Dismantling: Giving Thanks

It’s not hard to find gratitude and I do take thanks in the smallest joys. There is so much to be thankful for even if I’m filled with an extra dose of cynicism this year. Of course, I have my family, friends, health, nature and creativity to fill me with pride and gratitude. I’m very thankful to have dinner in my Bay Area bubble with like-minded friends. I kinda don’t have the energy to reach across or learn about an opposing view today. But, I do have empathy for those, who have traveled through a gauntlet of harried travelers and bumper to bumper traffic, only to navigate potentially thorny conversations at dinner, sitting tight-lipped and tense. Hang in there friends, it will soon be over, just be happy you have a community! Anyhow, it’s probably the best advice for all of us to avoid politics at the table this year, I’m not sure my digestive tract can take much more anxiety. Buurp.

And frankly, I’m also butting heads with my liberal friends who are still struggling with their whiteness, trying to convince me that my activism is part of the problem. We are all a mess over this election, casting dispersions and blame to and fro. None of this feels very comforting and sometimes I’d rather just go at it with my Republican family because they’re not filled with guilt and confusion over their positions. Oh, and yes, there are members of my brown, immigrant family that did vote for Trump. So that should blow up some of the stereotypes. Trust me, they can care less about diversity, identity, and have no interest to learn about intersectionality. It all comes down to the almighty dollar. They will get their rich people tax cuts and go back to exploiting the oppressed to win elections. Mostly they’re benevolent businessmen who want what’s best for their family and view capitalism as a means to end for their own self-interests, a system they feel works equally for all. But I am so thankful I don’t have to listen to them this year or bite my tongue, which is a difficult task for a big mouth. Anyhow, I have mostly given up, why bother talking to people who read Anne Coulter?  I will never, ever agree with them and visa-versa. The most frustrating thing about Republicans is how dismissive they are about any of the negative consequences of Trump’s administration. They just chalk it up to media bias and liberal hogwash and there isn’t really an end-game to win this debate. Instead, we just walk around the huge elephant in the room and breathe a sigh of relief when as we part ways.

Well, I am about to make pies and a yummy cheesy gratin. I love this white people holiday, mainly I’ve boiled it down to food, food, food. But I have not overlooked the fact that this artificially constructed day was created to promote capitalism, white supremacy and greed. Like most of us, I just stuff the feelings with tons of food and alcohol and hope to pass out early from an overdose of tryptophan. I do love a nice long four-day weekend, even if I am aware I’m a part of the managerial class, the liberal elite (I guess?) that has the privilege to overeat and wallow in self-pity. Yes, my sadness has given way to a streak of anger but I’m pretty sure this is one of the stages of grief.

I do wish everyone a lovely holiday and hope you don’t sit around questioning the validity of protesting as brave indigenous people, who at this very moment are getting tear-gassed and attacked by the evil forces of corporatism. All I have done is donate to the Sioux tribe, so at the very least I ask all of us to honor their sacrifice. They are using their bodies to stand in the line of fire, a fight that began when English separatists landed at Plymouth rock. I am grateful for their stance and seeing the horrible images from Standing Rock reminds me not to waver from fighting for justice and equality, and yes one way will be civil disobedience and protest. To all those that question the purpose of protesting, I ask you to read history if you have time this weekend or try to recall past successes that arose out of people power. Try not to be dismissive of these actions, find ways to honor the legacy of true heroes, some who have given their lives in the fight for human rights. And finally, I say thank you to all the civil rights crusaders, past and present, who stand tall against cynism, anger, and hate.

 

 

Dismantling: Searching for Meaning

This morning I spied the fog is rolling in, just like that the sky has turned from crystal blue to opaque whiteness. Mine is the last residential street in Oakland, edged off by an unsightly freeway ramp. The other side the hubbub of a bustling port transports clothes, shoes, food, cars, oil, and electronics. One side of the block is under construction, all plywood and slab—luxury living at ¼ the size but three times the price of a modest home in one of the elusive battleground states. My neighborhood is a contradiction. The other side is speckled with wonderful Victorian row houses, a reminder of a time when this was a solidly middle-class neighborhood, where families thrived before red lines were drawn and redevelopment came crashing through. Further down a shanty-like network of lean-to’s, tents, tiny homes and sheds create a safe haven for our unhoused neighbors who are wedged against chain link fences waiting for the world to take notice and help.

Words like bubble, inner city, hell, gentrification are the descriptors for this street, but this is my neighborhood, I live here with my family, just like so many other decent humans. In this past year, I’ve put my energy towards acquainting myself with the politics and the community, both of these are a challenge but worth the time. There is no single word, no demographic term that accurately describes my little space on this Earth, monolithic we’re not, rather a complex community, in need of specialized services and a new form of progressive development that will require leadership that is sorely missing in the bluest city, in the bluest county, in the bluest state. I can’t stop thinking, still reeling from this election, trying to parse out what has gone wrong, why I wasn’t heard, who I wasn’t listening too. For the first time in a long time I feel our politicians have abandoned us on so many levels, party politics has left us in the lurch and I see clearly that the change we wish to see is within us. The time is now, no more waiting around. There are no heroes, no symbols or catchy slogans that will save us. Just our solidarity and resistance.

Since election day the weather has been unseasonably warm and quite literally the only bright spot that was hard to overlook during these very uncertain times. I started off 11/8 filled with optimism, and proudly stated to my friends online that I love my city, my job my country, my family and friends and those feelings didn’t dissolve on 11/9. But optimism is replaced with resolve. I’m trying to dig deep because mistakes were made, I feel duped, misinformed, and mistaken. My critical eye has re-focused, I no longer trust the same sources of information that spoon-fed me comfortable doses of anesthetic in the form of snarky satire and refreshable data feeds. To be frank, it’s not all that important to cling to the same sources that threw us off our game. But I do expect more from the campaigners and politicians who let the wolf into the henhouse and implore they do as much soul-searching as their constituents. But I have my plan, I’ve replaced podcasts and radio news with music, comments online with in-person conversation, and mainstream media with history.

The weekend after the election, tears still well up, my stomach keeps dropping, another musician has left us. If there was ever a time for poetry and music it is now. Emotions are hard to contain as Leonard Cohen’s gravelly baritone rolls out poetry so apropos it feels like another punch to a bruised soul:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

It’s through this process of grieving, hearing words strung together with a marksman-like accuracy, that I start the process of healing. I’m not moping or wallowing because I need to stay energized. Of course, I’m unsure, not fearful but on edge, anxious but resigned. I’m filled with concern for the vulnerable and the foundational freedoms of my country that is once again struggling with its legacy of inequality. The reckoning has arrived and it’s not in the form we’d expected. But I’m still here. So are you.

Dismantling my liberal echo chamber: Part 1 of many

yeah-well-thats-just-like-your-opinion-man

I am still processing and these thoughts are just a sketch, a journal entry I share with you all for some reason. It’s not meant to sway or change opinions or even garner clicks or follows. Maybe it can be used to diagnose the downfall of our country or the unraveling (or enlightening) of a sad liberal.  Don’t take much heed in what I say, for as of today, I am stripped of knowledge. All I know is that Donald Trump will be the president of my beloved country. We have no clue what is coming next, none. I think it will be something we can’t contemplate because that’s the lesson of history. I am not going to speculate any further, rather, I am going to be watchful. I am going to listen hard.

But one thing I am clear on is that I have never been so wrong, never felt so misguided and duped as I have these past few days. This election has shaken apart my belief system, I feel like my head snapped back in a form of political whiplash. A friend of mine said, “I feel stunned and simultaneously stupid for feeling stunned.” I couldn’t have said it better. I’m pretty quick to admit when I’ve fucked up. It’s probably from all the practice. In the past, I have let my mistakes eat me up, spit me out and ground to a pulp. But now I’m older, I’m a quick study. When I make a mistake, I lather up with humility, get introspective, and ready for problem-solving. This is a challenge and can make little sense, and may not result in much. But I do believe, that a crisis like the one we’re facing today is an opportunity in a weird way, I just don’t know what it is yet.

By midnight on Nov. 8, my blind spots cracked wide open and I still feel very raw. I take on the challenge of this indelible moment in history to ask questions, sit with what happened and try to understand how I missed the signs. They were there, all around. I’m still poking at cracks in the system but without as much guidance from the media and tastemakers. So I take this on as an amateur, as an unpublished writer, as someone hurting and wanting to hone my own ideas! I hope that I can write as clearly as I can without influence, although that is impossible I know. My posts going forward will not have media links or quotes from famous journalists. I have abandoned them until they reckon their irresponsible ways and figure out how to report information.

It’s only been two full days so it’s possible this current assessment is still riddled with bias, but so far what I’ve gathered from my own brain is that my error in judgment during this election season has a few layers; 1. I stopped listening to my inner voice; 2. I had an over-reliance on opinion makers and corporate media; 3. I didn’t talk to anyone on the “other side” in person; 4. I let fear cloud my judgment; 5. I fell into a binary trap. (My side/Their side).

While I was so wrapped in fear that a threatening man would take the highest office in the US, I got lost in the fog and couldn’t see my worst fear materializing. I didn’t see it coming because I didn’t want to see it. Surely people would think the way I thought? I was so certain. But I knew, deep down inside, I could feel the tug in my mind–You’re not seeing the whole picture. But ignored it, I read every article in my favorite liberal papers, clicked hundreds of links, traded music for political podcasts, refreshed data feeds, played with charts and graphs and projections. Validate, validate, validate. I felt so informed, I knew what was going to happen! Look at me I just read a 10,000-word essay in the New Yorker. Oh, but I ignored George Saunders’ accurate portrayal of Trump supporters and thought those folks are just the fringe, the center will unify. Yay, I am a centrist!

I tried to talk to others about my concerns early on, I was worried we had a candidate that wouldn’t resonate. But then fell back into the liberal trap when I was convinced otherwise, it’s not her style, it’s not who she is, and she is competent. Don’t be sexist. Don’t compare her to Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Warren, that’s not fair. But I knew my candidate would suppress voter enthusiasm. And in the final stretch, in a bit of mania, or maybe a weird subconscious epiphany, I rushed around and made last minute calls to Florida and donated money to trump hate. Like all of us, I obsessively checked Nate Silver for comfort. And I think back to last week, I must’ve known something in my gut. But I kept telling everyone, oh look at this amazing chart, it’s so in the bag! Don’t worry we’re gonna win this. But why did I feel afraid?

And come on, I know better. I have worked to fight against corrupt corporate media and now I was consuming terabytes of information like a gluttonous information junkie. I wore out my eyes, got carpal tunnel from clicking and swiping, paid hundreds of dollars for data usage fees, but convinced myself it’s all worth it. What just happened? Ah the fog, the smoggy foggy lies, lulled me into their trap. Dammit.

So, today I will say, I have no answers. But maybe, just maybe, we need to find new ways to crack through the rhetoric on each side. I don’t know how yet or if it’s even plausible. I am not shirking or hiding or sulking. I am just scanning the landscape, still soaking this all in because I don’t ever want to repeat the same grievous mistake of believing in propaganda. For let’s call the media on both sides what it is, biased information created to push a certain political narrative. I was lulled into comfort by the drug of information and I’m on the worst come down ever. And I know what to do, I gotta cut off my pushers, reduce the mind control, and extract myself from a toxic situation.

But I have hope too. Again, I am not advocating a thing. Please take the time to figure out what you need to do for yourself. But on day one I unfollowed and unsubscribed from every mainstream media source that fed me spoonfuls of misinformation. Already it’s made a huge difference reducing the chatter in my social feeds, at best I feel cool that I’m not giving into clickbait. I am not going to analyze the whys and what’s of the data. I tried to listen to a podcast and lasted six minutes before feeling disillusioned. Without any thought to their own errors, they launched right back into the same punditry, trying to figure out the other side, who voted for Trump, their motivations, etc. etc. etc. They admitted the professionals were wrong, but then didn’t take responsibility for passing on the information from the same professionals. Had they learned nothing?!

So meanwhile, I plan to hang out with people in real life more often. I am going to rely on nature, art and family for solace. For me it’s a time of healing. I will fight too, but I am kinda over people screaming at me to speak out, accusing me that I’m complicit unless I start fighting right now! My whole life has been a fight, I’ve lived with racism and sexism for ages, so has my family. I am glad white liberals are wide awake, but trust me us brown folk knew that people want us gone, hate crimes are nothing new. Also, I have this feeling we don’t really know what we need to fight against specifically. Once I see the true battle lines drawn I will be ready to take my position to fight for moral justice. I will wait to see what organizations need donations after I assess needs. But right now, I am recharging. I do feel something is going to happen, something not so good but we don’t know what it is yet. I feel it in my bones. For whatever that means. Remember, I know nothing.