New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday of the year, full stop. An arbitrary demarcation that somehow has a cosmic-like pull on my psyche. In with the new, out with the old. Something inside me changes, I feel a spark, a little less weight. None of this real but it’s still true.
Maybe it started when I was younger, my family would gather around the television to watch the Rose Parade, half asleep in our pajamas. There was even one time in the mid-80’s when we all woke before the crack of dawn and drove to Pasadena only to find a tiny bit of cold cement to sit amongst the die-hards with their camping gear and folding chairs. Like a lot of immigrant families, we hadn’t amassed a trunk full of tailgating gear or organizational skills to scope out prime seating for a parade vaguely about college football.
I recall it was my idea for the family to trek to the parade at five in the morning. Sparked by my dad’s nostalgia, I had grown up with pictures of newlywed parents at the Rose Parade, they seemed so happy, so fresh in America that I had to recreate this feeling. It was a memorable morning, and to this day it was the only time we ever saw the floats made of roses, gladiolas, wheatgrass, marigolds, lilies, cornhusks, and seeds rolling down Colorado Ave. to the sounds of high school marching bands all within a few feet. There was always something so alluring about the Rose Parade and my father has always been in awe.
This is how it was in America, we built gorgeously impermanent structures of every type of plant material to ring in a new year, and it was amazing! In those days, we were a regular family of four, living in this country, with high hopes, innocence and a bit of simplicity.
I wanted to share about the past year before I let some of it evaporate into the ether. Yet I have re-written this post a few times in the past week. Something kept stalling me, I’d written thousands of words only to cut and paste them away into a google doc graveyard. My inner voice telling me that my thoughts were too dark, so tinged with cynicism and negativity, and maybe more useful as a journal entry rather than a narrative blog post. Sometimes I’d think, fine just go with the honesty, inside I am dark, and I took a lot of knocks in 2017. I am tired, a bit jaded, and confused. The messages haven’t coalesced, the movement is murky, and there is so much in-fighting. I can’t make sense of it all. I’m not sure if what I did, all the marching, sign making, protesting, organizing, and researching even mattered. As of yesterday, that’s where I stewed for weeks. Were any of my efforts worth the energy, investment of time, and money? And the dark forces rose up within and put a stranglehold on any connective thought that was worth sharing. For I am sure, we are all filled with some negative takeaways from 2017. So when I went to hit publish, I paused, the pessimism didn’t feel worthy of my experiences.
Because when I really sit with it all, I still believe in hope.
I know this word, hope, is so trampled upon. Synonymous with Obama’s face on a poster made by infamous by Shephard Fairey.
We are afraid to conjure hope, it was what screwed us up right? We hoped so much we were blinded, an opiate for the masses. We were so giddy, we just drank unicorn shakes and farted glitter.
And while our force field of hope was beaming to the high heavens we forgot our magical superpowers had a kryptonite-like Achilles heel. In our singing hosannas and prancing around, holding hands with our black, brown, white, mixed, gay, trans, old and young Democratic bubble-mates we didn’t see the orange monster creeping around the edges.
So he seeped in, the man that would change the world. We let him enter our homes as he fired away, and pointed, and yelled, looking for birth certificates and a secret Kenyan chain migrated family of shape-shifting lizards.
And then he won.
Our bodies writhed Charlton Heston-like and before us loomed a dust bowl of destruction as we landed on our knees screaming nooooo to the severed head of liberty.
And then we rose up.
I walked all over the streets in 2017. It was as if I needed this motion, my worn down boots pounding the pavement, one foot after another. Chugging along. Family crafting turned to minimally effective sign-making skills. Exacto knives, stencils, sharpie markers, thick paint pens, poster board, tape, and all matter of supplies filled the garage.
We weren’t gonna take it. That’s what I wanted my girl to know, and her friends too. They were all between 8-10 years old in 2017. An age when memories make an indelible mark, the sort of times we all recall in a haze but aren’t exactly sure what any of it meant. Iranian hostages, terror attacks in Beirut, the Gipper and his jellybeans, John Lennon died, religious people hated abortion, what was an abortion, what is inflation, and why is there no gas for the cars? I didn’t know then, but I do know.
My girl, she needs to know why in the future. It was okay that she didn’t get it all. But it was a messy year, taking her to protests didn’t often work out so well. As I was soaking in all the community, masses of people, signs, and outrage, she was overwhelmed. And then I began to see it from her vantage point, standing in between a sea of adults who she’d never seen so angry. So pissed about rape culture, sexism, racism, hate, bullying, destruction, and the end of the world.
It wasn’t gonna be all fidgit spinners and Pokemon Go anymore. And there were early days when my sponge of a child, who absorbs and processes like those canaries we all talk about in the dusty mines that still need to exist, simply said ENOUGH.
And yet, I persisted a word placed upon us like a totem for our righteous zeal. I marched, yelled, called, signed, and emailed. And when the slight whispers of MeToo wafted in the air, I couldn’t absorb it at first. It was all TooMuch. One the one hand I am swatting away sexist pig, nazi scum from my streets in San Francisco and Berkeley, and on the other, I was flooded by memories of sexism. The whip of inequality kept building each day. Revelations, chapter and verse, exposed so much pain.
Then I drove in a haze caused by a fury of fires, burning souls, and homes, wine countries and farms. And it collapsed me. I knew I had to turn inwards. Check in on my kid. Make cupcakes and feel gratitude for our home with filtered air and tightly sealed windows. Because she was right to wanna tap out.
And as we approached the year anniversary of The Election, I tuned into voices that were saying what was hard to admit. The Resistance kept us in the shadow of the orange man. It left no space to think outside the pull of his existence. His livelihood insists upon perpetuating a decline. And I wasn’t going to let my family slide into this darkness. I had to find to find a way to monkey-wrench my way out of the twisted up narratives.
So it became a slow puttering fall into a fattened up holiday season. I tip-toed here and there. My swords crossed a few times as more men fell down the swirl. I wasn’t happy about much but I was hopeful that I could remain honest.
Honestly, I am not sure if the choices I made were all that great. Maybe I screamed too much about oppression and white supremacy. Perhaps I became repellant. I wasn’t living rooted in hope, inter-connectedness, the idea we do have blue states and red states but we all believe in the union of these states. And states of mind and theories all of these are formed to live in some sort of messy soup bowl of unison.
There was a man who said these things, and he left behind a legacy of hopeful youth I tuned into each week. Crooked Media was a continuation of the idea that not everything is a deeply twisted nest of 5-dimensional chess. These bros counteracted the cynical, pessimistic, angry, lonely testosteronic grumbly naysaying bros that crunched my forehead and left me no place to turn. All they say, it’s rigged, rigged, rigged, a pile of junk, all diseased and hypocritical and full of shitheads and fuck this and that and HER. It’s HER fault, she sucked, sucked, sucked. So what are they asking me to do now?
Some things are simply right in front of us. Telling us what they were going to do all along. We get out the word. We sign people up. If we pay more attention than others, great, spread a bit of good knowledge to others who don’t. Not because they’re apathetic, do-nothings but maybe because they’re trying to live, to make it, pay bills, or don’t know how. If you do know how, teach others.
And that is the hope, I can do this. It feels better to reach across, yes to my white friends, and immigrant family. To an independent or a third party enthusiast. Do it, build more parties, I am so down. I will be there to help. But you can’t build from the top, roots begin in the ground, foundational supports, rebar, flexible two-by-fours of diplomacy and taking in all sides, yes all sides.
It took me all week to write this year out, it doesn’t make a thread, it’s a messy tangle and I love it. I adore the mish-mash, mixed tape of so many voices and ideas. That is what our side has, we are not one big tent, suffocating dissent, beating down voices into a single tone-deaf khakied monolith that is crumbling away like a shortbread cookie left over from Christmas. Oh, and don’t you dare tell me about the war.
My dad, he still watches the Rose Parade on TV. Today I sat with him on the phone for over an hour while we patiently sifted through the equestrian pride, and flowers, and City of Hope float, dangling pandas, and synchronized bands with glimmering flags. He kept thinking we missed the float, he was so worried it passed him by. No dad, hang on it’s coming, I promise, they did it again this year. And then it came on screen and I was filled with pride. I really did feel like a full circle of my shared experience here in California, and I pulled my daughter in and we watched together. To see us, a float with turbans, phulkari dupattas, langar, towers from the Golden Temple adorn the phrase “Serving Kindness” did me right. It took me all day, to connect to all that happened in this mixed up year. But we are the hope right here. My family, we can live here, we are proud to organize huge weddings and then go to our jobs in cubicles or peach orchards.
It’s right here and not that hard to see as I live it. This is what I needed, a day in my house, a place for the first time in my adult life I don’t actually want to leave. For I have finally made a space filled for my family’s comfort, a lair of books, food, a bubbling pot of Thai noodle soup, leftover candy, a drying Christmas Tree.
I finally bought table mats, and cloth napkins for the holidays that tuck into little golden rings and I am filled with hope for 2018.