Growing up amidst the turmoil of war and poverty, my grandmother learned to live through hardships and suffering at a young age. Though she had been frequently challenged in her life and had fought through countless hardships and obstacles, I was able to catch a glimpse of her during possibly one of her most testing points, an experience that seemed less significant to me then. My grandfather had been hospitalized earlier that year, and it was our first time visiting him since. During that visit, I only sensed the determination of my grandfather, but looking back, I realize how much pain my grandmother endured and how she seamlessly concealed it with her strength for the sake of my grandfather and her love for him.
My grandmother swung open the door, and my parents shuffled in; just ten years old then, I followed behind them softly as the hospital room came into view. The gray walls glowed with the gentle light of the Saturday afternoon which illuminated the back corner of the room where my grandfather lay in a bed. We greeted him and spoke to him quietly, telling him stories about where we had gone over summer break and about our lives in America. Meanwhile, my grandmother bustled around the room, turning on the TV, watering the plants she had brought in to add splashes of color into the dreary hospital room, occasionally calling out a witty remark or slipping a sentence or two into our conversation. Every afternoon, she drove out to the hospital to visit my grandfather, even spending her nights there sometimes, sleeping in a small bed in the back of the room to watch over him. After we had engaged in quiet conversation for a while, my parents motioned for my sister and I to let my grandfather rest. I glimpsed my grandmother sitting quietly on a wooden chair next to the bed where my grandfather was lying. Her figure was hunched over in the chair, and her hands were intertwined with my grandfather’s as she spoke to him in soft tones. Sunshine streamed through the broad glass windows behind her and fell across the wrinkles of her timeworn face. As I watched her, I noticed her dark eyes, crinkled at the edges and framed by her drooping eyelids, filled with wisdom, yet an echo of youth that gleamed through the old age the rest of her face suggested. One could barely imagine her pain with just a glance at her bright smile and determined stance, her sorrow masked by her strength and love for my grandfather. His lung condition had left him unable to speak, but my grandmother shared a wordless bond with him, always encouraging and comforting him. As we said our goodbyes and filed out of the hospital room, my grandmother shared a few words with my grandfather before she cast a quick reassuring glance at him, her face still blooming with her smile and her eyes brimming with strength through all her pain, before strolling through the heavy hospital door and closing it quietly with a click.
Visiting my grandmother a few years later now, after my grandfather’s death, she seems to have lost a part of her previous self. Her face still crinkles into a smile when she sees us, and the sound of her laughter still fills the room and spreads irresistible joy. Many nights however, she dozes off on the couch, not wanting to sleep alone on the bed that had been meant for two. After my experience, I was able to see a new side of my grandmother few could observe or appreciate. It was her bravery and courage that I finally learned to admire, shining through even the deepest of of her pains, burrowed within her heart. Even though she may not have done anything significant that demonstrated valor or courage, just understanding the simple yet resilient nature of my grandmother spoke volumes about her quiet strength.
Fake News is an ever growing problem, having large impacts on the decisions people make and presenting a lucrative financial aspect in its favor. The former prime minister of Palestine, Ismail Haniyeh, has said, “Some people think that the truth can be hidden with a little cover-up and decoration. But as time goes by, what is true is revealed, and what is fake fades away.” Essentially, he is saying that the truth will always eventually prevail over the fake. Haniyeh’s statement is only partially accurate in today’s world because although it is much easier now to reveal the truth, spreading it faster than fake news is more challenging.
There exist many examples of the relatively high viral speed of fake news compared to the truth, which is often more boring or mundane and therefore not as share-worthy. One of these instances is the infamous “Vaccinations cause autism” claim made by many, from liberal democrats to conservative republicans, including the current president of the United States. Despite being disproved by countless studies, high ranking officials continue to propagate this myth, and large swathes of the public believe in it. This claim has had a tremendous impact; due to this, many parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children against potentially harmful diseases, which could be fatal for the children. Another, more recent example of the incredible internet speed of fake news is “Liberty News,” a fake news website based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The website was created by Paris Wade and Ben Goldman, and they generate $10,000 in advertising revenue per month. A shockingly high 95% of this internet traffic comes via Facebook, a social media site notorious for the high amount of fake content being shared. According to one study, most people on Facebook and other social networks don’t click on headlines before sharing them, leading to obviously fake stories going viral, simply because of an exciting headline. Clearly, in the digital age we live in, where everyone has access to great databases of information, the truth is simply a few clicks away. However, the crux of the issue is that many people do not bother to seek this truth, and therefore the false infects us at a rapid pace.
Haniyeh may have been right when he said that the truth will always be revealed, but he most likely did not foresee fake news having such staying power. With copious digital resources at our hands, it is relatively easy to reveal the truth, but considerably more complex to make lies fade away.
I love my cousin Kyle as I would love a brother, and I trust him more than the man whose job it is to belay me while I am rock climbing. His mouth is the most prominent channel for his emotions, whether through words or movement. When he is angry, he sometimes discharges an impassioned tirade towards his instigator; other times, he simply grinds his teeth and fills his cheeks with air. Pain is instantly recognizable on his face, as is happiness. If he is hurt, he sucks in his lips and hums curses behind his teeth; happy feelings, on the other hand, cause a toothy smile wider than his face should allow, showing snow-white teeth and a solitary dimple.
While the holiday season always brings a joyful smile to Kyle’s face, his emotions tend to morph into less positive ones after a long day of hosting our loud, gregarious family. Giving each other Christmas presents seems to be a passion of our family’s, as it takes up approximately half of the time we spend in each other’s company over the holidays. During the most recent Christmas party, which was held at Kyle’s house, our six-year-old cousin Maia received a pair of purple Heelys from an aunt. Since Kyle and I were the only people in attendance with enough knowledge, strength, and balance to teach Maia how to use them, the responsibility of instructing her fell upon us. Being thirteen and fifteen years old respectively, we were already at the age at which a person is maturing enough to be trusted with young children; Kyle, having especially proven his trustworthiness in the act of supervising our younger cousins, was permitted to bring Maia and me out into the deserted street so that he and I could teach her.
At first, I believed that the most difficult task ahead of us would be helping her balance on her Heelys, but I was mistaken; Kyle spent fifteen minutes weaseling her tiny feet into the snug shoes, all the while grinning optimistically. Once we managed to bring Maia outside, while also helping her balance, the brisk wind and chilling mist reprimanded our jersey-clad bodies for forgetting our coats. As we plodded towards the street, Maia surrendered most of what little she weighed to our forearms to keep herself from falling, making our path down the walk a literal and metaphorical “slippery slope.” It was such slow going that Kyle eventually slung Maia over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and barreled into the street, with me sprinting close on his heels. Exhilarated and cold, the three of us perched on the curb, laughing hysterically and catching our breath. Kyle’s triangular face was beet-red from the cold, but he was still chuckling, with a smile the width of the Times Square Jumbotron. Eventually, we climbed to our feet and helped Maia to the center of the small lane.
In lieu of teaching her as a qualified educator would, Kyle simply held her hand, as did I, while he repeated the mantra that he employed while learning to use Heelys: “Left foot, right foot, left and jump!” This repetitive procedure continued for about half an hour, with occasional pauses for taking pictures. We eventually decided to return, and Kyle, although he was stiff, cold and sore, graciously conceded to carrying Maia back into the warm, cozy house.
Kyle and I both have no siblings, and we have treated each other like brothers since I was born. Two years ago, the loss of my father devastated both our families; Kyle kept me safe and cared for me throughout the harrowing experience. Watching Kyle with my small cousin Maia this Christmas I saw the caring that flows so naturally from him. Like Maia, with Kyle’s help I was able to find a way forward in that dark time, stumbling at first and then starting, hesitantly, to learn to glide.