Friday, August 28, 2009

The World's Presence


Sorry for sort of slacking lately. I'll try my best to remember everything that's happened in the past 2 weeks...

I finally went to see the Madres de la Plaza (before they left this time!) and it was an amazing experience. I originally had written questions to ask them, but it turned out that talking to and trying to understand them was the easiest way to go. One Madre said she had been marching for 33 years. Can you imagine that, 33 years?? What have you done at least once a week for 33 years? (For those my age, we have to tag on an extra 10 years to try to understand even that!) Their courage is amazing to me, and one Madre in particular told me there was still much hurt and sadness in those who had their children disappeared. I suppose the pain of losing a child is hard enough, but to know that it happened to thousands, and that they were probably tortured for no good reason, and then your objections were suppressed, only to never have a proper saying goodbye ceremony, is just tragic. I bought a t-shirt and a book of poems written by those who had been tortured but escaped. It's definitely going to gauge my hold on Spanish! The best part was probably marching with them. There are two groups of Madres now: the ones that simply want to remember and raise awareness about the disappeared, and those who fight for political reform. Currently, they are fighting for agrarian reform (which is basically trying to re-distribute land among the poor). People come to see them every Thursday so they often join in with the march too. Surprisingly enough, the Madre told me she likes Cristina Kirshner, which is rather shocking considering just the other day she compared the "loss of soccer goals" (back story: Argentine TV stations couldn't come to an agreement on airing futbol matches, which is of course a huge deal, but then La Presidenta decided to use $600 million dollars worth of taxpayers' money to show them anyway) and "the disappeared." The fact that she compared soccer and the disappeared is appalling, considering she lived through that time period, and um, she's the president of Argentina!

Anyway, a few friends and I also went to MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) and it was a great art museum. They hold a lot of modern art, but it was actually the kind that makes you think, unlike the black paintings at Knox that are supposed to make you realize there was once a masterpiece underneath, but you can't, because you never saw them in the first place. They had a few Frido Kalho paintings as well as some of Andy Worhol's works. There was this crazy bench that sort of "melted" on its left side to become vine-like and that crawled up through the walls to the second floor! It was really neat.

After one of my classes last week, I decided to do some exploring and found this indoor mall. Well, right at the end of it, there was an anime shop and as I stepped into it, I told myself not to get too excited. But then I couldn't control myself as they had TONS of Sailor Moon stuff, plus nearly all of the mangas I've read! I picked up Card Captor Sakura, Chobits, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Rurouni Kenshin, Tsubasa, and even Paradise Kiss buttons! And I bought some Sailor Moon mugs too. ^_^ I was in heaven (or Summerland if you're Wiccan, or the equivalent)!

Yesterday, a few ISA friends and Nea (from Knox!) went to an Irish Pub. It was really good getting to catch up with someone who totally understood my world; talking about drama (which you can't have Knox without!), classes, Senate, sororities, etc. Plus, the whole menu was in English (to be authentic) and they had some funny drink names, like Orgasm, Blowjob, and even Shit on the Grass! I had an Irish Flag and a Soho. :)

Tonight was definitely one of the funnest times I've had while in Buenos Aires. The Universidad de Belgrano hosted an International Night where all of the foreign students came together to represent their countries. Mostly, this meant hosting a stand where you had a few foods and lots of alcohol. (America was represented by PB&J, apple pies, jello shots and even a beer bong!) The Germans had meatballs, the French had bread and cheese, etc. But really, they ALL had alcohol. Even Japan was pouring sake in addition to making onigiri. Afterward, they had a dance party where they played international music, and 2 of my friends performed tango, and 2 other friends performed swing. They were awesome and I thought they represented the US well! There were also some Americans that performed line dancing, and I was actually impressed. It was really fun.

Other than that, I've mostly been keeping busy with classes and hanging out (usually at cafes) with my friends. Next I shall conclude with my "thoughts" section. :)

My friend Stella and I were talking about what it means to carry your country's baggage. (She has a particularly wearisome burden because she is from Germany.) Like it or not, we all carry that baggage. As Americans, we have hefty weights on our shoulders. Not only are we accountable for the genocide of thousands of Native Americans, but we are also guilty of creating strife in places we had no right to (this includes Algiers, Vietnam, the Koreas, Japan, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua, and probably many more places that I'm not personally aware of). We've colonized islands (one of which we still own), created military dictatorships, contributed to low-wage factories across the world, been a prime component of pollution and the destruction of nature, eliminated political systems that were not favorable to us, among many other travesties. In the US, I often find myself railing against our country (and myself in essence) because of these atrocities. I suppose, in a way, that it lets me distance myself from it, and then protect myself by saying, hey, look, I'm not a, b, and c. But does that really fix things?

The best way, in my opinion, to "alleviate" feelings of shame or guilt over these incidents is to do something about it. (Whether you "think" you contribute to our historical racism, or to Native American poverty, or other systems of oppression is really irrelevant; it has nothing to do with your ancestors either. YOU NOW benefit from the land our founding fathers took, from the religious discrimination they embedded into their idea of government, etc.) I for one have been active in the feminist and Pagan movements for many years now, and it's helped me to come to grips with the fact that my country has been dominated by patriarchy and patriarchal religion for centuries, but I have also realized that I can also raise awareness to change that. I COULD be doing more, and I've been openly criticized for not including racial minorities in my clubs, but I think by me just being a Socialist feminist Pagan environmentalist, I'm contributing a lot more than most people who just go about their daily lives without thinking about anyone else.

And what about the good things that the US has provided? It's often easy to lose track of them while you're a jaded college student rebelling against the "system." Even if it was at the expense of the rest of the world, we've developed the fields of technology and medicine like no other. Without both of those things, I might not be alive to write this, and I definitely wouldn't have a computer to write it on! In addition, we have in many ways paved the road for feminist and gay rights movements and for socially-elected, Constitution-based governments. We've contributed billions of dollars in foreign aid and even perhaps had one of the first and leading movements in environmentalism. In terms of the arts, we've contributed to the fields of dance, literature, music, etc. We boast some of the best athletes in the world. Even though there is a radical right-wing movement trying to sabotage women's right to choose (even through death, as it were!), we have firmly never looked back since Roe vs. Wade. The US might not be perfect, and there may be some who spoil it for the rest of us, but at least among my friends, I've very proud to call myself an American in their presence, and in the world's.

That's all for now, have a great day!

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