Holiday Leftovers: Humble Pie and Yard Signs

I had a great post to write, all about the goody-goodness of love and the sugary-sweetness of compassion. But I had a bad day yesterday. Humility has been my theme this week – all about the reminders that I can be an asshole on occasion. Not even that, but someone who abandons her principles because she’s too damned tired to do the right thing.

It started with a bell ringer. I stopped donating to the Salvation Army years ago, when controversies arose around its hiring practices, as well as some of the money going towards anti-LGBTQ legislation. Fortunately, there are plenty of efficient secular organizations that do good.

canstockphoto2643653But there he was, outside of Walgreen’s, ringing his bell and saying “Merry Christmas!” The wind was the kind of cold that chills you from the inside out. I’ve never cared what holiday greeting people use. Obviously, if you’re Merry Christmas-ing me, you’re likely a Christian and I’m not, but I said Merry Christmas and dropped a couple bucks in. I really just wanted to give the money to him. It’s a shitty job.

I thought about that a lot. The thing with bell ringers outside of stores is that there is a shame factor. Yes, I just spent $12 on hair dye and chocolate, but I can’t spare a dollar for people who don’t have money for hair dye and chocolate? That’s how they get me. I have to avert my eyes from a real human being, clutch my little bag of luxuries and get to the car, where I shame-eat all my chocolate. On a good day, I look the person in the eye, say “have a good day” and keep on walking, recounting to myself all the inclusive organizations I do give to.

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.

Nelson Mandela

On the whole, I consider myself an old-school feminist. It’s easy to get sidetracked by how other people define the term and sometimes I mumble when I say it. The harder side of feminism is learning to undo the lifelong toxic thoughts I have about other women. I find myself thinking, and sometimes saying, horrible things – things that intellectually I know are wrong.

Yesterday, while talking to a friend, I made a disparaging comment about another woman’s appearance. The friend called me on it. Shame swept over me. I don’t generally notice or talk about people’s outward appearances, mostly because I don’t want to be judged that way and again, intellectually, I know that our culture is sick and bloated with these kind of judgments. But I was cranky and not really in the mood to talk and I say awful things in those circumstances.

So, to write a post here today, about love and goodness and principles of compassion would be, to put it mildly, hypocritical. The short tale I would have told would have been this:

canstockphoto12873243I took one of my daily walks through a neighborhood just off my usual route. In one of the yards there was a sign: “We Choose Love”. I’d been wrestling in my mind about another Trump appointment and was feeling a lot of hatred. That sign made me stop in my tracks. My eyes welled up. So simple. So perfect. The reminder that I had to make a better choice and that love was an option.

There was another house displaying the sign, where a woman was raking up the last of autumn leaves. I said “Excuse me, but where did you get your sign?”

She laughed. “I ordered a bunch of them for our neighborhood and put them on the curb with a FREE, TAKE ONE sign.” And she gave me one.

I carried that sign, feeling a little foolish, the rest of the way home.

We don’t put signs in our yard, much like we try not to wear clothes with logos or put bumper stickers on the car. It’s just our thing – no advertising. So I asked my husband hesitantly, if he’d have an objection to me putting the sign in our yard. And I asked my daughter, whose school bus of feral middle schoolers drops off in front of our house. No objections.

I put the sign up and it felt awkward. Were we trying to look pious and self-righteous? Were we making a political statement? What was the point? The only other sign on the street was a Trump/Pence sign and I wondered if I was being passive aggressive. I started to think about semantics, why the we and why not just choose love. That sounds like a command, and not at all loving. Leave out the word choose and the empowerment is gone.

Then I reminded myself what it had done for me – a simple reminder that we have a choice about where we want to put our energies. It may do nothing for anyone else, but every time I leave and re-enter my home, I am reminded. Especially on those days when I let myself down.

canstockphoto6853838Since putting up the sign, we’ve started to notice them at other places – at schools and churches and in the occasional yard, like a quiet network connecting and nudging us towards our better selves.

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Back to the Beginning

canstockphoto21954338Once upon a time, I had a business card with a job title. Over the years, I’ve saved each job’s business card, a potpourri of assistants and coordinators and managers. For a good portion of my working life, I did not have a business card and it felt meaningful when that first box arrived at my desk.

After my daughter was born, I spent two years trotting my wiggly baby to a daycare each morning and commuting downtown with my husband to a many-storied building of glass and metal. One year of hauling a breast pump and hunching over in the corner of a windowed conference room. And a breaking point – my misery seeping into the office. I left the job, got my baby, and came home.

I’ve been home ever since, spending some of the best and worst moments of my life without a business card. It was easy to justify. My husband has a decent job which has survived multiple layoffs. We have health insurance. The house and car are paid for. It didn’t make sense to pay child care, which had become increasingly worrisome with each developmental stage. I also had the big dream of establishing a writing career.

My daughter is 12 now and shaking off the yoke of an attentive parent. A writing career would be a surprise, given my work habits. And while I’m still chugging away at it, I’m not counting on it. I have a business card that says I’m a writer and every once in a while, I dust off the box, open it and then close it again. The genie stays in.

Today, I start a volunteer job. I volunteered twofold – to tutor high school English language learners and to help in the volunteer program office. Part of me dreaded the idea of data entry and filing, but I’m good at those things. I’ll have a boss and a system to learn. I’m sure there will be jargon and acronyms. Every job has them.

For a moment, I felt a twinge of despair. What had I gained by all these years at home? I volunteered, threw complex birthday parties (treasure hunts and crime mysteries – holy shit, what was wrong with me?). I grew gardens and taught my daughter the words to canstockphoto24937827Elvis songs and how to draw cats. She remembers very little of those years. All that effort and awkwardly conscientious parenting, just a figment of my imagination.

I talked not too long ago with a mother at the school where I’d been PTO president. All those hours planning fundraisers and staffing book fairs. Of talking with teachers and parents and doing assembly presentations. My name occasionally shows up on old documents, to be replaced by someone else. I was the uber-volunteer until I burnt myself to the ground.

canstockphoto1854942For years, I’ve helped take care of my mother-in-law. She lived two blocks and one phone call away. Running her to doctor appointments, taking her grocery shopping, writing note after note as her memory failed. Guiding her through daily physical therapy exercises. Doing her taxes and paperwork. Sitting with her until the paramedics came. Now she is in a nursing home. And no one, especially her, remembers all the years before.

My resume has a canyon in it. A vast expanse of about a decade, filled with dirty diapers and strollers and wheelchairs. Silly songs about dinosaurs, patient and impatient answers to questions about the remote control and the telephone. A filling in the sandwich generation.

When I interviewed for the volunteer job, I put on the only dress pants I own, Talbot suits long gone to consignment shops. I talked too much and laughed at weird times. I tried too hard. I realized that I’d been away from things too long, that I feel uncomfortable with small talk and I have to make a conscious effort not to use swear words.

Self-pity was in order. And boy, did I ever feel it. All of it was for nothing. There was nothing to show for my efforts, my time, my love, my exhaustion. Not even a business card.

As with all self-pity, my reasoning was severely flawed. My daughter is this amazing person – loved and loving, kind and funny. She fills our home with music and light. She may not remember how many times I sang silly songs to her, but her heart does. My mother-in-law spent many years in her own apartment, the last few only because she was protected and cared for and loved. She doesn’t remember my name sometimes now, but her face always lights up with recognition when she sees me.

As for all the school volunteering, well, the very nature of it is transitory. I did some good things, like filing for nonprofit status, which will lead to corporate donations. But it’s all like so much smoke, evaporating and invisible.

canstockphoto3210183This morning, I sat on my cushion and prepared to meditate. I’d been feeling a tad smug that I’ve managed this practice for the last few weeks, without fail, building up from 5 minutes to a shiny 13. As I settled in, our tom cat began his caterwauling. I focused on my breath. He yowled louder. I kept my focus, feeling a little proud that I’d managed to let go of my sensory irritation. Then I realized that I had forgotten to set the timer.

My perfectionist self was tempted to start over, but I decided to continue for a bit longer.  With a laugh, my eyes popped open. It was all about humility. A messed up meditation. Love without recognition. Not having a good answer to what do you do?

When it was all gone, when there was no money, no accolades and no title, I still sought a sense of importance, even in the most mundane activities. To learn humility is to be grateful for the gift of starting over again. And again. And again.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

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What It All Comes Down To

I’ve been trying to find my way back to a state of reasoned calm, following the election and the current repetitive rhetoric still filling our airwaves. It doesn’t matter who is right or who is wrong, no one is listening.

canstockphoto177612Every time I get to a moment where I think, okay I’ve got this, I’ll catch the news that another member is being added to the billionaires’ club of the new administration. I hear that an education predator, one who has made gobs of money off the very system she has lobbied for, is going to impact the education my child will be receiving until she graduates, and it fills me with rage.

But I am beginning to return more quickly to center.

Nobody is listening and my words and rage are like so much flotsam on a vast ocean of noise.

canstockphoto158133What is becoming more clear is that the American public is, as it has always been, subject to the whims of the wealthy. It doesn’t matter who you voted for – you’re nothing but human capital. Liberal or conservative doesn’t matter. If you’re not a gazillionaire or have your own network show, you’re just peasant grist for the mill.

This notion is actually freeing in a way. If nothing I do matters, then I get to do what I want, feel how I want to feel, be who I want to be – all without a politician’s input or political labels. For some people, this means expanding – reaching out to others, committing to service, broadening horizons. To others, it means curling up in a tight ball, hanging with like-minded people, protecting oneself at all cost. We get to decide who we want to be. That’s a damned powerful choice to make.

I’ve read some posts and articles by many articulate and reasoned people. They argue opposite points and I think, well, that is something to think about. It made me realize that we can talk ourselves into anything. We can look past all kinds of flaws in reasoning and become so enamored of our own talking points as to sound like reflexive robots. We seek out confirmation bias for the pure pleasure of feeling self-righteous, comforted, and above all, right.

I’ve walked for miles this week. My knee injury is slow in healing and each step is focused on not slipping or stepping down too hard. But I’m moving forward with quiet concentration. Yesterday, I mapped out a four mile walk that included a stop at the library. The sun was out and the sidewalks were melted off, a lovely November surprise. I gingerly walked uneven pavement, stepping with a wince off curbs. Each step a measured choice.

Over the last year, I read a lot of comment sections on news sites and I realized that they actually made me more stupid. Comments are often not measured choices. I wondered how this affected my worldview – to constantly read angry, denigrating insults, regardless of political affiliation.

canstockphoto9209863Every article, no matter the topic, triggered a cavalcade of repetitive and childish squabbling. This article made me laugh, because the comment section was reflective of nearly every news comment section I’d ever read.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been bypassing comment sections and trying to stick with the news. It’s a challenge. Vitriol is addictive and even if it’s not you writing it, reading it is a hard habit to break. It feeds the little part of your brain that likes to feel amped – that burst of rage that lights you up and gets the adrenaline going. The primitive urges of modern life.

As I stripped away the filthy layers of this election season, I remembered that the same things that mattered most to me before, mattered most now. My family, learning, contributing positively to society, writing, friends, etc. While I was thinking about what matters, I tripped over a great new resource, the Action for Happiness website. Check out Action #30. I’m still digging in, but I like the positive vibes from the site – and lots of reminders that politics is only a fraction of life.

duffyprintHumor is also a much-needed palliative. I have a fondness for political cartoonists. When I was 16 and editor of the school paper, I went to the Iowa High School Press Association conference. I fangirled Brian Duffy, a political cartoonist from the Des Moines Register. Pigs featured prominently his cartoons, since much of Iowa life is focused on farm culture, so I had a very specific request in mind. He drew me a huge pig which hangs on the wall behind me and makes me smile to this day.

Here’s some cartoonists that have made me laugh lately:

  • Claytoonz     Syndicated Cartoonist Clay Jones. He’s a liberal after my own heart, so it might not be your jam. I enjoy learning about his thought process that goes into the work.
  • Tabula Candida  A historian who likes to doodle. I always feel just a little bit smarter if I get the joke.
  • Wrong Hands Cartoonist John Atkinson does a fantastic job combining history and literature with the idiosyncracies of modern life.

So what does this all come down to? It comes down to getting in touch with our own humanity and inner lives before pretending we’re ready to understand that of others. Casey Fleming at non(seculargirl) wrote a great post “Sermon for Self-Purification” that covers this exact point.

womaninnerlifeThe election results triggered a heavy duty depression in me, but it made me realize that the whole year has been a bit of a bust. There have been few highlights and brief glimpses of enthusiasm were easily squashed. It wasn’t only the election, it was that I had allowed my inner life to be eclipsed by things out of my control. No matter which wealthy bastard is in charge, nurturing our inner lives and deciding who we want to be, are really all we have.

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Staying with the Troubles

It’s uncomfortable. This sense that you are out of step with the world and that when you dip your toes in, all you want to do is retreat. I’ve been doing the hokey-pokey all week.

canstockphoto9027095

I’m still trying to process the election outcome. The daily news of one old white guy apprentice after another being paraded for administration positions in front of that other old white guy enrages me afresh. Representative government, my ass.

My husband continues to remain stoic, which sometimes aggravates me further. This morning I childishly said, “Well, I guess this doesn’t bother you, since you aren’t affected by it.”

He sighs. “It does affect me, because every morning after you read the news, we have these conversations.”

I am troubled. I’ve always considered myself a reasonable, thoughtful person, but I can’t seem to get a grip on the anger. I’ve been clumsily trying to reorient myself towards a mission of writing and service and being a decent human. I know anger, unfocused and misdirected, is a waste of energy.

canstockphoto8732102Anger directed is a different story. I did interview to become a community volunteer in my school district and sometime after Thanksgiving, I’ll start tutoring high school English language learners. In my imagination, I’m cancelling out one white nationalist and restoring a little balance to the universe. Still, I worry that I won’t be helpful, that I won’t be able to connect, that I’ll just be another progressive trying to self-soothe.

I’ve felt compelled to read more, listen to more classical music, memorize poetry. All the snide conversation about intelligentsia and liberal elites and derogatory comments about education have made me want to bathe in knowledge – and I am more determined that my child learn about climate change, evolution and sex. Isaac Asimov comes to mind frequently:

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’

It’s unsettling, this nervous, apocalyptic-driven sense that something has gone horribly wrong. I am still working at the whole meditating thing (up to a whole 11 minutes now!). I began to notice how frantic my mind can be and that in the minute before the timer goes off, I feel desperate to be done and a sense of relief when I hear the beep-beep-beep. I let myself off the hook just when it’s difficult, when what I really need is to stay in that uncomfortable place.

Writing is much the same. I write until I’m mentally screaming at myself that it’s awful and how I don’t know anything. Then I hit a multiple of 500 words. I take a break and relieve the tension, take a walk, get a snack, breathe in, breathe out. I know I have to push past that critical voice to get to the good stuff, but these days, I just seem to be sitting in the trouble spot.

prisonwindowborderIn the midst of this all, I see that the troubles are exactly where I need to be in order to grow as a human and as a writer. We cannot strengthen our character unless it is tested. We cannot defend our freedoms unless they are threatened. We cannot become better writers or artists or humans unless we have obstacles to overcome.

A troubled mind is my new normal and I’ll be here awhile.

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Fired Up, Part 4: Screw It, I’m Going to Smile Anyway

For many people, it’s been a tough few days. I know some people are hooting and hollering in delight, but they will only be able to maintain that state for so long, before they realize their lives are not getting better and nobody’s drunk uncle is going to change that.

canstockphoto28476729I’ve had to tamp down all my #notallwhitepeople, #notallwomen, #notallliberals, #notallcitydwellers, #notallmidwesterners defensiveness and close myself off from the stream of blame pouring from every venue. Blame isn’t going to help the Trump supporters improve their lives and it sure as hell won’t help the rest of us move forward.

I’m done with politicking for now, because that piece of the equation is ostensibly out of my control. I voted. My candidate lost and now my government is becoming a kakistocracy (thanks, Elyse for the new vocabulary word!). I don’t like, trust or want to be represented by these people, a mishmash of know-nothings, salivating jackals who want to stick it to anyone who ever insulted them by screwing up the entire country.

The real key is to figure out what to do now. When you’re unwilling to engage in the blame game, it comes down to what you, as an individual, can do. And figuring that out takes a little soul-searching. What’s important to you?

canstockphoto10916833My initial reaction was a long laundry list of causes and needs that could easily paralyze me where I stand. We get overwhelmed with the number of things that could be fixed in this world. Sometimes we have to pick and choose what our priorities are and focus on them. It doesn’t mean that we don’t care about other issues. It just means we’re one human who can only do so much.

CHOOSE

The results of the election have helped me crystallize what I want to protect and advance. I’ve decided my priorities for the moment are: civil rights, reproductive rights, education and the environment. If the luxury of time or money is not yours to share, find one thing, one cause, something close to your heart and put it there.

ACTION

Yesterday I joined the NAACP ($30 for annual membership), donated to The Center for Reproductive Rights, set up a small monthly donation to the Sierra Club and registered to become a community volunteer in my school district for 10 hours a week. It’s not much, but it’s a beginning.

canstockphoto6128415I am still finishing the letters to my congressional representatives. I forget that my writing process is always longer then I expect. I told them who I am, what I care about and wished them well as they enter into the fray.

In the upcoming days, I will write to the people I didn’t vote for. I will tell them who I am, what I care about and wish them the strength of character to be better than the pack of hyenas they appear to be. I’ll say it more nicely, though. Maybe.

NO EXPECTATIONS

I keep thinking about how people of color must be shaking their heads at the white people who have just gotten “woke” to the alive-and-kicking racism in this country. And the environment would like to know where the hell I’ve been. My uterus just yelled about damned time. There’s room for mocking and criticism and I can take it. I figure it’s part and parcel of getting into the mix after staying for so long, so comfortably out of it.

This is the silver lining that we can find in the electing of a horrible human being. The rest of us can learn how not to be bystanders or complacent.

canstockphoto5624611I know I’m going to make mistakes and assumptions. I know I’m no saint and I expect to be schooled accordingly. I know that I may not fully understand the issues on the ground or the academic theory that drives feminism and racism and immigrant issues. But I’m here now. Tell me what I can do to help. I’m listening.

MAKING IT PERSONAL

I’ve always believed politics is personal in theory, but this year, it felt extremely personal. My fellow Americans voted for someone who tapped into every hate-filled philosophy in this country and made it his very own. So, yeah, I do take it personally.

Last night, my daughter and I started to get back to some martial arts and strength training. I’m putting up the speed and heavy weight bags again – good for practice, good for anger. I’m not going to wear a safety pin, because I am not fond of symbolism for its own sake (plus, I’m pretty sure that little bugger would eventually stab me). I’ve always been a safety pin. No matter your limitations, do something to make yourself stronger rhetorically and/or physically. Imagine and walk yourself through situations that might require your intervention, whether it be protecting someone in public or disagreeing at the Thanksgiving table.

canstockphoto1478703I’ve been thinking about our finances. Our family lives below its means, but now we’re going to take austerity measures. I want to give more support for causes I believe in (and we might need bail money). The future is uncertain and the effects of any Social Security and Medicare tinkering during this regime will hit hard when my husband and I prepare to retire. Likely when we’re 85, at this rate. This is a good time to sort out what we need from what we want.

In the words of a favorite blogger and writer, Chuck Wendig, I’m going to ART HARDER.  Many years ago I read the autobiography of a man in a foreign prison and what I’ve never forgotten was his ability to recite poetry in his darkest hours. You will find this in a lot of camp literature – the pieces of humanity people hold onto when everything else is bleak – the music, the words. Art is a reflection of our humanity, something we must remind ourselves of over and over, so that we can stop our “othering” and connect with each other.

This is my final post in this after-election series. I have needed to write more this week than usual, but will likely retreat back to once or twice a week posting of the mental flotsam in my brain. Time to regain some equilibrium in order to be in this for the long haul.

Thank you – take care of yourselves and each other.MichelleSig copy

Related Posts:

Fired Up, Part 1: Changing Where, When and How I Get Information

Fired Up, Part 2: Softening Perspective, Steeling Resolve

Fired Up, Part 3: Mitigating Despair

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Fired Up, Part 3: Mitigating Despair

canstockphoto10341986This was not my intended post. I wrote my intended post about economics and the importance of financial literacy. It was boring and long and preachy. To sum it up in a nutshell: if you’re like me and find that when it comes to the economy of our country, you do not know enough to argue more than talking points, it’s time to learn.

I wrote a second post that stretched into 3,000 words, exploring the nature of my own prejudices – how I am the product of poor, white, uneducated people and what that means about my belief system. It became a painful journey and tapped into all the reasons I am who I am today, for better and worse. It was one of my better essays and one I’ve decided to submit for publication.

The third post was an elegy to art and how it is more important than ever to keep creating, writing, painting, composing. Throughout history, the best art was created during trying times. And it reminds us of beauty and love and all the things that matter to us as individuals. Art is good, but it is not permission to remain passive while Rome burns.

It’s 3am again. I’m awake, thinking about how President-Elect Trump has promised to deport 2-3 million illegal immigrants. I think about jackboots and citizens’ brigades and children wailing and families decimated and weapons drawn. I think about the impending destruction of the EPA and the dirty water and air that will spread to encompass us, city after city. Flint was just the beginning. I think about all the barely tested drugs he wants unleashed on the public.

Every morning since the election, I awake to a fresh, raw sense that everything is going to be as bad as I believe. And I begin to fight it. By the end of the day, I’ve pushed it back enough to fall asleep at night, waking up at 3am, wondering if my daughter will be attacked in a public bathroom because she is at that stage where she looks more a boy than a girl. Wondering if public education will be destroyed. Wondering if we’ll be able to survive privatization of social security and medicare. And it begins all over again.

My fear is barely held at bay each day. My fighting self says do something, but my denial self says wait and see. Wait and see – the rallying cry for decent citizens everywhere throughout history, before the crackdowns, detentions, violations of rights, martial law. Wait and see – the blinders we wear when the abuses start. Wait and see – the mantle of disbelief worn before our neighbors are arrested, our children harassed, our jobs handed over with nepotistic abandon to the loyals. Anyone who has a sense of history knows that this is where we are headed, unless we stand up now.

But despair has a way of draining us, draining our hopes, taking away our sleep and our sense that things will be alright. It’s a situational depression that leaves us limp and walking through our days, distracted and anxious.

I made good resolutions about sourcing less biased information, maintaining my personal integrity, moving forward, but I was impatient and premature. There is still despair and a sense of hopelessness. I tried to read the news, but every story, no matter how unbiased, serves to confirm my worst fears. His loyals, people without ethical compasses, are being put in charge. The soothing denials even Republicans shared about how he’d surround himself with wise advisors have proven to be false.

What now? Denial isn’t working for me. Anger blurs my vision. Fear makes my breathing shallow. Unlike the protesters who, if they don’t destroy things, are the epitome of what makes this country already great – our freedoms to assembly and free speech, I can’t function coming out of the gate. I’m a slow thinker. I need time to process, weigh and decide. I expected too much of myself and that expectation only served to feed the despair.

canstockphoto0135359For today, I will hug my daughter and husband. I will write three letters to the congressional representatives I helped to elect, sharing my gratitude and encouragement for the years ahead. I will make a donation to a cause I support, which will need the money more than ever.

I will walk my neighborhood, block by block and remind myself that people want to be good, want to be kind and compassionate, want to be seen. I will send good wishes as I walk past the apartment buildings of immigrants, I will smile and greet people as if we’re the best of friends. I will make eye contact with the Muslim women in their beautiful scarves and dresses and will smile warmly. I will honor what is right and what is good about my country.

For today, I will not read the news. I will not get hooked by my fears. I will get some exercise, take a nap, read a book, write until I’ve ecstatically wrung out every emotion, until the words blur on the page. For today, I will clean my home with gratitude and rake leaves as meditation. For today, I will let myself be okay.

Related Posts:

Fired Up, Part 1: Changing Where, When and How I Get Information

Fired Up, Part 2: Softening Perspective, Steeling Resolve

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Fired Up, Part 2: Softening Perspective, Steeling Resolve

Apologies for the length of this post. Like many people, I’m still working through a lot of emotions and ideas following this election. It looks like it is going to take several posts to get it out of my system. See Fired Up, Part 1: Changing Where, When and How I Get Information.

Moral ambiguity is a hard line to walk. In an election where people became tribal and primitive in their powerlessness, where everyone was an us or them, it was hard to feel like an ethical, decent person. I’ve always believed how we behave under fire is truly representative of our character and of our integrity.

canstockphoto9443627It would be easy to say we all failed the test, but many people would decry being painted with the same brush. I can only say how I failed. I got angry, I fumed, I thought of other humans with a degree of contempt. It was easy to get caught up in the maelstrom of emotion on either side, but stepping back, it’s even easier to see the willful ignorance on both sides.

You see, I did not want change. My life is comfortable. I had the fortune of being born white in a country that apparently still believes that is something. I have the fortune of good health and health insurance. I’ve had the fortune of being intelligent. Not as smart as I like to believe I am, but enough to pass tests, go to school, to interview well, to find jobs.

I had the fortune of an inner eye that told me whatever happens, I’d be okay, because that’s the way I’m wired. I have a habit of rebuffing others’ complaints, because like any bootstrapper, I believe we all have the same capabilities and that turning lemons into lemonade is a cottage industry that anyone can manage. I’m wrong about that and in cultivating empathy, I have to remember that I am wrong.

As a woman and the parent of a daughter doesn’t all this misogyny bother you? Yes, yes it does bother me. But an individual’s misogyny, like President-Elect Trump has expressed, is just a reminder that some people are still that stupid. Misogyny on the ground and in my face enjoys a good ole’ screw you and just watch me ace you, moron. I don’t mind being underestimated – it’s a tactical advantage.

avoiddtrumplistThat an unappealing human should say things any civil person would find appalling and potentially criminal, is really nothing to my esteem. Until he legislates the misogyny, he’s just a gross person that I wouldn’t let near my family or friends. He’d be on my personal registry of shitty people I avoid. The fact that now he will have the power to act on his belief system, aided and abetted by his creepy religious sidekick, is a real problem.

Right now, some of his supporters are spending a lot of time doing virulent versions of nanny-nanny boo-boo by ramping up graffiti and verbal and physical assaults on people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and women. Someone just signed their permission slip. This is a real problem and humans, regardless of their vote, should be angry about this and prepared to step up as witnesses and defenders.

canstockphoto4607292It’s a funny thing how we try to disavow those in our particular demographic when they do something inexplicable. I mean 53% of voting white women voted for Trump. Clearly, I don’t understand most white women. I suppose I could fall down the rabbit hole of theory and speculation, but it will either be condescending or again, just wrong.

And I really don’t get the white power thing. You just happen to be born white. It’s not like you did anything to earn it. It’s not a product of integrity or values or virtue. If you want to be proud of your skin color for its own sake – well, shit. That’s just Hannibal Lecter weird. Maybe it’s generous to assume that we do these things out of fear and out of love, in the hopes of empowering ourselves through numbers – in the hope of saying to others who look like us, we matter. You matter. You are not alone. But the triangulation of supremacy, victimhood and violence is a threat to civil society.

Lastly, religion and politics. It’s toxic. The 1980s and Jerry Falwell happened. The Republican party mainstreamed religious belief systems as a recruitment effort. People began to feel a moral imperative to legislate exclusionary beliefs. The argument is that identity politics, a religion unto itself, has been trying to legislate their beliefs as well, but I find a stark difference between laws that oppress others in the name of religion and laws intended to protect the civil rights of all Americans, not just the ones who have fish decals on their bumpers.

I have no moral high ground here – I was willing to overlook a lot of things when I voted, because the alternative was worse. I’m scared of the people I saw at Trump rallies – their virulence, the angry mob mentality, their t-shirts which showed a shameless racist and misogynistic view towards their fellow Americans. I looked carefully at the pictures, at individuals, at their children – looking for signs of moral decency, looking for their humanity. I wanted to understand, but I don’t.

canstockphoto5824707All I hope is that my fellow Americans’ win is not a Pyrrhic victory. I must not emulate those representatives that gleefully hoped our last president would fail, because that is treacherous schadenfreude, to wish such a thing on fellow citizens. I must hope that things will not be as bad as I imagine they will be. I must not be an asshole by wishing them so.

So what now? For me, I feel the softening around my edges. My rage is not sustainable. My brain never stops at the boundaries of my beliefs. I’ve been thinking a lot about those people that I am scared of, those people I don’t understand and the road ahead.

I’ve been thinking about actionable measures, about what I do when the elected officials  begin to delete people’s health insurance and restrict the bodily integrity of women. What do I do if they persecute journalists and entertainers, intimidate and threaten protesters, enable religious fundamentalists in all their inglorious rigidity? What will I do if the nuclear threat is heightened to the 1950’s-style hysteria? What will I do as hate crimes crop up around me? Will I be paralyzed? Will I pretend that I don’t see?

canstockphoto12192237The tables are turned. To people who value civil rights, reproductive rights, the right to not be a believer, the right to be of a different religion other than Christianity, the right to love and marry who we choose, the right to be whoever we are inside, it feels as if we have been rendered powerless, noisy Tweeters and street blockers, flailing against the machine.

I think about the introspection I might have undergone, if my candidate won. It would have felt like entrenchment, spending the next 4 years defending her against the words cunt and bitch and episodes of domestic terrorism. Much like many Trump supporters have felt about their religion and lack of education and employment, digging in, constantly on the defensive as the world leaves them behind. But entrenchment and reflexive demagoguery do not create good governance.

I’m not ready to paint a happy face on this, but I am ready to say, This is where we are. What matters? What is helpful? How will I live my integrity, live my character in trying times? Who am I going to be during the next four years?

I’ve started with some ground rules for myself:

  • No stupid nicknames. The President-Elect Trump will be President Trump, no matter how many times I want to refer to him as the Pussygrabber-in-Chief. Okay, now I’m done.
  • I will continue to use qualifiers when describing any group: Some, A few of…which is to say, my brush will be as narrow as it needs to be.
  • I will pay attention to the issues and more specifically, to legislation.
  • I will use my writing skills, my phone skills and whatever money I can scrounge up to support causes I believe in and to fight against injustice.
  • I will continue to respectfully engage those people with whom I disagree.
  • I will listen more than I talk.
  • I will defend the things I hold dear: civil rights, the environment, justice and reproductive rights.
  • I will continue to seek knowledge and understanding.
  • I will honor those who fight, here or abroad, to make the world a safer place for others. This means vigilance against unnecessary wars, ensuring aftercare and respecting their service regardless of whether or not I agree with the objective.
  • I will do the best I can to uphold my personal integrity. Walk the walk. Lead by example.

Who do you want to be? What values are you willing to go to ground for? What is helpful or important?

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