On Reaching Out and Letting Go

I haven’t been posting. I’m busy with school and life. But I wanted to post something I back_to_school_chalkboardwrote for a class. I’m pretty proud of this essay and just wanted to share. The assignment is from English Comp. (a required course) and we were directed to write a “Literacy Memoir.” Bascically start off with a personal narritve that demonstrates our “literacy quality” (whatever that is!) and end in an essay form, with commentary about said quality.

I hope you enjoy!

On Reaching Out and Letting Go

Scrolling through Facebook, a status from my father appears in my feed. Before I can even read the words, just seeing his name causes an immediate tightening in my stomach. It’s that feeling your muscles make when you’re preparing for a punch in the gut. I know this feeling well by now; It has come over me countless times in similar situations. As my abdominals are clenching, I mentally steel myself against the garbage I will undoubtedly encounter. And suddenly there it is: “If you voted for Obama twice, you’re too stupid to argue with.” I feel the heat rise to my face while a combination of soul-searing anger and despondency course through my body.

It’s 2014, Obama is well into his second term, congressional midterm elections are fast approaching, and the partisanship in the country is becoming increasingly stormy and ugly. Fox News has continued its crawl toward becoming a permanent brainwashing earworm embedded in the minds of previously functioning human Republicans, and the rise of Breitbart and Info Wars has started to compound this effect. The discord is also inflamed by the simple fact that we have a black president. That is really all it took to push this country over the precipice from run-of-the-mill social and political divisions into this black chasm of senseless hostility and irrational fear. Formerly lucid people seem to morph into mindless zombies, lured into the mob mentality by extremists.

Every time I see my previously semi-sane father’s posts on Facebook my blood pressure skyrockets, I brace myself for the offense I will undoubtedly feel, and I pull emotionally further away from him. He’s a serial sharer of bullshit propaganda, much of which either has no basis in what most of us experience as reality or is simply some flavor of bigoted hype. It’s like I’m spinning the wheel of misfortune every time he posts. I’m waiting to see if it’s the Mexicans, blacks, Muslims, or women that I’ll be defending, or whether to hold my tongue instead and avoid conflict. They usually sound something like this to me: “Why should I have to press 1 for English?! We’re in ‘Murica don’t cha know!?” Other times he’s passing along a completely baseless claim about some politician, making some cold-hearted generalization about Democrats, or just spreading outright lies about policy, laws, or whatever the Orwellian-meme-generators made up that day. He never has anything original to say about these posts; He’s just another link in the chain of hatred and misinformation. And this chain is slowly squeezing the humanity and critical thinking ability out of him.

I had recently gotten into quite an argument with a friend of my dad’s over one of his posts. I challenged him to produce sources, facts, or any other support for his posts and suggested that it’s not difficult to do these days. His friend jumped in to defend him, accusing me of disrespecting my father, who she seems to think deserves some pre-set level of respect simply because he sired me and sacrificed a portion of his paychecks to rear me. She wrote “you make him sound like a stupid uneducated individual that doesn’t have the brains to check the facts before he posts, likes or shares a post” and went on to call me “disrespectful” and “nasty.” She was defending a person who has no qualms with regularly sharing all manner of bigoted, violent, degrading, and misleading squib, and who also seems to believe facts are unknowable, heavily guarded secrets held by the Illuminati. But I’m the one who is disrespectful and nasty because I don’t let those things go by unexamined.

This ultimately unproductive, yet maddening quarrel is fresh in my mind as I see my dad’s name in my feed and the eventual Obama meme about voting and stupidity. This gem comes only days after he had shared: “That Obama sticker on your car might as well say ‘Yes, I’m stupid.’” So my father, who knows full well that I supported Obama in both elections and still do, shared these posts on his wall and didn’t prevent me from seeing them. Whatever the actual truth of the situation, I feel purposefully wounded. My insides burn from the red-hot dagger that has been thrust into me by my own father.

That day was the beginning of the end for my dad and me. I hoped it ultimately wouldn’t be, but it felt inevitable. That post was a tipping point for me. Our family is not one I’d ever describe as “functional” per se, but it was really falling apart now. The political differences and views on social issues was a major concern, but what it really did was shine a light on a lot of other unresolved issues I had with my dad. All the nights I cried because he didn’t come home were once again blazing bright in my mind and an awareness of the lacking intimacy between us had been resurrected. The old feeling that I could never be good enough at anything to receive (and in my mind, deserve) genuine praise, was making an unwelcome reappearance. I heard the harsh words that would come out during one of his mercurial downturns and realized I couldn’t recall the last time I had a real heart-to-heart with my dad, or even if we’d ever had one.

I wrote my dad a letter. A long letter. It addressed several issues including the Facebook interactions, more general observations, concerns, and yes, criticisms. But the real purpose of the letter and the note I ended on was a much more personal one. It was a plea for a different relationship. An expression of my need to have him know me, love me, and move forward from there. It was an airing of grievances I had never expressed before but that were important for me to say and for him to hear. I really wanted to work on things. I wanted to find a comfortable spot that we could coexist in that would foster love and encourage growth and acceptance. This was the appeal I made to him. It took me hours to draft, edit, and adjust the letter. Because I felt I needed reassurance, my husband read it before it was sent. He provided the comfort and encouragement I needed to proceed.

After sending the email, I waited…and waited….and waited. Instead of the love, understanding, and new beginning I was yearning for, I got the cold shoulder. As I pressed for a response, what I got (in order of appearance) was sarcasm, malice, accusations, and non-sensical predications. These jabs stirred up a range of emotions for me including crushing disappointment, but surprise was not one of them. I believe he was too far gone to respond any other way. But I don’t regret what I did or the way I did it. If I could go back, I would change a few minor things in my letter (adjustments that would make it sound less adversarial), but it would still be the written word I would turn to. What I expressed to him would have never been said any other way, and it needed to be said. I wouldn’t have been able to communicate all of that to him over the phone (and with 3000 miles separating us, that would have been the other option). Although I can’t know for certain if he ever actually read the whole thing, it was cathartic for me to get it all out and know that he had it. The ball was in his court and he chose not to return it. It meant I could move on with my life knowing I had tried to reach out. I also decided that I would no longer subject myself to toxic people or situations. I was letting go.

This encounter with my dad illustrates how important literacy is in my life. I would feel like a deaf mute without it. I’ve always loved reading and writing and it’s become increasingly more important and even central to my emotional survival over time. Writing is how I feel most comfortable expressing myself. It’s an unexplainable phenomenon how different writing and speaking are for me. I have a lot of trouble being truly expressive and confident through speech. Perhaps it’s the ever-present thesaurus or the always-an-option delete button in writing that give it such power. Whatever it is, to say it’s integral to my life is not quite hyperbole.

It’s in the context of political and social issues that my literacy is most expressed and important these days. The emotions raised by these topics often result in an outpouring of written words. I tend to feel like I will burst if I cannot release the tension created by holding in those views and feelings. And while I desperately wish I had a greater audience, it’s the process of writing that provides much needed relief and clarity. I hope to reach people one day with my words and maybe change some minds or provide motivation. For now, however, just being able to say what I mean and put it out there into the universe is good enough.

I would not be able to do those things if I did not have the literacy skills needed to understand the issues and to evaluate and analyze information. Choosing relevant, reliable, and well-written news, reading or listening to it, and fully comprehending not only the literal meaning of what is being reported, but the implications, possible consequences, and how it fits into a larger picture can be daunting. Without a solid literacy foundation, it would be nearly impossible. At times I use my literacy skills to fact-check, perform basic research, or source information for one purpose or another.

Based on what I learn, I construct possible realities in my mind of what I think the “real world” is. I try to connect things that may seem separate, find underlying motivations or goals, look for explanations for what seems wrong, etc. These constructed realities are not always fully fleshed out and they change and morph into new things fluidly. But they are how I make sense of the world around me. It may sound like my house is plastered with papers tacked down and connected by incoherent webs of red string, like you might see on Homeland, but I promise it’s not.

I’ve vacillated when it comes to life goals, commitment to higher education, participation in the political process, and any number of other factors that determine the life I’m living. Literacy, however, has always been part of me. It is perhaps more prominent now than ever before. I’ve returned to college after a long dry spell, which was preceded by several halfhearted attempts at obtaining a degree. I am majoring in political science this time and feel a real drive to complete a program. My need to understand the world and communicate about it and with it is stronger than ever, and I hope to eventually use that desire and my literacy skills to do something rewarding and contributory. I don’t know yet what that will look like, but I can’t wait to find out!

 

More About Reaching Out

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.

Blogging is Hard!

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!

So…..Angry!

Did Trump’s apparent lack of both careful deliberation and a hierarchical system for approval lead to a terrible decision on Yemen?

So, ya’ll heard about the (arguably) disastrous raid in Yemen right? The one in which one commando and several civilians including children were killed, 3 other commandos were injured, and one of our multi million dollar aircrafts needed to be blown up. Right, so there’s more to this story and it’s making me insane.

Now, not every decision about combat ops are going to be great ones for any president and there’s always a chance of things going wrong and people getting injured or killed. It’s happened to even the best, most conscientious of leaders. But, that is not necessarily what happened here. And to top it off, the administration is lying about aspects in order to shift blame from them to Obama. Well, I’m calling bullshit and am super pissed that it’s not getting more coverage.

In this one action and their response to the outcome, the administration has demonstrated much to us, if only we are paying attention. The decision to go ahead with the raid was made by Trump at dinner, not in the Situation Room or any other room in the White House that is used for official business. There seems to be multiple conflicting stories about how much deliberation there was leading up to the decision, who may or may not have weighed in on the decision, and just generally if it was handled properly or with enough care.

While the military discussed various options for actions in Yemen, the 44th president felt such action “represented a significant escalation of US involvement in Yemen,” as one senior government official under Obama said. – By Dan Merica, Ryan Browne and Jeff Zeleny, CNN

One big thing to consider here is that although this plan obviously made it’s way through a long chain and was initiated by Central Command (because that’s what they do, come up with military plans and submit them for approval), it was not simply a “routine” mission. One of the issues here that should have been weighed heavily by Trump and his team was the fact that it meant an escalation of our presence in Yemen, from one more about air raids and support, to actual boots on the ground. That’s usually the kind of thing that deserves much consideration from the highest levels, beyond DOD. Continue reading “So…..Angry!”

Hypocrisy at its Worst

The democrats are starting to flex their remaining muscles a bit only to be accused of obstructionism…..by the same people who stole a SCOTUS seat!

Oh for fucks sake! You have got to be kidding me with this high and mighty bullshit! Hypocrisy abounds among republicans  right now, saying such things as “I think this is a completely unprecedented level of obstruction”(from the above article). No, no it’s not! And you know why?? Because YOU guys set that “unprecedented level” so high over the last 8 years, we’d need a full 8 years to match it! When you set out from basically the beginning with a planned strategy of obstruct everything and concluded those 8 years with a stolen Supreme Court pick, you lose the right to ever accuse others of an “unprecedented level of obstruction”! Ever!

The refusal to even hold hearings on Obama’s SCOTUS pick was actually unprecedented. It was your job to do that, yet you refused, even when handed a moderate many of you had praised in the past.  Obama won both his elections fair and square with over 52% of the vote, and 365 electors in 2008 (the runner up only had about 45% and 173 electors), and 51% of votes with 332 electors in 2012 (runner up had 47% of votes and 206 electors). So, I think it should have been crystal clear that the American public wanted President Obama and in turn wanted him to do his job of filling vacant SCOTUS seats. That was his right as a democratically elected president and it was your JOB to debate and vote on his picks. You didn’t.

But now you feel like your democratic colleagues are being somehow unreasonable? Nooooope! The American people did NOT want this man in charge and he certainly doesn’t have a mandate or get a pass on anything. Let’s not forget his election results. Trump lost the popular vote roughly 46% to 48%, and only won the electors 304 to 227. AND, it really only came down to 107,00 or so people across 3 states that tipped the Electoral College to Trump! That was only about .09% of total votes! So basically Trump lost if you count only the popular vote (which is how it should be, but that topic is for another time), and won by less than 1 total percent of votes when it comes to the Electoral College.

You don’t get to obstruct a president the majority of Americans wanted in power for 8 years then claim obstructionism against your guy who a majority of Americans didn’t want in office! Fuck you and your hypocrisy! I hope the democrats say no to everything and anyone Trump puts up! Even though we cannot completely stop most things on our own, I’m certainly encouraging my reps to vote no and hold up votes when possible. Payback is a bitch. It may not be completely effective yet, but watch out during midterm elections!

The Sky is Falling

What if Chicken Little was right and the sky really WAS falling?

That was actually one of the names I considered for this blog. The thought being that the fabled story of Chicken Little and his hysterical belief that the sky is falling could have been totally different. What if the sky actually was falling?? It would seem if that’s the case then the hysteria would be pretty justifiable. And the sense of urgency to warn people wouldn’t be considered unreasonable, but would seem altogether rational and necessary.

Ultimately I decided on a different name but I still like the metaphor (I know, that’s not exactly what I mean, but gimme a break, ok?). The concept hasn’t really left the front of my mind though. I wasn’t even planning on writing anything else today, as I’m trying not to inundate anybody who has been kind enough to follow me and I have shit to do in life other than scream into my computer through my fingers. But today’s news once again has left me stunned and feeling like The Sky Is Falling!

I’m not going to go into the specifics except to say this is about the executive order banning immigration and refugees from certain countries, temporarily. What has me freaking out isn’t how terrible the order is, how poorly implemented it was, or the obvious play to his base this is. All of those are issues and terrible in their own right. What I’m concerned about is Trumps reaction to the acting Attorney General of the United States refusing to defend the order in court. Sally Yates had been the Deputy Attorney General under Obama but stayed on at Trumps request to fill the top vacancy until a nominee could be confirmed.

Yates put out a statement basically saying that she is not convinced of the legality or the justness of the order and would not defend it in court. Well our Tweeter-in-Chief did not like that and quickly fired her. He threw some other United States attorney into the position as a place-holder for the racist Jeff Sessions who they are hoping to confirm shortly.

My fear is that we are headed down a road with no checks and balances, removal of autonomy of departments that are not meant to be political in nature, an abandonment of the rule of law, a destruction of the free press, and a total breakdown of the governmental system we’ve lived with in this country for over 200 years. A system we set up based on the US Constitution that sooo many people claim to love and uphold! Yes, I know I sound like Chicken Little, but can you really tell me this isn’t all going through your mind, at least a bit?  It’s just one thing after another. Gagging our EPA, Parks Dept, NASA, etc., telling State Deptartment employees  to “get with the program” or “go” when they filed a completely legal and supposedly “safe” Dissent Cable to voice their concern and disagreement with the ban, the continual antagonism toward and corrosion of public trust in the media, and on and on. Seemingly it will be endless since this is the sort of shit we’ve seen from Trump and his cronies since the beginning of the campaign WAY back in 2015! Oh, and the lies, lies, lies!!

The thing that is causing me the most anxiety though is the republicans in congress and throughout the state governments. Because of their seeming soullessness, greed, and/or stupidity I feel like we have NO power to stop any of this! No matter if every single democrat that holds office in the US or within state governments opposes every single action taken by this administration, no matter if every single democrat or anti-Trump citizen protested every single day, we could not stop all this from happening. We have NO real power anymore to stop the take-over of our government by this fascist plutocracy or kleptocracy or whatever ‘ocracy it’ll end up being! Our last hope was the law and it appears as if they are starting their chipping away at that as well.

If we had at least some actual patriotic, compassionate, and benevolent republicans in power I would feel safe in the knowledge that they would help us put a stop to this before it gets out of control. But I don’t believe that’s the case. It is certainly NOT what we’ve seen so far. Nothing they have said or done over the last 8+ years have led me to believe that will be a possibility. And that is where my fear lies. In the elected representatives that will not have our backs and the millions of people Trump and Tea Partiers have been able to brainwash, gaslight, and dumb-down over time. I don’t think anybody is coming to our salvation. We’re on a sinking ship and the GOP controls the life rafts. If they refuse to deploy them we’re all going down and there will be no rescue.

A Good Article About the EO in Question (Not too technical or biased, just good general info)

 

Samantha Bee is My Spirit Animal!

Why Samantha Bee is one of the best things on television these days.

If you are not watching Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, you are missing one of the greatest things on television these days! Her political commentary and wit, coupled with her fast talking take-downs are a thing to behold. She has definitely done a superior job recruiting writers to fuel her monologues.

It seems every time I watch I’m laughing hysterically, while also feeling called to action. At times (as was the case with this clip of the #ICan’tKeepQuiet Choir, starting around minute 4) I end up in tears. I have yet to watch one of her shows and think “It wasn’t that good” or not agree with pretty much every stance she takes. Several times now I’ve exclaimed to my husband that “Sam Bee is my spirit animal!” or “my soul mate!”. I feel like she is a more realized, better version of my inner self. She is the person I wish I were 🙂

I have no financial or personal stake in whether or not anyone takes my advice and watches her show. But I do believe you’re missing out on comedy gold and some great information. If you want to check her out, the show is on Wednesday’s at 10pm on TBS. But you can get most of the clips from her show online as well.

I’ll leave you with this description of the inauguration, from her show on 1/25/17:

We are “swearing in the concept of white male mediocrity”