In the early years of the Iraq War, female veterans slowly trickled in. They, too, were thrust into the general patient pool. Sometimes we had fifty-seven male residents and three females on the same floor. Of course, the women complained that they were “hit on.” And they were scared—because their doors had no locks. The open-door policy had been in place for decades, to ensure staff access to all rooms in case of emergency.
I was asked to teach self-defense to the volunteers who worked at a local community Center. Fights were common between overburdened migrants and refugees and a few women voiced concerns for their safety. After a while, I began to teach self-defense to women in the refugee camp too. The night before my first class, I wondered, would I be doing more harm than good by teaching Muslim women how to kick ass?
As the nation absorbs gripping accounts from lawmakers who sheltered within the U.S. Capitol during the riot, and from the Capitol Police—a lingering trauma remains. If there is a redemptive dimension to this tragedy, it may be that it has brought home the city’s significance in our collective American story.
My mother organized support for people forcibly removed from towns where they had lived for generations, and sent to the wilderness of the veld. This was occurring regularly as White areas were “cleansed” of Blacks. And she offered daily, practical help to a constant stream of Black South Africans caught up in the bureaucratic nightmare of dispossession.
You know, your great grandmother was a slave.” A week ago my mother shared this piece of our family history. Old Yaya, was one of the millions of Armenians who were either sold into slavery, beaten or starved to death during the ethnic cleansing program of the Ottoman Empire.
Slowly, the story our lives emerged. We’d each left home at a young age to escape convention—she left a village in Sweden for a Greek adventure, and I left a small southern town to pursue my writing in New York. Now here we were two independent women in their 70s, wondering about our final acts.
When Daniel Burnham, Cass Gilbert, Daniel Chester French, and their fellow commissioners chose Henry Bacon’s Greek temple design for the Lincoln Memorial in 1913, the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects, led by an associate a Frank Lloyd Wright, threw a fit.