Another List

 

IMG_0713.jpgI have to renew my passport before I go to Australia this December. I got this one in 2007 so I could go on a cruise with my family and it expires next July. I know they are going to send it back to me. I know I have enough time to get it renewed before I leave. I know that my next passport could, one day, be just as well stamped and stickered, just as worn and worldly around the edges. It might even be more so.

But there’s something disconcerting about it, something unnerving about the timing. I’m at a place in my life where I’m set for the foreseeable future. I have an apartment, a job in a field I’m looking to stick with, a city I’d like to get to know better. And I’m handing over this document, with its student visa for the UK, it’s visitor’s visa for India, it’s stamps from Italy and Ireland, Serbia and Greece. This is the passport that was on the train with me when I got hustled in Slovakia, when I missed my flight in France. This is the passport I used to get back from Rome when an Icelandic volcano grounded me. This passport took me to Australia for the first time after my parents moved.

I know the next one is going to take me to Australia too. I know that it can take me so many other places, that even though I’m no longer a student, I can make my own opportunities, take my own trips. If I actually get my finances under control, I could start building my new collage next year. I know this. I do.

……………………

My roommate has decided that this is the week to start having loud conversations on the phone after eleven at night, while simultaneously watching TV at top volume. So it’s been taking me longer than I’d like to fall asleep. An unusual complaint for me, to know what is keeping me awake at night, for that something to be outside my own mind.

I don’t particularly want to live here anymore, but I really don’t want to move. I don’t hate my commute, and my apartment itself is beautiful. I have one really nice roommate and one really terrible one. But I don’t really see myself staying here forever. I don’t feel like I can settle into this place. I don’t know if it’s the cold war hostilities or if it’s me. Is it me? Am I looking for something I’m not prepared to find yet?

……………………..

I haven’t listened to Kings of Leon in a long time. The last time I listened to them with any kind of intensity was while I was freewheeling my way across Europe on night trains, using their intensity to block out the ambient noises around me. But they popped up on Spotify today and I remembered just how much I loved them. How I waited in the rain on Governor’s Island to see them while Feist called Poseidon down on our heads and got the whole concert canceled for fear of electrocution. Cold wet and covered with mud, dehydrated and exhausted and so very alive.

…………………….

You can all tell how invested I am in this election, in doing everything I can to make sure that Hillary Clinton gets elected. It’s the number one thing keeping me up at night. It’s pretty much all consuming. And yet, still, every time I get a DNC email with a subject line like “WE’RE SCREWED!” My first thought is always “oh my god, no you’re not, simmer down…”

………………………

I need to go to the dry cleaner. I need to stop eating so much pasta. I need to buy rain boots. My liquor store has a terrible wine selection. I need to write my book.

 

Photo credit: Me, proving to my parents that I had my passport as I made my way to Australia. Yes, I was 26. Yes, I would probably make you text me a picture of your passport too.

Advertisements

Maybe you’re an idiot, but I am also an idiot

election-donkeyhotey_large

Yesterday I got into an argument on Facebook. Which is never a promising way to start any sentence. This particular argument was related to the current election and I wasn’t the only one engaging with our adversary, but I was the only one to call this person an idiot.

This is something that I am neither proud of nor ashamed of. This person was in fact, being an idiot – they disregarded facts, did not listen to or acknowledge any points based on facts, and effectively said that EL James’ 50 Shades of Grey did not represent an abusive relationship because it was a best seller. There are many people I know who would say I was perfectly within my right to call this person an idiot. And I must say, it felt good.

But as good as it felt, if there’s one thing I think we call all agree on as a species, it’s that getting called stupid or an idiot or whatever really sucks. Instead of making us look at our life and look at our choices, being called an idiot usually makes us retreat further into our schools of thought, making us stew in self-righteous anger, being all moody and misunderstood.

No matter my feelings in the moment, I should probably have spent more time imagining this person complexly. Who knows exactly how they came to their way of thinking, but that doesn’t really matter. They are perfectly entitled to their opinion. And if I truly believe that they are fundamentally wrong, there are better ways to change people’s minds.

One of the most interesting pieces I read in 2015 was an article in The New Yorker about a women, Megan Phelps-Roper, who was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church and ran social media for the church, and how that lead to her questioning her beliefs and everything Westboro stands. While she spent her time tweeting things that made people cringe, she eventually came in contact with a Jewish web-developer named David Abitbol, who goes by the twitter handle @jewlicious. Though they would spend hours debating online, they enjoyed their back and forth, Roper-Phelps even admitting she liked that he was friendly.

Abitbol says in the article that he learned that relating to hateful people on a human level was the best way to deal with them. As Roper-Phelps continued to tweet her views, Abitbol politely countered her them, making himself as approachable as possible in order to humanize himself to her. His plan worked and he eventually changed her mind on some of Westboro’s most important doctrines. Her interactions with him led to her meeting others online who challenged her ways of thinking and eventually she left the church.

Now this of course took years. Roper-Phelps wasn’t convinced her previous way of thinking was wrong after just one interaction online. She had to chip away at it and she had to be open enough to believe there were other people out there that were good and held different opinions than hers. But without the compassion that some of her adversaries had for her, she may never have changed her mind.

I’m not saying that there was ever a way I could’ve reasoned with this person, especially on Facebook. And not everyone can change their minds. But it was a good reminder that change starts at the bottom, and it starts with us treating each other as people. Maybe not good people…but people nonetheless. It’s what this election is all about; the complexity of our systems and the complexity of ourselves.

So on November 8th, no matter what you think or believe, you should vote. Because people died to give you the right to vote and that goes for all of us idiots too.

If you’re interested in reading the article I mentioned, you can find it here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/conversion-via-twitter-westboro-baptist-church-megan-phelps-roper

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/6262122778

I’m With Her, the Learning Curve Edition

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 7.51.05 PM.pngscreen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-51-16-pmMy bone deep terror in the face of the 2016 election boggles even me. I keep thinking of all these things I want to do – actually finish a novel, for example, and then the fear takes over. How do you create art in a world where Trump can be elected president? (I’m serious…these are things my brain does) It all came to a bit of a head, however, on Saturday night when I was trying to watch the Kingsman with Kelly and Taekia. I made them pause it twice because I was too distressed about the possibility of a Trump presidency to a) focus on the movie or b) let them stop discussing it with me.

Over the course of the conversation I could see Taekia working up to something, putting an argument into place before she said it, but I’m so very, very glad she did.

“It’s a kind of privilege, though, isn’t it? That kind of fear?”

Everything clicked into place then, so easily that I’m ashamed I didn’t realize this before. Everything about this fear comes from a place of privilege.

Let’s be honest. The foundation of my belief in politics comes from the West Wing, which is a show about optimism and possibility and the belief that government can be a force for good in the world. It’s an extremely flawed vision. Intellectually, I’m aware of this, but emotionally, unconsciously? Not so much. Trump has revealed that foundation to be unstable at best, rotten at worst, and the naïve part of my gut figured that if we could elect Hillary Clinton instead, we could dismiss Trump as a fluke.

But the genie will not go back in his bottle. The reality of a Trump presidency that I fear – the codified bigotry, the economic and environmental disaster, the gutting of public education, the violence, the police state – these are realities for so many people who live in our country, whose very existence is at the whims of current power structure that benefits me as much as it benefits so many people who support Trump. Just look at Flint, at Little Rock, at Charlotte and Tulsa. It’s an emotional, social, physical reality I’m only beginning to realize how much I don’t and can’t understand, even as I do my best to learn about it, to acknowledge it, to work to eradicate it.

Hillary Clinton, even as president, cannot fix this. No one person can, no matter what position of power they have. And Hillary Clinton herself is flawed, and votes and her support for past policies have grievously helped to uphold the systemic injustices that our country is riddled with. Given the state of things, I understand the impulse to burn it down. As Taekia stated so astutely later in that same conversation, this system we have, this unfinished symphony, was written by racist, sexist white men. And I can see the hopelessness that makes people think we can’t get from here to a much better there.

I have to start building a new foundation. That’s my job, the intellectual work that I have to keep doing. I have to read more widely, listen more carefully. An uncomplicated belief in possibility is as dangerous as an uncomplicated nostalgia. So let’s start at the beginning with a few things I’m surer of than others.

  1. No one, and I mean no one’s lives will be better under a Trump presidency.
  2. As tempting as the scorched earth approach might be, and I’m only starting to understand how tempting that is, I don’t believe we’re going to get there any faster that way. In fact, I think we might get there more slowly.
  3. If we’re heading toward a revolution of some kind, and I sincerely hope that we are, the politician I want in the oval office is one who has demonstrated an ability to listen to and respond to criticism. Hillary Clinton is not perfect, and she has policies and practices that make me very nervous (examples include but are not limited to the way pragmatism turns to compromise and any policy towards Israel that isn’t OH MY GOD STOP) but never have I seen a politician with such a beautiful learning curve. Nor a politician whose continued work to understand the nuances of our country, of race and gender and economics, go unnoticed and unappreciated. If we’re taking to the streets, I want someone who is going to read the signs and listen to the chants, and then act on that knowledge.
  4. We can’t change the world by electing a president. Every four to eight years we have this dumb Green Party/Libertarian Party conversation where two new presidential candidates will pop out of the wood work, talking about bucking the system and then go away. You want more than two parties? Great, so do I. You want revolutionize the system? Me too! But we can’t do that every four years or every eight years. We have to do that every day.Do you know who your city council members are? Your state representatives? Do you vote in the midterms and the primaries and the school board elections? Do you show up at Town Halls even if there is absolutely no chance you’re going to meet Obama? I don’t, but I’m going to start.

The president is important, and I firmly believe that our country is going to be a better place if we elect Hillary Clinton than if we don’t. And I also firmly believe that is the question that we should try to be answering when we go to the polls. So I’m proud to say that I’m unequivocally, enthusiastically with her.

I hope we show up on November 8th to vote for her, to give ourselves a chance to start to rebuild after this madness, to make things better going forward – not just incrementally, but revolutionarily. But more importantly, I hope you show up on November 9th too.

 

Image source – Texts from Hillary is, yes, a little droll for the topic of this posts, but how could I possibly resist?