to the reality and not to the fear.

I refuse to become an agoraphobic. I refuse to huddle in my house, afraid of other humans.

And when it comes to the safety of my children, I have spent the last thirty years pretending NOT to be afraid.  I didn’t want to stop my children from climbing on the jungle gym, or sledding down the steep slopes.  I didn’t want to instill my fears in them, knowing that to do so would be to stop them from living fully.

I am afraid to fly; good Lord, I remember the horrors of 911, the Shoe Bomber, the downing of flight 103 over Lockerbie.  Air travel has real risks! But if I give in to that fear, I won’t ever go to Germany to see my friends. I won’t ever visit my Italian roots or walk on the moors of Scotland.  I refuse to allow my awareness of the dangers of flying to stop me from living my full life and meeting new people and seeing new places. I refuse to give in.

So now, faced with the question of whether or not I believe that my country should accept refugees who are fleeing the wars that rage across Iraq, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen…….Well, I am afraid!

I am aware that some of these people could be terrorists. They could be sneaking their way into the US in order to do us harm.  This is a sad but very real truth of our lives in 2015.

I am afraid.


I try very hard not to let my fear shape my life. I try very hard not to let my anxiety constrain me or change the way that I live. I refuse to shut myself or my family away from the opportunity to make life better for other humans.  To do so, to turn my back on families who are suffering, would be to turn my back on my truest self.

I look at the statistics.  How many of those who attacked Paris were refugees?  All of the identified attackers were European Nationals. None were refugees. (Paris Attackers Nationalities)    And I think of the 9/11 attackers, all of whom came to the US legally, but none of whom was a refugee.  I think of the Tsarnaev brothers; neither they nor their parents were in the US under refugee status.(Tsarnaev BrothersSnopes on Tsarnaevs).

I remember the terror that was brought to so many people, so many little innocent children, by the Oklahoma City bombers.  They were not foreign. They were not refugees.  They were not Muslims. They were just like us.

And I remind myself that I can’t avoid all danger.  To live is to face risk.  To walk among other human beings, to reach out in friendship, is to risk our hearts, our minds and in many cases our lives.

I drive on the highway every single day with barely a thought! My risk of death on my daily commute is far, far greater than my risk of being shot in a mall.  I understand these facts, and so I go on and live my life.

The world is a dangerous and horrific place for so many people! So many mothers,  young women just like my daughter, are running in terror to save their babies from war and famine and slaughter.  So many millions of families, grandmothers just like me, are desperately fleeing in the hope of saving themselves and their children and their grand-babies.  They have nowhere to go.  They have no homes, no safety, no jobs, no way to care for those they love exactly as deeply as I love my own.

How can I possibly let my fear of possible danger keep me from offering a hand to these people? How can I let my government shut and lock the door as these desperate people beg us for safety?

Tomorrow, I will call Governor Baker of Massachusetts and urge him to accept as many refugees as we can take.  I will call the White House and urge the President to do the same.

Because I have no desire to live my life in fear of my fellow humans.  To do so would make me something less than fully human myself.

Pardon my political rant


Pardon me, I beg you.

I completely understand the fact that I have become a sweet, docile Nonni, the chubby old lady who rocks her darling Ellie to sleep and gives her a bottle and walks her around this bucolic country neighborhood.

I have sworn to myself that I will step back from the political activist world, (in my blogging at least). I will hold my tongue. I will not use words like “liberal” or “conservative” or utter the D or R labels.  I have sworn to be non-partisan, but today’s events have overruled my very best intentions.

Paris is under siege at this very moment. Paris: the City of Lights.  The City of Lovers.  Isis is bombing, shooting and holding hostages. The war between the west and Isis has come to a place that is known for its gentle hospitality, its love of wine and music, its embrace of the arts.

The world has come to a very, very dangerous place.

I will absolutely not make any attempt to explain how this has happened.  I will not weigh in at all on any foreign policy issue that may or may not have lead us to this terrible place.

I am not a military person. I am not a diplomat. I can make my ill informed guesses about the middle East, but I am smart enough to know that I do not truly have anything to say on this subject.

How to stop this type of terrorism is a question that is simply far, far beyond my feeble areas of expertise.

But here is what I do feel duty bound to write:  I believe that it is incredibly important for me to acknowledge the limits of my knowledge.

I believe that it is incredibly important for us, as Americans, to elect a President who can also recognize the limits of his/her expertise.  I believe that we have a serious duty to elect a President who IS in fact an expert of international relations and international law. Or at the very least, we must elect someone who will listen to those who are true experts on this incredibly convoluted matters.

Right now, at this moment in time, I am the mother of three young adults and the grandmother of one fragile little girl.  I want them all to live in a world where peace is a possibility, no matter how faint.  A place where reason has at least a chance to triumph over bombast.

And this is why I must write this post.

I am absolutely horrified and sickened by the words of Donald Trump, a man who seems to truly believe that he is an expert on every topic in every area.  This is a man who believes that he is capable of single handedly solving every complex problem that faces the entire world.

And how would Mr. T solve all of these deep and complicated problems?  To quote the man himself, although I am very reluctant to do so, he would “bomb the shit out of them.”

This is a man who finds it acceptable to call people “stupid”, “fat”, “ugly”.  He routinely uses simplistic and meaningless words like “nice” and “crap” and “OK”.

This is a man who truly believes himself to be smarter than anyone else on earth. He truly believes that he can bully and insult his way to world leadership.

Tonight, as I sit here watching the terrible news unfolding from Paris, I am very very afraid.

But let me be very clear: I am more afraid of how the world will look if Donald Trump become President than I am of terrorists striking a major European city.


If you reading this, and you are a Trump supporter, can you please try to explain to me what it is that you see in this man?  What is it that makes you believe that he would be a reasonable and thoughtful world leader?