This post, written for Reddit on Jan. 30, 2017, was intended to be an open letter to encourage other American Redditors to share their own or their family’s immigration stories. Within nine hours, it had a record score of over 90,000 points and over 25,000 comments. Many of these stories were far more eloquent and moving than my own. You can read them here.After two weeks abroad, I was looking forward to returning to the U.S., but as I got off the plane at LAX on Sunday, I wasn’t sure what country I was coming back to.President Trump’s recent executive order is not only potentially unconstitutional, but deeply un-American. We are a nation of immigrants, after all. In the tech world, we often talk about a startup’s “unfair advantage” that allows it to beat competitors. Welcoming immigrants and refugees has been our country’s unfair advantage, and coming from an immigrant family has been mine as an entrepreneur. Protesters hold signs during a demonstration at LAX on Jan. 29, 2017, against the immigration ban imposed by Trump. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images. I am the son of an undocumented immigrant from Germany and the great-grandson of refugees who fled the Armenian genocide.A little over a century ago, a Turkish soldier decided my great-grandfather was too young to kill after cutting down his parents in front of him; instead of turning the sword on the boy, the soldier sent him to an orphanage. Many Armenians, including my great-grandmother, found sanctuary in Aleppo, Syria — before the two reconnected and found their way to Ellis Island. Thankfully they weren’t retained, rather they found this message:“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”My great-grandfather didn’t speak much English, but he worked hard, and was able to get a job at Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company in Binghamton, New
When a Victoria, Texas, mosque burned down under mysterious circumstances on early Jan. 28, 2017, members were distraught. Photo by Victoria Islamic Center/Facebook. The fire, which collapsed the building, left the congregants of the Victoria Islamic Center without a place to worship. That is, at least, until members of a local Jewish congregation showed up at a mosque founder’s house with a key to their synagogue. “This is sad for everyone in the community and as Jews we especially have to feel for the Muslim community. When a calamity like this happens, we have to stand together,” Robert Loeb, the synagogue’s president, told Reuters.Both communities are small — Victoria boasts a few dozen Jewish and about 100 Muslim residents — which synagogue officials said makes sticking together all the more important. “Everyone knows everybody, I know several members of the mosque, and we felt for them,” Loeb said.Others in the community pitched in as well. The Victoria Islamic Center, before the fire. Photo by Victoria Islamic Center/Facebook. A few days after the fire, local high school students rallied in support of the mosque, praying and planting trees. Donations to a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for rebuilding have exceeded $1 million. After an election year that saw an increase in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents, Jewish and Muslim groups have been coming together to support one another. Back in November, the Islamic Society of North America and the American Jewish Committee joined forces to create the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Committee, with the goal of combatting hateful speech and violence toward members of either faith and pushing for expanded rights for religious and ethnic minorities.Meanwhile, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Bend the Arc Jewish Action have been leading protests and petitions against Donald Trump’s executive order barring travelers from Muslim nations from entering the United States.While it’s st
“Our first goal is to know what we’re talking about.”Scott Shaffer is determined to stop Donald Trump. He’s already got some key allies, even in deep red Texas, where he lives. But he’s adamant about not putting the cart before the horse. Downtown La Grange, Texas. Photo by Tap Houston/Flickr. Right now, Shaffer’s band of rebels includes just four people: himself, his wife, and two friends. Still, the La Grange, Texas, native has big plans to expand the group. He wants to appoint a sentry to spot congressional bills the second they’re filed, analysts who will read them obsessively, and communications specialists who will craft messaging in support or opposition. To acquire the manpower, he’s visiting local churches and meeting with political leaders to recruit more volunteers.”I’m not incensed anymore. I’m focused like a frickin’ laser. It’s past time to be incensed,” he says.Since Nov. 8, more than 4,500 independent political action groups have established themselves across the United States under the banner of the “Indivisible” movement. The groups’ playbook is the Indivisible Guide, written by four former congressional staffers, which instructs aspiring local organizers on how to use tactics originally deployed by the Tea Party to oppose the Trump administration’s agenda.”We think it’s critical to have these groups in red and blue districts alike,” says Sarah Dohl, an Indivisible board member. “While it’s critical to weaken Republicans’ resolve on Trump’s dangerous agenda, it’s just as critical to stiffen Democrats’ spines and encourage them to be bold in their opposition.”The guide’s authors established a central organization to act as a resource clearinghouse for the individual groups that operate independently — many in cities, towns, and districts where Republicans have historically been dominant. “I’m not very eager to see our young men and women sent off into another foreign war,” explains Carl Genthner, who runs an Indivisible Group in Arizona.G
Men need to step up in the fight for gender justice.
President Donald Trump makes a lot of big claims. It’s kind of his thing.For instance, he once claimed to have “the world’s greatest memory” (a claim he later forgot making). Then there was the time he told a black pastor that he was “the least racist person that you have ever met” (which is quite the claim to make even if you didn’t open your presidential campaign by labeling Mexicans as “rapists” and “criminals”). But perhaps the most hyperbolically “WTF” phrase he’s ever uttered was about women. GIF from ABC News/YouTube. Even if you were to set aside his history of misogynistic comments and the accusations of assault and harassment by a bevy of women throughout the years, we’re to believe that nobody has more respect for women? Seems unlikely — on a purely statistical level. That’s why gender justice group Promundo is calling on Trump to make good on his farfetched boast and “Be a Model Man.”The group encourages men and boys to partner with women and girls in the fight for gender equality, working to defeat harmful gender norms and disrupt power dynamics that drive gender-based injustices worldwide. This week, the group posted an open letter to the president on its website. “During the campaign, you said, ‘Nobody has more respect for women than I do,'” reads the letter. “Yet, you have said and done things that many people consider to be disrespectful. As men who believe manhood is not about disrespecting women, we call on you to make amends and to set a new tone.”While directed at Trump, the letter serves as a call to action for men around the country to support the fight for gender equality.On January 21, just one day after Trump took office, millions participated in what was originally planned as the Women’s March on Washington, with sister marches popping up around the world in solidarity. Standing up to the president, who was recorded on a hot mic saying, “When you’re a star, [women] let you do
President Donald Trump accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of fake crying during a press conference opposing the recent refugee and immigration executive order. “I know him very well,” Trump told reporters. “I don’t see him as a crier. If he is, he’s a different man. There’s about a 5% chance it was real, but I think they were fake tears.” Trump’s pointed attack ignores the fact that Schumer’s great-grandmother and many of her children were killed in the Holocaust, so his reaction to a drastic measure preventing refugees from safe harbor may be an emotional one. Even without that familial context, Schumer’s impassioned response to stranded and separated families in his home state seems more than appropriate. Schumer stands with recently resettled refugees to push for an overturn of Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration to the United States for refugees and some Muslim travelers at a press conference in New York. Photo by Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images. It wasn’t the first time Trump has dinged someone for crying.He has a long history of dismissing or shaming people crying. He’s called out Glenn Beck, John Boehner, and Jeb Bush on Twitter for crying or being “cry babies” and falsely accused ABC News anchor Martha Raddatz of crying on air after the election. Boehner wipes a tear as Rep. Nancy Pelosi looks on during a ceremony to award the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously to Constantino Brumidi in 2012. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images. Despite Trump’s aversion to it, there are many benefits to crying backed by science and research. Physiologically, there are actually three types of tears: emotional, basal, and reflex.Emotional tears are a reaction to stress or strong feelings, basal tears keep eyes lubricated, and reflex tears are secreted in response to irritants like dust or onion. All three types of tears are made up of enzymes, oils, mucus, and antibodies in saltwater. Each type of tear possess distinct molecules tha
Jovanka Vuckovic hates when it happens. But when you’re a film director and a woman, it’s inevitable: People are going to think you’re on set in a different capacity. “I’ve been on film sets where the stunt man comes up and says, ‘Oh, are you hair and makeup?’ Uh, no. ‘Are you wardrobe?’ No,” Vuckovic says. “‘Oh, then what are you doing here?’ I’m the director. ‘You don’t look like a director.'””Well, what’s a director supposed to look like?” Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing. A former horror magazine editor from Toronto, Vuckovic has been a fan of the genre for many years. Working in publishing and later in the male-dominated filmmaking world, it became clear to her how underrepresented women were behind the camera and, thus, how wildly misrepresented they were in front of the camera — particularly when it comes to horror.”I kept asking people, ‘Please, can you just write women characters as actual human beings?'” she explains. “I got tired of asking, so I just decided I’m going to do it myself.” Vuckovic’s short film “The Box” is part of a horror anthology, “XX,” that’s garnering a lot of buzz at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. For many moviegoers, it’s both a scary film and an important endeavor. The trailer for “XX” is pretty damn terrifying. But even cooler, the anthology — which features four short films, including Vuckovic’s — is completely women-led, with each film directed by and starring women. Peyton Kennedy in “The Box,” Vuckovic’s short film in “XX.” Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing. Vuckovic says women made up roughly 80% of the crew for her short. On most sets, that ratio is basically flipped.Along with “The Box,” “XX” features Roxanne Benjamin’s “Don’t Fall,” Karyn Kusama’s “Only Living Son,” and Annie Clark’s “Birthday Party.” If the trailer (embedded below) is any indication, each short appears as scary as the next. There’s no shortage of creepy children, torn-off fingernails, and camping trips gone awry between the four dark tales.
Historically, music has played a vital role in American war and resistance movements. During the Revolutionary War, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and other popular dance songs were sung by both the British soldiers and the American rebels to keep spirits afloat in trying times. This continued throughout history, with songs like the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America” motivating troops and civilians during the Civil War and World War I. But war is never straightforward, and when American involvement in Vietnam escalated, patriotic songs like “The Battle of the Green Berets” were soon outnumbered by protest and anti-war music like Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ “I Should Be Proud.” Folk singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform during a civil rights rally in Washington, D.C., in 1963. Photo by Rowland Scherman/National Archive/Newsmakers. Nearly in tandem, the civil rights movement had protest and resistance music of its own. Generations of artists and performers, inspired by marches, demonstrations, and tragedies during the fight for civil rights, created some of the country’s most enduring musical contributions — songs like James Brown’s “Say it Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” and Gil Scott-Heron’s spoken-word piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” James Brown performs at the Olympia hall in Paris. Photo by AFP/Getty Images. But protest and resistance music didn’t end in the 1960s. Now more than ever, we need songs to keep us moving forward. We need songs that make people want to stand up, speak out, and fight back. We’re facing an unprecedented American political landscape, and there are inexperienced, unpredictable people in charge. It’s important to pay attention and speak up against bigotry, ignorance, and policies that affect the most vulnerable. This is the soundtrack to the resistance. Turn it up. Share it. Let them hear us coming. Demonstrato
On March 21, 1963, Maurice R. Hilleman’s daughter woke him up. She had a sore throat.When he examined her, he realized that she had swelling beneath her jaw. He knew immediately that this was no ordinary sore throat. She had mumps.Mumps is a contagious viral disease that typically starts with a fever, headache, aches and pains, fatigue, and a loss of appetite. It is then followed by swollen salivary glands. It used to be the most common cause of acquired hearing loss, and there was no treatment. All Hilleman could do was tuck his daughter back into bed and hope she would be OK. A 3D representation of a mumps virus particle. Image via Alissa Eckert/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s easy to forget today that those severe childhood diseases like mumps were once a relatively common occurrence.As recently as half a century ago, kids would often get sick with diseases that caused devastating side effects and, sometimes, even death. In fact, some illnesses such as mumps, measles, and rubella were so prevalent that most parents could easily recognize them — usually because they had either had them themselves or had seen them before.Measles — the same disease blamed partly for decimating Native American populations after the arrival of European explorers — was so common at the beginning of the 20th century that almost all Americans caught it sometime during their lifetime (though usually as children). In 1912-22, an average of 6,000 people died from it each year in the U.S. Sometimes these diseases struck in the womb, too. In the early 1960s, rubella, also known as German measles, was reaching pandemic proportions in pregnant moms. While the disease usually only produced a mild rash and fever in children and adults, if an expectant mother caught the virus — especially in the first trimester — congenital rubella syndrome caused damage to her developing baby more often than not. Not only could this cause miscarriage, but it could also lead to babies
When my mom, Sandra Haggberg, was 8 years old, she was told that she was going to have a baby brother. The news was exciting — she already had two little sisters, so a little brother was bound to be different. She couldn’t wait to meet him. My mother, Sandra, with her mother, Virginia, at a farm in Minnesota. Image from the Haggberg family, used with permission. But when Mark was born on Sept. 17, 1957, the doctors knew right away that something was wrong. His ear was folded over onto itself and his head was out of proportion with the rest of his body. A specialist was called in to examine him, X-rays were performed, and it was revealed that Mark was born with only one kidney, and it was abnormally small — about the size of peanut. His pituitary gland was also barely functioning and he had congenital hydrocephalus, a condition that causes an accumulation of fluid in the brain. Mark was immediately transferred to the University of Minnesota hospital for treatment, before the rest of the family could meet him. He stayed there for about six months, until his father, Merlyn — tired of seeing his son in pain — asked if all the blood draws, transfusions, and medical tests were really helping.They weren’t. There was no cure for Mark. So Merlyn took him home. Merlyn holding his son, Mark. The family didn’t take many photos of Mark because he was so sick. Image from the Haggberg family, used with permission. That was the first time Sandra got to meet Mark, and her new little brother didn’t look like what she expected. Despite being six months old at that point, only his head had really grown and it was misshapen, and he had long, skinny arms and legs. The problems with his pituitary gland stunted his growth. “During his entire life, he never grew beyond the size of a three-month-old baby,” Sandra remembers. Mark lived almost five years — far longer than anyone had expected. But as he grew older, he never learned to talk, he cried a lot from pain, and he rare
The infinite beauty of space is visible to us because of NASA.Ever since the space race began on Oct. 4, 1957, the U.S. has worked tirelessly to stay at the forefront of space exploration. Starting with Eisenhower and the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958, we’ve been exploring space and sharing it with the world for almost 60 years. Recent government decisions to limit communication and budget cuts from both parties have led to the notion that one day soon, we could be without NASA. Which would leave us without a future of pioneering, groundbreaking, and stunning images like the ones below. 1. A view from above.This image is from the Apollo 11 mission. Photo by NASA/Newsmakers via Getty Images. 2. A “young” cluster of stars.They’re only 2 million years old. Photo by NASA/Flickr. 3. A galaxy far, far away … 55 million light-years away.Technically this galaxy is called NGC 4013. It’s similar in shape to the Milky Way (this is a side view), but the difference is that this Hubble-produced image is a whopping 55 million light-years away. Or 16.8 million parsecs, if you’re interested. Photo by NASA/Newsmakers via Getty Images. 4. The death of a star.Some of us may be feeling crushed lately. Allow this star to empathize with you. In space, dead stars can still pulse, and in the deep center, you’ll see the “heart” of this exploded star.Ready for space facts? This is called a neutron star. NASA tells us “it has about the same mass as the sun but is squeezed into an ultra-dense sphere that is only a few miles across and 100 billion times stronger than steel.” Photo by NASA/Flickr. 5. Even artist concept images from NASA are mind-blowing. In 2011, the WISE telescope had to be retired because it was overheating too much. But before it was shut off, it made the discovery of millions of potential black holes. This image is an interpretation of a quasar. I wish it were a scene from “Doctor Who.” Image by NASA/ESAvia Getty Images. 6