It occrued to me that since I have recently introduced myself, that I should spare the curious the trouble of Googling me. I am not a politician, an academic, or a rich daughter of America’s who’s-who. I am a Catholic single mom of three boys who learned of the plight of the Sahrawi people and decided to learn more. And then I decided to do whatever I could to make sure the truth - as I understand and believe - is heard.
I once used this letter to tell a friend about me and my life. I consider all of you friends, so I’ll share it with you as well. Everything here is on Google - the perils of a digital world - but it sounds better, I hope, coming directly from me.
As always, you can reach us here at PTID via DM…..we always look forward to hearing from you…..
I live about 20 miles north of Dallas, Texas. I moved here eight years ago from Knoxville, Tennessee. I work in Fort Worth which is an hour west of me. Texas is huge! It has everything from desert to oceans, rolling hills to the flattest land I’ve ever seen. It’s a 10-12 hour drive east to west, or north to south, and in some stretches there is nothing but cows or tumbleweed. And it is HOT! More humid near the Gulf and just plain blazing in the arid areas. I’ve bought four cows and two pigs since moving here; my oldest son explained how much money I would make by raising “cattle.” Well, many dollars later there was no financial return, but the reassurance of knowing exactly where my 18 year old son was every night – the school ag barn – was a fair return on the investment! The other two boys were successful high school wrestlers so I’ve spent most of these last few years in smelly gyms screaming at referees while praying that no one ripped my sons’ arms off! They are all in college now and becoming fine young men. I’m a proud mom!
Tennessee is very different. The mountains were a quick 45 minute drive from my house and I could see them from my front porch. The air is crisp and clean and everything is green and lush. Lots of pine trees and oaks that grow very tall. My boys complained when we moved to Texas that there were no trees - just shrubs. They were accustomed to their treehouse in the woods in our backyard. There was more than one time when I hid away in that treehouse myself with a book and “quiet-mom-time!” The backyards in Tennessee were big with lots of room for football games and chasing dogs. Here in Texas the yards are postage stamps! The boys really grew up in Knoxville and it was wonderful; full of country roads, lakes and rolling hills - and birthday parties, little league baseball, and school projects. They were 3, 5, 8 when we moved there and only the youngest had not reached the teen years by the time we left. We were there for nine very nice years.
I moved to Tennessee from South Carolina after my divorce. That started the boys and me off on our last 18 year adventure. But they were born in a coastal town in the northern part of South Carolina. We lived near the ocean and I loved the sea. I find such comfort by the ocean. It is so enormous and constantly changing, but somehow it is also very predictable - the tides come and go, the waves will always roll in. It’s reassuring in some crazy way. Even now, if I have a big decision to make, I go to the sea. It reminds me that no matter how big my decision, it is so very small in comparison to the grains of sand and drops of water - and that ultimately whatever the decision, life will eb and flow no matter.
I grew up in the Carolinas (North & South), so I’m a southerner without a doubt. I’ll tell you all about the “difference” between northern & southern culture, but that is a whole discussion that definitely requires a separate essay! Life is slower in the south and more relaxed than in New York City, and we talk with a long drawl (which over time becomes quite endearing to most people!). The main thing to know about the people here in the US is that we are not our government. We want very badly to do the right thing. We are a kind and caring people who truly want to make the world a better place. We are pioneers and entrepreneurs, dreamers and doers; we rise up in times that challenge the spirit and do our best work.
That said, the blessings and opportunities we have also spoil us. What I mean is that we forget to appreciate. We take for granted. We are insulated from the hardships of the rest of the world, and we can be very selfish and very complacent. We abdicate many of the responsibilities that are inherent to maintaining the freedoms we have, and because of that, those freedoms are eroding. Many people either don’t know or don’t care. As long as the price of goods and services are low - from milk to oil - we are placated. And a numbed society is also a vulnerable society. We don’t ask and we don’t want to know what the cost is to other people in faraway nations for us to have low gas prices, inexpensive clothes, and cheap electronics. We are honestly baffled by the fact that people in other countries don’t always like us.
Our government tells us that it must “keep us safe” and then arms the danger; they monitor our calls, read our mail, conspire to take our guns, and use a Kerry Kennedy to manipulate foreign relations policy [in virtual secret - because if it’s not on FOX, MSNBC, or CNN it didn’t happen]. But as long as gas doesn’t hit $4 a gallon and interest rates stay stable, and unemployment low, we ignore the future consequences and rush out to the nearest mall to shop. I confess, I am describing myself, too. There were times that making it through dinner and bath, and story time with my sons was all I had the energy for. I’m trying to do better because I want my boys to do better, too. I want them to be loyal and patriotic citizens of the USA, but I also want them remember they are citizens of the world.
And….I am a democrat…..I know, it’s starting to surprise me too!
The USA really does stretch “from sea to shining sea,” and it is the land of opportunity with bright futures open to anyone willing to do the hard work of success. From this big melting pot we call America, heroes spring up from the most surprising places. Yet like any busy, prosperous souk full of beautiful treasures and bountiful harvests, we have our dark, dirty alleys littered with all of the sad things, too. But it is a wonderful, beautiful country full of good people, and hope is not only possible here, it is probable. I love my country imperfect as it is - because it is the imperfections that give person, place and thing its uniqueness and therefore its value.
…..and I have grown to love Morocco and her kind, joyful, generous people. Although the country is beautiful, it is the people who have stolen my heart. From Laayoune to Rabat to Marrakech and lots of towns in between, I’ve found a second home. Thank you for making me feel welcome. As we start the next phase of our work at PTID, I renew my promise to continue to be the conduit for your voices.
We will do our best to present the truth in an honest and balanced way, but we are not journalists. We have a position. We support autonomy in the Sahara; elimination of an arbitrary line on the map dividing an undivided nation; the sovereignty of a nation and its right to territorial integrity; and mostly, the rights of the Sahrawi people who have been isolated and oppressed in the desert for the past 40 years. The time has come for the world to recognize their hostage situation and to demand that the Sahrawi people be allowed to return to their country and families in Morocco.
This coming year is full of promise and the opportunity to do good work. With your support, we will continue that effort. Thank you again for your loyalty this past year. It seems like yesterday that we began with 13 followers. This week we surpassed 5400. We are blessed with cherished friendships and new family!
Elaine Obenshain, PTID USA Editor