Why I’m Here (Updated)

In my second post, I explained why I started my blog. I have decided to do an updated post because there are other things I’ve thought about that I would like visitors to this blog and to my Twitter homepage to know. However, I am going to keep the old post up, which you can view here, though most stuff there will be repeated in this post.

Why does this blog exist? First of all, the name: it comes from Jeremy Beahan of the Reasonable Doubts Podcast. “Before you identify yourself as a Republican or a Democrat; before you identify as a Christian or a Jew; before you identify as anything, identify yourself — think of your primary identity as a seeker oftruth.Put that first above anything else. Then whatever is worthy should follow that.” Previous to this quote in the podcast Beahan said it’s important that we have the courage to seek opposing viewpoints; to listen to the other side. Thus, I hope this blog won’t be a liberal, conservative, or libertarian blog; it won’t be a Christian blog; it will be a blog for all seekers of truth — black, white; Jewish, Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu; conservative, liberal, libertarian; cisgendered and straight as well as LGBTQIAP+. 

To share whatever I have that may help someone, that they may connect to. A little over a year ago I joined Twitter to connect with people beyond my bubble, to see alternative perspectives, to break the shell of provincialism.

People have called me smart for much of my life, but I really don’t know what I’m doing. However I think I need to share what I do have. The Quran says “Whoever is given knowledge is given indeed abundant wealth.”(Surah 2:269) and “O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”(20:114). The Bible says “If you seek it[wisdom] as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”(Prov. 2:4-5, NIV)

Here are a few hadith(sayings of Muhammad): “Go back to your people and teach them.”(Bukhari 3:25); “Let him who is present impart knowledge to him who is absent.”(Bukhari 3:37); “Knowledge is only maintained through teaching.”(Bukhari 3:10). The idea of knowledge being wealth and the imperatives to share it reminds me of Psalms 72, in which Solomon prayed for wealth and power to be a voice to the voiceless. Like in the parable of the talents(Mt.25:14-30) I see a good mind as a gift, a trust. The two servants who used their talents were told “Well done thou good and faithful servant”(Mt. 25:21, 23); whereas the one who buried his talent was told “Thou wicked and slothful servant”(Mt. 25:26). 1 Peter 4:10 says “Each one of you should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its many forms.”

I mentioned above my reasons for getting a Twitter account. As I mentioned in other posts, I grew up in an insular Evangelical/Fundamentalist environment. Around age 18 I began to question my upbringing and wonder if there’s more than just my bubble. Plato’s Cave became a good friend, as it was the only way I could verbalize my sentiments. )That’s where my profile pic comes from.) In the Bible Jesus interacted with a variety of people, choosing for apostles a tax collector (basically a collaborator with the Roman occupation) and a Zealot (a group that wanted an armed revolt against Rome). The Epistle of Diognetus says, “Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.”

I also seek to build bridges of understanding between peoples and resist tribalism and provincialism. The Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”(Matthew 5:9) and “For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.”(Ephesians 2:14‭-‬16). Furthermore, it says, “Strive for peace and promote it!”(Psalms 34:14b). The Qur’an says, “O mankind! We made you from a male and a female into nations and tribes so that you may know each other.”(Surah 49:13) I’m here to help break down these walls and to help us to know each other. The us vs them mentalities are one of my pet peeves. There is so much more to the world than our little bubbles; it’s more beneficial for all that we transcend our provincialism and tribalism.

Due to having grown up in a controlling environment (and having wondered whether or not to label my experiences as abusive), I also want this to be a safe place for abuse victims/survivors; particularly for spiritual abuse, but also for all other abuse as well. I’ve learned a bit about this subject not talked about much in Evangelicalism and have found various online spaces helpful in sorting things out. I want this to be such a place (for people regardless of where they are on the political spectrum); it’s a way of expressing gratitude.

Since I have questioned my upbringing and had times of doubt, I also want this blog to be a safe place for doubters, a place where we can ask honest questions. In my Twitter bio I quote Michel de Montaigne, a 16th century French essayist: “Que sais-je?”, meaning “What do I know?” I say this as a rejection of dogmatism (like what I was raised with) and a willingness to learn from others. The 17th century Ethiopian philosopher Zera Yacoub urged people to submit their beliefs to a thorough examination. The Bible says, “But examine all things; hold fast to what is good.”(1 Thessalonians 5:21) and “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside.”(1 Corinthians 13:9‭-‬10). It was through wrestling with God that Jacob becomes Israel, and after Job has honestly expressed his doubts and feelings, God tells Jon’s friends, who had said pious clichés, “You have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has.(Job 42:7). In her book Allah, Liberty, and Love Irshad Manji writes, “Faith doesn’t forbid exploration. It’s dogma that does. Dogma, by definition, is threatened by questions, while Faith welcomes questions because it trusts that God, being magisterial, can handle them.”

BOTTOM LINE: I have an inquisitive personality, have many interests, and am an intellectual. For me learning new things is fun. I want to share that; my experiences, my journey, my story, my studying, reflections — maybe it will be of help to someone; I hope to make connections, to develop a community in which we can learn, grow, connect, etc. Also psychology shows that sharing what we learn helps us to learn.
For more please see my post Meet Me.

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Hughes: Themes in His Writings

This post is a paper I did in literature class back in spring 2018, and I’m sharing it for the world:

There are a number of themes in Hughes’s poems and other writings, such as the contrast between the ideal and the real, racial cruelty, and weariness and resignation (Roberts & Zweig, p. 852), and these often intersect. I will illustrate examples of these themes, and how they intersect in Langston Hughes’s works.

The ideal versus the real is illustrated in the poem “Let America Be America Again” (pp. 857-858). The ideal is expressed in the popular narrative of how America is a land of freedom, without tyrants, and of opportunity, and in the immigrants’ dreams. The real is expressed in the refrain of how this was never true for the speaker. He expresses that, in fact, workers are exploited, Native Americans were driven from their lands, and black people were enslaved. He uses the words, “I am the man who never got ahead/The poorest worker bartered through the years” (p. 858).

The poem “Will V-Day Day Be Me-Day Too?” illustrates how racial cruelty intersects with all three themes mentioned above. We see racial cruelty mentioned when the speaker asks whether or not he’ll have to face Jim Crow and lynching upon return from WWII (poets.org). This also shows the contrast between the ideal and the real, as FDR had said that the war was to “make the world safe for democracy”, and he mentions the liberation of various foreign peoples. However, he observes that African-Americans face oppression in USA. However, there is no resignation in the poem, in that the speaker asks whether or not things will change. In sum, the speaker observes that the reality of racial cruelty falls short of the ideals of liberty and democracy. However, he refuses to resign in despair, and instead asks whether or not the freedom for which he fought for other peoples will be granted to him.

The poem “Negro” depicts racial cruelty, in depicting how black people have been slaves for centuries, from antiquity to contemporary times. Specifically, he mentions the mutilation of the Congolese by the Belgians (when Congo was the private colony of King Leopold II) and lynching in Mississippi (Roberts & Zweig, p. 859).

The work (which is not a poem) “Negroes in Spain” also shows the intersection of racial cruelty and resignation. The work is about black people and Moors fighting in the Spanish Civil War, which occurred from 1936-1939. The author talks of how Franco uses Moors to fight for fascism, which is white supremacist. However, there is a rejection of resignation, in that the writer expresses the hope that the Moors will reject Franco (Modern American Poetry).

Racial cruelty is also depicted in the poem “Remember” (poetryfoundation.org). In this poem, the speaker urges black people, wherever they are, to look at white people, who have all the power and exploited them, and made villains out of black people. This is a concise way to sum up all the cruelty faced by black people in American society.

All three themes are shown in the poem “I look at the world” (poetryfoundation.org). The speaker, representative of any African-American, mentions being assigned to “a fenced-off narrow space”, which references Jim Crow and the disadvantages faced by black people in American society. While this may sound like a minor nuisance, these norms were enforced with the threat of lynching, and this implies cruelty. This is the real. Here the speaker does not give into resignation, but not only dreams of a better world, but states a readiness to work for it, as is stated in the poem, “I can see what my own hands can make/The world that’s in my mind./ Let’s hurry, comrades,/The road to find.” This is the ideal. The real is racism, and the ideal is equality. However, the speaker does not give into despair, but optimistically urges others to join him or her in the fight.

According to the Poetry Foundation (poetryfoundation.org), Hughes’s father was disillusioned with American racism and moved to Mexico, where he became very critical of other African-Americans. The site suggests that this impacted the younger Hughes who decided to embrace African-American society. In addition, Hughes decided to write about ordinary black people, with whom he had grown up and whom he knows. A third aspect of Hughes mentioned by the Poetry Foundation is that Hughes never lost his belief that most people, regardless of race or nationality, are generally good, and his hope for a better world. Also, Hughes had lived in a number of states and countries.

We see this reflected in his writings. His depictions of racial cruelty reflect are tied to his experiences with ordinary African-Americans, for whom such cruelty would have been life. Hughes would have been exposed to a variety of challenges faced by African-Americans because he had lived in a number of states. His conclusion that most people are good would have allowed him to reject resignation, and instead dream of a better world. Because of this, his poems convey appeals to the ideals and calls for people to change the real to match the ideal. Furthermore, we see what actually is versus what should be. Often it is so-called Realists™ who point this out, and they dismiss idealists. However, this is not reflected in Hughes’s poems. There is none of that, “Oh, sure, that would be nice, but you got to live in the Real World™.” Instead, Hughes’s speakers not only committed to working to make the ideal real, but urged the readers to also work to make the ideal real.

In summary, Hughes’s poems show racial cruelty, which were likely inspired by that which those who knew Hughes faced, and even what Hughes himself faced. However, Hughes, who was widely traveled across the States and a number of countries, remained optimistic about humanity. Because of this, his poems also reject resignation and contain calls to make the ideal real.

 

Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. “Selected Poems”. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing,

edited by Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig. Pearson Education, Inc. 2015, pp. 849-862

“Negroes in Spain”, from The Volunteer for Liberty. Modern American Poetry.

http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/inspain.htm. Accessed 11 April

2018

Poetry Foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/langston-hughes. Accessed 11 April

2018

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/langston-hughes. Accessed 11 April 2018

CRC: Response to Anti-Family Accusations and Conclusion

In this post, I will discuss the general accusation that the CRC is anti-family, and sum up the series, in addition to calling for ratification.

Most of the objections I have addressed can be summed up in a belief that the CRC is anti-family and/or undermines parental rights. Renteln (p. 636) and The Campaign for the U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child state that the CRC seeks to balance parental and children’s rights, and that article 5 mentions the right of parents, extended family, and other legal guardians to provide direction and guidance in line with the evolving capacities of the child. The previously mentioned Campaign also notes that the CRC Preamble states that the family is the fundamental unit of society and that “that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding.” Similarly, Smolin (pp. 92-93) notes that children’s autonomy rights are limited, noting that child labor laws restrict a child’s “right” to earn an income (protection from child labor is in CRC article 32) and compulsory education restricts  child’s autonomy (compulsory education is in CRC article 28). Thus, the treaty allows caregivers and guardians to provide reasonable restrictions, and urges that said caregivers help develop the child into a functioning adult. These provisions are to protect children from abuse and exploitation, and to help them function in a global world.

I mentioned earlier that USA is the only country to have not ratified the treaty. My concern is that this harms US credibility in the world. The American narrative is that USA is the bastion of human rights, and that is the message we tell the world. However, the fact USA has not ratified this treaty is potentially a blow to credibility, and leaves us with nothing to back our claims on when calling out other nations’ human rights violations. The treaty is important because it is so global, and had global input (UNICEF) Thus, appeal to the treaty will reduce the chances of cultural bias. For this reason, USA should ratify this treaty.

Campaign for the U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “Questions and Answers about the CRC”, https://web.archive.org/web/20130823172934/http://childrightscampaign.org/the-facts/questions-a-answers-about-the-crc

Renteln, Alison D. (1997). “WHO’S AFRAID OF THE CRC: OBJECTIONS TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD”, ILSA Journal of Int’l & Comparative Law, Vol. 3:629

 Smolin, David M. (2006). “Overcoming Religious Objections to the Convvention on the Rights of the Child”, Emory International Law Review, Vol. 20

CRC Objections: Freedoms of Religion, Association, and Information, and Education

In my last post, I discussed spanking and abortion as they relate to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this post, I will discuss freedom of religion, information, and association. One objection is that kids will be able to refuse to go to their parents’ religious services or to join cults. (That is a curious combination, as cults tend to force kids to stay in the cult.) The Campaign for the U.S. Ratification on the Rights of the Child says that this provision just means children have religious freedom without government interference, and observes that even highly religious States such as Vatican City have ratified the treaty. I will also note that the Convention repeatedly calls for policies to be carried out that reflect “the best interests” of the child, and article 5 states that parents, extended family, and other guardians are to provide guidance in that role. (I will discuss this article more later on when addressing the Convention’s alleged anti-family bias.)

The “best interests” phrase also addresses concerns that freedoms of association and information will allow kids to join gangs, racist groups, or access pornography. The Campaign for the U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that freedom of association means the right to peaceably assemble, and does not refer to parents’ restricting their kids’ choices. Also, to address concerns that it would allow kids to join racist groups, the Convention specifically says rights are limited and do not include things contrary to the purpose of the treaty or that infringe on others’ rights. The Convention specifically says that the rights apply to children regardless of race (article 2), and that education shall promote tolerance across differing groups (article 29, to be discussed later). Thus, joining racist groups is contrary to the purposes of the Convention.

I will also address concerns on education in this post. Farris (p.3) expresses concern that Article 29 of the Convention would ban the teaching of Christianity in schools, and Klichka and Estrada fear that Christian schools will be threatened by said article. The concern comes from a provision in article 29 that education be directed to “The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin”. Evangelical Christians tend to believe that one must accept Jesus to be saved, and see any contradiction as an attack on their faith. Thus, this provision is feared.

However, Smolin (p. 104) observes that this article doesn’t need religious relativism, and that such a relativism is self-defeating, as it would say that most religions are wrong. While many find exclusivist claims in conservative forms of Christianity and Islam distasteful, Eliza Griswold, in her book The Tenth Parallel, observes how a Christian pastor and Muslim imam in Northern Nigeria (both men are Fundamentalists) cooperate for the good of the village. This shows that teaching one’s religion as the right one is not mutually exclusive with article 29. Besides, Holland and Belgium have ratified the treaty, and both fund private as well as public schools.

Campaign for the U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “CRC: Facts and Myths”, https://web.archive.org/web/20110408160613/http://childrightscampaign.org/crcindex.php?sNav=getinformed_snav.php&sDat=faqs_dat.php

Farris, Michael. (2009). “Nannies in Blue Berets:
Understanding the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child”, available here

Griswold, Eliza. (2010) The Tenth Parallel, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Klichka, Christopher, J and Estrada, William A. (2007). “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Most Dangerous Attack on Parents’ Rights
In the History of the United States”,
https://web.archive.org/web/20080326173650/http://hslda.org/docs/nche/000000/00000020.asp

 Smolin, David M. (2006). “Overcoming Religious Objections to the Convvention on the Rights of the Child”, Emory International Law Review, Vol. 20

 

 

CRC Objections: Spanking and Abortion

Many objections to the CRC center on parental rights, and claim that these are undermined by the UN. Some areas included in this objection involve spanking, abortion, religious freedom, freedom of information, and freedom of association. In this post, I will address these objections.

The treaty does not specifically address spanking. However, provisions in articles 19 and 28 are cited as possibly anti-spanking. Article 28 says that school discipline shall be applied in a way consistent with the child’s dignity and with the Convention, and article 19 mentions protecting kids from physical and mental violence. Furthermore, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended that countries not spank.

However, while virtually all nations have ratified the Convention, most have not banned spanking. Michael Farris expresses concern that the treaty would result in legal sanctions against parents who spanked (p. 6). However, this is not the necessary outcome, as Sweden has long banned spanking, and spankers are given suggestions to resources to learn better ways (Gumbrecht). While the Committee opposes corporal punishment, its views do not form international law (Smolin, p. 103). Smolin notes that USA can ratify a treaty with the understanding that Article 19 does not ban spanking. Thus, ratification of the treaty will not mean that spanking is banned.

In this post, I will also discuss abortion briefly. Michael Farris (p. 27) from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) claims that the Convention would allow minors to get abortions without parental approval, and quotes pro-choice recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child as support for his claims. In addition, the reference to family planning in article 24 and to the right to privacy in article 16 are seen as supporting a minor’s right to an abortion without parental consent. However, Renteln (pp. 633-634) observes that some provisions can be seen as in opposition to abortion, considering article 1 defines a child as someone under 18, but gives no lower limit; says in the preamble that children are entitled to care both before and after birth; and article 6 says that a child has a right to life. Furthermore, many countries with strong anti-abortion laws have ratified the treaty. Thus, the treaty leaves it up to each country to determine abortion policy.

In a later post, I will discuss freedom of religion, association, and information.

Farris, Michael. (2009). “Nannies in Blue Berets:
Understanding the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child”, pdf available here.

Gumbrecht, Jaime. (2011). “In Sweden, a generation of kids who’ve never been spanked”, https://www.cnn.com/2011/11/09/world/sweden-punishment-ban/index.html

Renteln, Alison D. (1997). “WHO’S AFRAID OF THE CRC: OBJECTIONS TOTHE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD”, ILSA Journal of Int’l & Comparative Law, Vol. 3:629

Smolin, David M. (2006). “Overcoming Religious Objections to the Convvention on the Rights of the Child”, Emory International Law Review, Vol. 20

CRC photo 2

 

Introduction to the Series: Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a UN treaty that lays out children’s rights. It was first introduced to the UN General Assembly November 20, 1989, and entered into force when it was ratified by 20 countries on September 2, 1990. Since then, every country in the world has ratified the treaty, except one…the United States of America. Opposition to ratification has largely come from political and religious conservatives. In this series, I will talk about this treaty in general, and specifically address objections to the treaty, and urge for ratification.

Objections I plan to address include the treaty’s views on abortion, spanking, national sovereignty, and parental rights in general. I will also present a case as to why I think ratification is necessary.

 

CRC photo

 

The Importance of Learning

Learning is an important part of my life. For me, learning is intrinsically motivating. In this post, I will discuss why learning is important to me and how it has impacted my life.

First of all, as I mentioned above, learning is intrinsically motivating, which means that learning in itself is the reward. I find learning fun. However, I can see other benefits as well. Secondly, learning is important because education increases one’s chances of escaping poverty. Thirdly, learning is important because it makes us more informed about the world, and how things are different outside our provincial bubbles. This is important. While a cliché says that ignorance is bliss, it is more accurate to say that what we don’t know is destructive. An example of this is differing cultures: for decades, the world has grown increasingly connected and people today have increasing chances of encountering those of other cultures. At best, ignorance of other cultures can lead to embarrassing faux pas. However, ignorance can also feed stereotypes, which can lead to prejudice, discrimination, violence, and even genocide. Learning helps us to go beyond those stereotypes and falsehoods to a more accurate view of the world. This helps us to build bridges of understanding and is a necessary step in the path to a more peaceful and just world. Speaking of a more just world, learning also lets us know that what we are doing is not working, and helps us to find better solutions.

This also applies to my personal journey. I grew up in a cult that was anti-education and promoted anti-intellectualism. However, I am a curious person, and, as said above, I find learning intrinsically motivating. In a way, I think that trait saved my life. If not literally, it certainly saved my psyche. Because of this curiosity, I realized there was more to the world than just the four walls of the church, and, when I could, I would read or watch documentaries about other countries and belief systems. This helped weaken the indoctrination. In addition, through what I learned upon getting a Twitter account after getting a smartphone, I realized how bad the church was, and that it was a cult. This was one factor that enabled me to leave and start college. In an environment in which I am learning about all kinds of things, I am thriving. I am also learning things so that I can have a better career, even a better life altogether than what I had in the cult.

Another area in which learning has impacted my life has been learning languages. First of all, there was the sense of accomplishment in realizing I can read the Spanish language instructions. In addition, I have been able to talk to more people on social media through my knowledge of other languages (though I have not achieved fluency in anything except English, my mother tongue), read more articles online, and even watch more YouTube videos (and even comment on them in the language of the video). I have even translated French blog posts into English. I feel this extends my connection beyond my country and beyond Anglophones, in that I can communicate with people who speak these languages but do not speak English.

Learning about psychology has also impacted my life. First of all, this was through seeing myself in some of the theories and being able to put words to parts of myself that I was embarrassed to be unable to put into words. One example of this is defense mechanisms, in that I understood why I forgot things when questioned about them. In addition, Erikson’s stages of development and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs were helpful as well. Erikson allowed me to guess where I am in development, and even helped me understand some of my behavior as a teen. (I was never able to answer the question, “Who am I’, and learning helps me answer that as well!) Maslow’s pyramid helped me understand some frustrations, that some higher needs were unfulfilled. Food and security, the two lowest levels, were fulfilled, but others were not, and I realized I was not an ungrateful jerk for wanting more.

I also see psychology useful socially, in asking questions such as, “Why do we go to war?”, “Why are some people racist?”, and “What can we do about it?” I found inspiration in the Robber’s Cave Experiment, which implied common goals are useful in conflict resolution. (It seemed to play out in real life, such as how a well in an African village helped encourage cooperation between Christians and Muslims.) I also liked Erich Fromm’s theories, about how our society needs to move away from consumerism and towards humanity in order to promote a more peaceful world. This also tied in with Dr. King’s critiques of American materialism. I think all this is useful for me in being a better global citizen and doing my part so that, when I leave the planet, it will be better than it was when I arrived.

To sum up, I find learning intrinsically motivating. In addition to being fun, learning helps us to transcend our biases and prejudices, and to promote peace and justice in the world. In my own life, learning helped me know there was more to the world when I was in a cult, and it helped me to escape. Learning helped me learn other languages and thus enabled me to connect with people of other cultures. Learning also helped me understand myself and to see ways to be a better global citizen.

Study Abroad Adventure

Mark was having a blast studying abroad in Italy. One day, he was walking along the beach with his girlfriend Maria, a young man carrying an injured middle-aged woman suddenly swam ashore. The young man started speaking in Arabic, and Mark replied with an introduction and an offer of help. The young man introduced himself as Mahmoud and his companion as Fatima, and explained that they had crossed the Mediterranean in a boat, which had wrecked and capsized, and that they were the only survivors.

Mark explained the situation to Maria, who replied, “Andiamo!”* She ran to her car, slipped on her shoes, jumped in , and drove to where Mark and the migrants were waiting. However, as Mark was helping Fatima into the car, two young men starting hurling slurs against the Libyans and insulting Mark. When one charged at Mark, Maria hit him with the door, and stomped on his stomch. He cried out, called her sexist names, and demanded she get off. His friend charged her, and she chocked him out with her purse, causing him to fall at her feet. Mark and Mahoud got in; Maria floored the accelerator and went to a doctor.

This is a post for Sunday Photo Fiction, by Susan. Photo by Anurag Bakhshi

*Italian for “Let’s go!”