Accepting the messiness of 2017

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.



Focusing and Deepening Political Clarity

Yesterday, I flipped my whole schedule around and ditched my family for seven hours to attend a one-day conference sponsored by the Center for Political Education. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was the right way to spend my Saturday but I knew a few things; 1. I had to get away from soaking in politics only from screens, and 2. that my hesitation was rooted in fear, and 3. my family would be totally fine without me (update: they survived).

I hadn’t heard of any of the speakers but when I read Linda Burham’s notes on the election I was motivated to attend, sending flying kisses to my daughter as I rushed out with a randomly packed bag of snacks, pen, and a notebook. Since the Election of 2016, I’ve been trying my best to hunt down new voices, new sources of information, history, guidance, and inspiration. This doesn’t mean reading conservative news outlets, buddying up with Trump voters or researching conservative think tanks. Rather, I’ve been trying to follow the trail of those who weren’t shocked by what happened, who were paying attention and had seen the signs. What I’m learning in the past few months, was there were a lot of people screaming in the woods about the oncoming backlash and groundwork for Trump’s ascendency. I somewhat heard their faint calls and would think; “Naa, did I hear that? Hmm, must’ve been my imagination. All is fine.” I encourage you to read Burham’s full notes but the conclusion she came to in May 2016 was this:

The U.S. left is not strong enough – not nearly strong enough – to frame its own choices. Every choice that is framed for us by the center and the right will be agonizingly difficult. The key issue is whether the choices we make create the possibility to build our strength and move in the direction of a coherent strategy, or further weaken and marginalize our already fragmented and debilitated forces.

The conference was held at UC Berkeley and I’ve always had a Dead Poet’s Society-like nostalgia about being a college student on such a campus but on days like this, I also feel free to teach myself, whenever and however I want! I walked briskly, filled with purpose, without motherly guilt, and ready to deepen my political clarity. I went alone, only knowing one person who I’d met briefly while campaigning for police reform in Oakland. And I felt proud to push myself to fill my brain with new ideas, fully open-minded to listen intently and to LISTEN HARD.


The lecture hall was packed, CPE said that they had twice as many attendees as expected, portending the enthusiasm for a movement forming right before us. The keynote opened with a reminder that UC Berkeley was built on sacred Ohlone burial grounds. Then we were asked to stand and participate in a traditional Ohlone blessing to the seven directions and asked to invoke the name of our ancestors, children, women, men in our lives and honor the heavens above, the earth below and the energy that connects us all. And just like that, the whole day was framed with poignancy and history that grounded us.

Linda Burham opened with a keynote that focused on short-term and long-term arcs of history. As soon as her full speech is made available I will post it because it was filled with so much detail, history and analysis I need to watch it again. It was clear she could’ve spoken for hours, and we all would’ve sat in rapt attention. Linda opened with a poem by June Jordan, a poet I had never heard of before but was honored she was brought into the room. Here is an excerpt (slightly paraphrased) of what was read from Jordan’s book “From Sea to Shining Sea”, published in 1982:

This was not a good time to be married.

This was not a good time to buy a house at 18% interest.

This was not a good time to rent housing on a completely decontrolled rental market.

This was not a good time to be a Jew when the national Klan agenda targets Jews as well as Blacks among its enemies of the purity of the people

This was not a good time to be a tree

This was not a good time to be a river

This was not a good time to be found with a gun

This was not a good time to be found without one

This was not a good time to be gay

This was not a good time to be Black

This was not a good time to be a pomegranate or an orange

This was not a good time to be against the natural order


This is not such a hot time for you or for me

I post these words to illustrate one refrain I heard over and over again. Trump is not new. We’ve seen this before. Linda said, “We are troubled and in trouble. But if you woke up shocked after the election you weren’t paying attention.” I was home, this is what I wanted to understand, the historical context and hidden agendas that had been in play for decades. She also tempered her speech by saying she didn’t have answers and went so far to suggest that “anybody with ready-made answers is possibly a charlatan.” Lately, I’ve heard from so many that want answers, easy fixes, a clear plan, one that doesn’t involve protesting, or direct engagement and to hear long-time activists without answers was at the same time humbling and uncomfortable. Despite the lack of clear solutions, I still believe it’s important to research in order to create new strategies because it feels like we’re on the cusp of creating a newly reformed leftist, progressive movement. At least this is the hope, that a center-left coalition based mass movement that is inclusive of many perspectives, with an agenda that is formed from the ground up will fill the current void. I have glimmers of cautious optimism this will happen and agree that anybody with easy, ready-made solutions for progress should be met with scrutiny.

About halfway though a funny thing happened, I started to lose my confidence and sense of purpose. Listening to the panelists, diving into a very deep pool of experience, knowledge and different points of view than I was used to hearing started to erode my groundedness. I sat alone, eating my smashed, almond butter and grape jelly sandwich and watched groups of people hugging, interacting, chatting, and it became obvious that many had crossed paths before. Instantly, I felt alienated, alone and intimidated and of course, I went for my digital security blanket and posted an honest (maybe pathetic) little screed about how I wished I hadn’t squandered my calling. And it’s true, all I could feel was a deep sense of regret that I hadn’t figured out a way to work for organizations that had been leading the fight for social justice and human rights when I was much younger and more energized. I kept kicking myself, thinking how much further I’d be in my journey if I had the confidence to stick with my convictions. I felt a longing for the activated, captivated youth that I remembered before I went down a path of self-destruction (don’t worry, more essays to come about this personal story).


But being alone, also forced me to re-write notes and condense my thoughts in the moment, and I felt disciplined, like a hungry student. So here are my lightbulb moments, written at a break before the final wrap-up, scrawled with a pen running out of ink, in no particular order and based on what I heard after six hours of panels and lectures:

  1. We must move past the “liberal panic over identity politics” and understand the delusion of the master. The Election of 2016 was not a response to counter identity politics, rather a culmination of a 40-year strategy to regain white supremacy (i.e Paul Manafort began his Southern Strategy with Reagan’s campaign). It was a fairly predictable backlash to changing demographics.
  2. The false of idea of “choice” (health care, charter schools, opting out of Unions) perpetuates neoliberalism and diminishes collectivism and protection for all citizens. (Neoliberalism defined as making markets where markets didn’t exist before or moving from centralized governmental agencies to privatization).
  3. We must rebuild the left, learn from the lessons of 2016 that exposed flaws in our system. We are working on new terrain that is not in our control. The weakened left must rebuild a broad base of radicals, moderates, and corporatist liberals to form a strong electoral strategy and not continue to cede voters to the powerful Conservative movement. Currently, the left is bereft of an electoral strategy. However, finding common cause is the most effective weapon against fascism.
  4. Neoliberal and capitalistic policies that were allowed to take root under the Democrats will now be exploited by Trump’s amped up repressive form of conservatism on steroids.
  5. There is a deep concern for the protection of free speech, and the personal safety of protesters as the police will be empowered to use their military-style weapons. We must prepare for the worst and at the same time, we must not let our “revolutionary imagination” become subdued (an example of how dialectal thinking is necessary).
  6. Bernie and his supporters created a beachhead for progressive ideas but right now his platform is weak and it’s Achilles heel is his reliance on race and gender neutral messages that didn’t create a coalition until Black Lives Matter activists pushed him into this arena. However, there is an opportunity to build this coalition and tap into the energy generated by his supporters. No progressive political movement can succeed unless the struggle of people of color is central.
  7. Trump is not new. We are experiencing the backlash that has historical reference. The black struggle for freedom had always inspired other disenfranchised groups to fight for their rights and this combined movement always sparked a backlash. The white activist movement coalesced around mobilizing resentments of the white working class as they have in the first and second reformations. They also exploited the fears of inevitable demographic shifts. We are on the eve of a third reformation (ie. Rev. Barber’s Moral Monday’s movement).

Here is a bunch of additional research to dive deeper as a self-directed student of the movement, and in my opinion, it’s utterly crucial to understand terms that are flying around and become deeply rooted in history. The more I learn, I am simultaneously freaked out and also comforted by the similar patterns that have always existed.

Terms and theories to research further:

  1. Neoliberal multi-culturalism
  2. Internationalism
  3. Collectivism
  4. Fascism
  5. 1st and 2nd reformations
  6. Dialectics
  7. Community defense organizations
  8. Trump’s “New Deal for Black America”

Books, papers and authors/poets mentioned:

  1. June Jordon
  2. Adrienne Rich
  3. Audre Lorde
  4. “Mobilizing Resentment” 
  5. “The Soul of Black Fok” W.E.B Du Bois
  6. Frederick Douglass, particularly his comments on Lincoln’s election
  7. Princeton paper that proves the US is an Oligarchy and no longer a Democracy
  8. Reverend Barber’s New Year’s Eve message (2017)

Well, my brain is full. I have a busy week ahead and am on my to Washington DC, pussyhat and signs in hand. I’m doing all of this to remain inspired, energized, not give into liberal malaise or discomfort. I’d aspire to be committed, hopeful, positive and thoughtful in my approach. This will require more balance, discipline, and dedication. I may complain, feel isolated or intimidated, but I know those are just fleeting feelings, they will pass. Sometimes those feelings are a message as well. But I know I’m tapping into an energy ball of light and I won’t let that flame flicker out to darkness.

This essay is a part of the writing challenge called #52Essaysin2017 and my continuing series called Dismantling. These are my thoughts, opinions, and ideas about politics, activism, community organizing and family. Please join me on my journey. 





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.



10 obsessive questions I ask myself when I have political discussions

political postsI have what some consider a nasty habit, one I’ve had all of my adult life. I love to discuss politics–in any forum, on social media, in person, on the phone, at protests, yelling out my car window, wherever I can. Oh, it’s horrific. I’ve tried to reduce political posts on Facebook in recent years because I can almost see the eye rolls. I’ve also read posts from friends who express their annoyance or frustration when anyone shares opinions about politics. Since I’m a people pleaser, and I obsess over what others think of me I’ve tried to tone it down as much as humanly possible for a self-professed political junkie. But now that I’ve been defriended a few times for posting political opinions, I’ve decided to go outside of my comfort zone and try to worry less about pleasing everyone–it’s simultaneously liberating and scary.

Here’s some background about me, discussing politics is a large part of who I am today. I dislike blaming others for my problems, but it’s my dad’s fault I’m so politically opinionated. I recall when I was about 12 I attempted to read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” thinking it was a book for kids. When my dad found out, he taught me about satire, totalitarianism, and communism, and it was the start of many such conversations. Kind of cool, orrr maybe it’s the source of my troubles? I realized early on that my dad opened up, and he was impressed with my curiosity, so we both fed into each other’s need for acceptance. Since then we’ve rambled on and debated politics, for lengthy periods of time, sometimes in loud voices taking up space in the living room. We’ve been yelled at by the rest of the family to shut up, and they’ve expressed that we seem exclusionary and elitist.

Nearly 30 years later, my dad and I still discuss politics but with less comfort and openness as we once had since the constant criticism has put a damper on our enthusiasm. We talk outside in his beautiful garden, or we discuss the news on the phone, but the energy of the past is gone. It’s a sad loss. But we’ve made a pact that nobody will ever fully stop us from being engaged in political affairs, current events, literature, philosophy, and sociology because we gain enjoyment from discussing these topics.

But lately, I’ve become sensitive, overly-concerned, and I judge myself more harshly than ever before when I express an opinion. Here are some of the obsessive questions I ask myself when discussing politics in person or online:

1. Who in the hell do I think I am?

My credibility is one of my most over-riding concerns, really I have no formal expertise or profession to discuss politics. I agree with this on face value, I’m not an academic or journalist. But I do like to state my opinions and I work hard to be sure they are well-thought-out with research and evidence to support my claim. Admittedly, I read so-called liberal publications, and my points can be progressive, somewhat activist, strange, and off-center, so I’m sure I annoy a lot of people. Sorry, that is not my intent, and I realize that this reaction is a result of our bifurcated society. I also admit that living in The Bay Area has an influence on my world-view, but that doesn’t make my opinions invalid. When the illustrious Sarah Palin came on the scene, I remember thinking if she can go around blabbing about whatever she feels like without any evidence, I shouldn’t feel so worried, at least my viewpoints are intelligent and well-informed. Not that I’m hoping to emulate her but in a weird way I do admire her “you betcha” tenacity. Okay, she is not a very high bar to reach, but you get the point. I just notice others display a delusional amount of self-confidence when stating a position, so why can’t I? I know, my people-pleasing streak is showing, I got to get over it.

2. What if I get negative feedback?

I wish I could understand how people arm themselves against feeling vulnerable when posting opinions or making really strong statements, especially online. I should be ready for questions or disagreements, and so far I do take them seriously and try to respond with respect. But it’s super uncomfortable at times, and when people disagree I feel stupid and self-centered, again I have to learn to get over it. But no matter what, I should expect backlash and disagreement as I become more outspoken about political viewpoints. For example, recently Nicholas Kristoff from The New York Times posted a strong statement about the Republican presidential debates:
He had so much opposition to his concerns about vaccines that he was compelled to respond to readers by posting this article as scientific proof that they are safe.


Guess what? He still received comment after comment arguing against vaccination, accusing him of being misinformed, asking him to look at another side and many posted articles that proved their points too. So even the best get this backlash to a position they stand by, so I suppose I could take some solace that this is expected. I don’t think I will ever get over the discomfort, but perhaps I can take more time writing extremely well thought out posts, clearly state my position and then resist responding right away.

3. How do I know I’m posting or stating accurate information?

Accuracy is a tough subject because there is so much information that can be misconstrued to prove any side of a debate. I try to stick to reputable publications, but I’m well aware The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Economist, The Guardian, and the BBC, all have their political slants. Even so-called bi-partisan organizations such as Pew Research still operate within a defined set of beliefs and bias. It just so happens I feel most comfortable with the general position of these media outlets, but if I can find source material, I will use it instead. I’m also fully aware that these media sources can be disproven and they’ve all had scandals surrounding inaccurate articles. But to function and have some semblance of sanity, I have to have a basic trust in the news, and at the same time read it with a grain of salt. And I know that lobbying groups distribute press releases to these organizations projecting their self-interests in articles. Again, all these factors are a huge constraint because it has become increasingly difficult to read untainted information. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, I may be spreading untruths but I hope to be the first to point it out and I will always own up to it.

4. What is my motivation for posting a political statement?

I struggle with this as well, am I posting my position to make a point, or convince people to change their minds? Sometimes I may be doing this, such as with issues surrounding climate change, women’s health and gun control. At the same time, I know that I’m unlikely to make an impact with those who have strong beliefs. However, many people’s positions on issues fall in the middle, and some haven’t formed an opinion. So, despite all my intentions to share information for the sake of discussion, I admit that I do hope to influence or inform someone. At the very least, it would be fun to have a healthy dialogue that is not peppered with hateful criticism and false judgments.

5. Why should I care, it’s not like I can make a difference?

Yeah, I can take on this apathetic point of view from time to time. I don’t see much point in discussing every issue, or fighting for every cause. Certainly, it seems that the powers that be are doing what they want with little input from society. But every once in a while I do see glimpses of change, and I totally fall for it time and again. There is something to be said about the democratic process, call me a Pollyanna, but I believe in the power of the people!

6. Am I a pretentious and entitled liberal latte?

I have been accused of this over the years and, in theory, I try to “own it” as friends have suggested. But, I was just called a stuck-up yuppie, so maybe I should take heed? Or develop a thick skin? I can see that I may come off as an entitled, bleeding- heart liberal. And I’ve noticed that the progressive point-of-view is going out of favor and becoming outdated even in the liberal bastion of San Francisco. So maybe one of my goals could be to refine my positions based on what super cool millennials or even libertarians believe. I do try to listen to other ideas, and it’s a challenge to change completely, but I’m open to trying. Some of my viewpoints have changed as I’ve gotten older. At any rate, I hate lattes they have too much milk, I prefer hipster cold-brew coffee, low ice, with a splash of unsweetened organic almond milk. Yes, please!

7. Should I just get over it and post cat videos all day?

It’s hard to accept that perhaps I should consider eliminating all political discussion online. Honestly, a sort of malaise sets over me when I consider this approach. And I do feel like such an outsider, alone in my liberal, hipster garage in Oakland writing pretentious literary and political posts. I know my close friends will try to support, but they will burn out too. I notice I get more likes on Facebook when I post pictures of my coffee or a cute quote by my daughter than one of my long blabby blog posts (like this one). I wish I could be more neutral. I do post silly memes and the latest hip-hop dance craze, and I find it funny too, I’m not being fake. I do have a sense of humor. I swear, really I do! But maybe I should keep this in mind,

You have to remember one thing about the will of the people: it wasn’t that long ago that we were swept away by the Macarena. –Jon Stewart

I guess it’s true, about all we can agree upon now is ironic posts of TV shows and kitty cat videos. Yay kitty cat videos, nobody ever gets mad at me for posting Dance Kitty Cat. Dance, I’m a kitty cat, and I dance, dance, dance.

8. Really, maybe I should think about shutting up for once in my life?

I do think it’s probably better to keep quiet and post mundane items on Facebook even though there is so much happening in the world. As I’ve become more openly political again, I already feel a little drained by the conversations. I still feel this need to explain my positions in a way that doesn’t offend, but somehow I still do! I always obsess about other people’s feelings and have lost hours of sleep over a comment or a post. This conflict is insane for someone as loud-mouthed as me, and I do live with constant inner turmoil. It’s awesome!! But I do believe that political dialogue is a crucial activity for a functioning Democracy. As Plato says (and yeah screw it, call me snooty),

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.

9. Am I well-informed or am I an out of touch, intellectual snooty-pants?

It’s difficult for me to stay out of a political conversation for long. Sooner or later I will see or hear something, and my curiosity will get the best of me. I learned from my father early on that those in power want to stifle our voices, quell our passionate discourse, keep us muted because it makes it easier for them to govern without our involvement. Yes, politics seems more confusing and divisive than ever, but this is done on purpose to promote disengagement. For example, a common accusation is sounding too academic or “professorial” (an insult hurled at Obama), or stuck-up, or holier than thou. These are all tactics to quiet people who have an opinion, to discredit those who are trying to speak out.
Also, it’s easy to point out that elitism is separate from populist sentiment and that being well-informed, well-read, and educated is not compatible with the ideals of the general public. I disagree wholeheartedly, one of the benefits of the Internet is the availability of information to a broader public, now we can access what was once only available to those in the ivory towers. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time to read one article, or search for some background to be engaged, or as informed as only the elite once were. No wonder political leaders want to keep us divided!

10. Maybe people don’t want to express their opinions as openly as I do? 

I do understand that not everyone likes to be open or feels comfortable expressing a strong opinion. I think it does take a little bravery, slight egotism and desire to engage. Some of my friends have admitted they dislike discussing politics because they don’t feel fully informed. Again, it’s not about being perfectly accurate, and sometimes clarity can come through discussion. Sometimes, in the midst of a heated debate I might not let someone get a word in edgewise, but it’s okay to interrupt sometimes! Anyhow, everyone has their weaknesses, and I’m always working on my listening skills. On the other hand, I do wish people would try not to feel bothered when anyone posts articles, quotes, or posts their own opinions. My hope is that everyone tries to take the time and engage in political discussion a little more, even if it is scary. I swear it can be a lot of fun, and it maybe change the way you see the world around you or inspire you to act, or learn a new history or point-of-view. Isn’t this a good thing?

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