The transformation of Facebook from a message board of romantic statuses into a pop culture newspaper has put us at odds with each other.
There was the 2012 Chik-fila imbroglio over their support of organizations that do not pay benefits to gay couples. And the run up to the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections which brought mudslinging onto your handheld, causing many people swearing off Facebook until December. In both instances, people, formerly known as friends, were having debates, exchanges, and unfriending based on wall posts.
And now, this summer, during the most recent conflict in Gaza, has interrupted the deluge of wedding-engagement-holiday updates. Israel-Palestine has long been a polarizing issue – even before the advent of Facebook. Debate continues to rage on the nightly news as well as on personal media networks about Gaza, Hamas, Israel, and rights. As the physical conflict increases, so have reactions and interactions online. Living in the Middle East and being on vacation in the United States has meant I’m watching the conflicting opinions from both sides. I’m also realizing how little common ground there is online in the case of longstanding conflicts such as this one.
“My response to someone who told me they did not want to be friends anymore based on my posts on Gaza” popped on my timeline when I was contemplating the social fray that Gaza was e about the cost of sharing her opinion on Facebook. She went on to say: “Sharing those posts was and still is very important to me, because there is a humanitarian crisis going on now and I feel obligated to spread awareness regarding it. I am sorry if my posts have caused you to feel offended, but I have not shared them to offend you and am not ashamed of my beliefs and opinions.” The meditation on the boundary between expression and tolerance was probably lost on her friend who had probably stopped following her posts.
I’ve also been sharing about Gaza, and the disproportionate amount of violence being used, wondering if any of my US friends would object.
Another friend posted a 3 a.m. rumination about the conflict: “Tonight as I sit in silence my heart aches for the mothers and fathers that lost their children and will never again experience a “day”with their son or daughter. My heart aches for Palestine and Israel. How does killing a child justify anything?”
An immediate response to her post was telling: “What’s your heart aching for Israel for? Things are NOT equal to be saying this.”
She then replied within a few minutes: “It aches for the Israelies that want peace and want the killings to stop. They are not being heard. We are not being heard. It’s awful.”
I went to Gaza in 2012 as part of the Palestine Festival of Literature. I had the chance to see one of the most populated places on earth first hand: we helped have the first musical concert in a over ten years.
What I saw mostly was people trying to live normal lives with bullet ridden buildings all around them and a democratically elected government trying to maintain its power base.
If we can’t talk about the world in social media, then why be social at all? What do you think: is it better to keep it simple and to personal events or engage in current events online? Or do the rules of civility for in person conversations apply to online discourse? No politics, no religion, or anything of interest?
Are you wearing stripes this summer? They seem to be everywhere. Here’s a fresh take on the traditional black/white combo that I stumbled across.
I’m reading as much as I can in the sun filled long hours of summer. In case you are too, here’s another recommendation, The Time Bubble by Jason Ayres. Set in a small market town in Southern England in the early 21st century, this light-hearted time travel novel has plenty to delight readers of all ages.
Kaylee was overjoyed to get Charlie’s text. In seconds she went from a devastating low to a euphoric high, in a way that only someone in the first flush of love can. She quickly showed her
phone to Lauren.
“He’s texted me. See, he does want to see me!” She could scarcely conceal her excitement.
Lauren felt secretly pleased with herself. Not for the first time this week she’d given Cupid’s arrow a helping hand. She hadn’t told Kaylee about the message she’d sent to Charlie. Hopefully he
“Careful, girl – you’ll wet yourself if you get any more excited”, said Lauren.
“Cheeky”, replied Kaylee. “God, I so want to see him. Not sure if I can wait until tomorrow”.
Lauren looked out of the window. The rain seemed to be stopping. “Why wait then? Strike while the iron’s hot, that’s my advice”.
“You mean, go round there? His mum will be in. He told me last night.”
“That’s alright. You get on with her, don’t you? I’m sure she won’t mind you popping round. Just say you’ve got some homework or something you want to go over with him”.
Kaylee thought about it. She didn’t feel much like going home after the earlier exchange of “pleasantries” and ached to see Charlie so much it hurt. Yes, why not?
“I’ll text him back”, she said.
“What are you doing now x x”, she texted.
“Just watching TV. Why? x x”, came the reply.
“Don’t tell him you’re coming”, said Lauren as Kaylee was about to write another text. “Keep him guessing a bit. Here, let me do it”.
Lauren grabbed the phone from Kaylee and tapped in a message.
“Hey, what are you putting!” demanded Kaylee, worried that Lauren was going to drop her
“Just this!” said Lauren, hitting send and passing it back to her. Kaylee read the message.
“You’ll find out in a bit”, she had written. Without any kisses, but they weren’t Lauren’s
“It’s a bit suggestive, isn’t it?” asked Kaylee.
“Depends how you interpret it”, replied Lauren. “Still, you want to sleep with him, don’t
“Yes, I think so, but probably not yet. I want us to take our time. Besides, nothing is going to happen tonight. His mum’s there!”
“Best you get a shift on. Look the rain’s stopped now. Come on, there’s no time like the present”.
They headed back downstairs. Lauren gave Kaylee a brief hug at the door and wished her good luck. Kaylee grabbed her bike and headed out into the night.
Charlie was intrigued by Kaylee’s last message. What was she getting at? He pondered for a few minutes about how to respond. In the end he settled on texting back a rather lame “What do
you mean? x x” and then sat back and waited for a reply.
But the reply never came, because Kaylee never received his message.
In the centre of the tunnel, Kaylee’s bike lay upended where it had fallen. The front wheel
was spinning aimlessly in the air and the lights were still on, shining back down the tunnel. But of
Kaylee there was no sign.
Summer is in full swing, and if like me, you’re on planes, trains, and automobiles you probably need a good read to make the miles fly by in between destinations.
Inferno by Fredrick Lee Brooke who is a mystery writer who has a unique take on the genre. Check out the excerpt which is the second book in the The Drone Wars series.
In a dystopian 2021, 19-year-old Matt Carney is betrayed by those he trusts most—and is forced to make the most difficult choice of all—as he unwillingly joins the inner circle of March22, a terrorist group taking major steps to strike a new, legitimate path by eliminating the most powerful and vicious militia in the country.
San Francisco Bay
Derrick Sims stared intently at his control screen, operating the robotic arms with swiping motions of his fingers on a pad. At this shallow depth of 260 feet, on the uneven floor of San Francisco Bay, the submarine mechanics obeyed his commands in real time. He’d trained in deeper water, up to two thousand feet, where sometimes a delay occurred between a swipe and the corresponding motion of the arms.
The training had lasted for the past twelve months without any of them knowing what their mission would be. Earning triple what Sims had taken home as an officer in the US Navy had taken the edge off the secrecy. In the Navy, you rarely knew where you were headed either. You could be cruising off Hawaii or approaching the Kola Peninsula off Severomorsk in the Barents Sea. It all looked about the same from the inside of a submarine. And you were never far from danger. The kind of danger that could mean the end of the world.
“Handle with care,” said Jack McLamore, munching on a cold cheeseburger while staring at his own screen, where he followed Sims’s manipulations.
“You’re in more danger from high cholesterol than from one of those babies going off,” Sims replied, keeping his cool. McLamore had always been the coolest head during trainings, but today only constant eating kept his nerves in check. Sims guided the robot arms till they locked on a steel box the size of a small trunk. He lifted the box out of the muck, swiveled the robot assembly, which worked like a small underwater crane, then telescoped the arms to deliver the box into the cargo hold at the back.
“It’s that moment when it’s right over our heads that freaks me out,” McLamore said. He took another bite of his cheeseburger.
“Even if I dropped it, it wouldn’t puncture the hull and it wouldn’t blow,” Sims reminded his partner as box number thirty-six locked down safely in the hold. The robot arms shrank into themselves and came around again. The submersible could carry forty of the two hundred-pound boxes.
When the cargo hold was full, they would make the twenty-mile journey out to sea to offload onto the Nemo. They could reach the Nemo in under an hour, offload in forty minutes, and run back here for the fifth load. The Nemo was loading the boxes into a container that would be brought to an unknown port. Surely one of the West Coast ports. They wouldn’t risk smuggling this cargo through Panama Canal security.
“You believe everything they tell you?” McLamore said.
“I have to think they know what they’re talking about. We’re working to make this country safer.”
“Look at the size of that thing,” McLamore said. He was pointing at a section of cable from the Golden Gate Bridge, which had been destroyed this morning in a series of timed explosions just as an army convoy was crossing. Everyone had seen it over and over on TV. The convoy had been carrying those 240 steel boxes. The team in this submersible wasn’t supposed to know what was in the boxes, but Sims knew, and he knew McLamore knew. That was what made McLamore nervous. A single box, if it blew, would level the entire city and snuff out the lives of all four million inhabitants.
The weird object McLamore was pointing at looked more like a Greek column at the bottom of the Mediterranean than a steel cable with over five hundred strands wound together. He looked beyond the underwater drones that were giving the March22 leaders real-time information on their progress. That cable had to be three feet in diameter. It stood straight up, as if it had bored into the ground when it hit. Thousands of tons of tensile steel could very well bore a hole in bedrock, Sims figured, dropping through seawater like a pile driver. The column rose into the murky dimness about thirty feet off to their right. Cables like this, extending right up to the surface, had to be interfering with surface shipping. March22 had calculated correctly that debris from the bridge destruction would prevent the military from swooping in on the same day to recover their deadly cargo.
Sims smiled, thinking of his year of training. March22 had been prepared. March22 had gotten here first. After waiting offshore, they had guided the submersible into San Francisco Bay and gotten started less than two hours after the bridge was destroyed.
“Damn, this one’s stuck on something,” Sims said. The robot arm was trying to claw the thirty-seventh box out of a tangle of wires and ropes. He swiped left and then right again, wiggling the box to work it out of the mess. But the box fell and settled down into the tangle again.
“Let the master have a turn,” McLamore said. He had finished his cheeseburger.
Sims transferred control of the robot arms to McLamore with the touch of a button. Their orders were clear. They couldn’t leave a single one down here. After thirty seconds of skillful meaneuvering, McLamore extricated the troublesome box out of the tangle. Sims watched as McLamore manipulated the box to free it from one last thin cable that stretched over the top. The box suddenly fell free again as one of the robot arms lost its grip.
McLamore shifted in his chair, and giant sweat stains appeared under his arms in the dark green uniform shirt.
“Butterfingers,” Sims said.
“I went to my lawyer, you know. Wrote my last will and testament,” McLamore said. Beads of sweat covered his brow and upper lip as he brought the robot arms down for another try.
“I told you, they’re not going to blow,” Sims said.
He hoped to God his information was correct.
Nothing ranks as high on an expat’s list of fears as being deported. Maybe death of a loved one while you’re abroad. Not your own death, because like the average teenager, you think your charmed expat life is immortal. Those who have lived overseas know all too well both death and deportation are likely scenarios. Neither is polite to discuss in public.
I wrote about both in The Dohmestics, my most recent paperback release, based on observations as an expat for nearly a decade. The novel explores the lives of six women: three employers and three housemaids who live in the same compound, or walled neighborhood. I found out how difficult the employer-housemaid relationship was to describe in the process of trying to get interviews as background research. Even friends were reluctant to let me speak to their helpers.
Then fact and fiction collided when we were told that a nanny in the neighborhood’s sister was in the detention facility.
That’s how we learned there’s something worse than being deported. Detention.
The sister, also a nanny had runaway from her employer who had her working at several homes in the extended family with little sleep or food. Yes, for some reason, we use the word “runaway” to describe a grown woman who has no other recourse to end her employment. Runaway: a word that has been to describe willful teenagers and slaves, those beings treated as human chattel.
She left her employer one day, walking out while the family was upstairs. She worked for a series of other families in various conditions: sometimes sleeping on the floor on the kitchen because the maid’s room was used a storage. Waking up at 4:30 a.m. to iron and cook for her landlord who also charged her rent. Bouncing from family to family, a few years went by. An ailing mother, a maturing daughter: she wanted to go home.
She got an airline ticket – hard to come by at the tune of thousands of riyals – and went with her luggage to the embassy. They turned her over to CID or the criminal investigation department. She called, hysterical, because she was being held in a facility with hundreds of other women, some of whom had been there for a month, others for three.
The line was scratchy: they were default fasting because no one was being given food during Ramadan.
Despite being a women’s area, there were no sanitary supplies.
Anything you received, you had to get from someone on the outside.
We assembled a care package, the contents what you might take your daughter’s dorm room: peanut butter, bread, jam, Kotex, chocolate, laundry detergent.
More calls, from random numbers, from borrowed phones (hers had been confiscated) of other long timers. Rushed conversations to exchange file numbers and any updates.
She has a good chance of eventually going home. She has a ticket, no debt, no pending charges. Someone has to take interest in her to distinguish her case from the hundreds of others who are much, much worse. They are waiting on sponsors to pay fines for having a runaway (that word again), waiting for family to raise money to bring them home, waiting for a miracle to clear their debts.
“That’s the place people take their maids when they want to punish them,” a friend told me. “If they don’t want them any more, they leave them there.”
As you may recall, my first book was banned for being about Qatar and Qataris. I had no idea that love was a sensitive subject.
Maids, though, housemaids, I knew were controversial. They are the invisible army without the glamour (or indignation) of the 2022 World Cup stadiums to galvanize the international media to their cause. There is no country named in The Dohmestics because I hope it makes it into the hands of readers in Doha. But also because the treatment of these women, who sacrifice their lives for their children, fund unfaithful husbands, and prop up their home economies (personal and national), is commonly archaic across the Middle East – whether Lebanon, the GCC, or Egypt – and extends into Asia where high rise suicide jumpers in Singapore are so commonplace, they only make the news if they take a young child with them.
“I am not a housemaid,” I said enunciating the vowels for the embassy official who had missed my American dress, accent and husband. “I am here for a friend.”
Is the deportation facility in the novel? You’ll have to read it to find out. This is one instance when real life is worse than fiction.
We’ve talked about the convex relationship between body image, women, and the media so much in the last few decades that loving our natural selves has become somewhat passe.
Then this campaign, run by The Sun, turned the idea of image perfection sideways by asking real men to mimic poses of male underwear models. (They call them ‘pants’ but you know, they’re English).
Is anyone free from expectations? Is that what we go to magazines for? Is the aspirational advertisement over and we need a new Don Draper to give us more meaning in marketing?
A dress is the easiest way for me to get ready in the morning. I love this dress because it could go day to night: dressy enough for the office but also playful for an afternoon with friends. When it’s on sale, even better!