A couple of weeks ago, I stood in a parking lot and typed a comment that was the written equivalent of a howl of anguish. I wasn’t anguished by the post itself, but by (1) how it fit within a broader societal context and (2) the identity of its poster. Afterward, the poster and I exchanged emails.
I thought about our exchange for a day or so. As I always do when I don’t immediately have the right words, I sat down and wrote to find them. The original post had been made private, so I included a poor synopsis of it based on memory.
I saved it as a draft and sat on it.
After I saved the post as a draft, I continued to think about that email exchange. I devoured a couple more political books, the better to understand, express myself, and prepare to organize against a system frightful long before #45 inherited chunks of it.
Importantly, I had a couple illuminating conversations that made me much, much less frustrated with individual people and more resolute about working to shape a better system. I saw humanity.
To post or not to post? I wondered. It’s already kinda outdated now. An exchange yesterday inspired me to post it; it is part of my journey of learning to speak Politics, after all. Still, I wanted to share the link here with a preface.
Going into summer last year, I’d barely ever tried speaking Politics. It wasn’t my bag.
Last summer, I realized I’d done myself a disservice by never really trying. I’d deprived myself of a vocabulary … and left the business of politics to people I didn’t really want speaking for, well, anyone.
I began practicing. I committed to being okay with making mistakes, and hoped others would be inspired when they saw the earth not swallowing me whole when I spoke ineloquently or incorrectly. Eventually, I realized that this meant I needed to also be gracious with others new to “speaking Politics.”
Inexperience has made this easier said than done, but I’m already much better now than I was last summer. I’ve had dozens of face-to-face conversations improved by the learning I’ve done here. I’ve improved my skill at having discussions online, too, but have found it easier to be aggravated online by not-so-individual quirks I now recognize as reflections of systems.
My steepest learning curve has been the last couple weeks. Please bear that in mind if you choose to read “In Politics, Silence Isn’t Neutrality.”
Tomorrow, I’ll post something more reflective of where I am now: oriented toward both action and building common ground. Today, I hope you’ll consider engaging in political conversation or (better yet!) action. This will probably feel uncomfortable at first; as with building racial stamina, the discomfort means you’re growing.
I have a helluva lot to learn, and, man. I’m excited to learn it all in such good company.
“as ordinary people, our fates are tied together,
and … one group’s liberation is dependent on
the liberation of all the oppressed and exploited.”
— Keeyanga-Yamahtta Taylor in The Anti-Inauguration
For several years, I worked next to a mosque. Its parking lot often overflowed on Fridays and religious holidays; on such days, my company’s owners permitted its congregants to park in the company parking lot.
Once, I saw women step out of a car and cover themselves for service. I smiled on my way into the office. They smiled back.
Many times, I walked by women already covered. I’d smile at each, if she looked at me; much more often than not, I’d see eyes wrinkling from smiles returned.
(Seeing mouths isn’t the most important thing to seeing smiles.)
After exchanging such smiles one afternoon, I remembered a conversation with a male friend years before and hundreds of miles away.
“You’re not supposed to look at them when they’re dressed like that!” he’d told me. I replied that I’d never heard such a thing, and that I’d keep greeting human beings as human beings.
I posted about the new smile and the old conversation on Facebook. “Please keep smiling,” one Muslim friend soon replied.
I committed to doing so.
A year ago, I saw a Muslim family on a plane and just about broke into a cold sweat.
I came to my senses soon enough. Warm smiles were exchanged that day, too.
When I returned home, I told my husband, “Fearmongering works!”
(I vow now not to let it.)
“Yep.” he replied. “That’s why they use it.”
Protesting at LAX last weekend, I saw many women wearing hijabs. In all the hubbub, I only spoke with two. I was tired and ineloquent as I greeted them with my two-year-old on my hip, but they were lovely.
“Ugh, I’m saying all the wrong things,” I mumbled a couple minutes into conversation. Both women, Sara and Hannah, said no, no, no; Hannah’s face was especially aglow with compassion that filled me with a sense of okay-ness.
Maybe I didn’t say the right words. Maybe there are no right words.
What I do know is that I said I’d keep smiling.
I meant it,
and I will.
I subscribe to several hundred blogs.
Some of the bloggers I follow are work-at-home moms. Others are work-at-home dads.
Many of these blogs are by moms and dads working outside the home. Some have kids with special needs; others have kids who are physically and neurally “typical.” Still others of the blogs I follow are written by folks who have no kids; some never want to have kids.
I follow a handful of teens, as well as some college students. I follow others whose age and parental experiences are totally unknown to me, because they choose to focus on one part of their experience: their faith, their crafts, their hardships with a specific aspect of their lives, like mental illness or being gay within hostile communities.
Apart from the fact we are all human with the same physiological needs, the bloggers I follow have just one thing in common: Read more…
I like to listen more than I like to watch, much to my movie-loving husband’s chagrin.
Even so, when a friend told me I’d love the music video for Imagine Dragons’ “Demons,” I was willing to give watching it a shot. Why was she convinced I would love it so–not only the song, but the story the band chose to tell with it?
My friend was right. I loved the video. I don’t mean that the flippant way folks–myself included–sometimes say things like “I love Starbucks!” or “I love Target.” I mean I loved it in a way that rocked me to my core, filling me with a sense of connectedness to life similar to that inspired by love I feel for friends and family.
Before I began blogging, I thought only my siblings could ever understand the dark, sad places in my heart, having lived the originating experiences with me. They knew the same poverty, abandonment, abuse, bullying, and loss of a loved one to the depths of mental illness. When our mom died of cancer after a life filled with so much pain, they shared that sadness, too. We’d walked those rocky roads together, but no one else–no one–would ever understand what it was like to walk them. It was just us.
Blogging expanded my world. As I wrote about my experiences, others shared their own like experiences. I saw commonalities I’d never have seen if I’d kept my own demons hidden. I read, too, about uplifting and heartbreaking experiences totally unlike my own. With each word I read I came to understand I didn’t own statistically significant shares in suffering. Every single blogger I read–even my favorite humor bloggers!–occasionally wrote about their own sorrows and struggles in ways that expanded my understanding of life. The more I read, the more I understood that while individual circumstances vary, every single human walking this earth knows the core experiences of joy and pain. No one owns them. Read more…
The bathwater was on the verge of spilling over the edge of the tub, so I leaned over and turned it off.
My son immediately threw a fit. He was only two at the time, so his fit didn’t involve his now-customary attempts to negotiate. He mostly shouted “more” a lot and flailed around to show he disapproved of my decision.
“Sweetie,” I told him, surprised by his unusually strong reaction. “There are people in this world–”
What I wanted to say was, “There are people in this world who can’t give their kids a single glass of water to drink. This problem is not so big.”
What I actually did was choke on my words and begin to cry. As my son stopped flailing and focused on his toys again, I imagined what it would be like to gaze upon his cracked lips and be unable to give him a single ounce of clean water. I thought about the reality that countless mothers around the world face this very situation daily.
The imagining felt real, and terrible, but I understood its limitations. Read more…