In Memoriam

Today, UCLA alumnae and immigration activists Tam Tran and Cinthya Perez died in a car accident in Maine. Though I knew neither personally other than having had a conversation with Cinthya in regards to why I had added her as a friend on Facebook, I feel that this post is necessary in a way that few others on this blog are.

Tam and Cinthya were enormously important to the Dream Act movement. They proved that undocumented immigrants can be successful and did what many of us should have been doing long ago – giving voice to those who could not speak for themselves. More importantly, they were a prime example of what can be accomplished with hard work and dedication, and served as a counter-argument to nativist cries that immigrants are detrimental to US interests.

Tam was a PhD student in American Civilization at Brown University and Cinthya was the first undocumented student to attend Columbia’s School of Public Health. Tam testified before Congress and her family was detained because she spoke up for her rights. I can’t imagine any individuals more important to US interests.

I’m echoing another blog post when I say let’s not forget Tam and Cinthya. Let’s remember that they were great women, not numbers in a system that refused to recognize them as such.

It’s a great, sad irony that this news comes to us only a couple of days before students all across the country receive their diplomas.

So long Tam. So long Cinthya. I celebrate your lives.

Cool leg, cute dog, hot mom, great family

On Halloween, I was in Westwood with my buddy Chris, eating at a place I had gone to in 2006. I hadn’t been to Westwood for about two years, and considering I used to go there every day to see my girlfriend (a two hour commute one way), it was a pretty important place for about a year.

Chris and I went to a really funky thrift store called the Thank-You Mart and bought a bunch of stuff for our Halloween costumes (read: bought ultra glam clothes for him, pink ultra tight girl’s shirt, beret, sunglasses, and bandana for me), and then we walked around the UCLA campus for a bit. Between our shopping (I also got an awesome purple polka dot tie for $4) and our excursion on campus, we went to this cafe. We probably should have gone to the place next door, which looked more expensive but also looked like it had better service and better food, but what can you do when nostalgia strikes?

It turned out to be a good thing that we ate at this cafe, because right as we sat down, I saw the coolest family. A woman and her husband and their two sons sat down next to us, and the older son, who was about five (I’m notoriously bad at gauging kids’ ages) had a prosthetic leg. The amazing thing about his leg was that it looked like a multi-colored robotic leg, like something you would build out of Legos when you were a kid. It was so awesome. I wish I had taken a picture. It didn’t even try to hide the fact that it was a prosthetic leg – even the joints were super visible, so it totally looked colorfully makeshift (it was purple, I think). I ended up telling his mom (who was gorgeous, by the way, and looked like little running water), that the boy’s leg was cool, and she asked him, “What do you say to that?” He ended up saying thank you. I don’t think he was mad at me for bringing it up. At least his mom wasn’t.

What’s nice about this experience is that this kid’s mom and dad are treating him like a normal person and taking away the stigma of disability. I mean, who wouldn’t want a robotic leg!? If I’m jealous of this kid’s fake leg, the parents are doing something right! I watched a great TED talk about prosthetics and disability by Aimee Mullins (who had both of her legs amputated below the knee) recently, during which she elaborated on her twelve pairs of prosthetic legs. She told a great story about how she has legs made that can make her taller, and that when she wore them to a party, her friend said that it wasn’t fair that she could make herself taller at will. I think that’s an important thing – that we’re no longer seeing disability in a negative light, that we’re no longer projecting negative stereotypes onto people who are wholly capable of functioning in our society, even without legs or arms, etc.

While we were eating, the little boy kept running around his father, who was holding his younger brother, playing peekaboo and generally having a really good time. They also had a really nice black poodle, whom the mother, in response to my “Is that your dog?” described as, “Well, it’s really his dog,” referring to the boy with the super amazing leg. She was also super hot. Did I mention that?

I was totally jealous of how happy their family seemed to be, even in the midst of what could have been something really negative. It’s not often that I see such a well adjusted family. To be honest, I rarely see happy families, which made this encounter all the more amazing. I guess I’m also reflecting on my own lack of family, or at least my own lack of caring, stable, happy family. Let’s not even try to bring in the inevitable Tolstoy allusion.

I was thinking about LRW a lot that day, seeing as we were in Westwood and all. I told Chris that she looked like the hot mom, and he was impressed (although I don’t want to play to assumptions about how I want to potentially show off this whole age difference, which I don’t care about), but I obviously was not telling the truth. I mean, sure, they look kind of alike, but not necessarily so. LRW is paler and has nice eyes and never calls, but that’s just the selfishness talking right about now.

Little running water is also a stupid codename, because it has no relation at all to anything, but I like it. Don’t you?