Are Your Human Rights More Right Than Mine?

31 01 2010

When I say HUMAN RIGHTS, you may think about a trafficked sex slave, a child soldier, a raped woman prosecuted for adultery in a Muslim country, a woman in China who is pregnant with a second child being forcibly taken to a hospital and given an abortion, and the people in earthquake-ravaged Haiti who need food, water, safety, and shelter.

But what about the basic human right to live in peace and quiet in your own home? Most cities…including my new city of Berkeley, California…have ordinances that proclaim that this is a right of residents. Even my own apartment lease declares this one of the rules that residents must abide by.

For over a month I have lived under a family of four who choose not to respect this basic human right.  I moved here from out of state and never saw this apartment except on videotape before moving in. I rented the apartment next door and due to the mold there, was moved by my landlord into this apartment…completely unaware that I’d be moving under a family with two young children.

The family plays drums (which the lease says is not allowed), loud thumping music, allows the boys to run up and down the halls (this sounds like a stampede since there are hardwood floors and no carpet), slams windows and doors, stomps around, argues loudly…everything is done LOUDLY. They tell me they are just living their life.

Who’s to say that me living my life doesn’t include playing my stereo really loudly at 3 a.m. or that I have to turn up my television as loud as it goes because that’s the way I like it or I need to plug my amplifier into my keyboard and play it loud so I can really get the feel of the music when I play it? (I haven’t done any of those things, but sometimes it is tempting.)

I have spoken twice with the mother/wife. The last time, when I calmly explained that the noise was unbearable, she screamed at me and threatened me. She said I had “no right to come from Texas and tell her to be quiet in HER neighborhood.” She also informed me that her children were going to continue doing what they were doing that was so loud and they were going to do it ALL DAY LONG.

My neighbor asserted to me that she and her family have MORE rights than me because they were here first and they are a family (and I’m a single woman). I pay rent here too…no less than they do…and my lease reads the same as theirs. I’m protected by the same city laws as they are that give me the right to peace and quiet in my own home.

I’m saying all this not to complain, but to show how absurd it is when one person proclaims they have more rights than another person and that their rights are more important than another person’s. You could substitute anything going on in the world in exchange for this story and see how ridiculous it is…and yet we do it all the time. My neighbor and her family have a sense of entitlement and so they do whatever they want to do without any regard for my rights.

My landlord/apartment owner has little regard for my rights also…rights that they even decreed in the rules we all signed. Instead of asking these people to leave, I am being let out of my lease. The neighbors will then be allowed to intrude on the rights of the next person(s) who live(s) where I do now. And me? I am spending my time, energy, and money to move to another place where my basic human right of peace and quiet in my own home will be respected.

How often do we let the people who intrude on our human rights or those of others continue? Or perhaps we perceive the person who had their rights violated as a complainer and the violaters just bully us into letting them do whatever they feel they are entitled to do?

In my case, I could go to the city and complain and could probably force the issue so that the people above me are evicted and I could stay here. I choose instead to no longer rent an apartment from a landlord who doesn’t back up the rights they guaranteed me and to no longer live under people who are so disrespectful and scream at me to my face that their rights matter more than mine.

For 5 weeks I’ve felt victimized by these people…the neighbors and the non-acting landlords. Now I’m taking my power back and moving to a place that will be a refuge.  Peace and quiet are an important basic human right to me. I need it to survive…and to thrive.

Do you think your rights are more important…or more right…than those of other people? Are you respecting the rights of others?

Advertisements




Through the Eyes of My Daughter’s Newborn Child

18 08 2009
Circles of Blessing by Ishara de Garis

Circles of Blessing by Ishara de Garis

Awe. Delight. Ecstasy. Contentment. Pride. Gratitude. Joy. These are feelings I have at becoming a grandmother for the very first time and seeing my daughter Valerie become a mother to Sebastian, who entered the world at 1:29 a.m. PDT today.

I remember how awestruck I was to hold Valerie (and my first-born, her sister Julie) in my arms after giving birth. You can see a thousand tomorrows in the eyes of a newborn, but they remind you with their urgent cries for food and love that this moment is all that matters. A new baby doesn’t understand the concept of “Wait until I finish watching this TV show” or “I’m not feeling well so maybe some other time.” A baby knows now…and now…and now and calls to us to be present so we won’t miss the precious moments that so quickly pass.

A new baby is open…to love, to encouragement, to learning, to being. As a parent, you have the privilege and responsibility to influence who this child becomes. A new baby is trusting…that you’ll take care of him, keep him safe, meet his needs, teach him, and nurture him. You have the opportunity with a new baby to share with him the good in your life and the hope to shield him from the challenging.

One has a sense of wonder looking into the heart and soul of a newborn baby, who has no sense of prejudice, hatred, resentment, or ego. That baby is pure and innocent…the embodiment of all that is good and true in the world.

Sebastian's First Photo

Sebastian's First Photo

One considers all the hopes and dreams you have for a child who extends your physical time on this earth by literally carrying part of you in him. You wonder if he’ll play football or oboe, be on the debate team or the chess team, be married and have children or have a gay partner. There are so many possibilities, so many doors that can open, so many forks in the road that can lead him down paths unimagined as you hold him in your arms.

You’ve yet to make the many inevitable mistakes you’ll make as a parent even as you give your very best to this child. You’ve yet to have a teenage child scream “I hate you!” or take the car without permission and wreck it or fall for someone who doesn’t love them back. You’ve yet to have your heart broken as they make mistakes that have difficult consequences and to feel your heart soar as they make choices that lead to unexpectedly good results. You’ve yet to have your child blame you for their lot in life, swallow your pride, and know in your heart you did the very best you could. And you’ve yet to have your child make countless homemade cards that say “You’re the best mom ever” and to ease your load when you’re tired by dressing as combination wait staff/cooks in your high heels and impossibly large (for them) clothes and welcome you to Mom’s Night Out Restaurant with a menu of everything they know how to cook.

At the very beginning there is love bigger than you ever imagined…and the desire to never let these moments and these feelings go.

Sebastian, welcome to the world. You have two loving, caring, accomplished, super intelligent, personable, independent, creative, kind, and grateful parents. May life always be as full of wonder, delight, and love for you as it is right now. Thanks for making me a grandma. I promise to be the very best grandma I can be and to be present to each of our precious moments together. This is going to be fun! I love you, Sebastian.

…Your Oma





Childhood Summers in a Small East Tennessee Town

27 07 2009

Me and My Siblings in Summer 1962

Me (the oldest and holding a cat) and my siblings in summer 1962

Ah, the summers of childhood. Those were about eating watermelons picked fresh out of Grandmother’s garden and competitive seed spitting with the cousins and siblings. They were about long days at the enormous city pool where huge throngs of people would come and they even had a 3-tier dive platform the heights of the ones used in the Olympics.

They were about taking picnics there or to the Smoky Mountains where we would build dams with large stones across the ice cold creeks, go for small hikes, and skip rocks. They were about playing outside all day long with the neighborhood kids, building forts out of logs from the giant oak tree that was felled by lightning, organizing and holding a 4th of July parade with decorated bicycles and the younger children pulled in wagons, walking to Kay’s Ice Cream or downtown to the movies, and just generally having freedom to go most anywhere our two legs could carry us.

They were about church and music camps and Girl Scout activities and still practicing the piano. They were about creating plays complete with ukuleles and singing and performing them for our parents. They were about long bicycle rides and lots of Kool-Aid and iced tea and marching band practice and living with no air conditioning. Every other summer they were about summer vacations to my Great Auntie Ann’s rented boarding house in St. Petersburg and frolicking on the beach and sunburns.

Those summers of old were about freedom and fun and being a kid. Ah!

And then there were those summer visits to the farm and staying with my grandmother and granddaddy. I don’t remember how long we stayed each time…a week? two?…but it was long enough to get comfortable and start feeling like a farmhand. We’d awake to incredible aromas of a big country breakfast that my grandmother cooked every morning. What a treat that was!

I’ve never had a breakfast since that could compare. Fluffy homemade biscuits, gravy, sausage patties and bacon, hash browns, scrambled eggs, grits, homemade strawberry jam, some kind of fruit, fresh orange juice, and that grainy coffee substitute Postem.

When we were little, we could scoot off after breakfast to go explore. As we got older, we were expected to help wash dishes by hand and dry them. Then it was off to watch my uncle milk cows and even try our hand at it. Or we’d go up in the hayloft and find the eggs the hens had laid. Or go feed the pigs. Or run fast enough to jump over the fence when the big bull was chasing you. Or follow my grandmother out to the enormous, industrial-sized garden and pick home-grown tomatoes for lunch or a watermelon to share with the cousins later.

There was time to sit on the porch swing and look out at the gorgeous rolling hillside or time to walk up to my cousins’ house and follow them as they did their chores of feeding their latest 4H hopeful pig or calf. There was time to go down to the pond and go fishing or to climb in the trees and make what my grandmother called the “monkey tree” with all us young’uns hanging out of it.

There was time to play the heavy old beat-up piano with real ivory keys that was always out of tune. Or to watch my grandmother when she unpinned her perfectly brown hair that hung to her bottom when it was down and she brushed it. There was time to eat the sweet mulberries that fell from the trees or go running through the vineyards. There was always church on Sunday and potluck on Wednesday nights at the little Niles Ferry Baptist Church where my uncle and grandfather were deacons.

Those were times I always looked forward to…those times spent at my grandparents’ house in the country in Greenback, Tennessee and at my enormous two-story home with 12 foot ceilings…the outstanding home of 1910 in our area…in Maryville, Tennessee.