jakebe: (Reading Rabbit)

In 2000, the very first year I was old enough to vote, I turned to Ralph Nader. I was a young voter and fairly liberal, but Al Gore just wasn't inspiring me. Nader, the Green Party candidate for that year, spoke my language with a passion that I could really get behind. Of course, since I was living in Arkansas at the time and the state would certainly go to Bush, I didn't feel my vote would tilt the outcome in the election. But, looking back, if 500 Nader voters in Florida had broken for Gore instead, history would be very different.

In 2004, I really loved Howard Dean for the Democratic nominee. For a second there, it looked like we were going to have him ride a populist wave into the contest for the White House. Then it fizzled when he lost an early primary, screamed in this really weird way, and then everyone just thought he was crazy. Still in Arkansas, which held its primary after the contest had all but been decided, I voted for Dennis Kucinich because he was the only candidate in the field that really pushed ideas I had believed in. I wasn't on board the Kerry train until I saw his acceptance speech at the DNC that summer; I was crushed when he lost handily to W.

In 2008, come on -- if you were a liberal person of color, how could you not vote for Barack Obama? Same in 2012. He was my guy, he is my guy, he will always BE my guy.

Now, in 2016, after six years of a Republican congress doing everything it can to block the agenda of the President and refuse to work with him on pretty much anything, we live in a country that is angry about the state of our government but also so worn out trying to work within the system we're ready to abandon it altogether. The two big anti-establishment forces that dominated the conversation in our major parties made a lot of noise over the past year, to different outcomes -- for the Democrats, Bernie Sanders lost the fight to the establishment choice of Hillary Clinton; for the Republicans, Jeb Bush and every last hope of the party lost out to apocalyptic outsider Donald Trump.

I go over my Presidential electoral history to let you know that for pretty much the entire time I've been involved in politics, I've belonged to the further-left wing of the Democratic Party. I've encouraged it to pull further away from the center-right towards actually liberal policies that address the needs of our minorities and most-disadvantaged citizens. I've been frustrated with the direction the party has chosen, and I've been disillusioned by the choices they've made on how to best use their considerable power as the dominant voice in liberal politics.

Which is why Bernie Sanders was such a natural fit for me. He was a "radical" liberal like Kucinich wrapped up in the temperament of a firebrand like Dean. He has Kerry's vision for the good that government can do for its people, and he's able to marry a clear, logical vision to a passionately emotional pitch like Obama. In so many ways, he's the total package. He gets people -- especially the young -- excited about politics again. And his ideas are some of the most liberal policies I've heard voiced on the national stage in a long time.

As this extraordinarily long and contentious primary season wore on, however, I noticed the tone of Sanders supporters shift worryingly. Instead of directing their anger at corporate interests who want to break the backs of the working poor and middle class to line their pockets, they turned it towards their fellow liberals -- people who supported Clinton and even Hillary herself. More and more, I saw my camp direct feverish animosity towards their own, using tactics that Republican operatives have honed and refined over a generation to paint Hillary as shrill, as a sell-out, as politically craven, as fundamentally dishonest.

The rancor with which Bernie's base treated their centrist allies was a gut-check for me. The vitriol and sexism -- both underlying and shockingly blatant -- made me reconsider my allegiance and question not only Bernie's stances, but his ability to actually work from the Oval Office to be effective. After all, a similarly populist wave ushered in the Obama Presidency and look how that's turned out -- he had two years to make the Affordable Care Act happen, lost Congress in his first mid-term, and has not been able to work effectively with them ever since.

How would Bernie handle a rabidly obstinate anti-liberal legislative branch? What could he possibly do to bring a consensus together in order to make the government work again?

These question marks, along with the treatment of Clinton supporters by my fellow Bernie fans, pushed me towards Hillary a few months ago and I've been with her ever since.

I totally understand why Bernie inspires such passion and loyalty. He's built a long career out of fighting for the right thing, even when it would be politically expedient to just go along. His principles aren't something he's willing to compromise on, and how many candidates on the left do we have on the national stage that actually have that quality? His entire platform proves that he understands the struggle of the left and the desperation we feel to make actual changes that fix some of our government's most fundamental problems. He gets us. In a way that very, very few politicians do these days, he gets us.

On the other hand, Hillary feels like she was grown in a lab to fit into the political system we have today. Every bit of her is managed and polished and staged, from her pantsuit to her hair to her cadence to her speeches. She doesn't do a single thing unless she believes it will help her do the thing that she wants to do. I still remember the bile that Hillary fans spewed on Obama in 2008; who wouldn't? It was ugly, vulgar, and racist -- both subtly and shockingly blatantly. Hillary and Bill haven't had the best track record in dealing with people of color, and her political career has been blemished with one scandal after another. For better or worse, Hillary is a perfect politician. She is a Washington insider who knows how the game works inside and out, and she's brilliant enough to play it better than anyone.

For an electorate that's fed up with politics as usual, this is just the thing that makes her impossible to like. And I get that. But let me try to frame it another way.

Bill Clinton rose onto the national scene as the coolest President we've had in a long time. He played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show. He "did not inhale". He embraced pop culture in ways that we couldn't even imagine after twelve years of Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush. He was a dude we could go out and have a beer with. We loved him. His wife, though…

In many ways, Hillary Clinton was a majorly progressive figure on the political scene as well, reflective of the changing reality for professional women in American culture. Unlike Bill, though, she was a lot more vulnerable to attacks from the right for transgressions against traditional values. Remember when she said "I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession...which I entered before my husband was in public life."? She was attacked, not by Republicans -- but by Jerry Brown, former and current CA governor. The electorate turned on her almost immediately. Her comment reeked of "smug bitchiness," and the media's reporting of it -- without the full context of her statement -- fanned the flames of that first gender-biased political scandal.

The full quote, by the way, is this:

I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession...which I entered before my husband was in public life. The work that I have done as a professional, a public advocate, has been aimed to assure that women can make the choices, whether it’s full-time career, full-time motherhood or some combination.

Right out of the gate, she was subjected to scrutiny not based on her ability or character, but on our perception of how she should conform to gender roles. Everything that she's done since then -- from her ruthless, aggressive ambition to her distance from the media to her incredibly frozen public image -- feels to me a response to that. She doesn't have time for the image game, and she doesn't have the tolerance or temperament to thread the needle of what we believe a woman should be. She has to get things done.

She worked extensively on health care issues during her time as First Lady, even though her signature initiative failed at the time. She was instrumental in the creation of the State Children Health Insurance Program; she promoted nationwide immunization for children (something that her biggest liberal rival in this election, Jill Stein, continues to indulge anti-vaccinator sentiment against); she played a leading role in the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act; she successfully fought for an increase in funding for the study of prostate cancer and childhood asthma at the NIH; she worked to investigate the set of illnesses that eventually came to be known as Gulf War Syndrome; and she created an Office of Violence Against Women at the Dept. of Justice.

She was the first First Lady ever to hold a Senate position, and in that position she helped secure billions for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site; introduced legislation that eased the burden on soldiers in Iraq by increasing the size of the Army (I know, I know, but it's making the best of a bad situation); advocated for retaining and improving the health benefits of veterans.

As Secretary of State, she helped to repair the damaged reputation of our country around the world, visiting 112 countries and increasing the diplomatic presence of the US in many, many regions. She's been a tireless advocate for women and children's rights here and around the world. And, despite her support for Keystone XL, has been an activist for dealing with climate change for a long time.

Of course Hillary isn't perfect. As I mentioned before, she has a rocky relationship with racial minorities; she's a little too hawkish with foreign policy; and her track record with LGBQT rights is disappointing. And to me and so many of my friends, that's a big deal. But there are other ways we can hold her accountable for that.

I've voted for a third-party candidate before, and Floridians who made my choice made the difference in the Bush vs. Gore election. Say what you will about voting irregularities and the Supreme Court decision, but the fact remains that less than 300 liberals in one state changed the shape of our nation. And instead of getting the outcome they wanted, they got George W. Bush.

Our choice in November is even more stark. Hillary Clinton, for all of her faults -- and yes, I know they're there -- is on our side, fellow liberals. She cares about women, the disadvantaged, and our threatened environment. She believes in the value of science in shaping public policy. And she is willing to listen when presented with new information and evidence, changing her mind where she's been wrong. Even if you hold to the cynical belief that she only changes her mind when it's politically safe to do so, you have to understand how and why she developed that behavior. When she speaks her mind, she is punished by being called cruel. When she appears too hard, she's punished by being called bitchy. When she softens, she's punished by being called craven and opportunistic. There is almost nothing she can do without being criticized for it. And while a lot of that criticism is legitimate -- I have no doubt we'd say the same things about any career politician -- the tenor of it is sharper, crueler because she is a woman and not a man.

Those of us who flocked to Bernie because we were frustrated with the shape of our politics may not have pushed our guy into the race for the White House, but we have started a conversation that we now have the chance to continue. Instead of taking our defeat as a sign that the system is hopelessly broken, or that saying Clinton is just as bad as Trump (which is an insane statement I won't dignify by refuting here), we can instead take a look at what we can still do to help Bernie continue to voice his conscience in 2016 and 2018.

That means electing Clinton, who will be far more likely to work with us and for us than Donald Trump. That means helping Clinton effectively implement liberal policies -- and hold her accountable for decisions we disagree with -- by electing liberal Representatives and Senators to Congress. And, if you're actually serious about increasing the legitimacy of third parties, that means researching and supporting those candidates on the state and local levels. We aren't going to actually make the Green or Libertarian Party a national force until we make them a local, state, and regional force first. Minor parties are going to need to build an organization from the ground up, and installing them in our city councils, mayor's offices and judges seats will establish a foundation of experience, knowledge and connections that will allow them to do so.

Bernie supporters -- I know you're disappointed. And I know that you're wary of Clinton. But she is our best chance at continuing the work that Bernie has started here. Stein will not be elected, and your protest vote could be one of the things that gives Trump the presidency. This is a painful truth, but it is the truth: in order to get closer to our goal, we need Clinton to win. She is one of us, and she deserves our support. She's worked hard for it, she's earned it, and I trust her to do the right thing.

Let's make sure she gets the chance.

jakebe: (Politics)

Today is the 240th anniversary of the birth of our nation. The Declaration of Independence was signed (at least apocryphally) on this date long, long ago. It stated that as a nation, "we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

This is such a powerful and simple statement. Every single one of us, no matter who we are or what we do for a living, is equal to the other. We all have the same basic rights; we should all be allowed to live freely and be happy as best we're able, as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of someone else to do the same thing. That is the ideal that should be the North Star for every action our country takes, the opportunity to make sure anyone in the country -- or the world -- has these rights.

As with anything, our country is imperfect -- because it's operated by imperfect people. We allow our fears and desires, our greed and jealousies, our worst instincts to determine what we do more often than not. This happens especially when we get together in crowds. It feels like we've been taught to believe that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a zero-sum game. If someone else is allowed to do what makes them happy -- even if it doesn't harm or restrict me -- then it means that I don't get to be.

The ideal of personal freedom is a great one, and it's what makes this country such a beacon of hope around the world when it strives for that ideal. But that ideal requires significant responsibility to be achieved; in order to make sure that there is a level playing field for everyone out there, we must take care to protect the vulnerable from the powerful. Our government must make sure that those of us without money or influence has a chance to exercise our rights just as well as the richest multi-billionaire. And in order to make sure our government can do that, we the people must furnish the government with the people and tools necessary to achieve that goal.

Because our country is full of people from all races, backgrounds, religions and philosophies, just exactly what that means will be different for everyone -- and that's OK. There is nothing wrong with different interpretations of what the government should and should not do. Sometimes, the will of the people will carry that in a conservative direction; what we have (or what the founders intended) works well and there isn't much that should be changed. Other times, the people will call for a more progressive direction; times have changed, and our relationship with life and liberty and happiness has shifted accordingly. The government also needs to change in order to reflect this.

Recently, however, the tension between conservatism and progressivism has grown to the point that the fabric of our country is tearing apart. Our bases have grown further apart and worse, more intractable. Instead of recognizing that our colleagues across the aisle simply want what's best for our country and have different ideas of what that means, we've taken to calling them our enemy. To conservatives, I'm part of an invading horde who wants nothing less than to tear down America and replace it with a godless socialist paradise that looks more like Soviet Russia than anything. And to progressives like me, conservatives are heartless racists who only want to make sure America is white and stupid and loaded with guns. Neither of these images are true. But we buy them when the people we admire in our camps perpetuate them.

The truth is we need each other. Progressives need conservatives to remind them of traditions in our country that still work; to encourage more efficient and smarter ways for the government to work; to take practical considerations into account for policy. And conservatives need progressives to remind them of ways the world is changing; that their experience isn't universal, and others have a different kind of struggle achieving the American dream; to dream about radical ways in which our country might be better than we or the Founding Fathers ever imagined. In a healthy society, we forgive each other's flaws, recognize each other's strengths and respect each other's perspectives.

I want my country to be one in which I can disagree with a conservative friend or colleague and respect them, knowing that the feeling is reciprocated. I want to be certain that my government recognizes my basic human rights, and that my perspective and experience is understood and woven into the fabric of America as a whole. I want my friends to know that I respect their traditions -- no matter what they are -- and that we can have conversations about the things we believe without demonizing those beliefs or the people who hold them. I want a country that recognizes how interdependent we are, and how we're better for those entanglements. I want people to listen when they're told they're being exclusive or prejudicial. And I want people to listen to the people who want the same lives they've always had, and why these changes are upsetting to them. We can't understand each other without entering into a dialogue, and that dialogue requires we both speak clearly, respectfully, and listen just as well.

Today, I really want to recognize my interdependence on the people I disagree with, but respect. You make this country great, and I appreciate your contribution to my life and my world.
jakebe: (Politics)

Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)
Starring Spencer Tracy, Maximillian Schell, Burt Lancaster and Marlene Dietrich
Directed by Stanley Kramer
Written by Abby Mann

A few years after the end of World War II, a battered Europe is beyond ready to move on. Germany, now that the atrocities of the concentration camps are out in the open, is in a state of shock as a country. Its people struggle to deal with the reality of what it's done, wondering how it could have allowed the systematic eradication of its Jewish population, undesirable elements and political enemies. The United States is already moving on to its next conflict, setting the pieces in place to fight a cold war with the growing communist threat of the Soviet Union.

But before we can put the war to rest, there's this small matter of deciding what to do about the judges, military officers and others who solidified Nazi policies into the law of the land. When these orders came from the top down, how much responsibility do the people in charge of putting them into motion carry with them? Should they be prosecuted for the horrific effects of these policies? Or is their duty to carrying out the will of their state -- right or wrong -- of greater importance than a more universal set of morality? How do we decide to treat war criminals when they had only limited power with which to resist committing these crimes?

Judgement at Nuremberg is about the trial of 98 civil servants in post-war Germany, mainly boiled down to the question of what to do about five judges who presided over the courts and passed rulings that lead to the sterilization of some, the death or imprisonment of others, the horrors of the concentration camps to too many. The crux of the trial is that very question -- how much responsibility do we give to actors of the state when the country has essentially legalized war crimes? Does personal and/or social survival form an effective excuse for a complete lapse in moral judgement? Or should we expect people to abandon their duty to their country if a more fundamental set of beliefs are violated?

Spencer Tracy stars as Presiding Judge Dan Haywood, a former district court judge from Maine who is called upon to determine what happens to these men. Judge Haywood must not only decide the considerable issue in front of him, but he must also attempt to understand how an entire country could fall in line with these terrible ideals and resist the political pressure of his own country's military as they prepare for a Cold -- and possibly real -- war with the Soviet Union.

I'll jump right in and say this: Judgement at Nuremberg is an excellent movie that everyone in this country should see. The acting is genuinely great all around, lead by elder statesman Tracy as he guides a parade of stars through the proceedings. The cinematography is amazing, focusing on the people who are grappling with the consequences of their actions but pulling back just enough for you to understand the context and society in which they're doing so. The direction is tight and crisp; even though this is a beast of a movie at 179 minutes, it really doesn't feel like there's any wasted time. Every scene is necessary to understand a facet of the issue, or the motivations of the characters dealing with them.

Director Stanley Kramer does a wonderful job exploring the full texture of Abby Mann's Oscar-winning Adapted Screenplay. There are so many interesting ideas at work here -- watching Germany wake up from its National Socialist nightmare with bewilderment and guilt and a desperate desire to reaffirm its own morality makes many of the "ordinary" Germans Haywood meet sympathetic but also infuriating. "We had no idea" is a common refrain for so many of them, but how could they not understand what was happening in their own country? How much of that ignorance was intentional -- faced with the choice of confronting the knowledge of wrong-doing and being forced to act on it, or keeping your head down to attract as little attention from a brutal power structure as possible, what would you do? It's hard to imagine myself in that position and not thinking I would be just like them -- especially if I had a family or children to think about.

Beyond that, the movie posits that it wasn't just Germany's responsibility to stop Adolf Hitler before he attained a stranglehold on power; the world at large sat by and watched it happen -- so if Germany's judges and prosecutors are on trial then the governments of Europe should be too. Many of them also "had no idea" how far Hitler would go before he did, but how much of that ignorance was intentional? If we hold those in the judicial system responsible, why not the executives of other countries, or the diplomats, or the militaries? Where do we stop assigning the blame?

Judgement at Nuremberg also draws very interesting parallels between the Germany of the 1930s and the United States of the 1950s. Judge Haywood is told that political considerations must be factored into his decision, and that in order to successfully repel the threat of Communist Soviets America must have Germany on its side. Early in the proceedings of the trial, it's accepted as fact that the National Socialist rose to power on the promise of stopping the Communist threat. It's a slippery slope argument, true, but the idea that Haywood is asked to repeat the shading of the law here at the same time he's supposed to condemn that very thing is unsettling -- and likely true.

And that's what makes this movie so vital for us today. It's rare that you see entire nations reflect in on themselves about what it means to be American, or German, or British -- and what, precisely, is the individual's duty to the state. Judgement at Nuremberg reminds us that Nazi Germany put monsters in charge but was also populated by people just like you and me who thought being patriotic meant enacting the law of your country even when you disagreed with it, knew in your heart that it was unjust. Their reasons -- and they all had their reasons -- ranged from "what could we do about it even if we disagreed?" to "my country, right or wrong". If we put ourselves in their positions -- a married set of servants, or a wealthy socialite, or an intellectual interested in the rule of law -- and we had to deal with our government systematically strip the rights of its minorities or political dissidents, what would we do? Honestly.

The political environment of Germany in the early 1930s has startling similarities to the political environment of our country in the 2010s. We're willing to do anything, sacrifice anything in order to give ourselves the illusion of safety and control. We want to blame the foreign elements in our midst for our problems; we see a vague and shadowy threat to our very existence and want to attack anything that we know might upset the status quo. We are a deeply divided nation. And we have individuals running for office who claim to know just how we can restore our country to greatness -- by tolerating no dissent, refusing any attempt at discourse, at identifying and removing anything that could even vaguely be a threat to our national security.

I wish I was being hyperbolic or alarmist by saying this, but I'm not. But we do have a choice, each and every one of us, about how we deal with what's happening. Does history repeat itself? Or do we learn the hard lessons that were taught in our past?

In order to have a hope of answering these questions, we have to understand how it could have happened in the first place. What lead an entire nation of moral, upright people to install one of the most terribly brutal regimes in human history? What justifications did they use? How can we make sure we don't fall prey to those same justifications?

I won't claim that Judgement at Nuremberg offers complete answers to these questions, but watching this movie is an excellent start at wrapping your head around them.

jakebe: (Mythology)
I’m sure you know this story. One evening, an elder sits down with his son. The son had been getting into trouble because he had problems with anger and lashing out, so the elder tells him a quick fable. “There are two wolves fighting inside of each and every one of us,” he says. “One of them is everything that is evil within us – anger, envy, sorrow, greed. The other is everything that is good – joy, compassion, peace and kindness. Though one may gain the upper hand for a time, the other is never truly defeated. They are fighting for the nourishment that only you can provide them.”

The son thought about this for a while, then asked. “OK. Which one of them wins?”

“The one you feed,” the elder says.

I think about this story a lot. As a Zen Buddhist, I see karma as simply the kind of environment we create for ourselves; we can only control our actions, and it’s important that we understand the effect of our actions on the people and places around us. It’s important to me that I bring comfort, contentment and connection to the places I’m in, because those are the kind of spaces that attract me. If I’m going to make the kind of world I would want to live in, I need to put in the work. So I try hard to find common ground with the people I’m with, to make them feel comfortable enough that we can work through our differences, to make them feel connected enough that they won’t fear me rejecting them for a disagreement. I don’t always succeed, but that’s the aim. That’s the kind of person I want to be.

But here’s something else. I self-identify as a social justice warrior. I know that’s a loaded label; most of the time it’s used by people who mean it as an insult. The narrative for social justice warriors is one of immediate, unthinking and overwhelming anger against anything that could be viewed as remotely offensive. If you say something politically incorrect, then the social justice warriors will grab their pitchforks and come after you. They’re the thought police of the internet.

I take on that moniker because I believe in the causes championed by many who’ve been derided as such. I occupy many different intersecting minority spaces, being gay, black, non-Christian and coping with chronic mental illnesses. I know what it’s like to move through a world that hasn’t been built for you, and I’ve experienced on a day-to-day basis what it’s like to have your existence questioned, dismissed or belittled. I’ve also experienced how occupying many privileged spaces has made my life easier in many respects; I’m a cisgender male, I’m able-bodied, I’m reasonably educated, have medical insurance and a support network. My illnesses aren’t so severe that I can’t function in modern society. There are people who have more fundamental challenges than I do.

So I fight for them, and I fight for the people who are dealing with the same challenges I do. I believe in a world where we clearly see, understand and accept the unique challenges and burdens of our fellow human beings. I believe we ought to live in a society that provides them with whatever they need to be healthy, happy and whole. I believe in fighting for a shift in our consciousness around these issues; it’s not enough that I personally believe these things – we as a civilization must address the needs of our most vulnerable and powerless. We must make sure they can be connected to the fabric of society just as well as those of us who don’t need additional considerations. I’m willing to work to make sure that happens, however I can.

This is a mindset I’ve come by recently, to be sure. As a progressive, it’s sort of my job to continually test and reshape my understanding of how the world works, my place in it, and how society should function. I absorb new information and ideas about the human experience, including the really fundamental concepts that we often take for granted. My views have evolved from where they were one year ago, and hopefully they’ll have improved still further a year from now. Change is a constant in so many ways, and that must be embraced.

However, I understand why so many of us in progressive spaces have the reputations we do. We’re passionate, we can be uncompromising, and we’re fierce believers in our way of life. For so many of us, especially as minorities, the ability to organize into a community and speak in a way we can be heard is very new. The power that affords us is intoxicating, and we’re still learning how to wield it responsibly. But for the first time we can say that the frequent targeting, incarceration, abuse and murder of our black men, women and children is unacceptable. We can say that it’s unacceptable for our transgender men and women to be forced through a parade of humiliating ordeals just to “prove” their gender to people who have no business policing that concept. We can say that each and every one of us occupy space of privilege as well as under-privileged spaces, and it’s important for us to recognize that and accept what it means. What’s more, when we say it loudly enough, forcefully enough, people have no choice but to hear us. We have the power to force a conversation about these issues, and we need to because otherwise the vulnerable among us will continue to suffer and die at the hands of a society that’s only interested in keeping things exactly as they are.

If you’re not a part of these spaces, or you don’t hold the same views about society, privilege and our individual responsibilities to our community, then it may seem like I’m forcing you to talk about ideas that don’t make sense. When you ask (or demand) that I explain these ideas in a way that makes sense to you and I respond with “It’s not my job to educate you” or a dismissal of that request, it can be tremendously frustrating. When you tell me that you don’t agree or explain your position and I respond by shouting down your ideas or making personal attacks and moral judgements, it can be enraging and only encourage you to dig in your heels. I understand that.

It’s taken me some time to reconcile my identity as a Zen Buddhist with my identity as a social justice warrior. Spending time in activist spaces, I see how so many of them have become hornet’s nests of anger and frustration. For so many of us, this is a life-and-death struggle. For so many of us, people like Michael Brown and Freddie Gray (remember them?) don’t happen in a vacuum. They’re not aberrations or miscarriages of justice. They’re the end result of a system working as designed.

So many of us in progressive circles are afraid about what happens to us when someone decides that our differences will not be accepted. As a black man, will I be harassed by the police while I’m driving? As a gay man, will I be targeted for expressing love towards my husband in public? As a non-Christian, hearing the rhetoric in our politics about anyone who doesn’t go to church is disheartening. And these are anxieties I carry with my all day, every day.

We’re tired of being afraid. We’re tired of living in a world where speaking up means being shouted down or dismissed. We’re tired of feeling like we have to justify our existence. And that fear, fatigue and anger has reached a point where it’s simply taken over these spaces.

I understand why that has happened, and I hope other people do too. But…at this point it feels like we’re feeding the wrong wolf. We’ve given ourselves over to this anger and it means that we’ve become unable to actually affect change. When someone comes to us trying to understand why we say or do the things we say or do, it’s an opportunity to actually explain our position, to connect with someone else, to actually act on our principles and change the world. When we shut that person down with “It’s not my job” or anger, then we’ve missed that change. The disconnection deepens; that person becomes unable to speak with us because they don’t want to be subjected to that anger again.

Not every situation in which we’re asked to explain our position is an opportunity, and I know that too. But I’ve seen too many people turned away at the gate of our spaces because anger and dismissal is our default response. A lot of us have come to see the world as a more hostile place then it is, and we respond accordingly. We’ve fed the dark wolf until it has overpowered our better nature.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve come to the decision that this cycle has to stop somewhere. We can’t keep alienating those who disagree with us, and we can’t keep shouting down the people who haven’t arrived to the exact same conclusions we have. If we expect to change the world, we have to change the minds of the people living there. And we can’t do that with the tone of the conversation we’ve been having in and around these topics.

Inevitably, this opinion is going to be called “tone policing” or “concern trolling” because I’m more interested in the tone of the conversation than the subject. Since I’ve owned the social justice warrior moniker, I’ll go ahead and own the label of tone policing too. Fine, I’m advocating that we consider our tone. You know why? BECAUSE OUR TONE IS IMPORTANT.

The emotions that we deal with as minorities are certainly valid. It’s OK to be angry. It’s OK to be tired. And it’s OK to be afraid. There is a lot that’s wrong with the world we live in, and we’ve been fighting the same battles for a very long time. Sometimes, it’s even OK to let that anger fuel our actions; we can rise up and state in no uncertain terms that we will not tolerate unfair or extreme treatment from a power structure that is supposed to protect us from it.

However, different situations call for different actions, regardless of our emotional state. It’s important to consider what we want out of our conversations. Are we hoping to express ourselves in a way that gets someone to see the world the way we do? If that’s the case, what’s the best way to do that? Making someone feel bad about what they believe rarely changes their mind, from my experience. Making them feel kinship with you stands a much better chance. It can be more difficult, and a lot more frustrating, but ultimately it’s much more effective.

Explaining why a certain statement or action is offensive requires patience and compassion. If we truly want the behavior to cease, then we must get the person engaging in it to understand what’s wrong with it and what would be a better course of action. People aren’t willing to examine themselves if they feel attacked; they close themselves off as a protective measure. In order to soften habits, we must allow them to be vulnerable. We must respect that vulnerability and treat it gently. That is difficult, if not impossible to do when you’re angry. So we must find a way to temper that anger.

I understand where the anger of progressives comes from; in many ways, I share it. But I also realize that I must remain vigilant against the effect of that anger. I don’t want to feed the wrong wolf, because that pulls me away from the person I would like to be, which pulls me away from the world I would like to create. I do my best to feed my compassion, my joy, my kindness by acting on those emotions, even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult.

I think in order for social justice warriors to be effective in combat, we’re going to need to start doing the same.
jakebe: (Default)
There's a big disconnect in our society when we talk about bigotry. I think a lot of people in privileged groups believe that bigotry means something like "active discrimination and disrespect of a minority group" or maybe "active/vocal hate directed towards every single member of a minority group". There are a lot of people out there who believe that they aren't bigoted (or even behave in bigoted ways or have bigoted thoughts) because hey, they're not being Nazis or anything -- they really just have good times with people, without "seeing" the race, orientation, religion or gender identity that makes them different.
It's difficult to describe why that definition of bigotry is a misunderstanding, simply because our deepening ideas about what bigotry is don't neatly fit within the space of 140 characters. There isn't a good way to sum it up in a sound bite, or a metaphor that nails it perfectly. The fact of the matter is, an understanding of what I mean when I talk about bigotry requires an understanding of how I understand our society works, how bigotry is baked into the fabric of it in fundamental ways, and how we internalize and repeat those ideas.
OK, first, a definition of terms. Who is a bigot? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a bigot as "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own prejudices and opinions; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance." Intolerance is defined as "a quality of being unable or unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression or grant or share social, political or professional rights".
So, a bigot is someone who treats members of a group as socially, politically or professionally inequal. A bigot is unwilling to allow members of a group equal expression or rights. A bigot is someone who is so devoted to their own ideas about the way the world works that they are unwilling to entertain the notion that it may work differently, that reality isn't the way they think it is. They have the truth; that truth is immutable, and anyone who doesn't believe the way they do is wrong and most importantly, intolerable.
The reason that the label of bigotry is such a hot one is it comes across as a value judgement. The subtext being spoken when you call someone a bigot is that "they are fixed to a particular way of thinking so firmly that they are unable to rethink it; they're uncritical, inflexible, intolerant and unchanging." And that you are, by definition, not any of those things. It often feels like two things are happening here. One, that the person designated as "bigot" is someone who is incapable of changing their beliefs. Two, that because this person is bigoted, anything they have to say can be completely ignored and there's no reason to engage with them at all.
Being accused of being a bigot really hurts. It means that someone out there thinks you are a dinosaur, incapable of change; stupid; part of a generation that will die out to make way for a new, more enlightened generation. Too often, the accusation of bigotry is used as a wall that divides one person from another, and gives both parties a reason to never attempt a connection again.
I think there might be cause to "soften" that label. I think that bigotry is taught to all of us on a subtle and societal level, and that each and every one of us internalizes those bigoted ideas. That internalization causes us to act on bigoted assumptions -- and by definition those actions are bigoted. Most of the time, we don't even think about it. We simply act on what we've been taught is true and have no reason to question.
Part of dismantling bigotry within ourselves and on a societal level is understanding how these are ideas are part of the dominant institutions within our societies, how they are transmitted to the people within those societies, how we accept and absorb them as members of those societies, and how we can rethink these basic ideas, test them to see if something feels right or it doesn't. It's a lot of work, but it's essential to understand not only how we work but how deeply these assumptions can be held. Once we're able to recognize the capacity within ourselves to hold these thoughts, we can more easily recognize why other people believe and behave the way that they do, and why it can be so extraordinarily difficult for them to change.
There are so many assumptions about various groups that are hard-baked into our society -- especially minority groups who tend to be under-privileged and don't have access to the kind of massive reach that the powerful use on a daily basis. This of course includes mass media -- not just news, but entertainment, marketing, education and more. All of it, either implicitly or explicitly, promotes and reinforces biases that need to be re-examined.
I don't think this is a situation that's necessarily borne from maliciousness, though malicious behavior has served to stifle and discourage attempts to change the status quo. Let's take an example to see how institutional bias contributes to personal bigotry, at least from my perspective.
I'm a black man, and if you look through mass media throughout history our culture doesn't have many positive examples for me. When we were brought to the United States, we were viewed as barely human, little more than savages who could understand basic commands and endure back-breaking labor that more genteel and enlightened races could not stomach. This myth of superhuman strength and physicality has been woven into the narrative of black men from that time on: in so many of our stories, black men fill the role of the "gentle giant" or a subset of the "noble savage". In our entertainment, we're presented as street-savvy toughs who are intimidating and dangerous. We join gangs, deal drugs, kill people. We go to prison (justly or unjustly), we father children and either die, abandon them or are taken from them. Three centuries of narrative on black men can be traced from slave owners selling their goods in the late-1700s to what policemen and news anchors say about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.
We're often seen as people who are prone to violence, have poor impulse control and limited (at best) intelligence -- when we are seen as smart, it's more of a cunning than an actual ability to learn complex concepts and make connections between them. There are, of course, exceptions to this -- especially recently. But the monolithic image of the black male as someone with a dangerous and animal strength, as someone unpredictable and tough, prevails. It informs how we're reflected in news reports and movies, TV shows and books. That image is disseminated in a hundred different ways, subtle and unsubtle, and absorbed by those of us who see those news reports and fictional accounts everywhere.
We internalize this idea, and we begin to act on it instinctively. Police officers are quicker to assume that black males have weapons, and more likely to interpret actions as aggressive or hostile. They're more likely to use deadly force as a result. We, as civilians, instinctively grow more nervous when we see one or more black males on the street. We begin to make assumptions about how they live, what they want, and who they are. Even when it's tinged with a positive sentiment, there are underlying traits that reflect centuries of basic, bigoted ideas handed down to us from the stories we've told ourselves over time.
This doesn't only happen with black men. This happens with women, other people of color, the disabled, the mentally ill, transgender and gender-fluid people, gay, lesbians, bisexuals, the poor and disadvantaged, the homeless...and the list goes on.
With the rise of the Internet and the resulting democratization of content available in our culture, we're seeing those minorities push back against these stories. Black men are standing up to say we're not all hulking athletes, or dangerous toughs, or cunning tricksters. We're not the stories you've heard about that are causing you to cross the street, assume we're up to no good, shoot us down in our neighborhoods. We're just people, as widely varied and scared and messed up as anyone else. We don't fit into these societal narratives.
What we're finding as we speak up is that there are many, many people who don't want to examine the stories they've been told, the ideas they hold because of them, or the prevalence of this false and in many ways dangerous information. They don't want to look at how this narrative has lead them to bigoted thoughts and actions -- because of it, black men can't gather in places without being harassed; we can't interact with the police in the same ways a white man could; we're far less likely to be considered for white-collar jobs or opportunities in STEM education; we're much more likely to be suspended and disciplined in schools. The stories we tell ourselves as a culture about black men lead directly to the unequal treatment of us as a group, at all levels of society.
That's bigotry in action. It's codified in our culture, repeated over and over again throughout our history until it becomes a sort of background radiation, something we simply accept. Most of us have assumptions about various groups because that's what we've been exposed to from an incredibly young age. Centuries of history and decades of personal absorption are incredibly hard to dislodge.
But it can happen. It does happen. It first takes realizing what's going on in the first place and challenging our assumptions about basic ideas. What does it mean to be black? What does it mean to be poor? What does it mean to identify with a gender that's different from your physical sex? What does it mean to believe in a non-Christian view of the universe? Who are all of these people who don't share your race, religion, orientation, socio-economic status? How do these differences affect their daily lives?
I'm learning an awful lot about this simply by listening to the people speak up about their own experiences. The plight of transgender people and women is something I haven't been aware of until only recently, but my eyes have been opened in so many ways. It's shocking to hear the things they've been through, the battles they continue to fight because of the ingrained, reflexive bigotry that we reflect unthinkingly.
I'll admit, I've done, said and thought things that were bigoted. I will probably do so in the future; this is not because I'm a bad person, or that I'm intractable. It's simply because I haven't gotten to the place where I'm challenging basic, incorrect assumptions I'm still holding on to. But I'm working on that, I'm learning more all the time. That's the burden we bear, the thing we must do to improve ourselves and the society we live in.
I ask sincerely that people have patience with me through this process. More importantly, have patience with other people who are still learning how to undo the education they've received; we're all members of a flawed society we didn't opt-in to, and some of us are going to have a more difficult time learning about those flaws, accepting the ways we've internalized them, and undoing that. Some people will be able to do this on their own; some people will need significant help that they may or may not ask for; some of us will never be able to do it. But I believe we're all in the same boat with this, and it would be a great thing to help each other make progress however we're able to do so.
Does this make sense? Do you agree, disagree? I look forward to the discussion in the comments.
jakebe: (Default)
Last Thursday I celebrated my 35th birthday. If I'm lucky, this puts me squarely in the territory of early middle age. That means that for the most part, I'm starting to have fewer days ahead of me than there are behind. It's a sobering thought, but not a depressing one.
Unlike most I really don't mind getting older. I think older people rule -- they have a depth of knowledge and experience that can only be obtained one way, have learned what's really important and what might not be worth paying attention to, have grown comfortable living in their own skin. I feel that happening to me as the days tick by; I keep learning new things, experiencing more things that I can compare to my previous experiences, and am more able to learn and accept my limitations. All of the regrets I have, instead of sending me into a paralyzing depression, are valuable lessons that help me strive for the ideals I treasure and the standards I've set for myself. I've made so many mistakes, and I continue to do so. But that is part of the imperfection that is my birthright.
I still have a long way to go before I feel like I'm where I want to be, but maybe it will always be that way. Maybe that's what life is; a constant running towards a set of moving goalposts. And I know how futile that might sound, but it's actually exciting -- the goalposts only move once you've reached them to find they're a signpost to the next thing. The idea that I'm standing in a place that was a goal somewhere in my 20s (stable job, self-confidence, a loving husband, a support network of smart, honest friends) is wonderful; and the idea that somewhere down the line, I'll be that much further along towards places I'm only beginning to think are possible now is simply wondrous.
I've learned a lot this year -- not only about myself, but about the world around me. I'm taking great strides in learning about my fear and overcoming it, and that is opening up an exciting range of new possibilities. I can sit with my discomfort far better than ever, which means I'm more willing to push through new experiences that make me feel stupid or uncertain (that means pretty much any new experience basically). I've learned that I probably have ADHD, and the treatment for that allows me to be focused and organized in ways I never thought I was capable of. I own a car, can drive all over town, and have (slowly and painfully) learned how to stop impulse buying. (Mostly.)
I've become more engaged with the world, both politically and personally. That engagement has pushed me further to the left at a time when it feels like my country is becoming more and more selfish, alienated and conservative. It's more important to me than ever to try and connect people, to value understanding and compassion, even as it feels more hopeless and certain that we're all going to die fighting for the few stunted scraps that will grow in polluted soil and poisoned water. I feel more passionate about the best of humanity even when I'm almost certain we will succumb to our own demons.
It reminds me of this parable: in the afterlife, all of us sit at a long table groaning under the weight of a tremendous feast. There are long forks attached to our left hand, long spoons fixed to our right. If we're in hell, we cannot possibly feed ourselves; the utensils are way too long to bring the food to our mouths. If we're in heaven, we're feeding each other; we're alleviating the suffering of our fellow man and accepting the charity of others. It's the same exact situation -- the only thing that changes is our reaction to it.
I want to devote my life to helping other people, however I can. I want to spend the time I have left helping people to understand themselves and one another, to feel less alone, to encourage them towards caring for themselves, their community and their world. I want to take all of the misery I've experienced and use it to ground myself in compassion for those who are having difficulty. I want to encourage active, positive change.
The personal is the political, of course, and vice versa. I believe that the best way to change the way our society operates is by reminding the people in it what their values are, and encouraging them to pursue that in a way that betters themselves and their fellow human beings. We can do this even if we hold different values in higher esteem. We can do this without judgment or hatred for our differences. We can feed our fellow humans whatever they want, and be glad to do it. That is what heaven looks like to me.
At the age of 35, these are my ideals. I know I will fail to live up to them; I know they might change by the time I reach 45, or 55, or 65. But that's fine. What I do today will be the foundation for what I will have built in the next decade or two, and it's taken me a while to realize just what that means. If I want to make sure that I'm one of those kick-ass old men who are smart and certain and passionate, then I'm going to have to build myself into that right now. One goal at a time, one day at a time, one small act at a time.
jakebe: (Politics)
Learning how to navigate the minefield of work in corporate America has been a fascinating learning process. I'm learning a lot more about how to deal with a wide variety of different personalities with different goals, while still trying to get things done. It's frustrating, confusing, but ultimately I've learned that I'm really interested in it. I try to bring in a Zen mindset by reminding myself that the person I'm speaking with has their own perspective, and they've arrived where they have through a set of circumstances and decisions that make sense to them. If a behavior is baffling or illogical to me, I try to remind myself that it's only because I don't have the information that they do. Even if someone has a bad reason for doing something, it's still a *reason*. Most people try to do the best they can with what they have. You have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Still, there are a lot of times where I find myself digging in my heels on something. I'm a bit of an idealist, which is one of the worst things you can be when you're in a position of working with others to get things done. I get it into my head that there's a certain way things should be, based on my limited perspective and experience, and I'll draw a line in the sand. Once that happens, my coworkers are no longer individuals with their own ideas; they're obstructions between me and my goal. They're not people who have the same desire to be understood that I do. They're deficient because they don't hold the same values that I do. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where a coworker stops being a collaborator and starts being an enemy, but that turning point is a subtle but fundamental shift. That perception inhabits everything you do from that point on.

In the day-to-day business of making sure my job gets done, it's easy for me to get so close to my perspective that it basically overcomes my way of thinking. I'm almost positive that this is something that happens to everyone: you believe a few things that should be fundamental, objectively true, and you're baffled that anyone else could think differently. What's best for the department/company/nation/planet is obvious, so much so that anyone who disagrees must simply not be looking out for the best interests of the collective you're thinking about.

It's a short jump from the personal to the political, here. It's easy to think that our fellow citizens across the aisle must not have America's best interests at heart because, well, how could they? For Republicans, it must seem that liberals just want to bankrupt the country giving everyone free rides. Maybe to them, programs like the ACA (and Medicare, and Social Security before that) only contributes to a culture of entitlement that leads to a lazy, soft-working society. And to folks like me, Republicans seem like heartless assholes who are only concerned about themselves and have no sense of compassion or responsibility to the society we're all engaged in.

I'm perfectly willing to admit the biases I have due to the limits of my perspective and personality. It's difficult to remember just how subjective a lot of my "objective truths" are. I think the one of the basic problems in our society, political and otherwise, is the lack of ability to step outside yourself and remember that the person at cross purposes with you is actually just like you; you have the same goals, but vastly different perspectives on what those goals look like and how to get there. If we could understand what those goals look like to someone else, maybe we could stand a better chance at communicating with them and coming to some sort of compromise that gets us both closer to where we want to be.

I'll be trying to recenter my perspective at work to remember that my coworkers are collaborators, not enemies. Maybe there's a way to make my perspective known and understood, and reach out to make sure I understand theirs, too. Once we know what we're looking at, we can start talking about how to get where we both want to be.
jakebe: (Optimism)
I woke up this morning, did a quick and panicked check of the news sites to make sure the world was the same as it was when I went to sleep. They reassured me Barack Obama is still our President-Elect, and that he won in a very decisive victory over Sen. John McCain. Nearly 350 electoral votes to McCain's 160 or so. Obama gathered 52% of the popular vote, the first time in at least 30 years that a Democratic candidate won a majority of the vote in a national election.

It feels like a tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It's the first time I can ever remember actually being optimistic about the future of this country and the world. I know that there are enormous challenges to face in the coming four years, but for the first time in a long time I think that our government is actually going to be part of the solution, as opposed to the problem. It's such an enormous, relieving feeling, and I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who know how great it feels.

To [livejournal.com profile] wingywoof, [livejournal.com profile] ladyperegrine, [livejournal.com profile] daroneasa and other people who poured our their hearts to get out the vote and make sure Obama won, thank you so much. You guys are an inspiration to me, and it's really awesome to see people so engaged in their communities again. After a long, long period of divisiveness and cynicism, I think this is a watershed moment in bringing our country back together again.

On the other hand, while 52% of the electorate across the country decided to put a black man in the White House for the first time, that same percentage of Californians decided to eliminate my right to marry. It's a lot closer than it sounds, and there are still a lot of votes to be counted (we should know how much tomorrow) but it looks like Proposition 8 is going to pass.

Folks are reasonably upset about this. Someone put it this way: "It's odd to me that we decided to give rights to a chicken (Proposition 2) and take them away from gay people in the same election." It's a slight blow to my ego to know where I stand with so many voters in-state.

But you know, [livejournal.com profile] toob has the right idea. No matter what happens to the legal recognition of our union, we're still married. All of you scrapped and fought and shouted and donated and volunteered to make sure that our rights were upheld, and our community is strong and sure. The fact that people aren't quite ready to accept that doesn't change that. It doesn't make our love or our union any less real. If anything, it tests that bond and through that challenge we're strengthened. I've never seen Ryan more resolved and sure of himself than I've seen him over the past few days. I know that we aren't going anywhere.

The proponents of Proposition 8 have resorted to lying, smearing, vandalism, and violence to get this measure passed. They've been exceedingly ugly about it, and it's easy to get angry and bitter about the fact that for now, their brazen intolerance is being allowed to dictate social policy. It's easy to call the 52% of people in CA who voted for the measure stupid, hateful, ignorant and bigoted. It's easy to feel disillusioned with the democratic process, especially when most people let themselves be guided by fear, misinformation and the worst aspects of themselves. It's easy, but completely wrong.

The single most impressive thing about Obama's campaign, and the thing that I'm hoping becomes a more permanent fixture of politics, is the humanization of "the enemy." When he disagreed with McCain, he never attacked his character; he attacked his ideals and the reasoning behind them. Better yet, he consistently appealed to the better nature of people. He talked of hope, and unity, and the sacrifices we'll need to make to ensure a better world for future generations. He's restored responsibility, respect and restraint to the national discourse. It's possible to disagree with someone without disrespecting them again.

We need to be patient with the people who, through coercion by fear and lies, have decided to deny us our rights. We'll never win them over by reflecting their worst qualities right back on themselves. We're not going to win this by rhetoric and hatred, bullying, intolerant behavior, and generally assinine behavior. Saying "fuck you" right back to our neighbors is only escalating the bile, when what we really want is for everything to just stop and for us to be able to live our lives with the same recognition that they have. If we want to be treated as equals, we're going to have to start treating our "enemies" as such. We have to believe that they're good people, and that we can appeal to their better nature. We have to stop attacking their character; we should start attacking their ideas and the reasoning behind them.

As I write this, the next stage in the fight for gay civil rights is beginning. Proposition 8 will soon be beset with legal challenges from all sides. Instead of combating this hatred with more hatred, we should show our opponents the benefits that our love has had in our lives, how it's ennobled us. Sometimes you have to answer a slap in the face with something more rational than returned violence to wake people up to what they're doing.

I can't thank all of you enough for supporting [livejournal.com profile] toob and I in our marriage. I am married to a wonderful, intelligent man, and we're embedded in a community full of wonderful, intelligent, diverse people. And I think that if we open ourselves up to show this to our opponents, we just might be able to turn the tide of public opinion towards equality for everyone.
jakebe: (Default)
I've been watching this guy for a little while now; he's very blue politically, but he presents himself quite reasonably and thoughtfully. He really should be getting a lot more attention than he is. If you're frustrated that Michael Moore and Al Franken are the biggest voices the left has got in the media, maybe you should check this guy out.

Here's a good example of his stuff: http://syndicated.livejournal.com/hanlonsrazor/292928.html
jakebe: (Thoughtful)
Time: 30 minutes
Distance: 2.67 miles
Speed: 6.2 mph
Calories: 272

Work so far this week has been an exercise in coping. There has been a gauntlet of things to get through since I've been back, and new things keep popping up all the time to distract me. It's like running a hurdle race where the hurdles keep changing distance, springing up and sinking back down randomly. It's not so bad as all that, but if I can't grumble a little in my journal, where else can I do it?

Anyway, things are mostly caught up on the work front, so I can actually devote most of my attention to those small fires that spring up throughout the day. There are a few things consistently going wrong, at least, so I can work around them pretty easily. I don't know how specific I should get, because I could get *really* detailed, breaking confidentiality and (more importantly) boring the pants off of people.

In other news, the 2008 Iowa caucases are in the bag. With most of the precincts reporting in at this point, Obama is projected to win the Democratic delegates with 38% of the vote and Huckabee is taking the Republican ticket with 34% of the vote. This is both good and bad news.

I'm no political analyst, so I'm not exactly sure how much stock to put into the results here. However, it's worth noting that the Dems are posting a turnout of 240,000 while the Republican numbers are around 125,000. This means that more people in Iowa voted for Barack Obama than they did for Mike Huckabee. If Obama can get that kind of thing in white-bread Iowa, then it's a huge feather in his cap. Imagine what he can do in other parts of the country!

I lived in Arkansas while Huckabee was governor, and I have to say it makes me pretty worried that he's gathering so much steam in the GOP. Truth be told he wasn't the worst governor ever, but he was quite firmly a conservative hypocrite who fostered a good ol' boy network in the state. The kinds of people who voted for Huckabee are also the kinds of people who are responsible for the explosion of megachurches and gated communities all over northwest Arkansas. The idea that he might carry the party just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. This primary is the best chance other Republicans have of wresting control of their party away from the religious right. Huckabee is definitely a step in the wrong direction. I'm not saying vote for Guiliani or anything, but...damn.

Are there any conservatives reading this? Who are you voting for, and why?

There's also a fairly big storm coming through the Bay area starting tonight and stretching on into Sunday. I think we'll be just fine, here, but I'm tempted to stock up on a few supplies just in case. The only flashlight I have are the small LEDs that attach to my keychain, but I'm sure everyone else has a lot more. And we have quite a few candles, should the power go out. It's enough to read a book by, but I'm not sure it's enough to cook a can of chili.

Happy birthday, [livejournal.com profile] brokkentwolf! I would try to roll you, but perhaps you will settle for lapinic frolicking instead. :)
jakebe: (Default)
So, Decision '06 is over. Democrats have taken a majority in the Governor's Mansion, and the House of Representatives. Two very close races in the Senate have yet to be decided, but every one I've been able to check has the Dems leading those by a slim margin. It's looking very good that they'll be taking the Legislative Branch for the next two years.

Most people seem to be either relieved or cautious or drained or...*shudder*...apathetic. And while it's true that we have a very long way to go in seeing ourselves out of this political situation, I have to say let us take pleasure in the fact that...at least this is a step in the right direction. We have a way to provide a check to the office of President now.

I won't pretend the next two years are going to be milk and honey. The Democratic Party still lacks a unified front on many issues (will someone *please* stand up and say writing discrimination into state constitutions is wrong?) and a lot of them have simply used the "Hey, we're not Republicans!" line to get themselves voted in. Now that they have a certain amount of power, I hope to see someone in the party take the reigns and start *doing* something with it. They were voted in because people want to see a change in the way our government's been handling things for the last six years. So start changing them.

For now, though, let's have at least one day of celebration. :) *pops the sparkling cider!*

One of the biggest things I've noted about voting in California is how much more...intense the whole process is. A few weeks before the election a voter information pamphlet is mailed to you, detailing a lot of the races that don't get TV exposure (like the Mayor's race and education posts) and all of the measures and propositions that are up for ballot. Businesses offer you free stuff if you can show proof of voting, and apparently there's a law that says there must be a polling place within every half-mile on election day. Even neighbor's garages can be set up as polling places!

Despite the fact that you could practically vote on the sidewalks and freeways, it took Tube and I an hour to get through the line for voting. The volunteer said the turnout was way up this year, which is encouraging, and it's nice to hear that everyone back in Arkansas went out to vote as well. :) Hutchinson was voted out as Governor, woo hoo!!

Beyond that, there hasn't been terribly much of interest going on. Except...last night I got to talk to [livejournal.com profile] sparky_d and he was good enough to invite us over to his place in NV for a day or two. We even get to meet his wife and parents! And the flight over there is going to be...an experience. I'm excited enough to get over my fear of flying for this, even.

Next week, we'll be road-tripping down the coast to see [livejournal.com profile] theottsel and [livejournal.com profile] clipfox and [livejournal.com profile] geddcoon, and go to Disneyland. Hooray! Traveling rocks. :D
jakebe: (Bad Ass)
A friend of mine wrote a pretty blistering missive about voter apathy. Mostly, I agree with everything he says minus the name calling. ;) Don't care about who's in office? Then don't pretend to care when they're making decisions that directly affect you. If you like having the freedom to vote for who you want, do (more or less) what you want as long as it doesn't mess with anyone else too much, then the least you can do is EXERCISE THAT FREEDOM.

Don't believe in voting for the lesser of two evils? Then for God's sake learn about third-party candidates that are running for various offices. Most states even have write-in candidate provisions in case you don't like anyone who's running for a given office. Even writing "Mr. Potato Head" for state governor is a conscious act expressing your displeasure with the candidates, the government, and the entire voting process. If enough people did it, we'd end up with a toy for governor sure, but people would get the message: we're not taking politics as usual any more. It's time for a change.

I recognize that not voting at all today is a conscious choice that's your right to make. But honestly, it's the worst choice you could make. Not voting IS tacit approval of the status quo, and does nothing to change the state of affairs you claim to be protesting by abstaining your vote. If you don't believe in voting, fine, but you'd better be doing something else to work for the kind of change you want.

Bottom line: if you don't do anything to change the situation, don't come crying to me in a year or two when more rights are eroded and America is slipping further down the rabbit-hole into a totalitarian state. You're not going to get any sympathy from me.

Apologies if this comes off as self-righteous, but being apathetic is not being superior. People need to realize that.

The Smalls

Oct. 20th, 2006 07:57 am
jakebe: (Pissy Bunnies Everywhere!)
My knees have been giving me more and more trouble as of late; it's getting hard to get on my knees to reach low shelves and drawers, and my knees feel really tight when I start to bike home. I'm going to give myself a small break from biking from today to next Tuesday to see if that helps. I've been perpetually sore around the thighs and calves for a week and a half now, so this is a good chance to give them a rest and allow them time to biggify. :9

On the flip side, though, this means that I'm going to seriously watch my food intake. My metabolism is going to slow down, though I don't know how much or how fast, so...I'll have to back off on a lot of snacking. Woe is me! Weight has been holding steady at 163 for a while, and I'd like to get that down another 5 or 10 pounds further. If I can just hover between 155 - 160, I'll be golden.

This might get me into a bit of trouble, but based on a few conversations I've had this morning with [livejournal.com profile] harlkyn about the Military Commissions Act, I feel like I kind of have to. I'd like to know who on my Friends List voted for Bush in 2004, and why they did so. Also, I'd like to ask a few questions. Do you still support him now? Why or why not? What *do* you think of the Military Commissions Act? Personally, I think Bush is the worst President this country has ever seen (though since my knowledge of history is less-than-complete, feel free to throw in your two cents about that too), and I'm struggling to understand how people could have possibly thought he'd be better than Kerry in 2004, or still think he's doing a good job of it today.

And with that, it's time for final work preparation.
jakebe: (Zen)
I'm trying to get better about posting, I really am! But there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of time, alas. The time has perhaps come to download an LJ client to my laptop and PC, so I can type a little here or there.

Thanks for everyone's input about the bank thing! I ended up getting an account with Valley Credit Union, and they've been pretty good so far. Waiting on my checks so I can finally catch up on a few bills that are late (mostly because there's no way to pay them without a book of checks), but by the end of November I should be mostly caught up on everything and ready for Christmas shopping! Hopefully, people don't mind books, CDs and DVDs. ;)

Sunday Tube and I saw The Wild (he'll say at my request, but I will categorically deny it). It actually wasn't *terrible*, though there was a lot that was painful to watch. I'll save further comment for later review type stuff. :)

Monday was the writer's group; we watched Chicago come back from 20 points down to beat Arizona by 1 near the end of the fourth quarter. It was...impressive; I do believe the Bears are for real this season. Hopefully they won't collapse in December or anything, we'll keep our fingers crossed.

Anyway, didn't get to finish my short story on time for submitting, so I went with a few poems that fit the new fable theme instead. Most folks don't read poetry there, so again...apologies for forcing it on you. This buys me a bit of time, though, to figure out what the hell is wrong with me!

It comes down to this: I keep forgetting perspective about my writing. I'm 26 years old, and most of the people I know are a bit older than that, and have way more experience with writing short stories besides. Truth be told, I've only managed to finish three of them in my life, and I have no technique or training for it. It's going to be slow, and my stories are going to be bad. Eventually, I'll get better. I'm just not there now.

Doesn't really stop me from wanting to write like everyone else in the group. The level of quality is fairly high, and I consider myself fortunate to be in such company. It's just difficult to lower my expectations for myself right now. I'm not going to be happy with much that I write prose-wise, and perhaps I shouldn't be. I'm a novice in every sense of the word.

Tuesday we went to see a musical called Dessa Rose. It was bad. It's about the power of finding sisterhood in the pre-Civil War South. The message and plot are worthwhile, I suppose, though the material has been very thoroughly mined already. What really made the play stand out in its awfulness is the sanitized way it handled almost everything negative. Slavery came off like a mild inconvenience to most black folks, and a lot of the really bad stuff (there was a lashing, vaginal mutilation, and attempted rape, not to mention all kinds of other dehumanizing situations) was stylized away to the point of minimal impact. For all the crowing the two main characters did about the 'struggle they went through' at the beginning and end, there wasn't a real sense of struggle at all. Just stuff that happened to make Dessa tart and uppity.

This, in my opinion, does a really big disservice to the reality of what happened to black people during slavery times. If you're going to talk about it, then talk about it...don't clean it up so it doesn't offend delicate sensibilities. People, even folks who pay $30+ for tickets to a good-time musical, need to be exposed to this, need to have a proper sense of what transgressed in this country 140 years ago. I'm not saying that art should be confrontational for the sake of confrontation, but we shouldn't wrap anything harsh in spun sugar to make it go down easier. The way Dessa Rose described slavery was akin to describing rape as an "unpleasant sexual activity." Technically it's true, but it doesn't even begin to cover it.

Because anything negative was treated with kid gloves, the story about reconciliation between slave girl Dessa and lonely plantation owner Ruth came off as horribly cliched and oversimplified. The big "Hey we're all the same!" number is called (and I wish I was kidding) "White Milk, Red Blood," expressing that no matter what color a nursing mother may be, she always leaks the same kind of bodily fluids.

The whole play was preachy, treacly, and a little insulting. And I'm not just ripping it apart because I missed Peter Beagle to see it. It really was bad. :) The actors sold the material for all it was worth, though, and they did a pretty good job. They worked hard and should definitely be recognized for it.

Speaking of Peter Beagle, [livejournal.com profile] toob was nice enough to miss a lot of stuff so we could go to Berkeley and watch him speak. He read "A Dance for Emilie" from his new collection, and took a few questions from the audience. Apparently, he lives in Oakland! I am SO sending him fan mail. :D :D He was very personable and warm, and his delivery style was taken right out of vaudeville and a few notable Jewish comics. I liked him a lot!

That takes us all the way to today. I'm hoping to keep going on the short story, knock a few character descriptions out of the way, and start preparing my Christmas list for all the folks back home in Arkansas. Miss you guys. :)

There's a lot going on in national and world news, besides...Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act, pretty much making torture legal (or at least impossible to do anything about) and just widening the memory hole that 'enemy combatants' find themselves placed into. At this point, I'm almost numb to the state of the Union; I can only hope and pray that enough people see what's going on to give Dems control of Congress in '06. It's not a permanent solution by any stretch, but it at least stems the flood of sanity that's been pouring out of this country's political scene for six years now. Honestly, it's just...discouraging. I feel pretty helpless in the face of it all. I thought I could trust the voting process, at least, but what with the rise of the Diebold machines even that's suspect. What can we do? There's all kinds of groups to join, money to throw at political action groups, charities to donate to...but none of that seems to be doing any good. People are still rabidly ignorant, uncompassionate, hostile to anyone's opinion but the ones spouted at them by television and radio. What can you do with that? It feels like our political process, our way of life, our civilization is at a breaking point. I don't mean this in an alarmist sense, but something fundamental has to change about America if we're going to get to a place that's any less broken than it is now. That's the long and short of it. I don't think the Human Rights Council or any PIRG or lobby group is going to be the source of this change, either. Whatever happens, it'll be unorganized and spontaneous. All I can do is hope it's positive.

Last, but not least, happy birthday to the suddenly disappeared [livejournal.com profile] sugerhound! If you're reading this, hope you're doing fantastically. :)

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