Tag Archives: Denver

Once upon an Inauguration…

It was cold. Cold enough to keep most politically anxious youth wrapped up in their warm beds. But, the not so far gone fear of a chauvinistic psycho taking control of our beautiful state, and the more recent celebration of his defeat, motivated Chris and I to roll out of bed and head to now-governor Hickenlooper’s inauguration.

State politics too often go unnoticed. The USian “go big or go home” mentality leads most averagely political people to focus almost entirely on National elections and issues, and ignore the happenings in their backyard. The domination of mainstream international media over the smaller local news channels has fed into this neglect. Fewer people turn on their local channel 9 or open their local newspaper, settling instead for CNN or FOXNews. The once local focus of our lives has shifted to a national and global outlook, and people have forgotten the power and influence those at the state level still have.

Our attendance (or perhaps I should speak for myself), my attendance was not so much in support of Hickenlooper. Though, I do enjoy hearing his voice on the train at DIA every time I return from my travels, and the times I have seen him at events I appreciate his approachable demeanor, I had not been an avid Hickenlooper advocate. At one fair I attended this summer I saw a man in a nice crisp suit with a perfect tie and fancy shoes. Well that turned out to be Hickenlooper’s bodyguard. Hickenlooper was there in khakis and a button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the top buttons undone. He appeared so down to earth and willing to reach out to his constituents, even in the brutally hot sun. However, Hickenlooper’s politics shine democrat blue in almost every way, and that carries with it the good and the bad.

On this bitter cold morning I celebrated the defeat of Tancredo and that less than 50% of Coloradans (only 36.7%) had subscribed to bigotry and discrimination as a political platform. Tancredo, running on the constitution party ticket,  had relied on his tough immigration reform to push him ahead of republican weakling Dan Maes making him the only competition for Democrats. Well this wasn’t the first time I had heard of Mr. Tancredo.

The Muslim community in Denver had been chanting his name at rallies for some time in anger as he spoke in support of Israel during Operation Cast Lead. While a large number of people gathered on one side of the street with the demand for Israel to “Stop Killing the Children”, Tancredo took time out of his busy schedule to join those rallying in support of Israel’s attack that resulted in the murder of hundreds of children. Muslims worldwide had been infuriated by his suggestion of bombing Muslim holy sites as a response to terrorist attacks, a suggestion that shows clear intolerance for the faith of more than 20% of the world population and of almost 20,000 of the Coloradans that he was running to represent.

Though, it wasn’t his intolerance for Islam that those 37% voted for this past November. Nope, it was his disdain for Mexicans that won him those votes. Ironically, he is full blood, second generation, Italian. All 4 of his grandparents immigrated from Italy to the United States in a time when Italians were discriminated against and labeled “unamerican” the same way Mr. Tancredo welcomes our Mexican neighbors now. Among his plans soaked in unhidden racism is his suggestion to place a moratorium on immigration to the United States that would permit only children and spouses of American Citizens to immigrate into the USA. An act that were it a few decades earlier would have barred his own family’s entry.

Another Tancredo gem was his 2007 proposal to congress to make English the official language of the United States, a trite attempt at englishafying the spanish speaking immigrants that he detests as his failed legislation demonstrates.

In his 2008 comical run for president, Tancredo ran solely on the issue of immigration calling illegal immigration a threat to national security. In one of his ads which depicted a terrorist attack (nothing more logical than to evoke this country’s exaggerated fear of terrorists in a political campaign focused entirely on Mexican immigration) had a voiceover reading

“There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who have come to take our jobs … the price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill.”

http://www.fgscholars.com/section02/article/30

Exactly, the only reason that “Aliens” come across our borders is to kill. WHAT THE FUCK! excuse my language, but if any college student were to bring this point up in a classroom they would be correctly called out for being a racist. If an athlete or an actor were to say this crap they would be boycotted to the point of apology, but place it on a political campaign and now, not only is it acceptable, but it is a political platform?

Who elected this nut into office? Oh, whoops, that would be my district…Good old Colorado 6th district. 88 % white, 77% white-collar, and over 50% in support of this racist. Though, this wasn’t a one time 6th district mistake, oh no, my homeland allowed him to push forward his idiotic ideals in congress for 10 years.

I was in Jordan as the governor elections loomed nearer. Closer than ever to my Muslim/Arab heritage, I reflected on events with the Muslim community in Colorado when I was younger. I remember on multiple occasions meeting Governor Owens at these events (back when supporting the Muslim community didn’t contradict the Republican platform) and I thought about what a drastic shift 10 years could make. 2 wars and a 9-11 later my state was on the verge of electing a man who, not only wouldn’t support the Muslim community in his state, but had proposed destroying the most sacred places to this group.

I am most often tolerant when people discuss politics with me. I respect an intelligent argument, but this is where the line ends. Supporting Tancredo is supporting racism. If you vote for Tancredo you are telling me that you do not value my heritage and that, in fact, you would prefer someone in power who would happily bomb all that is sacred to my family and millions. If you vote for Tancredo you are telling the Mexican-American in your classes or your child’s class that you don’t think he should be here, and that you are happily helping to elect a man who would call this child a murder (only in english though).

Yes, you are entitled to your political beliefs, but do not believe that those you support are not a reflection on yourself.

Back to inauguration. We walked up to the capital building only minutes before the event was supposed to start (we weren’t going to be early in 4 degree weather!) to find only a small crowd gathered before the capital’s grand steps. I thought back to this summer when Chris and I had been in this same place attending Denver’s PRIDE festival. En Vogue performed a free concert to conclude the festivities less than a football field away from where I stood now drawing over 10 thousand people.

While I commend Denver citizens for rallying in support of the Gay movement, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disgusted that an outdated pop band could grasp more than 50 times the attendance than  the swearing in of the State’s top positions.

I realize that this post has become more of a very long rant against Tancredo but I want to point out two more observations about the event.

  1. As we left I smiled at Chris and commented “There goes the friendly transition of power from one white-male-christian to the next”. And at the time we laughed, but that statement illuminates too true a reality and is in no way funny. The only break in the white landscape of former, current, and future state politicians on the Capital steps that day was Lieutenant Governor Elect Joe Garcia. And while a comprehensive search online shows me little about our states second in command, the last name alone implies that Joe Garcia would be a part of a minority that Tancredo would rather not have in this land.
  2. The demographic of the people who did attend the inauguration was as white as the politicians being inaugurated, with few exceptions. The turnout was drastically less diverse than the span of Denver itself, whose public schools are in most cases the majority minority students. So where were those who should be celebrating the defeat of Tancredo alongside me? Perhaps they have lost all hope in the White, elite government that is supposed to represent them.

After the short ceremony filled with continued campaign promises and procedural speeches, we walked back to the car, but not after being privileged to a 21 cannon salute. No joke, they were shooting of a cannon in Civic Center park. Gotta love Colorado.

Getting to Amman.

5:30 am- Amman, Jordan

السالام  عليكم, أصدقائي!

Hello, My friends!

Right now I am sitting in the dark in the lovely Geneva Hotel in downtown Amman, Jordan. With equal thanks to Jet lag and the call for prayer outside I am wide awake. In a few hours I will be going to the AMIDEAST office for my Arabic placement exam and a blood test (HIV positive? Out of the country.) While I am anxiously awaiting my first official AMIDEAST interaction, my journey has already been an exciting one!

Denver, CO- August 20th, 2010- 1pm

I arrived at DIA for my 2:50 departure to find that my flight had already been delayed until 4:00. Confident in my originally 3 hour long layover in Chicago and my ability to navigate airports quickly, I was excited to see the delay because it meant extra time with my mom. We spent the extra hour walking around the airport and then I headed to my gate…to find that the flight had been delayed an additional 20 minutes. At this point I was unsure about my connection, but the lady at the gate said it wasn’t time to worry, so I sat down and began studying Arabic. It was only after another 20 minute delay that she came to me and said my connection in Chicago would not be possible and that she had rerouted me through London which would get me to Amman on the same day (the 21st), but 6 hours later than planned. She also pointed me toward an old Jordanian couple who spoke very little English and asked if I wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on them, since our once direct flight to Amman from Chicago now included a 6 hour layover in London. I don’t know what you think about Heathrow, but it is not a place I want to spend 6 hours in. The son of the elderly couple approached me about helping his parents. I explained in Arabic that my father is from Libya and I study Arabic in school. I don’t know whether it was his parents desperation to have help in the English speaking world, my flawless Arabic (hahaha, yeah right!), or more likely his confidence that an Arab Sister would take care of his parents better than some random American or better yet the airline, but he seemed confident as we departed. Another woman joined our group at the gate attendant’s direction and our posse of four boarded the airplane.

Chicago, IL- Aug. 20th , 9:00 pm

Now, realize, the only reason we went on to Chicago is because of the promise of a night flight to London, but as all good airport dramas go, this flight was, of course, canceled. Upon arrival we learned that we would be spending the night in the city of Chicago. Correction, the Hilton Hotel right next to the Airport, which isn’t really in the city. I collected our groups passports (أعطني جواز سفر, من فضلك ( and began arranging our hotels with the airline. Our daylong adventure had become more epic and I was now responsible for the travel of four. The elderly couple had wheelchair assistance arranged for them, and with the help of the airport personnel assigned to push them, I was able to get us checked in to the beautiful Hilton hotel with vouchers for meal passes. Most Muslims believe that it is acceptable to break your fast during travel for health reasons, but the older generations, including two of my new companions, are more religious with their fasting. I respect this decision, but it made my job much more difficult. Our meal vouchers were only valid during specific hours, meaning only the dinner voucher could be used after Iftar.

After placing our stuff in our rooms, we headed down to the sports bar to find some food.

My new friends-

The next 24 hours were spent killing time in a hotel. This is where I really began to appreciate the company I had. As we sat waiting for dinner I began learning about the people my trip had acquired before I left my state. The older woman was introduced to me as Um Tarik رقاط ام (which translates to the mother of Tarik) I learned that out of respect, women are often referred to as the mother of their first son. While their official first name remains what it was at birth, they are referred to, almost exclusively as the mother of their son. Um Tarik noticed the Palestinian flag keychain that Chris and I had made before our protest hanging on my bag. She said Filisteen, (the Arabic pronunciation of Palestine) and her eyes lit up. She then explained, in araglish (a new hybrid that was the official language of our trip) that she is from Palestine. WOW! Talk about right up my alley. It turns out that the people I had assumed were Jordanians were actually all three Palestinians. The elder couple showed me their Jordanian resident cards. Under country of birth was Israel. I said “Israel, ugh, msh qways” (No good) and they smiled. I knew we were going to be friends. For years I have researched the conflict in what most of the world identifies as Israel. I had read about the thousands of displaced people. These facts, which until a few minutes before had been just statistics on paper, had become so very real. To the best of my understanding, the elderly couple had left their home in Palestine in 1948 when Israel was first instated. Known as Al- Nakba النكبة (the catastrophe) in the Arab World this brutal period marked the displacement of more than 600,000 Palestinians from their homes. Many sought refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, and the other surrounding Arab states. Few realize that the creation of a home for the Jewish people meant a loss of a homeland that generations of Palestinian Arabs had worked to create. This history which I had read and quoted had materialized before my eyes in the form of my fellow travelers. The old man’s card said he was born in 1933, making him only 15 at the time of the Nukhba. Regardless of the fact that they had been systematically removed from their homeland when they were still very young, they still referred to Palestine as home.

The third member added to our group was Um Kalid  خالد ام . She was born in Jerusalem, as were her 3 boys. While her boys were all very young, she and her husband had taken their family for a short time to Kuwait, and then on to the US. Much of her extended family still lives in the Holy Land. She had been living in the US for 27 years. Her husband had died ten years after they had relocated to the US. Um Kalid lives with her youngest son in Lakewood, CO.

Chicago- 6:30 pm August 21st (The date I was supposed to arrive in Amman.)

After spending hours laying around the hotel it was finally time to head down to the airport. That morning I had called the bell station to arrange wheelchairs for my elderly companions. The man assured me that plans would be made but to call at 5:00 pm for confirmation. At 5, I received a confused voice saying that my wheelchairs would be there at 7:30 and that my call wasn’t necessary. I corrected them that the chairs needed to be there are 6:30 and that we would wait in the lobby. At 6:30 the Bell captain explained that he could not get us wheelchairs, but that the shuttle from another Hilton was coming to drop us off at the terminal where there would be wheelchairs waiting. After waiting out in the sun for 20 minutes, we were put on a shuttle. Then the worst happened. The driver had not been instructed that we were going to the terminal, and he began to take us into the city only 2 hours before our flight was supposed to depart. Infuriated that the impatient bellboy had sent me miles away from the airport with two walking impaired elders, I called the Hilton and explained the situation. The lady on the end apologized in a “what do you want me to do about it?” sort of way. We hailed a cab and were relieved that the driver spoke Arabic. The same Arab family bond that obliged me to help my fellow Arab travelers tied the driver to us, and he got us to the airport as fast as possible. After minutes of persuasion, he agreed to take the fare that he was more than willing to wave for us.

Once at the airport, Royal Jordanian took care of us like the Hilton and American Airlines had failed to do. They provided wheelchairs, checked us in a timely manner, and best of all, spoke Arabic. We boarded the plane, slept most of the 10 hour flight, and arrived in Amman without any problems. I found the AMIDEAST representative and hugged my friends goodbye. We parted, but only after I promised that I would call them when I got a phone and arrange a dinner at their house for the best authentic Palestinian food. I can’t wait!

It is now 7:30. I must finish getting prepared for the day ahead. Until next time, habibi.

سلام من الاردن

Sara Fitouri

سارة الفيتوري