Browsing Tag


Guest Posts, Politics

On Being Political, An Immigrant Perspective

February 28, 2022

Surviving communism meant surviving Ceaușescu, the president of Romania. He was Romanian-born, came up the Communist Party ranks, and, in 1965, became the supreme leader who imposed his whim on every decision made on behalf of the country and its people. I knew this from the fear I sensed around me, the hushed conversations among adults I caught by eavesdropping. By the time I was old enough to ask questions, the broken spirit and indifference, and the impotence of adults around me, was crushing me.

“Ceaușescu’s reasoning for this scarcity is that it will let Romania remain a sovereign nation even though it’s inside the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence,” my father explained, from his chair wedged between the kitchen table and radiator, as he  adjusted the radio’s antenna to minimize the static.

“Before the Second World War, some international leaders had the power to split our area into spheres of influence.”

It felt impossible to understand how a few countries could have so much power back then.

“After the allies–Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union–won the Second World War, they agreed that the Soviet Union, established in 1922 as a set of four republics, would have influence over the countries around it. The Soviets imposed communism and Romania followed.”

They made us live in fear, without heat, hot water, gas for cooking, or, sometimes, even food. As teenagers, my sister and I warmed up water overnight on the stove so we could take sponge baths when either mom or dad or grandma wanted a turn to bathe on Wednesday, the only evening with hot water. What made it worse was that I heard no hope for change from my father or anyone else. No one even mentioned the possibility of change. This reinforced what I felt: fear, and doubt in the government’s commitment to its citizens. I felt powerless. If ‘political’ means relating to the government and public affairs, I lived involuntarily deprived of political agency.

In high school, I discovered Alexandru Andrieș, an architect and folk musician who played the acoustic guitar. His lyrics were full of innuendos, implications, irony, and plays on words as he questioned everything from the benefits of having two umbrellas to how one might guess that their boss was an informant for the Securitate, the secret police, the force that distributed fear:

“No one is perfect like him –

the boss!

Both friendly and smart –

what a human!” (my translation)

Andrieș’s art felt like resistance, and, through verses that had nuanced meaning, he became my first teacher of political thought. Following his puns and snarky acoustic music, I felt I could subversively question the political structure imposed by Ceaușescu and the Soviet influence. When I aligned myself with Andries’ talent and wisdom, I engaged in politics. I had political agency.

Then, in December 1989, my last year in high school, communism ended abruptly, through the Revolution. I imagine some adults saw this coming, especially those who had access to Radio Free Europe, a shortwave radio channel transmitted from Munich:   all around us in the Soviet sphere of influence the people were out in the streets. But I didn’t. When the army executed Ceaușescu and his wife and transmitted the shooting live on TV, I believed it wasn’t real, that it was rigged so the government could gather data on who celebrated their death in the streets. I thought he would reappear to throw us all in prison.

This deep mistrust is still lodged inside. Not as powerful as decades ago, but enough for me to know that my personal lived experience then and now is the result of the social and political structures around me. And so, I must acknowledge the impact that society and governmental politics have on my life and I must remember to carefully consider how these structures inform and shape my decisions. If I don’t, I surrender my newly-earned privilege of political agency.

Years of journaling, and I am still unpacking the impact of growing up under Ceaușescu’s communist-born dictatorship. This is how I discovered that I felt powerless and unsafe unless I could act of my own accord. Once in America, to feel powerful, I threw myself at every opportunity; my only goal was to claim the experience. I jumped from one career to another in search of one that met my interests, my desire for quality of life, and my financial needs. One where I didn’t have to sacrifice one critical aspect for another.

To feel safe, I chose to be a single parent despite the stigma that almost silenced me. My limited means meant I didn’t contribute to the lunchtime banter about the destination for spring break, the latest vehicle model, or the newest restaurant. At children’s birthday parties, I found myself pegged as the wild one, in the questions that my friends asked, and indirectly in their husbands’ gaze. I didn’t confront them.

During the isolation imposed by COVID-19, I had time to count my blessings:

  • My current job as a teacher’s assistant is the only one I’ve had where I don’t need to sacrifice any aspect of myself.
  • Sixteen years of stay-cations have prepared me to have fun at home.
  • Friends are those who choose not to peg me but to be mutually empowering.

To me, the meaning of ‘political’ involves one’s awareness of the omnipresent interpersonal power dynamics, not just those related to the government. Under communism, searching for a job I enjoyed would not have been possible, and seeking friendships based on trust could have led me to prison. My definition of ‘political’ includes the freedom to make choices and decisions informed by this awareness.

When I acknowledge power imbalances, I am political. I heal because I am not blindly trapped in an unhealthy pattern. This awareness empowered me to leave a safe and decently paid job because of a misogynistic boss, though I knew society might frown upon me for shifting to one that paid less. But it was my decision.

When I question the cultural standards and expectations for being a good citizen that led me to leave an unhealthy marriage and become a single parent, I am political because I choose what is safe for my child and me. I heal from the fear of not being good.

When I write and publish, despite my imperfect immigrant’s language, so that my experience becomes public and is included, I am political because I add my immigrant and single-parent experience to the narrative of what it means to be American. I heal from the fear of not belonging.

Born under Romania’s communist dictatorship, Corina Oana arrived in America alone, against all odds, a couple of years after the 1989 revolution. Her passion for sewing turned into a successful slipcover and draperies manufacturing business. A BA in mathematics from Wellesley College led her to Wall Street. Single parenting catapulted her towards healing and social justice activism. She now works with children on the Autism Spectrum in Cambridge MA. She is a contributor to the online publications Illumination and Be Yourself on Medium.


Statement on Black Lives Matter and support for social change.


Guest Posts, Politics, Relationships

Irreconcilable Difference: Living With A Trump Supporter

December 19, 2020

By Zarr

I have to do all of this by phone so I can’t upload it as a file. I’ve attached a picture instead because I can’t submit without an upload. My submission was written and hidden as a draft email. I can’t risk it being found. I can’t use my real name. This was written in June. I’ve begun to narrate the thoughts I have because imagining them as a story I am telling as opposed to an experience I am living, makes it somewhat more bearable. Even if not selected, I wanted someone else to know of my pain.

“I can’t wait for Trump to be re-elected………best president….feminists want feminism when it suits them, they want it both ways……”, I cringe and shrink. The words are coming from within my own home. Not on the tv, not the internet, not on a podcast, but from my own husband’s mouth. I can feel my heart rate increasing. I’m anxious, I’m in survival mode. We’ve been home together every single day for 3 months. Apart only when one of us goes to the store. I can feel myself struggling more to emotionally navigate through each day. I can’t sleep. I’m always on edge. Things are challenging with our children. I can dish it out and I’m not timid, but I avoid political conversations at all costs. Have you had a discussion with a Trump supporter? Have you tried to reason with one? They don’t want to hear you. His disregard for etiquette, his disregard for women, his disregard for common sense. Trump has given every man the green light to treat women as he does, to dismiss any woman who questions them, who has an opinion not aligned with his own.

We weren’t always political opposites. We both were passionate about Obama leading up to his election, and during the years of his presidency. We debated friends over his brilliance and the impact he’d have on our country. We prominently displayed Obama signage in our windows. I don’t know what sparked the transition to Trump-dom, but it began long before Trump’s arrival on the political landscape. It first started with my husband committing to one ill-reputed media source after another, and believing more and more of what he heard. A once minor divide widened to cavernous proportions.

I believe couples can have opposing beliefs and still have a healthy, loving relationship – perhaps only until those beliefs involve Trump. I feel absolutely shattered that this is who my (by the way, immigrant) husband supports. I rarely invite friends over to the house less politics come up. Just like Trump, he would counter any reasonable response with an ill thought out, dismissive rebuttal. I always refrain from engaging when he spouts Trump-isms. Like Trump he is mostly speaking to validate himself, and not to have actual intellectual discourse. Because on top of intense anxiety (that I can’t even remember if it was as intense prior to 44) and four children, this is too great an argument for me to become trapped within.

The impact of Trump has gone beyond conversations that are political. My husband is easily bothered by trivial things. It’s always someone or something’s fault. It is never because he has chosen a negative reaction. Everyone else should change, everything should meet the invisible standard that he has set – the one that he won’t inform you of until you’ve failed to meet it. You should have known! Once I said, “The reason you like Trump so much is because he communicates just like you!” I saw it actually took a few moments for him to register that it was not a compliment.

When I mentioned that I was going to watch the Together Graduation 2020 event (because we had a graduating senior this year), with Obama as commencement speaker, he let me know that if I turned it on he would turn something else on, to tune mine out. I am in the den every day while he is one room over watching both current and past news segments of ass kissing Trump reports and I never ask him to turn it off because it will be a fight. Now that I’m going to turn on something he doesn’t like, he Trumps out on me. When I question him, his glare becomes dark and he asks “Do you want to start a fight?” No, actually! What I want is to feel free to say how I feel and be involved in an adult conversation where our opinions differ and have it be ok. Instead of my admittedly fragile state not being able to withstand a Trump level argument that would just be him eventually yelling (but saying it’s not yelling) about liberal sheep.

Leaving, and why I haven’t, is a whole other story. As much as we hear how “Anyone can do it” and “If you really wanted to you would find a way”, it is truly not an option for every single person. It is not an option for me today, or in the near future. I was a stay at home mom for almost two decades, now I work part time to accommodate school drop off and pick up for two young kids. My husband has a successful career, and travels semi-regularly. During those trips I could breathe, I’d be so productive, things were easier with our children. I don’t know when I will catch my next breath now. Some days I hear him in his man cave, Trump-ing through a phone call and I go to my room and scream into a pillow, or I cry. It is absolutely draining.

Some of the things I am doing to cope, that whole self care concept that we keep hearing about, weren’t possible pre-shelter in place. With the absence of a brief commute to and from work, school and activity drop offs and pick ups with long waits, and social activities for myself and the kids, I now use that time to actively make an effort to keep my head above water. For me it is little things that are fulfilling and I love the small wins as someone who usually has the best intentions but never remains consistent. I exercise just 30 minutes daily, walk on the treadmill 3x/week and yoga on the in between days, I take a long, hot shower every night while I imagine washing away all the bad energy I am exposed to all day, and just hope for an uneventful next day, I read- to escape into another world, another mindset, an immersion outside of my own heavy reality, and I listen to guided meditations and sound baths, to get as comfortable as possible as I try to minimize the anxiety – even temporarily, and I have tele-sessions with my therapist.

With the election upcoming and no candidate to be excited about, I’m in a lesser of two evils mindset. Once upon a time I thought that once Trump left office, the constant politically induced pontificating would begin to fade. Maybe a reconnection would be able to start. Now with sheltering in place likely to continue through the summer, and November just around the corner afterwards, I’m less hopeful of that possibility, and am taking things moment by moment in order to protect my mental health. I think Trump has brought out the worst in many, and has validated the worst in people to be revealed.

Zarr is a mid-40’s mom living in Seattle. Trump has become the ultimate stalemate in her marriage of over 20 years. Despite her efforts to treat it as a non issue, which still causes tremendous internal self loathing and emotional turmoil, the negativity and hatred permeates her being.

Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option



Click here for all things Jen

Guest Posts, Patriotism, Politics

P is for President

July 3, 2017

By Lori D’Angelo

A is for Anita Hill
One of the formative events of my high school years was the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Specifically Anita Hill’s testimony. I was a freshman in high school and I was 14. I watched the hearings on my grandma’s old central-to-the-living-room TV, an appliance that always seemed to be on. I didn’t know what sexual harassment was and I had never seen a porn movie. My then Pennsylvania senator, Arlen Specter, was among the rat pack of White Men acting like Ms. Hill was out for something. I don’t know what. Public embarrassment? But I think Anita Hill accomplished something, even if it wasn’t the dismissal of one of the least qualified justices to ever be appointed to the bench. She accomplished awareness, and our national conversation about sexual harassment changed because of her.

B is for Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton was the crush of my youth, my high school and college years. The first president I ever voted for and the president I vocally and ardently supported before I was old enough to vote. Bill Clinton was smart. Bill Clinton was hot. Bill Clinton was mesmerizing. He was like a intellectual girl’s wet dream. In college, I had a life-sized Bill Clinton cutout that my apartmentmates got me for my 22nd birthday. It was a little alarming to walk in to our third-floor apartment and think, Hey, who’s that strange man, and realize Oh, it’s just Bill Clinton. I was around Monica Lewinsky’s age, a college student when the intern scandal broke. I remember disagreeing with our journalism school dean at the time. He thought the intern sex story was a legit thing that we should cover. The Starr Report was everywhere. I thought that going to office supplies stores and seeing it amid pencils and paper clips was one of the most horrifying things I had ever encountered. Did Bill Clinton have sex with that intern? I didn’t really care. If I was the intern, I likely would have done the same thing, and that’s the truth. But I hope now that I wouldn’t have because though Bill was the politician of my youth, his wife, Hillary, was the politician of my life.

C is for Class President
In 9th grade, I ran for class president. I lost to a girl who is now an attorney and an elected official in our shared hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her family was in politics. I didn’t know that then. The boy who came in second was Indian and had terrible skin condition. Not only did I lose, I really lost. I never ran for student council again. In ninth period freshman English, I held back tears as the girl in front of me, a pretty, popular girl told me: I voted for you. I wanted to get our school to do things like recycle more. I don’t think that was on everyone’s agenda. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Politics, Women


June 22, 2017

By Jennifer D Munro

“Chanel freed women, and I empowered them.” –Yves Saint Laurent

* * *

I advanced efficiently through Yves Saint Laurent’s explosion of color, crammed into the Seattle Art Museum like Auntie Mame’s walk-in closet: A green Pop Art dress with a bold pink heart over the entire bodice. A hip-length vest made of orange raffia fringe. An ice-blue bow-bustle big enough to cover even my derriere, though nothing in this exhibit would fit me except the mustard-yellow cape of the type worn by heroines flinging themselves off cliffs, melancholy about looking seasick in that color. A Chinese-red jacket.  “Lichen green and moss green chiffon” (from the gallery guide, as if I could tell the difference between lichen and moss greens). And the grids of white and primary colors and bold black lines of the iconic Mondrian (I assumed this was a dead artist and not a Star Trek alien or type of porch column) cocktail dress plastered on Seattle billboards to advertise this unconventional art show.

I’d had no desire to see this haute couture collection, but my friend Irene, equally unconcerned with style—her go-to is Value Village, mine is Sears—had surprised me by urging me to go. Shortly after the U.S. presidential election, we’d joined a peaceable demonstration at the lake we’d spent nearly 30 years walking around together in sweatpants and untinted lip balm. Irene’s hair has been white for almost as long as I’ve known her, though she’s not much older than I. Irene had attended the fashion designer’s exhibit right after the election, because, she said, “I needed to be surrounded by beauty.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Politics

Still Gonna Do (#ShePersisted)

April 10, 2017

By Leigh Hopkins

When I was a literacy center director in Philadelphia, I worked with thirty after school programs run by neighbors who were doing their best to give kids what schools couldn’t get to. Programs held in abandoned dollar stores and storefront churches, or in homeless shelters run by activist nuns. Bodega reading circles. White-haired volunteers reading to kids in synagogues and mosques.

My nonprofit shared the program’s early successes with big foundations like Ford and Pew, and because our centers often worked in partnership with “faith-based organizations,” the Bush White House wanted to know about it.

Churches they understood.

White House staff visited our programs and invited us to Washington. When it came time for the final interview that we hoped would lead to funding, I spouted literacy and poverty statistics while stressing the need for the separation of church and state. I emphasized the importance of program quality, replicability and scale. After two hours of questioning, they began to wrap things up. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

From The Quiet Corner

December 26, 2016

By Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

How many times when kids are young do parents essentially shake off their child’s upset? “You fell? You got up! You’re worried? You’re awesome!” We aim to bolster self-esteem; we keen toward reassurance.

The other day, my daughter asked why Trump won. We were walking to her gymnastics practice. “You know, our country really doesn’t agree about how to make things better,” I told her. “So, sometimes the great person wins and sometimes someone wins we don’t agree with. Everyone wants the world to be better,” I assured her.

“I was really looking forward to telling my kids that when I was eight turning nine in 2016, we elected our first girl President,” she said.

“I know, me too,” I replied. “I was looking forward to your kids hearing that. I do think we’re going to get a girl President.”

“Maybe I will be the first girl President!” Continue Reading…