How coming from a place of kindness and curiosity can make a real difference.
Today I’m just going to let somebody else do the talking. This TED Talk was powerful. She has a unique perspective and it’s totally worth the 15 minutes of listening. I keep struggling to be open, less condescending, and less judgmental. This was a good reminder of why it’s important and how if done right it can make an impact.
Regret can be crushing and fear can be paralyzing. How I’m coping with them.
For years I’ve suffered under the crushing weight of regret. Regrets both big and small tend to drag me under, all while I smile and pretend they don’t bother me. I act like I don’t care what people think of me, that regret is useless, and since nothing can be done to change the past I don’t dwell on it. Those things I project outwardly, but for the most part they aren’t my truth. Things I did in my teens still haunt me even as I careen toward 40! I have more regrets than I can possibly write about. But there’s one big one that has been nagging me more and more frequently and more and more forcefully: Never getting a college degree.
Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future. – Fulton Oursler
All through grade school and high school I was an excellent student but things got really messy senior year. Due to various circumstances I ended up with a GED instead of a diploma and after high school I starting at a two year college instead of university. I won’t recount all the details of my ensuing college experiences but needless to say they never amounted to much. I’ve gone to community colleges several times but never walked away with anything more than one fully finished term under my belt. My focus vacillated from journalism to nursing to business….
During much of this time I was in and out of destructive relationships, partying heavily, and dealing with my ongoing mental health issues without effective treatment (or any treatment much of the time). Eventually I did find the wonderful man that became my husband and he has been a great influence on me. Over the course of our 14 years together I have certainly settled down, grown up, and sought treatment.
Never has my regret about being uneducated and having zero professional skills or experience been more glaring, frustrating, or embarrassing to me than right now. Although I’ve always felt shame surrounding these issues and a theoretical desire to correct them, I’ve never felt really driven to remedy them. And perhaps as importantly, never felt I had the ability to do so. Some of the obstacles that have been apparent are of course easily measured such as monetary concerns or our continual geographic upheaval during my husbands time in the military on active duty.
I think, however, the things that have actually held me back the most cannot be measured in dollars or miles. My lack of confidence, limiting perfectionism, past inability to follow through and stick things out are a few glaring concerns. Tack on a low tolerance for stress and uncertainty about my emotional well-being and you have a pretty compelling argument against any action. I mean really, who would bet against those odds?
So why am I even thinking about such things now? A few reasons. The most tangible is that I feel REALLY driven to DO something now that our country seems to be in mortal danger. I feel like it’s a combination of patriotism, motherly protection, and self preservation that is driving this desire. I am a firm believer and defender of democracy, the concept of our nation as one of inclusion, and of our place as a leader and model for the world. I truly feel like all of those tenets are in peril.
Education is the development of power and ideal. – W. E. B. Du Bois
The fears arising are spurring me toward more action and interest than I’ve ever felt before. I know I can be helpful in small ways to fight for better outcomes but those limited tasks and gestures, as worthy as they are, don’t feel like enough for me. But I lack the education and credentials necessary to fulfill my potential. Without additional education, I’ll never be a campaign manager, run for office or be a congressional staffer or researcher. I’ll never become a journalist or analyst or have any meaningful position in a not-for-profit or community organization. In essence, my ambition is stunted.
The other reason I’m even letting these ideas rattle around inside my head now has to do with where I am in life. I feel I’ve been undergoing a transformation for some time now. Little things have started to improve and I’ve made some positive changes. I love my current therapist, my current medication routine seems to be working well, and overall I just feel better somehow, despite all the shittiness in the world and the inevitable anger and sadness that causes. In fact, my current soundness undeterred by the soul crushing world we’re living in shows progress.
I’m not sure how to accurately describe what I am barely able to recognize myself, but indeed it does feel like something. Perhaps it is a maturity of sorts, a growing into oneself that just naturally happens as you are approaching 40. I’ve been trying to do more lately, more things that scare me, more things that are outside my wheelhouse, things that generally I wouldn’t have the fortitude to try before. It’s not as if I’m feeling an abundance of confidence right now though. It’s more a drive to do things despite not having a ton of assurance. I suppose what I’m feeling now is simply more courage as opposed to confidence. Since there are still fears, the fact that I’m trying them anyway seems more courageous than confident.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. – Mark Twain
I’m certainly not “cured” of all my neurosis and I definitely still have moments and mini breakdowns. I do feel a much greater drive though to keep going, keep trying, and I want to translate that into something real and tangible. I know trying to get a college degree right now will be immensely difficult and has so many obstacles in it’s way that I may not be able to overcome them. But I’m not going to let myself drop the idea without at least exploring it. I’m going to keep thinking about it and pursuing information. I’ve already begun some research and plan to do more.
I’ll be using this topic as a regular feature on the blog and hope it’ll be an interesting journey to take. Whether it dies in 3 weeks, 3 years, or lives and succeeds, there will be stories to tell.
Why participation in local party politics is crucial to the Resistance.
Being involved in local politics and your local Democratic Party can be personally rewarding as well as politically effective. As E.J. Dionne Jr. points out “power in a democratic nation comes from winning elections…a two-party system…requires picking sides.” Partisanship and polarization are a real problem right now but that does not mean you have to eschew participation with your party. What I believe it means is that we have to be more engaged because part of our engagement can focus on breaking the polarization cycle.
Being involved enough to participate in primaries (which is as easy as registering as a democrat) means that you have a chance to put a candidate on the ticket in a general election that will have broad appeal and may be better at bridging divides than creatingthem. Volunteering with your local party office might mean helping disseminate information to voters, in which case you’ll have an opportunity to close the gap by gently reassuring voters of the party’s commitment to the issues that they care about. If you’re a voting member of the county party, you will have a direct say in the platform that they support.
The ways in which direct involvement in the party process will help us win elections are numerous and varied. You are sure to find yourself some volunteer opportunities that fit your time, lifestyle, and personality. If you don’t have the time or inclination to get hands-on in the efforts, monetary donations are an important factor as well so a donation(s) would be a helpful gesture.
The localized activist groups like those created through the Indivisible Guide are doing some awesome work and have had a huge impact on civilian participation and attention. They have been instrumental in drawing attention to issues and galvanizing people toward action and participation. But we also need the structure and organization of a strong central party to start winning elections. No amount of activism will make much of a dent if we continue to lose elections both large and small. You can protest something till your voice runs out and you’re dead on your feet but if we don’t have the numbers in the legislatures and executive branches, none of it will matter much. As this article in The Nation mentions “organizations need to figure out how to persuade enough of the politically passive citizenry…to vote, and to vote democratic.”
Please help support strong candidates and get involved in voter education and turn-out efforts. I attended my first central committee meeting of the Democratic Party in my county last night and became a voting member by applying to be a PCP (Precinct Committee Person). I encourage similar actions for anybody like me who has never been involved on that grassroots party level before and a deeper commitment for those already there. Let’s Resist by Persisting!
A look at the relationship between populism and polarization. Could reaching out and hearing each other be the key to our survival?
I wanted to tell a story but I’m going to condense it into something more succinct instead:
I had a lifelong friend whose views became very contrary to my own over the last several years (as they relate to politics, religion, and social issues). We stayed friends despite these differences and our geographic divide (about 3000 miles) but mostly kept in contact through texts and FB.
A couple years ago she unfriended me on FB because of an argument we were having about a meme she posted. She told me we could continue to be friends but not on FB and only if we agreed to never talk about politics, religion, or other socially important topics. I reluctantly went along with this.
We continued our (in my opinion) extremely shallow friendship for another couple years. There was little depth to it and our conversations were very superficial.
2016 came in like a hurricane and the election was fast approaching. I was distraught over the possibility of a Trump win. I was having a crisis because more and more I felt I couldn’t be friends with someone who supported Trump. The differences in people who could or couldn’t back him seemed a complete roadblock to real connection.
I finally just had to know if my friend was a Trump supporter. I decided to confront her about it and wrote up a text basically asking if she was supporting Trump and laying out a few reasons why that wouldn’t be something I’d be able to accept in a friend. It was pointed and probably sounded pretty adversarial, even though my intention was to express my deep dismay about it all. I resolved myself to this despite the pain it was causing me. I sent it.
Our friendship ended in a fiery disaster. I mailed her a letter about a week later to apologize for the way I handled it, letting her know that I stood by my decision, but not the tone of my text. She returned it unopened.
My uncle died in December and she and my mother are still in contact so she reached out to me so that we might support my mom together. I agreed, I told her about the letter I sent, and we had a few days of civility while we got my uncle’s stuff straightened out. We didn’t continue any contact after that.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I think it sets up the issue at hand pretty well. How do we talk to people we disagree with? How can we ever expect to find middle ground, shared views, or compromises if we literally will not speak or listen to those whose views differ from ours? And is it even important or necessary to do so?
These are questions that have come up for me a lot lately. The divisiveness and discord in our country today are disturbing and I’ve been thinking about how that has affected election outcomes, friendships, and the general tone of life in the US (and elsewhere as it is not an exclusively American problem).
There’s been a lot of talk after the election about identity politics and the democrats apparent disregard for middle white America. I’ve done some soul searching of my own around this issue and have had to admit to myself that I may have been part of the problem. I’ve done little to bridge divides, but have instead clung to my own righteousness about my views, not allowing for differences of opinions. I won’t say I haven’t tried at some points to talk to people about their different views or their concerns but in most instances I probably didn’t help things with the tone I’ve taken or the words I’ve chosen. And more importantly, if I’m being completely honest, I haven’t wanted to reach out to “those people”. I’ve clung to my very negative views of them and concluded that they had nothing important, intelligent, or worthwhile to say.
How much has divisiveness and polarization contributed to our current situation? Based on a lot of the reading I’ve been doing and my own synthesis of circumstances: yugely. Trump can be accurately categorized as a populist, at least by my understanding. What exactly makes for a populist you might ask (as did I – since I didn’t know exactly what the term meant)? Well, this quote from Andrés Miguel Rondón who has lived through a destructive populist regime in Venezuela put it plainly:
The recipe is universal. Find a wound common to many, someone to blame for it and a good story to tell. Mix it all together. Tell the wounded you know how they feel. That you found the bad guys. Label them: the minorities, the politicians, the businessmen. Cartoon them. As vermin, evil masterminds, flavourless hipsters, you name it. Then paint yourself as the saviour. Capture their imagination. Forget about policies and plans, just enrapture them with a good story. One that starts in anger and ends in vengeance. A vengeance they can participate in.
In essence be the common man who will fight for the little guy against elites. It matters not that Trump himself is an elite billionaire because he was able to galvanize those who felt left behind and identify with them on some base level. They were angry, he was angry, he told them he could fix it. His almost childish communication style and branding worked wonders as well.
So how can polarization give rise to or aide populist leaders? Jan-Werner Mueller may have said it best in this interview : “The most important factor explaining the outcome of the election is partisanship — around 90 percent of self-identified Republicans voted for Trump. As a third-party populist candidate, Trump may have at most received 20 percent to 25 percent of the vote.” So essentially because the republicans are so loyal to the GOP they will vote for any candidate on the ticket that belongs to their party, even if it means voting for someone who they are repulsed by. In today’s vote-party-lines culture (which is apparently more pronounced on the right than the left) someone like Trump can swoop in with their populist message and make it to the top so long as they run on a major party ticket. If he wasn’t able to get on the party ticket, he would not have had enough support to win the general election.
Ok, you may say, but what now?? Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. And I’ve found some helpful answers, but more than anything only vague suggestions or warnings. And worse yet, some of what I’ve read is scary because it sounds as if much of the Resistance movement has been playing into the populists’ hands. Let’s think about what the rallying cries have generally been. Resist, persist, picket, protest, march, write, call, show-up. Sounds great right? Seems effective, influential, and energizing! And maybe it is or can be those things. But they could also have a damaging effect in the long run. And where are the cries of “vote!”, “learn about the political process”, “get informed about topics”, “recruit voters”, or “reach out and connect with those who felt left behind by you?” There may be a few quiet voices calling for those things, but the loudest voices seem much more bent on catchy slogans and calls for immediate, physical, and group responses.
“It is possible to worry so much about Trump’s America that you forget about Trump’s Americans.”
But what is wrong with those strategies? How could protests and marches backfire? Again from someone who has personally lived through the shitshow: “we failed. Because we lost sight that a hissy-fit is not a strategy. The people on the other side, and crucially Independents, will rebel against you if you look like you’re losing your mind.” He also says “Your organizing principle is simple: don’t feed polarization, disarm it.” We have essentially been having our own hissy-fit, all the while bolstering disparity. There is some validity to these tactics for the problems of the moment or very immediate future but they could be somewhat detrimental if they encourage continued polarization. In the long run this has to be about Americans from all areas coming together, not just the big cities or coastal states. There is danger in turning inward, staying in our bubbles, and only reaching out to those who already feel like we do. There is talk of coming together, joining causes and forces, but they only include progressive or liberal causes. There’s little talk about Trump voters and how to reach them. “It is possible to worry so much about Trump’s America that you forget about Trump’s Americans,” so says Carlos Lozada writing for The Washington Post. To put it more crudely (which is my natural inclination) – it becomes one big circle jerk.
I’m now thinking of the immortal words of the great Ice Cube “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self.” I think we all need to take stock of our own prejudices, reluctance to speak to the opposition, and motivations. And really look at what will and won’t be effective and compassionate in the long run. If we are all gathering together, making common cause and showing force, will that lead us down a better road than we’ve been on in this country lately? In some ways, it may and has already had some positive effects. But if we continue to ignore those that have been feeling left behind, will they ever want to join our causes or even care about our views? I highlight the word feeling because we may believe, and it may even be factually true, that those people have not been left behind by us or by the democratic party as a whole, but if theyfeel that is true then we must first acknowledge and validate the feelings before trying to influence them in any way. And we may find that if we were in their shoes we may have some of the same beliefs.
Right now, we are the enemy to them. Our continued discounting of their feelings just drives more of a wedge between us and them. They will not be able to hear us because of the delivery of our message. We need them to feel that we are the same as they are or at least have the same fears, dreams, hopes, and needs. And that for most of us the accomplishments we’ve had (or that they perceive we’ve had) were not just handed to us (in most cases). They need to understand that we have a common enemy, and it’s not us. Policies that keep them down, also hold us back. Businesses that take advantage of them also take advantage of us. A shitty educational system is something we all want to fix. Just because we care about and fight for people who are less fortunate because of their skin color, gender, or nationality, does not mean we don’t fight for them too. Yes, they have white privilege even if they don’t realize it, but that doesn’t make their very real struggles somehow fictional.
But how do we go about that and is everybody even reachable? I’m not sure I have an answer to those questions. I have some feelings about them though. I personally believe some people are definitely not reachable. There are some people living on this planet that I will NEVER be able to, nor want to, make common cause with. There are some people who due to upbringing, education, or some other circumstance are never going to be able or willing to dig deep and find common ground. They are never going to want to hear what you have to say, trust you, or share any of their own feelings or thoughts with you. Those people exist and we will probably never enlighten them. But I think those are a minority. In the right conditions, under the right circumstances I think people generally want to connect with one another, not create enemies. But sometimes that’s buried deep. Even for me it’s been hard to get to this place. I’m fairly oppositional and argumentative in nature and that can make connection difficult. And this election certainly brought out a fair amount of my own tribalism and disgust for people. It’s been a struggle to acknowledge the part I play in this and try to shift tactics. But that’s what I’m trying to do.
As for the “how”, I’m a bit more stymied. Not much of what I’ve read has been very helpful in the real nuts and bolts of such an idea. Reach out and connect sounds great and so simple, yet what does it really mean in practicality? How do you become a member of someones tribe if you have nowhere to start?
This now brings me all the way back to the beginning of my post. Remember my old friend who is no longer a friend? I got an idea in my head a bit ago about reaching out to her to try and bridge the divide. The purpose wasn’t to become friends again (I have no desire for that and it’s not strictly due to politics) but to try and understand each others positions and views. My hope was to grasp how she has formed her ideas and why, while providing the same to her. I was nervous about approaching her but wanted to try anyway. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the process and typing up a detailed email, trying to be careful about my wording and the system I was developing. I was hoping for it to be an ongoing exchange with a few simple rules and structures in place to keep it civil and informational.
Oh, how I wish I could tell you it has been a smashing success! But it was no success at all. She did at least send a reply and we had another exchange after that but she declined my invitation. I consider it a failure even though I did learn a few things. I learned that she really doesn’t trust me, my motivations, or even my ability to write (since she accused me of plagiarizing my email from “some website”, which of course I did not do at all). I also learned that she is completely closed to the idea of ever changing her mind, apparently about everything since she just made a grand declaration that she would “never change her mind.” I don’t know if there could have been a way this would have worked or if it was simply doomed no matter what. Maybe it was that I didn’t make it personal enough, instead deciding to use a more professional and aloof tone. Maybe she simply feels like her side won so why would she want to spend any time connecting with someone like me. Maybe she simply does not have the capacity for such dialogue, intellectually, emotionally, or otherwise. I don’t know the answers to these questions. If anyone cares to read the full text of the email exchanges, here is a link to them (with all identifying information erased of course).
So that was my first try at this whole tactic and unfortunately it didn’t turn out great. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile pursuit. I’m sure there are plenty of ways to reach out and try to hear the other side and maybe someday I’ll be able to write a post that talks about some of those more specifically. But for now at least I’m going to simply concentrate my efforts on being willing to listen and trying to clear the preconceived notions from my head and open my heart a bit wider. As for my efforts in the resistance, I’m going to continue being a “reluctant revolutionary” but a toned down version. I’m focusing my time and energy into learning how to influence government policy, increase voter turn-out, and talk about issues effectively. I’m going to become more involved at the party level and hope I can affect change in future elections. I hope everyone will find their own way to contribute and I encourage you to think about more than just protests and outrage. They are worthy endevours in their own right, but if we want to make long-term sweeping changes it may take a more nuanced approach.
If you have any stories you’d like to share about how you’ve been able to, or been unsuccessful at, bridging divides I’d love to hear them 🙂
I’ll leave you with a quote I heard on NPR the other day that really resonated with me. It comes from the Rev. Adam Hamilton talking on All Things Considered:
It’s easy to irritate people. It’s harder to influence people.
It’s been a hell of a week. Here are a couple wins and an opportunity.
I haven’t had time to post lately and have felt so overwhelmed by recent news that I’m not sure where to even take this right now. But, I did want to make a quick post to encourage all of us “reluctant” activists out there to keep at it. And if you’re not already doing something, provide some additional encouragement to start.
The big news from today was Andrew Puzder dropping out of his nomination as Labor Secretary. This is a big win, especially considering we haven’t been able to stop any of the appointments thus far. I know there was a lot of activism surrounding this nominee and I think it paid off. People protested, called, and wrote and perhaps that pressure was finally felt by some republican senators. Who knows what we’ll see next for this open position, but I’d assume it can’t be as bad as the last.
The other really big news this week of course was the “resignation” of Gen. Flynn as National Security Advisor. This is also good news and another opportunity for activism. Digging deeper into Flynn’s connections with Russia and possibly Trump or others in his circle will be a big issue going forward. Make some calls or send some letters to encourage your MOC (members of congress), various committees, or departments to start or continue and ramp up existing investigations. After Flynn’s departure there was additional reporting about other Trump team members having contact with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign (you know, while all that Russian hacking into our election stuff was happening). This is serious business and needs to be seriously investigated and reported to the American people.
The last thing I’d like to mention today is something seemingly small, but for which I think we can have an impact that might have bigger reverberations. Georgia Congressman Tom Price is giving up his seat for a cabinet appointment. As described here by Rachel Maddow, it’s been long held by the GOP and the democratic party seems to have almost no ambition to try and win the seat. But there is at least one qualified democratic candidate running and his name is Jon Ossoff. Today I emailed the DCCC to encourage them to back this guy in a big way and set the ball rolling for 2018! I also donated directly to his campaign and posted about it in a FB group. I’ve had several responses from people who followed my advice and also donated (and we all live in OR, not Georgia, haha)! I’m hoping others might do the same things and pass the word on as well! Let’s get this party started! And, yes that’s a call to action as well as a terrible play on words, as in “get the democratic party to start doing something” 😉
A short post with writings from my 10 year old about Trump and this new world we live in.
I want to spend most of today crafting and cooking. I need a break from the endless news cycle I’ve been sucked in to. But, I wanted to post these two pieces of writing my daughter drafted last month. She is 10 years old and in fifth grade. You may be able to ascertain from her writing that she has read several dystopian novels and seen their movies. Perhaps that will make her better prepared to take on the possible tumultuous future that awaits her? Here they are in her words (with some very minor spelling, grammar, structural corrections by me).
But first, let's thank Senator Mitch McConnell for providing our movement a new slogan and rallying cry last night on the Senate floor when he silenced the great Senator Elizabeth Warren: "Nevertheless, she persisted!"
Trump is president. Protests are starting, fires are burning, bombs are blowing, havoc is rising. Life is fading, depression is coming, friends are parting, tears are falling. What should we do? Help, run, save? Should we stand tall over Trump or cower below him? We can’t be his slaves, we can’t fear him! We need Hope!!!
(after the Portland Women’s March)
Today we walked 1.3 miles just to make our voices heard, just to make our point stand. We got soaked, our feet hurt, but we kept on going. Everyone should have equal rights, African American, men, women, children. No matter what color or what gender, we all talk, walk, see, hear, and feel like each other. Women can be stronger, faster, and smarter than men. We can’t let Donald make us feel weak. We can do it, Yes We Can!
My struggle to figure this all out. Including my fears, commitment issues, and lack of self-confidence.
Confession time. I…do…not…know…wth…I…am…doing! Just to lay it all out on the table. Up until I started this blog, there were almost no blogs that I read regularly or followed. Sure, I might read one because somebody linked to it on FB or I stumbled across it while searching Google. Especially big ones like Huff Po that are almost impossible not to read or my favorite online writer Jim Wright whose blog Stonekettle Station is just fabulous (and whose FB posts are almost better!). But other than that, I really didn’t know much about blogging. Including logistics, structures, etiquette, the expected quid-pro-quo with other bloggers, etc. etc.
I started this blog because I felt like I needed an outlet, I enjoy writing, and because several people had suggested to me that blogging might be perfect for me (my passion when talking about politics apparently sounded very bloggish?). All of that may be true, but it doesn’t make me actually any good at it. I’m terrified that I’m screwing this up and won’t get any better. I don’t understand most of the terminology, the tech keeps confusing me which makes everything take at least twice as long, and I still don’t feel like I even have a real “voice”. I am usually pretty witty but I don’t feel like that is coming across in my writing and I’m striving (in vain) to figure out my “niche” in the blogosphere.
I guess I’m putting this all out there as an apology and a confession. I am terribly self-conscious, critical, and battle mightily with confidence. I want this to work and I want to reach people, but the fear that prevented me from starting this for so long is creeping back: I’m not going to be good at this and nobody cares what I have to say. I hope that those things are not real or that they can be changed but it’s yet to be seen. I am going to keep at this, keep reading up on it, try to be smarter about researching it, and really work at it.
Most things in life that I’ve found to be difficult, quickly became things I no longer tried to do. Things that scared me or brought into question my abilities were summarily dismissed as “not in my wheel house” or “not worth my time”. Perfectionism has held me back from attempting or finishing more things in life than I can count. Unattainable self-imposed standards have prevented everything from a college degree to picking up a new hobby. I also struggle with finding balance, and can quickly become almost obsessed with something, finding it difficult to pull myself away to take care of other responsibilities, or even just relax. I want to change all that now. Being *almost* in my 40’s means a long history of self-defeating habits and pessimistic self-talk (mingled with mental health issues) to overcome. But for now at least, I’m determined to keep trying!
This blog will never be perfection and perhaps I never really will reach an audience or connect with anyone, but for the moment at least I have the will to keep plugging away at it. I’ll keep learning, reading, and writing. My concern about this country and it’s politics is not something that will fade and hopefully neither will my resolve to reach people. I implore you, anyone who comes across this, to please keep checking back! It may be a bit chaotic for a while, but hopefully I’ll figure it out.
For anyone else who struggles with self-confidence or commitment, I hope you may garner something useful from my admission and pledge. I’m going to try and hang in there and I hope you can do the same with whatever scares you!