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In Politics, Silence Isn’t Neutral

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.

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The books that began it for me

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 It’s already kinda outdated now.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

 

 

Thunder Thighs Forever

February 10, 2017 Comments off

For more than three decades, I shared a birthday with my mom.

In October 2010, I faced my first birthday without her. Cancer had claimed her body in March 2010.

mom me n d

(but not before she met my Li’l D, the first of her many beautiful grandchildren)

Writing about her sometimes challenged me, especially early in this blog’s days. How could I show all her love, humor, compassion, and ferocity, while still being true to the hardships I endured both growing up and saying goodbye to her?

I got as close as I’ve ever gotten in my 2014 birthday letter to her, my blog’s most popular post by far, “Dear Mom.” In a single paragraph, I was able to sum up my experience of being her daughter better than I had before or have since:

You always begged me not to write about you. You thought I’d write about how you beat my siblings and me, how you yelled at us, how you could barely feed us and only kept us in a home by selling other people’s trash. I do write about these things, because they’re part of you. But they’re a small part, so enormously insignificant compared to your laughter, your love, your lessons in forgiveness, our birthday trips to Farrell’s and Pietro’s. I wish I’d written more about you in your life, so you could have seen how greatly your loving acts overshadowed your lost and tired ones. I wish I could’ve started writing sooner, or that you could’ve lived longer to see your love through my eyes.

I was a little nervous when I wrote about my mom in “Bernie, Because I Was Poor: Poverty, Predation, and Understanding Love.” I posted it on Progressive Army, a site with readers knowing nothing about my mom but what I wrote there. Since they didn’t know my mom, I worried they’d take away from the piece a unidimensional understanding of a woman enormously complex and vivid.

My mom was and remains my foremost superhero. While the word “superhero” is thrown around a lot these days, I mean this fairly literally. One of my favorite things about my mom was her superhero alter-ego, the uniquely malodorous Thunder Thighs. Read more…

Me, speaking instead of writing

I recorded a video a couple of nights ago. I wasn’t planning on linking it here, but I just listened to it and changed my mind. It reveals so much about where I’ve been, where I want to go, and why I want to go there.

It did originate with politics, so you might want to skip it. Basically, some folks expressed concern with my supporting Brand New Congress, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that could legally accept dark money. It’s so personal that sitting down and writing it out didn’t feel right. So … I recorded a (respectful!) video, and I’m glad I did.

Just be forewarned: my husband might work in show biz, but you’ll see none of that glitz watching the video here!

maslow

 

She is my people

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Elsha and Li’l D, a couple years later

I met Elsha, then-girlfriend of my husband’s best friend, on September 27, 2009.

I was lying on a couch when she walked into my apartment with a blanket she’d made for my soon-to-be-born baby.

I said something to her. I couldn’t tell you what, though I think it included the words “thank you.” I was nine months pregnant and had an enormous freakin’ headache that wouldn’t go away.

A couple hours later, my then-partner, Anthony, drove me to the hospital to be induced. My blood pressure was high enough to put me and my baby at risk.

Over several coffee dates a few years later, Elsha would tell me about her best friend, Broceny. Broceny sounded pretty damn rad. Still, I somehow managed never to meet her.

(Life with two little kids is like that.)

In early 2016, my siblings made me question whether Hillary Clinton was really the more practical choice of the Democratic primary candidates.

Since then, I’ve walked the locally-lonely road of being 100% Bernie … and more for Bernie with every single article I read about U.S. politics.

My husband emailed lonely me a Facebook post last Wednesday. He prefaced the pasted text with the message:

So, I think that you and Elsha’s friend Broceny should get together soon and chat..

…you need local friends with similar agendas 🙂

I read his forwarded message and barely kept from squealing.

Broceny was my people!

As I stood in line to vote for my district’s Democratic delegates on Saturday, Broceny and I exchanged many texts. She, having been part of the local progressive scene long before I even knew “progressives” were a thing, had lots of insights to share.

And heart. Lots and lots of heart.

I felt the way I did when I connected with like souls while blogging more than twenty years ago: overjoyed! The world was so much bigger and more full of possibility than what I saw in the mess immediately around me!

I cried. A few times.

Earlier today, Anthony shared another Facebook post from Broceny. After I read it with tear-filled eyes, I texted her, “Aaaaaaah. Anthony forwarded your post from FB. I love you! I haven’t even met you in person & I love you!!”

This might sound unbelievable to … anyone else. But I grew up surrounded by poverty and predators, and I know the difference between trusting because it feels good (temporarily) and trusting because it’s actually deserved.

Can I boil this trust down to some easily reproducible formula? No.

Can I tell you I’m grateful as hell for someone I’ve never met in person, but who’s no less vibrant in my heart for that?

Sure can! And will, because, man. I am already so damn glad to know Broceny.

She is my people, and I love her.

broceny-mah

Broceny ♥ ♥ ♥

My DemEnter

I left the U.S. Democratic Party on June 10, 2016. I returned on January 7, 2017.

You can read about why–and what it has to do with this lovely oncology nurse–here.


I’m reading Bernie’s Our Revolution right now for insights into effecting political change. 

If you’re concerned about the shape of a country that permits outcomes like that highlighted above–pennies “saved” for lives destroyed–please consider listening to Bernie’s town hall on CNN at 9 p.m. ET tonight.

Shaping the future, together

My husband, Anthony, and I began 2016 with the movie Seeking A Friend for the End of the World.

It was so uplifting that I turned it on again after a few hours of sleep. When my then six-year-old joined me on the couch, we had a short exchange about it.

“Are you crying?” Li’l D asked when he joined me. “Yes,” I told him. I quickly explained the movie’s premise.

“So you’re crying because the world is ending?” he inquired, flopping onto the sofa.

“No.” I smiled, nodding toward the characters on the screen. “It’s because of what they’re making of what they have.”

Last night, as my husband wondered aloud how to ring in the new year. I suggested we watch Seeking A Friend again.

“That’s too depressing,” he replied. “Not that.”

“What? Are you kidding?!” I asked. “Now more than ever, it’s the most inspiring thing there is: a reminder of where and how to find hope in scary times.”

“Sure,” he said without a scrap of conviction.

All the same, we rang in the new year watching Seeking A Friend. We both cried, of course, as we agreed that something potentially heartbreaking was actually pretty darn uplifting.

Thus it was that a fairly random movie selection to begin one year shaped how I began the next.

As 2017 loomed, I’ve felt growing trepidation. Donald Trump will be U.S. president in a few short weeks, bringing in a cabinet that’s rejected any pretense of representing the American people. While elected officials have whittled away Americans’ rights in grievous ways over the last several decades, primarily representing corporations and very wealthy people instead, they’ve at least tried to maintain an illusion of representation.

The good thing about that illusion is many Americans less affluent still retained some important rights; the bad thing, that we retained enough of them that we weren’t really fighting to keep them or gain back those we’d lost.

When I said that the good in a Trump victory was that it would at least inspire people to mobilize and fight for our collective rights, I spoke based on the assumption we’d mobilize, and quickly.

Almost two months post-election, I’m seeing more grumbling and finger-pointing than mobilizing. This has concerned me, because the more time we spend squabbling over the particulars of a single election already passed, the less time we have to figure out how we’re going to work to protect each other now.

Watching Seeking a Friend in the early minutes of 2017, my heart eased. I remembered that there are lots of different ways we can help save each other by our individual acts. It’s not about the outcome. It’s about the processes involved in being for and with each other, and how we build our collective knowledge and capacity as we go.

What can I do as one little person against a machine so vast and devastating? I can act in accord with what I believe, not simply believe it passively. I can learn a little every day, and apply what I’m learning. I can share what I’m learning, and listen to what other people are learning to improve my own effectiveness.

I’ll re-register as a Democrat to vote for progressive Democrat delegates next weekend. I’ll continue to become more engaged with the Democratic Socialists of America and its efforts to bring unqualified equality to all Americans. I will, like at my first DSA-LA meeting, savor the opportunity to be surrounded by people inspired to act by a passion for equality, including experienced activists who can pass on their wisdom to those–like me–new to activism.

I’ll become involved in local politics. I’ve made my initial plans, though I haven’t shown up bodily for anything yet!

Most of all, I’ll continuously seek ways to connect people motivated by different but related causes. Fragmented into individual causes, we’ll have a hard time expanding the floor of the cage. Together, we’ve got a real shot.

 

For one two-hour work of fiction, I’m even more grateful this January 1st than I was the last. In that movie, the future was determined. The present moments leading to it were not.

In this reality, the future is not set. We can change what’s ahead.

Despite a few inevitable stumbles along the way, I believe we will.

I care about Americans

“Why do you care so much what happens to some people in Yemen?” several people have asked me. “Don’t you care about Americans?!”

“All injustice is interrelated,” I’ve fumbled in reply. “The injustice Yemeni people experience is symptomatic of the same illness many Americans endure. To care about one is to care about all.”

I haven’t satisfied a single person–myself included–with this vague answer, so I’ve kept searching for a better one. As a former negotiator, I know I won’t receive any concession I can’t describe.

I sought and found a story, something that might breathe real life into the abstraction that “all injustice is interrelated.”

Imagine the earth is a single enormous iceberg, and all who live upon it are penguins. Some penguins live nearer the center, and others nearer its edges.

Penguins in the center are doing very, very well. In fact, 1% of the penguin population has managed to hoard for itself almost half of the iceberg.

[ please click here to continue reading ]

kids outside 792

Once you’ve lived near the edge, you know it’s never very far

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