Monday, September 20, 2010

Coolred and the Gang, a Ramadan Miracle One Year On--Living the American Dream!

Today is the one year anniversary of blogger Coolred's return from Bahrain to the USA, after 23 years, marriage, divorce, and 5 children. To commemorate the event she has done her own anniversary post, Coolred and the year on (never trust a budding journalist with part of a working title! :D), which I highly recommend reading. I wanted to do an anniversary post as well, to which Coolred graciously agreed.

Part of that desire was simply to catch up readers here on what has happened since I posted during Ramadan 2009 on her efforts to return home to the USA, and to reunite her family, as 2 of her children had spent a year in the USA living with her sister, while Coolred organized her own and the return of the other 3--2 of whom had spent the year in high school in Bahrain, while the 3rd had returned for at least the summer after an academic year at high school in the USA. I did a number of posts at that time highlighting their efforts and its successful outcome: Ramadan, Zakat, Sadaqa, and Charity: When Mixed Marriages Go Awry, and Mixed Families Suffer; Update; They're Off!; Eid Al-Fitr and Thanks Giving: "Do you believe in miracles?"

Another part of the desire to do this update post was to show the meaningfulness of Ramadan zakat, sadaqa, and the miracles that can happen during that holiest of months, and about which I have posted this year (all summarized and linked in the post, Ramadan 2010--As the Month Comes to a Close), while linking to last year's posts. The primary miracle was the agreement by Coolred's most reluctant to leave Bahrain son, Zack, to try living in the USA for a year (Eid Al-Fitr and Thanks Giving: "Do you believe in miracles?"). As I have said to her many times on chat, in doing so, Zack gave her and the others an extraordinary Ramadan gift of dreams fulfilled, future opportunities, and family unity. Many people from around the world responded with their donations of money, blogging and social networking efforts, and wishes and prayers to help realize that miracle and gift.

A third reason for this post, was to highlight the realities of the American Dream. The American Dream--that by hard work, and one's own efforts, one can rise up from poor life circumstances and have both financial and social success--is both a myth and a reality. The myth is the stuff of Horatio Alger stories, and the overemphasis on an individual effort. At its most negative, it implies that those who fail to do so are in fact personal failures, including morally. At its most positive, it does reflect that there is greater opportunity and social mobility in the USA than in many other countries; and, that there is also more social support, and family solidarity than what is often foregrounded. It is a dream and a reality for Americans born and bred, for immigrants, and for some combination of that, as in Coolred's family.

The realities of the American Dream include a lot of hard work, setbacks, and often more than one family member working more than one job to make ends meet, and eventually get ahead. It means being caught between so poor as to benefit from social supports, and just well off enough not to. That has meant no health care for the "working poor", and thus no preventive health visits, except for those in public school, and delaying treatment for emergency room visits only. Hopefully that is changing with "Obamacare".

It means at times budgeting between gas (petrol) and grocery money, especially as the US is such a car society that it is very hard to hold a job in most places without a car as a means of transport to and from work. It also means not having much margin for emergency financial needs, or extras. Food banks and private charitable institutions, some faith based but serving all, fill in the gaps where they can.

Many teens work to help out with family expenses and cover some of their own necessities. Many work fulltime or near fulltime to pay their way through college, often choosing a state college because it has the least expensive tuition fees, and money is saved by living at home. They do benefit from federal Pell Grants to help with tuition and bookstore expenses. Living expenses are major ones on top of that. Many adults who have missed out return as mature students with the same benefits, but with the added responsibility of family obligations.

Coolred and the Gang have been successfully living the American Dream with its triumphs and challenges for the last year, united in her home town of Rock Springs, Wyoming. All have done extremely well academically, while Coolred, and the oldest, Sara (soon to be married) and Adam, combine college with work. Zack graduated high school with brilliant marks and is now working fulltime for his "gap year"; and, Ameena returns to high school with a parttime job. Jibreel maintains high elementary school grades while juggling at which sport to excel (basketball, football, ...). There have been struggles, including with racism, and setbacks (financial and jobwise), and of course it wouldn't be Coolred if there weren't a car crash and police involved. The details are all on her blog, where she has reassured skittish readers by ranting as well from the USA as from Bahrain.

Whence the miracle began:

Al Hidd, on a sand spit at the southeast end of Muharraq Island, Bahrain

One of the causeways joining Muharraq Island to the main island of Bahrain

Muharraq Island (foreground), and Manama City (background), Bahrain

Bahrain International Airport, Muharraq Island

Mosque, Hidd, Bahrain

A property for sale in Hidd, not one of the ones available to Coolred!

Desalination Plant, Hidd, Bahrain

Sunsets, Hidd, Bahrain

Where Coolred and the Gang are living the American Dream:

From the PBS site about the 1885 Rock Springs Massacre against the Chinese

The lay of the land

Welcome sign to Rock Springs, Wyoming, c.1970

Rock Springs High School logo

Western Wyoming Community College logo

2 views of Western Wyoming Community College

Rock Springs Park, Coyote Creek Trail, Wyoming

2 views of the countryside

What is your view of the American Dream?
What are the mythical and realistic aspects?
What is your impression or experience of the gifts and miracles of holy days and charitable actions?
Other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

Related Posts:
Ramadan and the Mixed Couple/Family
Ramadan, Zakat, Sadaqa, and Charity: When Mixed Marriages Go Awry, and Mixed Families Suffer;
They're Off!;
Eid Al-Fitr and Thanks Giving: "Do you believe in miracles?"
Ramadan: A Special Month
Ramadan 2010--As the Month Comes to a Close

See Also:
Coolred and the year on.


Susanne said...

Great to see an update and the lovely pictures from both areas. Thanks for this!

oby said...

Part 1...


I sometimes don't agree with your characterizations of America and Americans, but in this case I think you hit it out of the ballpark!

You have managed to capture the tightrope walk that the "American Dream" can be! One of the things that I feel is a bit lacking in the USA is familial support and public transport. Like Canada the USA is huge!! Often due to work, families are spread around the country and are not tightly coalesced as in some other countries...that makes physical support somewhat difficult though in many cases emotional support is a phone call away. We have excellent public transport in some cities...generally the larger ones but in a place like Rock Springs there is probably little to none. That makes relying on a car particularly important...of course FINDING a reliable one and paying for gas and insurance can be a daunting task when one is scraping by. I think Coolred is more fortunate than some others in that her kids are old enough to work and bring some money into the house. It is far more difficult when one is a single mother for example and has small children who are of school age but not old enough to contribute financially. then there is one income (often meager) to support several people.

You are right that there are social services to help and that one can be "working poor" even with these services...

But I think the thing that Coolred is doing right as are her kids is that they are not JUST working and leaving it at that...they are furthering their education which in time will allow all of them to become MUCH more financially successful and further the American Dream whatever their version of it is.

As for going to the local college, last week I read an article that was saying it is often better to start one's education at a community college and do two years there and then transfer those credits to a larger 4 year college. It cuts costs but still allows the student the benefit of graduating with a four year degree on a budget. Not to mention if they did exceptionally well in the community college they might be eligible for scholarships toward the four year degree.

oby said...

part 2:

One thing that the USA does well is that if one can get the ancillary things out of the, part time job etc. I think it gives equal opportunity to learn to most people. If you go to the school and apply yourself you can earn high grades and advance yourself. There are programs in place for minorities (women, blacks, and other racial minorities)that one can take advantage of...if they are available and haven't been maxed out.

Racism does exist but I am not sure it is to the extent that it would not allow someone to become upwardly mobile. One thing Americans admire and are suckers for is someone who pulls themselves up by their bootstraps and busts their butt to make it. the harder they work the more we admire them...and in my experience it isn't limited by one's race. Race/ethnicity/religion seems to come second to the hard work and honest effort one makes. We will cheer the "brown" immigrant who made something out of nothing much more than we will the "white" immigrant collecting welfare from the state. It is based on effort not nationality...this is something that I really like about America. My husband is Indian and has a very successful practice along with his other Indian partners... almost none of his patients are Indian like they are... almost all are white or traditionally "American". My point being that mainstream America has not stopped coming to him because of his ethnicity...he is regularly referred patients by "American" doctors who could easily refer to other American doctors but refer to him instead. It is because he is great at what he does...he gives excellent service to the patients referred to him and he has, through hard work and honesty earned the respect of his colleagues.

The American dream is about hard work and keeping your shoulder to wheel and nose to grind stone and doing WHATEVER it takes(as long as it is legal ethical and moral) to make it. Also not having an entitled attitude goes a really LONG way. Despite difficult odds Coolred and her family are earning everything they will have in the future. I and other Americans will stand in salute to her and people will usually be happy to help her along the path because she is not feeling sorry for herself overall...she is showing initiative, HARD work, an eye on her goal and providing an amazing example for her kids!

coolred38 said...

Thank you Chiara for the post reminder. Your take on mine and many others circumstances in America is very accurate. Make one think about just what America offers its citizens when it comes right down to it.

btw interesting pics you show of missed a few the garbage strewn parks and beaches. Those are as much an icon of Bahrain as the mosques and palm trees.

oops forgot...most of the palm trees are gone now after the govt dug them all up to pave way for concrete.

Delux said...

Racism does exist but I am not sure it is to the extent that it would not allow someone to become upwardly mobile.

Um, for real? Alrighty then.

Chiara, for those who are actually interested in examining the intersection of race, class mobility, and wealth in the US I would suggest the book The Color of Wealth.

Monica Roberts said...

When a white HS dropout can get corporate jobs over African-Americans and Latin@s with BA's something's wrong with that picture.

How do yo explain an economy in which POC unemployment rates are TWICE that of whites?

Race and racism permeate EVERYHING in American society, and in many ways it is insidious in how it does so

Chiara said...

Susanne-thank you for your comment and I am glad you enjoyed both the update and the pics!

Chiara said...

Oby-thank you for your thoughtful comment, and for picking up on the theme of the American Dream. I agree that distances in the US and Canada mean that public transport is often only adequate in large cities (and some would debate that) and their commuter networks. I also think there is a "car mentality" in both places, but more so in the USA in my experience.

I agree that one of the strengths of Coolred's family is her leadership and their solidarity in combining work and education, both to help make ends meet, and to get above minimum wage/no benefits jobs. They are role models for each other too!

As for racism, in the USA, as you point out it does exist. One can still improve one's lot though, mostly by working harder, moving to places where one and one's efforts are more welcome. I do think there is systemic racism in the USA, historically and ongoing against African-Americans, and more recently against Latino-Americans even ones established in the USA for generations. Racism against South Asians, and both racism and reverse racism against East Asians also exist.

That people like your husband rise above it, is excellent. So are affirmative action programs that genuinely even the playing field, even though the idea of them is controversial, and their implementation can be uneven (a Canadian colleague working at a US university refused to identify her race as she didn't want to let them off with a "Female African American" hire, and thus inadvertently take someone's place). The Obama's failure to acknowledge the role of affirmative action in their academic and career successes is lamentable imho.

I do think those dreaming of immigration to the USA need to be more aware of the realities of the American Dream.

Canada also has racism of course, perhaps somewhat more subtly. Those in my entourage have used deliberately focusing on their own goals and ignoring it as much as possibe as positive coping strategies.

Thanks again for your comment, and for sharing both your thoughts and experiences.

Chiara said...

Coolred--I'm glad you liked this post, and find my take on the American Dream accurate. Indeed, it gives pause for thought, especially in an election year.

Alas, Google Images and Flickr are highly deficient in pictures of garbage in Hidd, or Bahrain for that matter. :)

Replanted palms in upscale residential areas, maybe? :D

Thanks for your comment, and thanks again for agreeing to this post (and the others before it!)

Chiara said...

Delux-thanks for your comment, and for the book recommendation for all of us! :)

Monica Roberts--Welcome to the blog, and thank you for your comment. Your points are well-taken. I also think there are important distinctions within discrimination against people of colour to do with what colour, what history, who they may be mistaken for, and what is going on in the world, as well as the general "white male syndrome", which white males are also caught in, some more willingly than others. Thanks again for your comment, and I hope you will comment on older and newer posts of interest to you.

Delux said...

I'm looking for an article specifically about the health impact of racial microaggressions on people of color in corporate environments, but in the meantime I would also suggest Sikes and Feagin's "Living With Racism". And as far as historical American responses to accumulation of wealth in Black communities, there's always the legacy of Black Wall Street:,_Tulsa,_Oklahoma

Delux said...

Also, as far as affirmative action, people inside and outside the US very much over estimate its impact. The majority of beneficiaries of affirmative action in the US have always been and continue to be white women, not Black men or Black women or any other not white group. It is a very specific program implemented in very specific ways, it is not an umbrella social benefit.

GEJ said...

Welcome to my hometown of Rock Springs. I have been to Bahrain years ago in the Air Force.


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