Sometimes when I wrap up a writing project – heck, sometimes when I wrap up anything in life – I run smack into that most horrifying of human terrors: completion. How do we know when we’re finished? This month’s theme at The Blood-Red Pencil is “What’s New?” but in my contrary fashion, I’ve decided to focus on what’s old…and what needs to be finished. Please check out my post here.
By Cara Lopez Lee
This entire week, my husband and I have been awaiting word on our mortgage loan documents, hoping our lender draws them up soon so we can close on a new house. On Monday, nobody was answering our calls and we grew anxious. For the past three days we’ve heard promise after promise followed by delay after delay. For some reason, it all makes me think of Syria’s refugees, whose situation is of course a million times direr than ours. I can’t help but seek metaphors, because that’s what my mind does when I try to make sense of things that don’t make sense. So I imagine Syrians desperate for a new home, anxious they made a mistake by leaving the old one, and at the moment they most want help, unable to get it.
About half of the homeless Syrian refugees are children. Yesterday, a friend shared these images by photographer Magnus Wennman, who has been documenting where Syrian refugee children sleep, and I can’t get them out of my head. Some of the children live in fear of the pillows they sleep on, because the attacks on their former homes came at night and they worry that their pillows caused the attacks. Of course, many of the children have no pillows.
Most of the suspected terrorists arrested for perpetrating the Paris attacks have already been verified as European nationals, not Syrian refugees. Nobody is suggesting we stop allowing European nationals into our country. But someone found what appears to be a fake Syrian passport carried by a suicide bomber, and even though someone else was carrying the same person’s passport in another country, and even though this one was likely planted to inflame public outrage, many have allowed that outrage to be inflamed without further investigation. Those people say we should not risk letting Syrian refugees seek refuge in our country. This is one of the goals of terrorists, this sort of knee-jerk fear and anger.
Who do you think many Syrian refugees are running from in the first place? The violence and chaos caused by Islamic State and other extremist elements. Who benefits when Westerners escalate discrimination against Muslims? Extremists who want a holy war with the West.
If you’re one of those who want to shut our borders to people who are fleeing for their lives, because you believe it will make our lives more secure, you’re kidding yourself. Islamic State is better funded than Al Qaeda ever was, many times over. The organization is rolling in oil money. Do you think if we close our borders to Syrians, we’ll stop Islamic State from continuing its reign of terror, that terrorists won’t find a way to attack Western nations? Most, if not all, the terrorists in this recent attack already lived in Europe. They already found a way in. They were not refugees.
Do you think it was Iraqis who attacked America on 9/11, when it was in fact Saudi Arabians? Do you know we have not closed our doors to Iraqis or Saudis in this country? Because most of them are not terrorists.
If you want to slam the door in the face of people running for their lives, at least half of whom are children, then shame on you. Pray you never know what it’s like to be running from death and destruction only to find that nobody will open their doors to you.
As for my husband and me, we’ll continue waiting for word on our loan documents, and until we close on the house we want, we’ll worry that something will happen to stop us from getting it. If we don’t get the house, it’s not as if we’ll be homeless. We’ll simply find an apartment and keep looking. Actually, our mortgage consultant assures me that we will get the house, sooner or later.
Come to think of it, we’re very, very lucky. Shame on me for worrying over such an enviable First-World problem.
I usually get a kick out of a good scare, but as Halloween approached this week, I read an email from a friend about something that I believe is scarier than it needs to be. It takes place in prison and involves terrified women inmates. I suppose it makes sense that prison might be a scary place, but these women are frightened about what will happen to them when they get out.
Karen Levi-Lausa is the heart and soul behind a Colorado nonprofit program called Words Beyond Bars, which takes literature and literary discussion into prisons. I’ve participated in a couple of the book discussions with male prisoners at the Sterling Correctional Facility, and I’ve seen what a transformative effect it has in the lives of long-term inmates who are eager to learn, grow, and connect. Recently, Karen took a similar program into the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, and the experience she briefly relayed to me in her email was heartbreaking. I asked her permission to reprint just a portion of her message here:
For those of you I don’t run into regularly, online or in person, I have news: after nearly 16 years in Colorado, and nearly 30 years away from California, I’m returning to my home state. It will still be a new home for me, because this time I won’t be living in Los Angeles but in the oceanside community of Ventura. I’ll tell you more about that when I’ve stopped packing and unpacking, selling my house and buying a new one…but that’s not what I wanted to talk about now. I just wanted you to understand why I’ve written the following farewell tribute to Lighthouse Writers Workshop, an organization I have treasured during my time in Denver, and one of the big reasons I almost decided not to leave:
My husband and I are selling our house, while I’m also wrapping up my novel. Today at The Blood-Red Pencil, I compare staging our home to show to buyers with revising my manuscript to submit to agents. Both are bigger jobs than I expected. Please check out my post, Stage a House, Revise a Novel: here.
Pangyrus, a Boston-based literary journal, has published my flash nonfiction piece Tiny Destroyer of Worlds. It’s the story of a nine-year-old pyromaniac (that would be me) who discovers the thrilling power to destroy. I’m dedicating it posthumously to my friend and fellow writer, Christy Bailey, a firecracker in her own right, who inspired me to write this essay for her 2014 event, The Denver Heat. If you’re up for a reminder of what it was like to be young and reckless – and to realize you might never change – please stop by Pangyrus for a peek.
Today, you have an opportunity to contribute to a great educational program and win a signed copy of my memoir, They Only Eat Their Husbands. The Guest Author Program at Jefferson County Open School invites working authors from the Colorado community to teach teenagers about writing. According to Benjamin Dancer, the teacher who runs this innovative program, the opportunity to share their writing and ideas with a working author has a powerful inspirational, motivational, and educational impact on students. The kids have decided to run a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo to raise money for next year’s program. It’s not a very expensive program, and just a few dollars can go a long way to helping these kids. Please consider donating here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/guest-author-program.