Imagine There’s No Politics

canstockphoto10038089Of late, I’ve really loathed my writing on this blog. Despite this, I hit that Publish button each time, a twitchy trigger finger serving my need to be read and to be heard. This need has thrown me off, as has the public discourse. I’ve been less thoughtful and about as reflective as Narcissus. I’ve been lacking in scope and imagination.

Currently, I’m reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen about a double agent following the fall of Saigon. The author describes the final, brutal scenes of people fleeing, trying to catch the last flights out. Everything relies on chance, of getting the paperwork, of knowing the right people, of having enough money to bribe and cajole.

I read a post by Tim Miller yesterday that has me thinking about luck. It defines so much of who we are and is, for the most part out of our control. Whether our souls are born into white or brown bodies, in countries ravaged by war or in the grips of poverty. Who our parents are, what they know and what they have to give. The vicissitudes of life. For every success story, there are hundreds of tales of struggle and suffering and attaining a mediocrity that could only be enviable by virtue of deprivation.

I love John Lennon’s “Imagine”, because it speaks to ideas beyond the framework of warped politics and dominionist theory.  It calls for the very thing we, as a society, seem to lack at the moment. Imagination. Imagination is what fuels empathy and problem solving and optimism. The people in Washington seem so small and petty – lacking in both ethics and creativity. They speak the language of limitation and blame. They use mangled metaphors and hyperbolic rhetoric that says nothing, means nothing. Cowardspeak.

No matter what way I’ve been running at the news, limiting it and curating my sources, I still end up feeling depressed and powerless. It’s because I’m allowing other people to define the framework of my thinking, an involuntary conscription into the culture of hate, blame, and winning at all costs. No imagination required.

canstockphoto2888599We need people with big ideas and courage. We need people who don’t see a zero sum game in everything. We need philosophers and mathematicians and scientists and artists and poets. We need people who spend less time looking down their own pants to see whose is bigger and more time staring off into the sky thinking “what if?”

I’ve not written much about politics after my steady stream of posts following the election. I do not like our president. I think he is a mean, petty, oddly incurious person who lacks personal integrity. I think he has surrounded himself with similarly intellectually stunted, corrupt individuals. No one is for country. Every man and very few women for themselves. There is nothing to inspire imagination, only dismay. There is no voice from Washington that lifts us up, makes us believe, lets us know that there remains life in the already maggot-riddled corpse of this administration.

It is about money and power and I believe that it has corrupted absolutely. While I’ve learned not to rise to every click bait news story, I have only to read the president’s own words to know that there is something wrong. It takes on Shakespearean proportions – the madness, the twisted family relations, the jesters, and insidious narcissistic defensiveness and lying. Richard III is now occupying the Oval Office.

Tolerance. This is a word that gets thrown back and forth so much that it no longer means what it means. I keep being told that I need to respect other people’s beliefs. But I don’t. I respect their right to have them, as long as they are not impinging, legislating, or proselytizing to me. Ann Coulter, Richard Spencer, and Company can speak wherever they can afford to speak. I don’t have to respect or tolerate them. I simply won’t show up or listen, nor do I need to indulge the fools who do.

canstockphoto2358969Frameworks. How we’re taught to think and speak about things. We should be vigorously questioning these right now. All forms of media and sundry self-identifying humans are trying to limit us, limit our imaginations, tell us how to see the world, how to frame the news, and our experiences. We have to be deliberate in widening the scope of what we see, of our awareness and of our empathy. Petty humans are being extraordinarily loud right now – at a frequency designed to disorient and overwhelm.

This is where it ends for me. I’ve felt so small and tense for months now. For every news story, I feel the heat rise up into my face. I splutter. I feel contempt. I call my representatives. I make vows to join the fight. But I’m tired. I’m tired of being a pawn in a petty, destructive game. I’m tired of being emotionally manipulated by entities that could not care less for my existence.

I’m going for the big ideas. The belief that we are here to alleviate the suffering of others. That we are here to practice kindness and empathy. That we are here to learn from our mistakes. That we need not be parrots for demagogues of any ilk. That we are not letter designations and labels. That we are not markers in a political and morally bankrupt casino, where the house always wins.

Our freedom depends on us not following orders, not buying in, not nodding our heads numbly in agreement. Our freedom depends on us not allowing ourselves to be corralled and manipulated and categorized and polled. We are not stakeholders, consumers, demographics, or voting blocs. We are not collateral damage.

canstockphoto5796597We are, above all other things, human beings with potential. It is easy to forget that, easy to forget the marvelous things we are capable of and the boundless compassion we can nurture. The games of public one-upmanship do not render our lives irrelevant. I almost forgot. I almost forgot that my imagination does not end at recycled political solutions and pithy sound bites and orchestrated divisions and borders.

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and, therefore, the foundation of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

J.K. Rowling

*****

These are my current news sources, an update to the too-long list I created shortly after the election. While I tend to favor print editions over digital, even with these, my average cost is $17 per month combined on hard and digital copies. :

In:

NPR (audio and digital, daily) – They don’t run with the latest outrage, which means when news stories hit their air waves, they’re less reactive and more balanced.

Foreign Affairs (paid print edition, 6 issues/year) – Big picture thinking needs the big picture. Great source for American foreign policy issues from people who actually think in-depth about them.

The Economist (paid print edition, weekly) – A lot of bang for the buck. Need reading glasses for the small print, but jam packed with information about technology, business, and money issues. It’s a weak area of knowledge for me, so this magazine is good for familiarizing myself with the terminology and current thinking.

The Atlantic (paid print edition, 10 issues/year) – Long form writing from outstanding writers. Covers everything from the political to the cultural.

The New York Times (paid digital, daily) – Fairly clean online edition. Actually still looks sort of like a newspaper and not a multimedia pile of vomit. While taunted as being a liberal paper, I find its reporting to be more evenhanded and in-depth than some of its cohorts. Comments tend to be well-informed and better expressed, regardless of partisanship.

Out:

The Washington Post – (Cancelled paid Digital) Click bait titles – more reactive and less thoughtful, comments often allowed on news articles, and distracting, ad-laden pages.

CNN – (Digital) Messy front page, reactionary, poor editing, and incomprehensible mix of infotainment and advertising. Mixed media mess. A case of getting what you pay for.

39 Comments on “Imagine There’s No Politics

  1. I share your beliefs and guttural reactions. I limit the time I spend watching and reading political news but still find the commentary and analysis fascinating, and I seem to have overcome my sense of helplessness. I do what I am able by contributing to those organizations that I think can do the work I would want to do myself but can’t – like the Southern Poverty Law Center and ACLU. I also sign petitions through CREDO and sometimes slip some politics into my blog. I get very discouraged when I think about the lack of empathy and the self-centered meanness coming out of this administration so my work is to make my little corner of the world a gentler and nicer place by showing respect to those I come in contact with and do random acts of kindness. I don’t know if it makes a difference but it sure makes me feel better. 🙂 Keep on writing, Michelle.

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    • Thanks, Pat. You have the right idea. We have to make the world better by starting where we are. Sometimes I worry that I put on selective blinders and that maybe I’m missing something in the big picture. But it occurred to me that American politics is only one piece of that picture and should not be allowed to dominate my every thought process.
      And really, if we were to base our life’s philosophy on the wingnuts who are in the news now, we’d all be Tweeting stupidly 24/7. I’ve been thinking about those people throughout history that thought big, imagined possibilities where others saw none. I’d rather be that kind of person, than someone “in the know”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I really like that idea. I’m going to mull that around for a while – what it means for me to think big, beyond the clatter in the news. I can stay informed because we need to be concerned about what the current administration is doing to the country and world politics/economies, but we also need to be focused on those ideals that have lasting impact – like love and compassion, and kindness and honesty.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent move, Alesia. I’m trying to balance access to knowledge against what just becomes pointless information. We got rid of cable, but I never watched it anyway. Most of my news comes through the radio or internet now, as well as reading longer form journalism. It’s all much less reactive and thoughtful, but still, at times, overwhelming. I just keep winnowing things down.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a great post which shares what many of us are enduring and I firmly believe POTUS 45 and his cronies are counting on our disillusionment to advance whatever evil they intend to unleash. What they have not taken into account is that we, unlike them, base our lives on integrity, compassion, self-respect, and tolerance. And yes, John Lennon was a visionary whose ‘imagined world’ seems like just a pipe dream anymore. But, we must keep the faith in goodness and kindness. Barbra Streisand “Somewhere”, Jeremy Camp “There Will Be a Day” John Lennon “Imagine”.

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    • I’m going for the pipe dream, which is sort of the point I eventually meant to make! We’re being taught to think so small, because the current reality seems overwhelming. It clouds the vision a bit and vision is what moves us forward. While keeping faith in goodness and kindness is important, I think it’s more important to generate it and generate it mightily.
      This is where I feel I’ve gone off track, getting weighed down by dismal predictions and the specter of awful humans. They not going to be the ones who bring us out of the shade. That’s on us.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s easy to lose sight of how powerful our humanness is in these times. Thank you Michelle for the reminder. I feel so much of what you wrote–we are not collateral damage, we are capable of making a better more equitable world, and yes, the divisions and borders are highly orchestrated plots in the power play of our politically structured environments, but no one can force us to live within those restraints if we continue to use our imaginations and believe in the potential of our shared humanity. THIS was THE post I needed to hear today. I will be sharing it.

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    • Exactly – and thanks for the reblog, Ilona! There are still people with vision and a sense that, in the end, all that matters is how we treat each other and the planet. Because that’s really all we have control over. I’ve been thinking a lot about the pettiness of not only the president, but most of us, learning to think so small as to think his ill-tempered Tweets should have any impact on us at all.
      As a veteran and a person who loves her country, I never imagined a day when I would feel such contempt for the president or the political lackeys around him. I’ve always felt the office should be respected, but I can’t even manage that anymore. He’s turned it into a gold-plated shithole. I feel a sense of nonviolent anarchy rising in me and that opens up all kinds of positive possibilities.

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  4. Ah, there to the JK…and the John Lennon song too. I have a fantastic memory I’ll cherish of a Jewish lesbian friend singing that song in a former dungeon, in the basement of a castle where they imprisoned opponents to Hitler, while my kids and about 50 Germans sat there watching on foldout chairs…made me cry. Turned it into a music school, a former prison.

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    • Wow, what a story. I’ve been thinking about the places and monuments that carry terrible history and the ways that we deal with “upgrading” them. Much like what is happening in New Orleans, pulling statues out of civic spaces and finding museum space. The idea of changing context is interesting to me. Your tale shows a fantastic way to change context.
      And J.K. Rowling…I just finished re-listening to the entire Harry Potter series and I don’t care what anyone says, she is a fantastic storyteller and her stories are filled to the brim with big ideas about the nature of good and evil. Just so damned inspiring.

      Liked by 1 person

      • She is good stock, the best kind. Was glad to visit her haunts in Edinburgh and in a way, get more connected to her than doing the same with Joyce in Dublin (though maybe because she’s still living, and not a wanker).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m tired too. I feel as though all the creative energy has been sucked right out of me. And the only news source I want right now is Trevor Noah. Yeah, I know I’m shallow. I don’t care!

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    • I am beginning to feel reinvigorated and I hope it leads to more creativity. If there is any gift to be given during these times, it is a sense of humor. I don’t think that makes you shallow. Hope you find your spark again!

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      • Thanks, Michelle. I hope so too – and SOON. The Pacific Northwest Writers Conference is coming up, and I’ve promised myself that IF I can wrap up a clean first draft of my book by the end of May (in time to get the early bird registration fee) I can go. There will be opportunities to pitch to agents and editors, and looking through the list I can see at least 10 who would be appropriate for a piece of lightweight chick lit. So that’s where I’m at right now… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Strong stuff here. I am far from the USA and I don’t know where you go with this. But no country is an island, just as no person is an island. Geographic distance does not cut one country off from another. I do hope Americans can find their way through this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think remembering that the United States is just a man-made contrivance is a good start and that human life doesn’t begin and end at political designations. I’m not really sure of what will happen or how bad it will get before we see light. I’m very concerned about the instability of our president and what wars we’ll be sucked into or create. Still, the day-to-day means focusing on how to make life better for those around us.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I find one of the problems is the prevalence of voices spouting simplistic slogans and superficial soundbites … how’s that for alliteration? Sounds like the hissing of summer lawns … and so easy to become demoralised by such a dawn chorus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s taking real skill to figure out what is being said versus what is being done. Unfortunately, history has shown that most destructive actions are preceded by words, laying the foundation for justifying immoral and unethical choices. I’m trying to reach that balance between combating corrosive rhetoric leading the way to future destruction and defending current actions. Either way, this is going to be a rough ride.

      Like

  8. “Petty humans are being extraordinarily loud right now – at a frequency designed to disorient and overwhelm.”
    Yes. Thank you for capturing so perfectly the thing I’ve been too disoriented and overwhelmed to put my finger on.

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    • It’s truly a struggle to not be weighed down by the toxic rhetoric in our country while trying to rally ourselves to defend our rights and the rights of others. I have to be deliberate in making myself step back, put things in perspective, and then decide on the next action. It takes some emotional removal from things, but I don’t see any way around that. Detached or depressed. Engaged or paralyzed. I can’t be in any of those states at the same time, so they’re taking turns.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I hear you, sister (may I call you sister?)!! I see you as one of those people with big ideas and courage, and who does not see only a zero sum game. That is why I follow you, because your posts encourage me to be like that, too. And, you also make it okay to struggle with all of it. You exemplify the human challenge of striving to be a better version of yourself, while seeking that ever-elusive peace with where/what you are today. Your commitment to self-awareness and -exploration inspire me to maintain mine. So fist bump and hugs to you! Write ON! 😀

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    • You can call me sister, sister. Thanks for the kind comment. I’m all for transparency when it comes to working our way through a very complicated time in our country’s history. I don’t trust people who aren’t struggling with it, because it means they’re so partisan or disengaged that they just make things worse. Although, sometimes I get tired of the constant introspection.

      You have described very well the challenge – trying to be better, while not being constantly miserable about where one is. Glad I can inspire a little, even when it feels like I’m just whinging on about things. Keep on, keeping on, Cathy!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Michelle, I posted it to my tiny Facebook because I’d like to see your words and ideas get wide readership. I keep trying to remember to be proactive right here, do what I can do, and less reactive. I hate the feeling of having my puppet strings yanked by so-called news stories, and I also dislike feeling contemptuous. So I’m trying to focus on understanding the idea of enough (which is the opposite of greed) and of caring for and caring about. Your post helped!! Leslie

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    • Thanks, Leslie for sharing my post. And you make a good point about feeling emotionally manipulated by the news. It is exhausting and irritating. I dislike feeling contemptuous as well, mostly because when those feelings arise, I know I have to do the work to sort through them in order to arrive at a more reasoned perspective.

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  11. Would you be OK if I cross-posted this article to WriterBeat.com? I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. There is no fee; I’m simply trying to add more covntent diversity for our community and I liked what you wrote. If “OK” please let me know via email.

    Autumn
    AutumnCote@WriterBeat.com

    Like

    • Hi Autumn. After looking at your site and reading your Twitter feed, I see that in the past, you have challenged people on not responding to commenters. I like to engage with readers, but since I’m in the middle of novel re-writes, and it’s tough enough to keep up with blogging interactions at WordPress and it’s unlikely that I have time to engage with readers on another site.

      Thank you so much for 1) considering my post 2) asking. Perhaps at another time. Best Wishes,
      Michelle.

      Like

  12. In other words, we need those who came out of the cave to go back in and liberate those who have been bound by blindness and ascend as the kings of the future. Very well-said.

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  13. Pingback: [A Reblog] Imagine There’s No Politics – Outlet: An Outlet for Inquisitive Minds

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