Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Blacks”

To Our ‘Gay’ President

Dear President Obama,

I have to admit you are full of surprises. As I am sure you are aware from your daily perusal of our humble blog, I am critically supportive of you. I worked for your election, cried when Jon Stewart called the election for Obama as part of The Daily Show and Colbert Report’s special live coverage of Indecision 2008, keeping the live show going a few more minutes in order to announce your/our victory, and praised your Obamacare, even if it was far from perfect.

I didn’t expect you to be so deadly cool and take out bin Laden like you did, when many hawks would be squawking at their roosts deciding if to or not.

Still, you will excuse me if I don’t jump up and down on your decision to support gay marriage, or the tribulations that have followed. You see, Mr. President, you simply did the right thing. That’s it.

I appreciate you having the guts to do it in an election year, but the President should do the right thing. You are the President of everyone – the blacks, the Jews, the Hispanics, the whites, the card-carrying NRA members, the religious and the secular. And you are the President of the gay community. You did the right thing.

So to thank you, here is a song that was brought out when it was difficult to come out as gay in Britain, sung by a singer who is not (I think) gay. But Billy Bragg wanted to be a representative of all progressive people and so he challenged us all with this song.

By the way Mr. President, I chose this version because it features the late Kristy MacColl who tragically died 12 years ago.

Thank you for reading this, sir. Always a pleasure. Here’s to another four years.
Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Veteran’s Day 3 Unwanted Heroes

Here is another offering from my latest manuscript, Unwanted Heroes. The novel highlights the way we treat war veterans in the US. It focuses on the struggles of an Asian-American Vietnam war vet who tries to put the voices at bay before his whole life falls apart.  The scene below takes place outside a coffee shop by the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Meet the two characters:

Narrator – Will – a young Englishman who has come to San Francisco to write. Works as a barista.

Mr. Tzu – His boss and a Vietnam War Vet.

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I think for a moment. “If you wanted to tell the world something, what would it be?”

He takes his time gathering his thoughts. “I would want them to know of my brother and his struggles. I would want them to know of our relationship and how I lived a lie and denied even my own precious brother because I was afraid he would take me down with him. I want America to know that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, not just Hollywood Chuck Norris or Schwarzenegger.”

His face is serious now, focused. A single bead of sweat drips down the left side of his forehead.

“We are Asian, but we are also American like they are and we have paid dearly for our membership. Just like the blacks, poor, and Latinos that sign up today. We’re crazy and homeless, but we’re still goddamn heroes and they need to respect us.”

His eyes seem unfocused, far away, as he picks his words.

“They need to know that they can’t sweep under the carpet, or more likely, under the bridges and into the shelters. They should be ashamed that a man risks his life for his country but can’t get medical help, or psychological help. He has to prove to insensitive bureaucrats that he deserves benefits that are his by right. Rights that he earned in the jungle and the prison camps.”

His face is stoic and he shakes his head, perhaps to himself, perhaps to me.

“They should know to treat us as heroes, to treat us with respect. We are the…unwanted heroes.”

He stops to catch his breath and reaches for his iced tea. He looks over and sees me madly scribbling. He waits as I catch up and when I look up, he is smiling.

“Well, Hemingway?”

I show him a page with phrases scrawled all over, with arrows and frantic scribbling out. I snatch the pad back and write at the top of the page in capital letters: “UNWANTED HEROES.” My pulse is racing. “Let’s get to work,” I whisper.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

Accusing From Afar Pt. 2

Yesterday I blogged about my first days on campus as a student.

Billy Bragg, a British songwriter and political activist, has a knack for summing it up succinctly.

What is fascinating are the racist comments below his song on You Tube. When I grew up in London in the 1970’s, the Jews, Blacks, Asians and Irish were all victims at our schools and in the streets of the National Front, now the British Nationalist Party.

Sometimes, unfortunately, we just never learn. Still, it helps inspire people like Billy Bragg to write the caliber of songs that he does. Every cloud…

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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