Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Post 9-11 Moment for Oakland?

You have all probably guessed the reason I have not blogged for a rather long time. Let's just say it wasn't the ski trip I took with my son on March 19th and 20th, which was lovely Mom-and-Niko bonding time. That ski trip seems like a hundred years ago now, in a totally different era. Which of course it was, the pre-3/21 era, before four Oakland police officers were shot and killed. My husband knew all four men; even I had met two. Erv Romans was an old friend of B's; Dan Sakai was one of B's patrol sergeants. Our emotions related to this are so raw and difficult that I don't even care to delve into them here. I do thank all my dear friends and family for their calls and support. Our thoughts and prayers go to the families of the fallen.

What B and I have both acknowledged is that this event is like 9/11 for Oakland. It even has a catchy date: 3/21 or "three-two-one." The post-9/11 moment of unity, as we all know, was squashed, squandered and frittered away. But let's hope the post-3/21 is not.

I often wonder about applying the lessons I've learned from my marriage - that even vast differences, of beliefs, politics, and culture - can be overcome and conflict replaced by deep respect and understanding. Note this is not the same as agreement. Without even agreeing, respect softens the space between parties and builds a solid foundation for problem-solving. Obviously larger conflicts are infinitely more complicated.

One of the elements of overcoming differences is both sides have to be willing to listen, and both sides need to express themselves civilly. That may leave out certain extreme elements in this particular conflict. Still I'm trying to imagine. A community discussion between the Oscar Grant protestors and police supporters - what would that look like? I know that Thich Nhat Hanh conducts something along these lines at his retreat center, Plum Village, in France. It also might be something like the Truth and Reconciilation process in South Africa. I promise to learn more about this and report back here.

Of course there would also have to be a leader. Mayor Dellums does not seem up to the task - whether due to age or infirmity, I'm not sure. Some have called for Obama to come, but the economy seems to be keeping him pretty busy. Keith Carson? Barbara Lee? You and me?

I haven't reported back on our meeting with my son's teacher related to her singling my son out for criticism in front of the class and criticizing the portrait of his father in Iraq. Bottom line it went well. The hardest part about it was the anticipation and imagination of things going bad. In the 3/9/09 New Yorker(little guy in big suit on cover, a line from David Foster Wallace's most famous work, "Infinite Jest" was quoted. The character Don Gately thinks "everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news."

So it was with the meeting with the teacher. When we got there she agreed to stop singling him out, tried to explain it as a technique to exert peer pressure when he had not followed initial instructions, but when we insisted, she apologized and backed down. As far as the art, she explained that early in the school year, my son had told her that he was "a terrible drawer," and she had responded by saying, "I can teach you to draw." And that's what she was trying to do.

While this exchange didn't make everything absolutely perfect in the classroom, it is again, amazing how much it softened things when the teacher 1)responded to our request re the singling out; and 2)gave a reason for the art criticism that wasn't meanness or spite. It's also interesting to me how VITAL it was for my son that we go through this process, how important it was for him to see that his parents listened to his hurts and addressed them. All I'm saying is sometimes the process of communication goes an amazingly long way to solving a conflict. The actual solution part is almost EASY once their is mutual respect and understanding.

I got a nice review of Love in Condition Yellow in Kirkus where they said: "Besides a clear understanding of who she is and what she wants, Raday has a solid sense of humor, an ear for dialogue and an eye for telling detail."

I have seen an actual advance copy of The Book, so it will soon EXIST! Please mark your calendars for the May 1 launch party at Books Inc in San Francisco.

To go to my website home page, please click here.


  1. I've had the same experience a few times. Dreading a conversation/meeting/whatever because I'm sure it will be a disaster, that I won't be able to express myself clearly, that the other person will respond with hostility, that things will go badly, etc., etc. And then taking that big deep breath, doing what I must do, and having things go ever so much better than I could allow myself to anticipate. Glad to hear there was some good news amidst all the sadness of 3/21.

  2. Glad to hear there was some good news amid all the sadness of 3/21.

  3. Sophia,
    I'm going to pre-order my copy of the book right now! I am so excited to read it I can't even tell you.
    I do hope the horrible events of 3/21 will bring open, healing dialogue to Oakland. Your words could be a start!

  4. This was wonderful. Sophia keep on writing! Niko keep on drawing!


Hi - Thanks for commenting on my blog! I want this site to be a place to gather stories and experiences and to share ideas on how we can overcome differences in all of our important relationships. In that spirit, civil discourse only please.
A note: Please don't use my husband's or children's real names in your comment. I try to afford them a modicum of privacy. Their pseudonyms are Barrett, Niko, and Gabriella. THANK YOU!