Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
This past week, as we remembered the tragedy of 9/11, there was much more animosity toward the Islamic faith than in anniversaries past. Deep-seated emotions tied into the terrorist attacks of the World Trade Centers, Pentagon, and Flight 93 meshed with newfound apprehension and anger as the controversy of building an Islamic Community Center has taken center stage in recent news (no it is not a mosque, no it is not solely for Muslims, and no it is not directly on Ground Zero). However, despite the ongoing battle of that war, we won a small battle of our own last week when a Florida pastor of a small, insignificant Christian community declared that he would burn a collection of Qu'rans on the nine-year mark of the terrorist attacks on the US.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Since I composed my last blog, I’ve had a great deal of reflecting, rethinking, and reframing to do, which has driven me to write another post on the matter and readdress some issues with my newfound perspectives. The initial post on Queen Rania not only embodied my own emotional disruption, but elicited a strong response from many readers on various points of the spectrum, from defending her, to expressing anger and frustration about the state of their country, to blatant accusations of shady business deals and laying blame for maltreatment of children in far off countries to which she has no ties.
Rania vs. Queen Rania
Such is the problem for public personas and those of us who follow them, deciphering between the reality and the fantasy of who these people are, who they present themselves to be, and who others claim them to be. Accused of being the epitome of pretention, despite Rania’s claims that she uses the internet to allow people to get closer to her “real self”, it could very easily be argued that the “self” Rania portrays online is no more realistic than the self she portrays in every other public domain of her life. Some people even argue it’s not really her posting. However, in light of Occam’s razor, perhaps she really is just being herself and trying her hardest to prove it to a world of naysayers. So how do we know who’s who? God help me for alluding to Eminem but will the real Queen Rania please stand up?
Publicity vs. Philanthropy
Sadly, with all the doubt and suspicions, no one will ever truly know who the real Rania is. I don’t know her and I do not foresee myself bumping into her down at 7-11 while I’m snatching a Big Gulp to sustain a crippling Diet Coke addiction (I said Diet Coke…the soda…put away the 800 numbers). However, there can be no fantasy without some basis of reality, and Rania cannot portray herself to be a philanthropist without actually accomplishing some good. Whether it’s a nothing more than a photo op or a woman just doing her job with a photographer on her tail, there are always beneficiaries of her work. As one person told me, does it matter what her motives are so long as someone’s being helped? Ultimately, no. People don’t care if they’re being used for a front page spread to gain public favor when they’re starving or freezing, as long as they get the food they need and the clothing to keep them warm. And while it’s not the stuff role models are made of, if Rania is truly self-serving and self-indulgent in her work, so long as people are being taken care of, that will be an issue she will have to contend with when she meets whomever she answers to morally. In other words, not our problem.
Role Models vs. Models Playing Roles
A few people were surprised of the investment I’ve made in this woman in terms of admiration and expectation. As I briefly alluded to in the postscript of my previous blog, role models have always been in short supply in my world and I often needed to look to public figures for guidance. Some came and went, because let’s face it; 13 year olds are not great judges of character when it comes to picking personal influences. But even today, I feel I still need the positive influence and the guidance to help direct me down the right path in life, a set example to aspire towards, and though some may find it childish that a 26 year old looks to public figures for such, I don’t believe our need for that crucial example ever dies no matter how old we get, and what’s wrong with admiring someone who seems to embody the values you wish to have?
Now herein lies the problems with role models, especially the public kind we never get to meet. From a safe distance and filtered through TV screens and magazine pages, it becomes all too easy to forget that these people are, in fact, nothing more than human beings, regular people behind superfluous titles who are given to every day imperfections that make us human. Hence, we build these individuals up in our minds and are greatly disappointed when we find they are not who we hoped (who could forget that gut-wrenching moment when Julia Child called Julie’s blog “stupid”?), and Rania is no different. Of course if she ever calls my blog stupid there will be swift retribution of epic proportions…in other words I will grab a small bottle of tequila and spend the evening flipping off my computer screen…but I will do so swiftly! But I will be the first to say (actually I’m like the third after a few friends gave me a verbal knock upside the head) that I set impossible expectations of this woman and in turn set myself up for failure.
I was greatly disappointed when I learned of all the suffering that still goes on in Jordan, how many people are still hungry, still freezing through the winters, still struggling to survive. But then, as I was browsing the discussion board of Rania’s Facebook page, I began to see what could only be described as a digital wailing wall. With topics entitled “I Need Help”, “Only You Can Help This Woman!”, and “Why?”, posts range from begging for help with education, organizations for the disabled, calling for advocacy of Human Rights issues, even requests to help some find a wife, a job, or low airfare to Jordan. And I realized, how can this woman do so much? How is she supposed to solve every single problem for every single person in her country, and then some? No doubt she prioritizes and tackles the most pressing matters first. But the people of Jordan have every right to be upset, having to sit back and watch as her charity is bestowed upon someone else, just waiting and wondering “when will it be my turn? When will my suffering be enough to get someone’s attention?” And when you’re in pain, all you see is the one person who seems to have the power to help, and the fact that she doesn’t. They can’t see the burden of a country, the sack of troubles and worries she seems to carry on her back. And fake persona or not, no one can listen to those voices pleading for help and go home to a restful sleep at night. It will never be enough, she will never be enough. And I’m beginning to pity her plight right alongside the other Jordanians.
Dollars and Sense
Now I don’t want this to sound like I’m back-tracking my way up to oblivion again. While I’ve changed my perspective on Rania the person, Rania the queen still has some work to do. I still can’t defend the spending of the royal family, because excessive spending is not something I’m familiar with. I am a self-proclaimed anti-materialist and anti-conspicuous consumer, I shop for clothes at Wal-Mart and Target, I pass on accessories and the latest gadget, and I prefer to spend my birthdays in a quiet low-priced restaurant enjoying a turkey sandwich, topped off with a cupcake my mother buys for me (thanks Ma). It’s not because I’m broke, it’s not because I am technologically challenged, and it’s not because I’m the biggest bore in SoCal (course you won’t find me dancing on the pool tables at The Colorado either -ahem- Miss M). I just know there are better things I can be spending my money on. There’s no need to have the shiniest, fanciest car just so you can drive around and show off the fact that you can afford it. There’s no need to pay $80 for a shirt that cost a company $4 to make just because it has a well-known name sewn on the tag, a tag no one will see. And while 40 is a big birthday, I don’t know if I would celebrate it on a luxury yacht in France. Not when there are people in the world who don't even have safe drinking water. Now I’m not asking for a vow of poverty, but do people really need 20 pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes? In the scheme of things, the people who truly matter don’t give a damn about what’s on your feet anyways. I stand by my previous comments on the matter, something in Jordan has to change, and it can start by selling a Prada bag and feeding a few hundred families.
Internet Checks and Balances
Likewise, I won’t change my beef with the internet censorship. I had a vague recollection of an interview Rania gave bragging about free internet in Jordan and meant to post it in the last blog, but couldn’t locate it until now. Attending Le Web in Paris during December of last year, Rania denounced internet restrictions, claiming that such a system of censorship is “not sustainable, and will never last” and goes so far as to call it a violation of human rights. Remarkably, she echoes the comments I made (or rather I unintentionally echoed her) that efforts should be made to resolve situations creating criticism rather than in trying to silence that criticism. So what gives? Ironically, the bill was passed just a few weeks after Rania returned from France. Either Rania was bullshitting us, or there’s some serious discrepancies between the viewpoints of the queen and the Jordanian government, but either way, someone’s looking bad.**
Now there is hope at the end of this tale. In what could be called coincidental, or maybe the woman actually read this blog, in response to the birthday wishes she received on Twitter, Rania wrote “When ur [sic] in ur 20s u think these old 40yr olds must have it figured out…not true! Ur still a little confused! Questioning, exploring and seeking ways to make urself and everything around u better.” So she has acknowledged that she is not one of those omniscient leaders I was complaining about two blogs ago and that she, like all of us, is still learning and still growing, and sure enough, imperfect. And God help her, for one reason or another, she's trying. Whether or not this persona is the real Rania, until we meet at the soda fountain of a local convenience store, I can only take her at face value and hope that she is who she claims to be. If she is putting on a façade, that’s on her head, if I wrongfully accuse her, then it’s on mine. Is it worse to believe a liar or condemn an honest person?
Author's Note: If all else fails, she's still pretty freakin' hot.
**UPDATE: It was brought to my attention by one of my readers that an article was published on the Canadian Reuters site 2 days prior to the composition of this blog addressing the Jordanian internet censorship. After heavy criticism from the public sector of Jordan and concerns of the image that would portray to the western world, the incredibly vague bill restricting freedom of speech on the internet was amended to include only criminal issues such as pornography and e-fraud. Yay for you Jordan! Guess Rania was right, it won't last.