Politics At The Bar.

It’s been said that you should never talk politics at the bar, but it happens.  And when it does, the words that fall out of mouths can challenge friendships, patience and perspectives.  In my little town, with it’s individualist spitfire personalities, the politics can get heated pretty quickly.  Small towns are funny, you become a community, regardless of that fact that you may never actually be friends.  Your world becomes full of friendly acquaintances, and at times a surprising tolerance for disagreement.  This town runs the gamut of social and political ideologies, so conversations can become interesting, especially at the bar.

As I occasionally do, I stopped to have a beer with a friend after work.  He was already there, chatting with a mutual acquaintance.  An acquaintance I’ve had issues with before, particularly over racism.  I don’t even remember if they were talking politics when I walked in, or if something else brought it up later, but there we were, talking politics at the bar.

Somewhere in the midst of that conversation, laced as it was, with the double standards and contradictions that tend to make up so much of people’s political discussions, I heard, “…well, that’s just not American.”

My brain stopped.

It’s not as though I’ve never heard the sentiment before, but this time I was struck by the absurdity of the idea of a singular American identity, or the idea that a national persona can’t evolve.

While I made the wise decision to keep my mouth shut, and just listen, the notion stuck with me.  To this day, when I hear people say, ‘that’s just not American’, I wonder, what the fuck does that even mean?

America when?

Who’s America?

Do conservatives, with their rebel flags and their ‘don’t tread on me’ tattoos, with their clinging to the legends of the past, hold a monopoly on ‘Americanism’?  Gads, I hope not.

America, in it’s short history has changed and evolved so much.  We won our independence.  We conquered the wilds of the west.  We laid the foundation for a new form of governance, tho many were excluded.  We fought a civil war, cementing power with the bureaucrats and industry leaders of the north.  We struggled, are still struggling to raise ourselves above the specter of racism.  We fought for suffrage, but on some fronts still fight for equality.  We survived a great depression, and emerged with regulations in place to prevent another such catastrophe, and a New Deal to help with the rebuilding.  We took on the bosses and lawyers and challenged our treatment as throw-away workers.  We discovered LSD and rock and roll.  We fought in Europe, we fought in ’Nam, we fought in Korea, and still we fight in the middle east under the guise of freedom and sovereignty, while each side here at home tries to control the other.  We’ve worked in cooperation with other nations of the world in our effort to create better global realities.  We’ve worked so hard to cultivate compassion and acceptance of one another’s otherness, be it religious, ethnic or sexual.

And, now…

It feels like we’re falling backwards.  That golden age of the ’50’s that conservatives seem to constantly harken back to is a mirage, and efforts at revival are a farce.  We don’t get the jobs, the prosperity and the pride back.  We don’t all get a 2 car garage and cottage on the lake.  We don’t get  American made products.  We don’t get poodle skirts or Elvis.  What we do get is this rising nationalist movement with it’s racism, misogyny and religious zeal.  What we do get is an elite class who shape the laws to favor themselves.  What we do get is us playing into the hands of our rulers, battling one another, while they walk away with all of the prizes.

 

So, what the hell does it mean to be an American in this diverse, topsy-turvy America of today?

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The Disappearing Place.

I thought I’d be here forever, even though I’d arrived rather late.  Most people find this place at the beginning of their second decade.  I was nearly halfway through my third.  It worked though. I was young at heart and my semi-transient life and lack of any major responsibilities was testament to that.  That may make me sound frivolous and undisciplined, but I assure you I curated my life according to my need to be un-tethered, and it was good, if often without direction.

Yet, transience can become tiring, and an un-tethered life can leave you feeling ungrounded.  In time, despite having eschewed the conventional ideals of success, I slowly gravitated toward that universal desire to settle down and have a home.  To put down roots.  To plant a garden.   On a deeper level, I suppose it also included a desire for security and an urge to belong somewhere, to be part of a place and a people.  I mean, really, who doesn’t want that feeling of inclusion and belonging?

I thought I’d found that here, in this postcard place.  This bucket list place.  A wild place of oceans and mountains and independent spirits.  A place of such beauty that it stirred my soul every single day.  It provided a reprieve from our strip mall culture of haste and need.  A reprieve from a culture constantly in search of some novelty to allay the boredom.  Yet again, in time, that seeming idyll began to unravel.  Not through any catastrophic event, but at the peak of my success.

Over time, the defining elements of my life here began to shift.  My jobs changed, pulling me from that whiskey-lubed nightlife scene that made everyone feel like friends.  Honestly, I was glad.  I felt I wore that persona a little more sloppily every year.  Even to the point of embarrassment at times.  Additionally, a few of my closest friends moved on to pursue lives in other places.  A few others simply drifted away as my amusement value declined.  The illusion of being friends with everyone began to fade, and once again I realized that I was really just surrounded by acquaintances.  By friends of friends.  People I knew only by familiarity of face.  Friendly acquaintances with whom the entirety of connection lay in a mutual friend, now absent or unconcerned.  I began to realize that too many of those people not only didn’t give a shit about me, but in all honesty, were people with whom I’d never really felt at home with anyway.

Story of my life.  Feeling misunderstood. I can’t really blame others.  It’s I who doesn’t trust.  It’s I who holds herself in reserve.  It’s I who is afraid.  You wouldn’t necessarily know these things about me, even if you knew me.  These insecurities often emerge as aloofness, superficiality, and just a general aura of awkwardness.  That’s only half, though.  That’s the me you might see if I’m uncertain of your intentions.  Fortunately, there are other friends.  Friends whose intentions I am confident in.  Whose acceptance of my own peculiarities is not temperamental.  These are the folks I’ve begun to gravitate towards.  These friends often see me in a whole other light.  Allowing me to reflect in a more favorable light.  They are few, and for each of them, I am grateful.  As for my own constrained challenges at social adventures, I realize that I can’t shrug off my own contribution, or lack of, to that reality.

Anyway, back to my story.  The story of the forever place that wasn’t.  It happened quietly and unexpectedly.  This place was not supplanted by love for another.  I did not suddenly discover a new dream to chase.  I simply came home from a trip one November day, and knew it wasn’t home any longer.  The crisp monochromatic winter that I’d always found to be such a splendor suddenly felt drab and even a little oppressive.  The tiny community that allowed me that sense of belonging without having to make much in the way of commitment suddenly felt peopled with strangers.  Even my job, which I do dearly love, and which allows me to have both sufficient income and sufficient time suddenly feels like it’s not the best of what I can offer.  None of it’s enough anymore.

So here I sit.  Fallen out of love with a place I loved so dearly, not knowing where to go or what to do next.  Yet, knowing from experience that a new place won’t fix the old me.  Knowing that the meaningful relationships that bind us to a place are my responsibility, and that another town, even another country won’t make that easier for me.  Feeling loss even though I’m sill here.  Feeling sorrow at leaving those friends who do embrace me for me.  Feeling the fondness of a farewell, as yet unmade.  So here I sit.  With not a single solid plan in sight.

It all sounds so glum, but that’s only the now part of the story.

When I moved here, I was so tired of starting over.  New places, new people, new business start-ups.  I liked it here and I thought alright, that’s it.  THIS IS IT.  I don’t want to start a new practice in a new town.  I don’t want to try to make new friends, (I’m not very good at it anyway).  I don’t want to move again.  The idea of starting over, even one more time, seemed dreadful and overwhelming.  Until that one day, when everything changed.  Now, starting over sounds liberating.  It fills me with optimism and a sense of opportunity.  Therein lies the danger.  I know how it goes, I mean I’m not new to this.  I know the flush of excitement always wanes…..but I begin to wonder, does it have to?  Is that waning enthusiasm tied to my own limited expectations?  Is learning to live a good life about the life or the perception?  Is it about chance, or about the skill you develop toward living?  Can I take what I’ve learned about myself, my work and life in general and create an engagement that evolves and fluctuates without actually deteriorating?

I begin to think I can.

I’ve set my mind free these past few months.  To wander and curate and imagine the lives I might live.  Potential being limited only by the possibilities I was able to conceive of.  Beyond that even, beyond the vision, beyond the words, beyond the hope, I can feel even more options pressing in.  Options I haven’t learned to consider yet.  Options only a random suggestion away.  I begin to feel like I’m guessing, even forcing, perhaps trying to intuit a thing unknown.  Sometimes I worry that I’m lost to life and fantasizing as a form of distraction.  Sometimes I fear that I’ll leap, as I always have, and that it will bite me in the ass this time.  I struggle with perceived need for certainty and direction, yet the more I try to ensure that, the more I feel that I’m grasping.  It begins to feel unnatural. I begin to believe that perhaps I just need to cut myself loose, trust myself, and do some way-finding.  Such an action may be without defined direction, but it certainly wouldn’t be without experience and pragmatism.  I’m a clever woman in these regards.  I could work a little here.  Travel a little there.  Taste and sample of these possibilities and places to see what draws me in.  See what holds me.  What inspires me.  It’s the answer that feels the most right, and the one that scares me the most.

Wading Through the Bullshit.

 

So, you want to impeach Trump.   I so get that.

The litany of Trump’s seemingly diagnosable psychological disorders is astounding, and frankly, when in the public eye, in the leader of our nation, quite embarrassing.

It’s also frightening.  I get that too.

The blatant hooliganary going on in the White House and the Senate right now is shameful, and threatens to undermine our long efforts to create a world that embraces both opportunity and compassion. We haven’t seen even the pretense of politicians trying to work across party lines in years now.  Brute force and bald-faced lies have become the tactic of choice, and while I criticize the right, I have no doubt that the left will follow the same path, when next they have the opportunity.  No matter what happens next, we will live with the consequences of this folly, already inflicted, for a long time to come.

Recognizing the danger this administration and the GOP in general pose to the well-being of this nation, I still have to ask, have you thought about what would come next?

For all the discussion of impeachment, you need to understand that it is nowhere near viable at this point.  Until Trump finds himself in an undeniably convict-able situation, impeachment will never pass the house.  The alt-right is having it’s heyday, and will gladly tolerate Trump to ensure it’s continuance.  Right now, talk of impeachment, is indeed an empty gesture, a liberal’s wet dream, an impossibility.

Yet in further exploration, toward the future possibility of impeachment or even the possibility of Trump vacating the position…what would that mean for America?  Firstly, it won’t fix a fucking thing.  The media will have less fodder, the left will be temporarily appeased and will bask in the specter of success, and Trump supporters will turn him into a political martyr furthering the myth that he’s an ‘outsider’, persecuted by both parties.  Then, unless Pence is unquestionably tied to Trump’s offense, Pence will become president.  This is not an desirable alternative.  While Pence may be less of a clown, and somewhat more capable of conducting himself in a relatively restrained fashion, he is arguably fanatical toward the ‘alt-right’ objectives.  The party will simply have lost it’s scapegoat, and will formulate another diversionary tactic to keep people distracted while they seek to set their ideals into law.  War has always been a most effective diversionary tactic, but really, I’d rather we not.

After the hubbub subsides, things will start to seem ‘normal’ again, it’ll just seem like political business as usual without the Trump drama.  Thought the grumbling will continue, passions will settle, and the American people will continue to lose the very things they value most: freedom and independence, safety and security, jobs and recognizable futures.

We, all of us, need to think beyond the distraction that is Trump.

Already, laws and regulations meant to protect us and this one precious planet are being up-ended without reservation.  Officials who dare to question the ethical and legal ramifications of the party’s actions are dismissed without ceremony.  White nationalism has emerged, emboldened, from behind the thin veil of civility.  Decades of scientific research are denied because they are inconvenient and not conducive to profit or the desired shaping of the party’s public perception.  History is ignored, misrepresented, and even falsified.  Even truth has become suspect in the public mind.

None of this will stop in the absence of Trump. It has become a part of our culture.  The current sociopolitical climate is a symptom of the fear and uncertainty that has been eating away at the American culture for the last 40 years or more.

The ideologues who have shaped the narrative of the alt-right knew exactly what they were doing when they tapped into racial insecurity and fear, when they tapped into the ongoing struggle of job and cultural identity loss, when they began questioning factual and historical perspectives, when they began normalizing the name-caller culture.  Trump and his zealous supporters are the result of those efforts, and while he may not have been their chosen candidate, they are certainly capitalizing on the reality of it.

Then there’s us.  The political left.  It seems people are priming for for their day of retaliation.  We’ve devolved to the same emotionally charged, name calling behavior we mocked in the right.  In two years or four, or gods forbid six years, when the left is firmly in control of the game again, I predict they will behave in precisely the same manner conservatives are behaving now.  They will defiantly exercise their recovered right to plunder and burn the remnants of the last regime.  They will strive to put their own disenfranchised souls above all others and show no empathy toward naysayers and agitators.  They will show the same arrogance.  They will get their day, and when they do, they will seek their vengeance…

…and frankly, I don’t see that particular behavior benefiting the millions of us out here, across this vast, multi-cultural nation, just trying to get by every day, in whatever particular fashion we manage to get by in the world.

We need to find a new way.  We need to mend fences, so to speak.  We need to compromise a little here, and empathize a little there.  We need to seek out the things that can unite us.  Maybe we need to break the system, but this wildly swinging sociopolitical pendulum serves only the few, while creating chaos and violence and fear for those dragged along in it’s wake…and, it fucking sucks.

American Divides. (#1)

TED posted an interesting article (link) about the Red/Blue divide in America, the fallacy of said divide, and why we, as a people, need to move beyond these political set-ups in order to create a nation more of us can be content with.  So many of the facebook comments following the post show just how many of us on the left are unwilling to have these difficult conversations.  Not only are we unwilling to have them, we blame the other side for our unwillingness to have them.  I get that, in some ways,  I know it’s hard to find a breach in that wall of defensive ideology.  I’m willing to assume that they probably feel the same when they glance over at us.   We’ve all succumbed to the stubbornness of the righteous, and that’s no way to stop this roller coaster.  Check yourself.  If you’ve already labelled half of the nation as intolerable, then you are definitely part of the problem.  If you’re name calling, you’re part of the problem.  If you choose to draw the dividing line along your own biases, you are part of the problem.  I have wondered many times in the past few months, how on earth I would begin a dialogue with someone who thinks we should nuke the Middle East or someone who thinks god himself intervened to put Trump in office, and honestly, I don’t know.  Certain forms of fanaticism are so illogical and hateful to me, they make my blood boil and make my brain seize up and threaten to explode.  Nonetheless, I try to remind myself that the media’s job is to engage and enrage us, and so you don’t see pictures, or read stories of people doing the kinds of mundane things that make up most of our daily lives.  I try to remember that the outrageous things you see in facebook comment streams are issued from the safety of someone’s couch, and may not represent the way that they would behave publicly.  While we certainly have extremists in America, and while they are certainly feeling emboldened at this juncture, I don’t believe the fanatics on either side represent the majority.  They’re just loud as fuck.  Go, find one person, who’s somewhere toward the political middle, and talk to them.  Family can be a great place to start, though I confess I’ve completely disengaged from the fanatical fringes of my own extended family.  So long as we, the ninety-whatever-percent of the population stay at each other’s throats, the ruling class is less encumbered in their agendas, left or right.  Of course, we’ll never have a nation in full agreement about anything, and that’s ok…but we have to begin to find some ways to heal, to allay people’s fears, to cultivate a nation that provides opportunity and empathy for the average folk, because if we don’t, fanaticism on both sides will continue to rise, and we’ll see greater forms of extremism and retaliation on both sides.  Government rule will inevitably swing left again, and when it does, if something doesn’t give now, they’ll be just as ruthless and arrogant in pursuit of their own ideologies as the GOP is now. Two wrongs still don’t make a right.  So please, TRY to consider the experiences, perceptions and fears that have led the everyday conservatives to this place, TRY not to let the political machine use our national division as it’s own diversion.  Pitting us against each other is an old, old, old tactic, and they wouldn’t still use it if it wasn’t so predictable, if it didn’t work so well.  We, the people, as a whole, are THE  majority.  The ruling class knows it and they fear our unity and solidarity.