Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cold Evolution

Life can easily pass by
In a rotating whirlwind
As the Earth moves, the person
Experience after experience

What is it all for?
The pleasure of saying
Or the realization
That life is rien
If one does not do what it is that makes it life

As time moves
And I sit on this blazing mattress
Passing the days by with only
A simple guide
A funnel
I have swirled into
What needs to be done is done
All while I slump
Upside down
In reverse

I once experienced
The world
Where did it go?
Where am I?

If this is what life is,
Then why does it inspire
Those dots who rotate around me
In this exceptionally bright world?

I am the circle,
You are the dots.

Not so.

Science or Religion
Whichever has won the battle
Did not create a world made for
Warm loneliness
Or passionate dwelling
There is purpose
La dulce felicidad

¿Quién soy yo?

Patient impulsivity
If not now, when?
As the rotating world knows
Through the sight of passersby
Now is not always

So grab a jacket
Step into the cold
Feel the chilled sweetness
Of one new,

Friday, November 11, 2016

La Compasión in a Changing World

Me llamo Alicia Barbas, y soy una ciudadana bilingüe de los Estados Unidos además de ser Española. 

I believe that I am one of many who feels the need to act during such a momentous change in the world. It is necessary to express the way that this change affects not only me, but the fellow human beings around me with whom I interact everyday. And for this reason, it is essential that we focus on the humanity that lies within all of us.

In the aftermath of recent political events, it is clear that the United States is more divided than ever in terms of political policies, social laws, and overall values that guide how we treat each other. I have encountered countless arguments all over the news and social media sources from all political parties, but I have also seen too many acts of violence and pure hatred toward other U.S. citizens all over the country. I am completely aware that I am neither the first nor the only person to speak up, but I do hope that I can shed some light on what I find is the most crucial and the most impactful aspect of being a human being: compassion.

Growing up in a suburb of Chicago, speaking both English and Spanish in my everyday life seemed a bit out of place. Although I am very grateful to have grown up in such a safe, welcoming community in which I made long lasting friendships and memories, I felt that every single day at school was spent surrounded by a majority of English-speaking caucasian students with a generally well-off socio-economic status. Even though I also fell into this category in some ways, I wanted to expose myself to all kinds of people and to truly experience the rest of the world. While I was very much driven to feel this way as a result of the fact that I speak Spanish fluently and come from a family that in large part still lives in Spain, I was also lucky enough to travel to Spain almost every summer as well as visit many other parts of Europe, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. I remember coming back from these trips with such excitement to show all of my friends and everyone around me how amazing it is to meet people from all over the world and to experience another country's typical food, music, and history. Mostly, though, I began to realize how little my daily issues mattered in relation to this immensely rich and diverse world we live in. 

After graduating high school this past spring, I decided that wherever I pursued a higher education, I needed to be surrounded by a variety of people in a much newer environment. While the word "diversity" is most often related to the idea of race in the minds of many, it truly refers to much more than that. Diversity means differences in language, culture, sexuality, opinions, ethnicity, race, and so much more. Diversity was what I asked for, and diversity was what I found. From the moment I stepped onto my college campus, I had a realization that there is even more diversity in this world than I had encountered in my travels growing up. Now, three months into my Freshman year, I have learned more about the cuisine, traditional music, variety of languages, practicing religions, values, and ways of life in different regions of India, South Korea, China, Africa, Mexico, and Latin American countries. Often I feel that this is learned not simply from sitting in a classroom, but from genuinely interacting with people that come from families and backgrounds rooted in these countries. As a result of this, I have never felt more enlightened and educated since being here. 

While all of these elements have affected my perspective of life, one thing in particular that I have participated in has taught me a lot about the immigrant community and has empowered me to make a difference. Being enrolled in a class titled "Spanish in the Community", I have been asked to volunteer 28 hours of my time to a Spanish-speaking community, which in the outskirts of my campus includes many latin american immigrants and undocumented citizens. I have personally spent my time in a bilingual kindergarten class, where students are instructed in both English and Spanish, and where I have worked with many intelligent and kind students who speak Spanish as their first language. While working with these students, I had moments in which I pondered how exactly they live at home, and whether their parents live the constantly worried and difficult life of an undocumented immigrant in this country. I realized how important education is in creating the future of this society, and I wondered how Spanish-speaking students were receiving a different education, as they seemed to be often separated from other students for certain activities. After discussing issues with education and later attending a few high school parent-teacher conferences as an interpreter, I realized that some children of undocumented immigrants struggle with a motivation for school, as they see that it may be difficult to pursue a higher education without the financial and academic resources they need. So, I did everything I could to make learning in this kindergarten classroom enjoyable and beneficial, both culturally and academically. I did everything I could to make sure that no matter what, they felt safe in this environment and they didn't feel different or inferior to any other student. 

As I continued to volunteer, I also participated in and listened to many discussions led by my professor during this class regarding the everyday lives of these citizens. Through this, I was exposed to the fact that despite the ideas of many, so many immigrants do not enter the country illegally because they are "horrible people" or because they are "rapists, drug lords, or criminals",  but because they are normal people seeking better lives and because the road to citizenship in this country is a very long, rigorous, and difficult process that many are unable to go through. The proposed programs such as DACA and DAPA that allow undocumented children or undocumented parents of American citizens to apply for deferral of deportation have been heavily criticized and will most likely be rejected, therefore making life much harder for all of these citizens and causing not only a constant fear, but also a cruel separation of families. It has also been proven that undocumented immigrants actually contribute more to the American society than they receive in return. The majority of immigrants are hard workers that work in jobs that many citizens would not want or need to do, and they do not receive the healthcare, security, or documents that they need in return. What's even more is that they contribute to the growing "melting pot" of a society that we live in, providing a greater use of Spanish and therefore a greater knowledge of foods, music, and culture from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries to the United States. It is crucial that we inform ourselves in order to understand that they are not damaging or worsening our country; their presence here is actually doing just the opposite. 

As most of us learn in our history classes, the United States is a country founded on immigration. For this reason, it is important to recognize that there is a certain element of racism within these ideas of deporting Latin American immigrants. Most caucasian citizens of this country are descendants of European immigrants, but this is not often acknowledged when discussing the controversial topic of immigration. European immigration to the United States continues to exist, but is not looked at nearly as negatively as immigration from Latin America. While it is true that immigration from this region of the world occurs much more often, therefore creating a very large population of Latin American immigrants in this country, it is crucial that we understand why this is the case. These are people that are largely fleeing from terrible situations in search of  a better life for themselves and their families. When it comes down to it, isn't that what we are all trying to do? As humans, we simply seek happiness and comfort. Why is it that we believe that only people who have official documents of citizenship are allowed to seek and find these things in this country? Why is it that we are against the opportunity for others to be happy? Why is it that we feel that we are superior to others and therefore deserve more opportunities? Are we so blind to the suffering of others that we simply deem them horrible people and turn the other cheek?  

No matter what background you come from, I invite you to consider one thing: If you could put yourself in the shoes of a Latin American undocumented immigrant, an African-American citizen, an Asian-American citizen, a Muslim-American citizen, a gay American citizen, a disabled American citizen, an American woman, or simply anyone that is not exactly the same as you, would you be okay with not only the racism and discrimination, but also the hatred expressed toward you? Would you be okay with feeling scared for your safety and your happiness during every second of every day? Would you be okay with the idea that others feel superior to you and have more opportunities than you do? Would you be okay with people telling you that you are not American? Would you want to be treated the way that these people are currently being treated in this society? I will not answer these questions because they are for each person to ponder on his/her own, but I think I would find almost everyone's answer to be similar. I will say this: We are all human. We are living in a highly developed world with so many opportunities to offer. We are living in a society that bases and prides itself on diversity and the help of others. When we understand what someone else is feeling, that is when we can truly feel compassion for another person. That is when we can enrich our own lives while also learning to appreciate and respect the lives of others. That is when we realize that everyone is equal and therefore deserves an equal chance for happiness in this life. 

I do not write this in an attempt to challenge any political opinion or to insult or criticize anyone's ideas. I write this in an attempt to change the perspectives with which we view life in order to transform the way that we understand and treat one other. 

After all, true peace and kindness is not achievable without each other.