What a difference a year makes! As many of you know, we have had some major changes in our lives that have moved us across the country and onto a new direction in our careers. None of it would have been possible without the support from so many of you, and all the time/love/babysitting/support/criticism you have given us over the years.
This year has given time to reflect. Having always had one foot in politics and current events, I draw a great deal of writing inspiration from what I read in my daily digests of the New York Times, the Economist, the BBC and whatever podcast I can squeeze in between diaper changes and potty breaks. And let's face it: the news has been brutal. The fear and paranoia around the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the tepid response to the cataclysmic refugee crisis, and the vitriol towards Muslims in America have made me want to throw my laptop against the wall many times this last month.
I'm hardly an authority in the intricacies of the Islamic world (news flash: neither are the talking bobble heads with tribble tops) but my own experiences with the Muslim community in Minneapolis have defined my perceptions of the world. Reading the Quaran gave me a deeper understanding of my own religious text and the context of the times. We now live in an area off the country with a large Syrian and Iranian population, and to see my daughters being so welcomed by their hijab-bearing peers is just a daily occurrence.
I took my family to Holy Land for a meal the other day (fantastic place, a meat lovers paradise). My South African father-in-law (an appreciative meat lover) noted how incredibly nice and welcoming everyone was to him, from workers to patrons, more than any place he had been in a long time. He wondered "how much of that is that they are Muslim and speak with accents, and need to prove they are friendly? I come from South Africa and have a British sounding accent, and I've never had that worry, that doesn't seem fair." It made me think of Keith Ellison's first election, where despite winning a landslide election in a Midwestern district, was asked to prove he was not working for our enemies. It made me think of the wonderful Somali girl on the plane next to me on the way to Minnesota, who exercised infinite patience with my children and even cleaned up their turbulence-induced vomit without a modicum of grumble, but was getting funny looks as she walked up the aisle. How exhausting it must be to live life always trying to prove you aren't something nefarious.
Fareed Zakaria hoped on his show this week that people will look back and ask "What did you do when Donald Trump posed religious tests in America?" This is a question I've struggled with in great deal the past week. As most of you can attest, I am a (verbal) bomb-lugging cynic. My first reaction was to destroy every word of ignorance on my feed, line by line, to do what I could to punish the hate. I don't think that's going to do anything. We are so overwhelmed by the barrage of angry messages and brutal images that even the scene of a Syrian boy dead on a beach can only go so far to sway opinion.
But there might be a chance for kindness and love to help in some matter. The reality is that most of us don't even know many Muslims in America. That's not an indictment off anyone's ignorance or ideology (I'm in that thought as well), but just a sad truth of how our society is organized. But time and time again, we have seen the effect of popular media in making the frightening into the familiar. To see people who look and seem different doing what we all do: try their best to take care of their loved ones and overcome the obstacles of life. That's at least something we can do.
This is where our focus will be on our next screenplay, "Family Feast". The animated story focuses on a Muslim family, fresh to America and settling into life, tackling their first ever Thanksgiving. Our inspiration draws from Daniella's own experiences being an immigrant, but from the strong and loving families of the Muslim community that I've met over the years. Of the patchwork of "Orphan families" that you make in life. And of course, our love of the wall-shattering force that is food. We are still a while away from production, and I don't even know if Daniella and I will be the ones directing the final story. If we find a better filmmaker to tell the story, I am happy to support them all the way. But these kind of stories will be the focus of Amanzi Films in the foreseeable future. Until then, keep doing something positive today.
Thank you so much!