Nov. 27 Being American Now Circle

November 27 Being American Now Circle

Reflecting on what it means to each of us
to be American now,
and our choices for action going forward.

Our First Meeting
Sunday, November 27, 2016, 5:00 – 6:30 PM Pacific Time.
You can find your corresponding local time at Time and Date.

Confirmed Attendance List

Bonita Banducci
Preeta Bansal
Wendy Berk
David Brown
Johannes Castner
Meiyi Cheng
Debra Cohn
Aryae Coopersmith
Steve Diamond
Susie Diamond
Stan Feldman
Michael Friedman
Charles Gibbs
Sue Henkin-Haas
Nancy Margulies
Kais Menoufy
Matt Perry
Xiaojuan Shu
Marcia Slackman

If you’re not on this list and would like to join us, there’s still room! (We’re limiting the the circle to 25 people.) To RSVP just let us know at Contact Us that you’d like to join us on Nov. 27, and we’ll get back to you to confirm.

Getting on the Videoconference
We’ll be using Zoom videoconferencing. It is similar to Skype, only easier to use and better quality images and sound. It works on pretty much all current laptops, smartphones and tablets: Mac, PC, Linux, iOS, Android. If you’ve done a Skype call on your device, you can use Zoom. And you also have the option of phoning in. If you’re on the above list, and/or after your RSVP is confirmed, we’ll get back to you with the Zoom link and instructions.

Preparing for the Circle
The conversation will be around two prompts:

  • The USA & You — your American story.
  • Opportunities for Action — that the election results have opened up for each of us personally, and for the U.S. as a whole.

To help us all prepare, we invite you to share, on this page, some highlights from USA & You — your American story. Make it as brief or as detailed as you like.

Use the “Leave a Reply” section below. (The first time you post here, I’ll need to confirm you before it’s visible. After that it’s automatic.) Also, I recommend coming back to check out the stories of the rest of us.

Let me know, either by email or at Contact Us, if you have any questions.

Thanks! 🙂


18 thoughts on “Nov. 27 Being American Now Circle

  1. I first learned of America as a kid in India, from letters my granddad’s brother wrote to me from his retirement home in the US. He was an engineer who had worked for the Indian railways all his life, and retired here in the US as four of his six kids were settled here. It must have left an impression for I took my first job after college with an employer who promised to send me abroad. Arriving in the US in my early 20s, I was excited, loved my work and independent life, but missed family and friends. I returned to India, for a couple of years, but was back in the US again, this time on the West coast. I had cousins in the area and by then I was married too, making my transition easier. Almost three decades later, I still walk regularly in the same park that I loved back in 1988, and remain in awe of the natural beauty of this place.

  2. Like Matt, I was a bit hesitant about sharing my thoughts in the circle, but after seeing that Aryae made it open to anyone in and outside the US, I feel more comfortable joining. I appreciate the openness here, this is one of the American values I hold dear to.

    I first came to the US at the age of 20 on an exchange program. I still remember landing in LAX on a warm December day. It wasn’t a lot warmer than where I flew out (Guangzhou, China), but it was a lot more humid. And when humidty is mixed with low temperature, the coldness creeps into your skin. So I was super happy to spend three months in Southern California enjoying the dry climate.

    Three months weren’t enough to change a person especially if you’re the introverted nerd type. Nonethelss, I enjoyed my time in the US so much that, a few months later, I gave up the degree in China and transferred to a liberal arts college on the East Coast. Well, it was a lot different from the West Coast, but I was too naive to consider that when choosing colleges and it was too late to change. So I spent the next two years studying in a tiny town in the middle of Conneticut without a car, also getting trained to endure the six-month-long snowy winter. It was tough. My English was already pretty good at that time but not good enough to get all the jokes at a party or to write a 10-page history essay without pulling an all-nighter. I wanted to make American friends, and like a lot of young international students, I wanted to be Americanized. But no matter how much I tried, I always felt out of place. In retrospect, of course I would feel lost: it wasn’t so much because of the cultural differences, I simply didn’t know who I was.

    After graduation I moved to Detroit. The city and I were similar in that we were both trying to find or build our identities. Detroit couldn’t live on its once-glorious American identity anymore. As outsiders, you see the struggle on the macro level in the media, but you hardly see the love and kindness that exist alongside the hardship. As much as I witnessed the struggles on a daily basis, I also LOVED the raw authenticity and resilience of Detroiters. There was no room for fakery. The following 2.5 years were amazing. I gradually found myself and received my life callings. I learned to express myself freely and love myself, which lead me to be more compassionate with others. I learned to embrace similarities and cherish differences. I stopped trying to fit in; I started letting myself shine and build my own tribe. I started to appreciate my Chinese-ness, just like many other immigrants that made the history of this country. I never wasted another second on trying to “be Americanized”, because to me, living out one’s true nature freely and embrace the diversity around us, is being American.

    Towards the end of my five-year life in the US, I decided to answer the calling to become a nomad in search of deeper transformation. It took me a long time to make the decision because the lure of getting the green card and “officially” becoming an American was huge. Yet, all that the US has awakened me to was guiding me to leave. “A deeper lesson is waiting for you out there, go now.” I heard. So I did.

    Does it make me (more) American that it changed me tremendously?
    Does it make me less/not American that none of my IDs say so?
    Does it make me (more) Chinese that I am now returning to the ancient wisdoms of the East?
    Does it make me (less/not) Chinese that I am becoming ever more critical of what my ancestors passed down to me culturally, politically and spiritually?
    What does it mean to be American and to be American now? I do not have an answer. One thing is clear, thought, that regardless of how our IDs define us or how the food we ate growing up define us as any -an, -ian, -nese, -ish, -i, it is time for action. Like many of you have shared on this page, it is time to hold space ever more firmly and to be the change.

    Thank you for reading 🙂

  3. I grew up with the mantra “The United States of America is the greatest country in the world”. This was repeated often – especially by my grandmother. I also said the pledge of allegiance in school every day growing up. These things etched into my brain the belief that America is great.

    I grew up post WWII in a Jewish family – and my family was grateful to our ancestors that they made the move from Eastern Europe to the United States decades before the Holocaust. To my grandparents America was the greatest –as far as they were concerned – moving to America saved their lives.

    I never quite bought the rhetoric about America being the greatest. America may in fact be great – but it is not the greatest. This need – to be the greatest – is not healthy, in my opinion. It means that there is a winner and a loser. It means we are better than others. It sets a tone.

    When I was a child in school – I always hesitated – before saying the pledge. I still do. I don’t want to be disrespectful – and definitely don’t want to create a scene – so I stand – and usually place my hand on my heart – and once in a while even speak some words aloud – but always, I hesitate. I didn’t understand that part of me as a child – the kids next to me belted it out with pride. Why didn’t I?

    The hesitation, I believe, comes from a strong resistance to nationalism – a resistance to the concept of ‘us and them’. I rejected the belief that one human is better than or more deserving than another. I was inspired by the image of the Statue of Liberty – opening her arms –welcoming immigrants. This was the America that I envisioned. This was the America I believed in.

    For me, the joy of being an American lies in multiculturalism. I see this blending as an evolution of our species. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have the blessing of living in a type of utopia. People here are from all corners of the world, from every race and ethnic group. We work together, live together, play together, eat together…

    I believe – that this is where – in this diversity – America’s greatness can be found.

  4. One set of my Jewish grandparents came over from Austria-Hungary in 1895 and the other came over from Lithuania around 1907. My grandfather stressed the importance of family and created businesses for his children in Montgomery Alabama. My parents were greatly influenced by the depression as I was the Civil Rights movement and the war in Vietnam. Fear of White Citizen’s Council/KKK was great. Most sought to fit in and not stick out rather than fight the oppression, they were victims of the threat that after African-American, Jews were next. Racism was part of the fabric. I escaped to attend school across the country. joined Vietnam anti-war movement in the Midwest and back in Alabama. Eugene McCarthy and Ram Das were heroes. In each case, connecting with others was a far superior tactic than retreat and withdrawal. It was no mistake that I moved to CA in 1976 for support and nourishment. Now we are faced with another round of intolerance. I can fight with a closed fist or keep an open heart with a loving community. I chose the later. Being American Now Circle can be one vehicle.

  5. I am from England living in Peru so I will first say I feel uncomfortable writing my thoughts here, but I believe in leaning into discomfort because this is where we find our opportunities to grow. I have travelled all over the US and spent a lot of time in the Bay area as I have been involved in helping high tech start-ups launch networking and security technologies for over 20 years, I have many colleagues and friends in the US. I have found the Americans to be generous and friendly people, I have found the people in all countries in all the world to be the same and I am lucky to have travelled all over, Far East, Middle East, Africa the Americas and Europe. I found people accepting if you approach with an open heart, different opinions do not have to build walls between us.
    I remember just last year meeting a bunch of Rednecks in a fishing lodge on the Gulf of Mexico in a tiny town called Perry in Florida, I had booked this thing on-line and when we rolled into town we nearly turned around and left, the town was a bit run down and really did not look like the sort of place to spend a couple of days, when we turned up at the lodge we really were out of our comfort zone. A bunch of self proclaimed red necks got back from their fishing trip and invited us to join them for beer and bbq, these guys held the complete opposite views on just about everything to us yet we had a fabulous time with them, though none of them had ever left America they were genuinely interested in my different view of the world. The story of my trips through the middle east was interesting for them, one of the guys shared with me that before he has spoken to me his view on the middle east was that the US should “Glass the fu**ers” (as in nuke them), his mind was changed.
    I shared my stories with humility and an open heart to hear their view points some places we met others we disagreed and minds and hearts were changed, I am still in occasional contact with a few of them.
    My view on what is going on at present is changed after the initial shock. Hillary was not a good candidate and nor was Trump, there needs to be a change in the way American politics happens and that only comes from the people so it is up to you, do not think anyone else is going to do it the media, politicians and business will continue to screw the planet and you. Like Araye I believe that this could be the siren call for a true public uprising for change for the better, if it is fuelled with love and understanding and not hate and denial it could just be the change the planet needed and set and example to the rest of the world.

    As the saying goes be the change you want to see.

    • Thank you, Matt, for moving beyond your comfort zone and posting here. Just like in your story above, there is such value in reaching out and sharing stories even when it feels uncomfortable at first.

  6. I just read an article that I found very clear and worth reading. Here are the key points:
    By Charles Einstein

    We are entering a space between stories. After various retrograde versions of a new story rise and fall and we enter a period of true unknowing, an authentic next story will emerge. What would it take for it to embody love, compassion, and interbeing? I see its lineaments in those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you? By Charles Einstein
    It is time now to bring this question and the empathy it arouses into our political discourse as a new animating force. If you are appalled at the election outcome and feel the call of hate, perhaps try asking yourself, “What is it like to be a Trump supporter?” Ask it not with a patronizing condescension, but for real, looking underneath the caricature of misogynist and bigot to find the real person.
    Even if the person you face IS a misogynist or bigot, ask, “Is this who they are, really?” Ask what confluence of circumstances, social, economic, and biographical, may have brought them there. You may still not know how to engage them, but at least you will not be on the warpath automatically. We hate what we fear, and we fear what we do not know. So let’s stop making our opponents invisible behind a caricature of evil.
    We have entertained teachings like these long enough in our spiritual retreats, meditations, and prayers. Can we take them now into the political world and create an eye of compassion inside the political hate vortex?

  7. I loved everything about “America” when I came to this country a bit over 12 years ago, although all I knew about this country was through Hollywood movies, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. Though 12 years may not be long enough for me to feel 100% American, whatever that means, this country is where I feel encouraged to be true to myself, and where I’ve met more noble souls than anywhere else in the world. But I’ve always felt that there are two opposite forces running in this country, bringing out either the best or the worst from us.

    After I’d left the so-called conventional path of pursuing the “American Dream” for six years, I began to feel that the collective New consciousness was arising and it would save us from our very own greed and fear when Trump was elected. At first, it felt like an insult which caught me off guard. Then I felt maybe it’s a sign to really work on our shadow together. Rather than continuing to pretend everything is/will be OK under Hilary, this election brought us down to the abyss that we can not avoid the dark side in our collective conscious. As some say, it’s not that things are getting worse, they just got exposed. We can no longer suppress what’s underneath the rug anymore.

    Living in the US with a different worldview from Trump means we will face a lot of challenges. For the long haul, it’s a good thing. I actually began to look more straight into my own dark side which is suppressed by my “goodness.” What’s more encouraging is that now more and more are stepping up to serve and to be change agents, as can feel from the movement in Standing Rock.

    And importantly, we need new strategies to cope with the new situation.

    • Thank you Xiao. I love learning about your “American dream” story. And I love your perspective about how looking into our own as well as the collective “dark side” offers us the opportunity to step up to serve and be change agents.

  8. My grandparents are refugees who came to USA from Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Bratislava) shortly before WWI. My parents are first generation college-educated, typical Jewish intellectuals in many ways. My mother died about 3 years ago. My 95 year old father is in his last year of teaching at a nearby university.

    I have always been a seeker and have felt like an outsider in almost every group (Torah Circle being a major exception!). As a highly introverted, highly sensitive person (HSP), I tend to be avoidant, and only come forward when strongly called, as in the moment we find ourselves sharing. I find myself cycling through shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression/anxiety but don’t seem to have even dipped a toe into acceptance. I am most firmly in bargaining: signing petitions, contacting congressional representatives, going to local Democratic Club meetings, etc.

    I have studied anthropology, the history of religion, Jewish Education, and Transpersonal Psychology formally, and many other subjects informally.

    I have been very challenged over the last 10 years or so by ongoing health issues, the care of my aging parents, and intersibling strife. I am currently on disability and I teach part time. My current students range in age from 8 years old to senior citizens. I love this work.

    I resonate strongly with Aryae’s words and have always appreciated his wise and compassionate leadership, creativity, and generosity of spirit. I deeply admire Wendy as well. I consider myself blessed to have shared circles with them and am grateful to have this opportunity.

  9. My ancestors are from Poland/Russia. I grew up in the US, aware that the generation of my parents and grandparents had experienced great challenges, and near extinction during the Hitler era.
    As a child I felt somewhat less “American” than my Christian friends. I had experiences, as a Jew, that made me feel vulnerable to attack, verbal or physical.
    At the same time, I am proud of so much Americans have achieved and equally appalled at the way we have let our financial interests rule our behavior at home and around the world.
    Donald Trump, as President, is such an unknown and possibly a great threat to anyone who is not of White European background.
    I fear more for others than I do for myself, but still, I am afraid.
    I am eager to do what I can to contribute not to the fear or hatred, but to the possibility of communities uniting and helping one another to be safe and secure.

  10. USA & me

    My grandparents came to the U.S. in the early 1900s as Jews fleeing oppression in Eastern Europe. They were teenagers. I can imagine the tears in their eyes when they first saw the Statue of Liberty and someone translated the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

    For them, America was the land of opportunity where people who worked hard could make their dreams come true. They loved America with passionate fierceness. It was okay to question the rabbi and the synagogue and even God, but it was not okay to question the goodness, or show any disloyalty to, the United States of America.

    My parent’s generation were teenagers during the Depression and most of them didn’t have the chance to go to college. When World War II came, the men rushed to enlist to defeat Hitler and keep the world safe for democracy. One of my uncles died in the Battle of the Bulge, one flew bombing missions in the Pacific and came home safe, and my father, who couldn’t enlist because of a heart murmur, worked in Brooklyn Naval Shipyard building battleships.

    In the 1950s my parents generation started small businesses. My generation — my brothers and cousins and I — grew up in relative prosperity in houses with lawns and gardens in the suburbs. Our job was to be the first generation to go to college and enter lucrative professions.

    In the 1960s I dropped out of college and joined the youth rebellion against American materialism, racial injustice, and militarism. I became an activist in the civil rights and anti-war movements, and a Conscientious Objector, refusing to go fight in Vietnam. My parents, aunts and uncles were horrified and mystified. How could I and my friends show such disloyalty to the country that had been so good to us?

    Over the past 40 years as an adult, husband and father, small business owner, and now as a grandfather and social innovator in global communities, my relationship with my country has been mixed.

    On the one hand, I’m appalled at the many mistakes the U.S. has made in recent decades — at the wars and injustice committed in our name, at the inequality, erosion of democracy, and destruction of our planet.

    On the other hand, we’ve shown ourselves capable of doing a better job of living up to our democratic values in areas such as race, gender, marriage equality — and of game-changing innovation and creativity in science, technology, and the arts. And my connection to the American dream has deep roots going back to my grandparents.

    Can America ever again give us the hope of living up to that dream — as a land of opportunity, freedom and democracy, with liberty and justice for all?

    The election of Trump as President of the United States is appalling to me beyond belief. I’ve been in mourning for the country I thought I was living in. The American dream morphing into the American nightmare.

    I’ve gone through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and am now moving into acceptance. The world is what it is, whether I like it or not, so what do I do now?

    Together with all the bad news, I’m noticing a growing tide of good news. Social activists everywhere, from school children to elders, from churches to synagogues to mosques to temples, from east coast to west coast, from north to south, standing up to make their voices heard, to act, — pushing against hatred with love. I believe we’re seeing the early rumblings of what may become the greatest and most transformational social movement for good in the U.S. since the 1960s.

    200 years ago the great Jewish mystic, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, taught that, with God’s light scattered throughout the universe, the brightest sparks of that light are hidden in the places of greatest darkness. And that it’s our job as humans to go into those dark places and connect with that light, lift it up, and bring it home.

    I believe that this dark time offers each of us — each in our own way — the opportunity to do this holy work. And that by connecting and supporting each other we can strengthen the incoming tide of transformation in ourselves, our country, and throughout the world.

    My prayer is that this little circle of ours will contribute.

    • I was impressed by the quality of the OWL circle 11-27-16. Let me know how to ling with the blog or for that matter how I might encourage friends to register with Zoom bot for my own use and for OWl.

      Are you retired? I got the impression that the vast majority of those participating last night was still working.

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