A Word to Progressives

There’s a story I’ve been telling recently I think bears repeating.

A year or two before my son started school, there was a buzz. Word on the playground was that a momentum was building. A group of neighborhood parents, priced out of NYC private schools and frustrated at the lackluster performance of the local public schools, were starting to mobilize. Fantastic, right? These parents started getting involved, going to town halls and attending district and zone meetings. They organized and advocated. They had binders full great ideas that would benefit not only their own kids, but everyone’s kids. Win/win.

In their passion to improve what was already there they neglected one important thing: the people who already called that school home. And those folks were understandably wary and resentful of a group of newcomers rushing in demanding change while liberally pointing out fault and failure.

I’m watching the same thing happen now with the progressive movement in the US. A fired-up grass-roots movement which wants to overhaul the Democratic Party for the betterment of all. Fantastic, right? But as I’m watching, I’m shaking my head. Because many are making the same mistake those neighborhood parents made: they’re not taking into account the people who actually make up the Democratic party.

The Democrats lost the last election. Bigly. They’ve lost countless seats and governorships in the last few election years. We can autopsy the whys until we’re covered in the gore of yesterday. We can place blame from here until Tuesday. None of that changes the fact that when you march into someone else’s school–or house, or political party–expecting to radically change the structure, you must take into account the needs, wants, and desires of the people who actually live there. Or, as the case may be, vote there.

Even if your ideas are great. Even if your ideas will help the people already there.

No one likes to be told they’re doing things wrong. No one likes to be told if only. Never mind if you’re right or not. Everyone’s well-versed in hindsight and its eagle-eyed vision. Would you march into someone else’s house and start shouting “You chose the wrong carpet! Your decor sucks! What were you thinking? Oh by the way, can I come stay with you for a while until I get my own place?”

If you expect them to say “Well sure, here are the keys!”, I want some of what you’re smoking.

What are they likely to do? The same thing any human being does when told they’re wrong, or stupid, or not good enough. They bristle. They resent the hell out of you. And they probably try to block every single attempt to change because hey, maybe the school/house/party is failing, but damn if it’s not our school and who are you to tell us how to do things? 

It makes my heart swell to see millions striving to make the world a more equitable place. But….you need to remember that there are millions of Democrats who’ve been living in their blue house for decades. Maybe it is falling down around them (and that point is arguable in and of itself). But remember, even if it is, it’s their damn house and they’ve been paying the mortgage on it for years. And despite what you may think, they’ve had a lot of good times in that house. There are some good memories there. They’re not going to let someone they don’t know come in and start tearing up the linoleum to see if there’s hardwood underneath, all the while berating them for every decorating choice they’ve made since 1960.

Most people don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable. Even when that change is going to benefit them. The reasons why so many old school Democrats are committed now to a resistance movement is that the change is threatening to go too far in one direction. But remember, for millions of Democrats–the people who have been living in that house, the ones who have been showing up and voting–change too far in the other direction is just as frightening. And they’ll fight it just as much.

Right now, Progressives need to rent some room in the Democrat’s house. Sure, you could declare it condemned. You could burn it and build something new. You could find another house on another street. But that all takes time, and by the time all is said and done, it could be too late.

Or…you could work with the people already living there. And, chances are, when you start looking around, you’re going to find a pretty decent bone structure to work with. In fact, the place may not be in as much disarray as you thought it was when you dragged your sleeping bag in looking for a place to squat.

Smart Progressives will approach coalition building with courtesy, caution, and yes, compromise. Maybe you reach an agreement to live together until your own house is ready. Great! After all, help with the bills is always welcomed. Until it’s ready it would be wise to remember that if you need a place to stay, it’s probably not the smartest move to go around  knocking holes in the walls and incessantly bringing up that time in 1992 when they let the pipes freeze. Or else you may just find your ass on the street. Noble intentions, passion, and good ideas go a long way, but when there’s a hurricane bearing down upon you, and there’s a big old blue house on the corner inviting you in, it would be dumb not to take shelter. Even if the roof is leaky and it stinks like mothballs. 

Eventually the new parents in my Brooklyn hood worked with the long-time neighborhood residents, wisely realizing that even if the school wasn’t winning any awards, it wasn’t really their school to criticize. The need for underlying change and improvement hadn’t gone away, but any forward motion had to take the old into account as well as the new.

Resistance is necessary. But the last thing a resistance movement needs is resistance within itself.

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The Mother of All Elections

veruca_saltI know I’m not alone in experiencing what’s become known as “election fatigue”. I’m exhausted; head-scratching, rage-inducing, gag-me-with-a-spoon, rant-riddled exhausted. But I think I’ve finally figured out one reason why.

Being a Democrat this election cycle has been like parenting a two-year old.

For eighteen months the GOP has been throwing the mother of all tantrums. Over-tired toddler in the Nerf aisle of Toy-R-Us level meltdown. And while the remnants of a once proud party writhes on the linoleum kicking and screeching, the rest of us have had to draw on every last bit of patience and reserve and the grittiest of true grit just to get the fucker out of the store without drawing too much attention.

Essentially the GOP is all the kids from Willy Wonka rolled up into one  glooped out, bad egg mess.

Parenting is all about love, sure. But it’s also managing and soothing and calming, compromise, listening, modeling behavior and when it comes right down to it, making sure everyone gets a cookie.

I do all of that with my own kids. It’s tiring. The Democratic party has been doing it with a good portion of America for the last year. No wonder why so many of us are  DefCon 4 exhausted.

There are times as a parent when all I want to do is scream “What the FUCK is wrong with you?” at my kids. I don’t….not out loud anyway. It wouldn’t solve anything and it would do more harm than good. And while it might make me feel better for approximately five seconds, I simply cannot justify the potential fall-out that five seconds worth of pent-up release would bring me. Plus, it’s not exactly the example I want to set for my children.

I imagine there are a lot of blue-voting folks out there who have wanted to scream “What the FUCK is wrong with you?’ to a good number of people, but who realize it won’t actually solve anything. Because if the family fall-out is bad, what’s it going to be like multiplied by a few million? Plus, it’s not exactly the example Democrats want or should want to set.

(Though admittedly, it might make you feel better for approximately five seconds.)

There’s been soothing. Yes, we understand you’re frustrated. There’s been empathy. Yes, we understand you’re angry. There has been redirection, bribery, threats, pleas. And yes, at times, even the kind of full-frontal confrontation that is leaning down and hissing into your kid’s face in a voice low enough that no one else can hear.

You know what? Mommy’s angry too. Mommy’s really, really, fucking angry.

willy-wonka-augustus-gloop

For the past year and a half, it seems as if one side has been expected to manage, dissuade, and calm the anger of the other. They’ve been trying to convince Veruca that no, she can’t have the golden goose just because she wants it. Why? Because no one wants NATO calling child protective services called on our asses and though it may seem tempting at times, no one really wants to go and pick half their country out of a garbage chute either.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read so much about one, single topic in my life. Article upon study upon poll of why the angry, white base (yes, a gross generalization) is voting for or supporting Donald Trump. Of how people distrust the political system, the establishment, the media, women. Loss of jobs, fear, too many ‘isms’ to shake a stick at. What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Nation Divided stuff

The Democratic party isn’t dumb. We get it. You’re angry.

You’re not alone.

We’re angry too. We’re angry that we can’t just go to the store and leave without a fuss. That we can’t have nice things in our country like health care and equal rights without someone pitching a shit fit. We’re angry that everyone else in the global parking lot is staring and judging and tsk tsk-ing. And a lot of times we are angry that instead of screaming into your face we’re supposed to go high, be the adult and wrangle this mess into the car seat to get it home.

There is an entire political party in the United States which has been playing Mommy/Daddy to a group of whining brats for the last eight years. Some are whining because they didn’t get the biggest piece of cake. Others are whining because the black kid got the slice with the most frosting. And some are whining because the girl is going to get a piece too, though it’s still probably only 79% as big.

When my kids whine like that I want to smash the whole cake so no one can have any. But I’m a parent. I don’t do that, not least of all because I’m going to have to clean the whole mess up.

When I watch and listen to what is being said, how I’m meant to empathize and sympathize and understand? I want to smash the whole thing so the other side can’t have any. But I’m a Democrat. I don’t do that, not least of all because, at the end of the day, it would make me no better than those who are pitching a fit about me having some cake too.

violet_keeps_growing_redux___5_by_faridae-d8cuqstAny parent will tell you that logic doesn’t work in the face of pure emotion. Sometimes the only thing you can do is let the thing play out and hope it doesn’t do any lasting damage.

Even if it takes eight years.

With any luck we’ll get a nap in before the next fit starts. Because if you’re a parent….or a Democrat….you know damn well there’s always going to be a next one.

Pssst…Millennials–Gen X Here. Can We Have a Word?

10e0ca10f66a0b8442b7f31e3a68ebc7Dear Millennials,

I keep reading about your disillusionment with the political process, about your lack of enthusiasm for the candidates you have to choose from.

I get it.

Try, if you will, to cast you mind back to the 80s. We were a generation that came of age at the height of the AIDS/HIV crisis. We were living under a thinly veiled threat of nuclear fallout. The Berlin Wall was still standing. Nancy Regan was consulting her astrologist and pleading with us to “JUST SAY NO!”

1988 was the first year I was eligible to vote. My choices for president? George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. I can already hear you asking, Michael Who-what-is?? Yeah, I wasn’t very excited either. Neither was the rest of the country. Bush won handily.

I thought the whole country was going to hell during the first Bush administration. I worried the draft would be reinstated, I worried my male friends would be shipped off to the Middle East to fight a war none of us believed in. I was convinced of a lot of things.

Many of us were disgusted with the government. We protested the war. We marched on Washington for reproductive rights. We marched in NYC to take back the night.

It didn’t do any good. No one was listening. And so we started to distrust the system. The same way the flower children started to distrust the system during Vietnam. The same way some of you do now.

I get it.

For all our quaint John Hughes movies and bad hairstyles, all our James Spader rich boy sneering, we were you once upon thirty years ago. Faced with political choices that fell flat. Trust me. It was really hard get excited about Dukakis.

polbhem1fed-bldg-sit-in-1991

Gen X wasn’t all Duran Duran and parachute pants. There was a momentum. There were movements. LGBTQ rights were on the horizon, women in shoulder pads were, if not busting into boardrooms, then knocking at the door. There was fire and crackle and sizzle. Rage at the fuddy-duddy process. Demands for faster progress.

So what happened? In the most boring predictable of clichés, we grew up. The economy boomed. We fell in love. Got jobs. September 11 came along and upended the way we viewed the world. Kids were born, parents died. We got divorced, remarried. Lost jobs. Battled cancer. You know, life.

Life happened. And on that spectrum of life you realize things aren’t always as cut and dry as they seem.

I read about the fire in your belly paired with a sense of  helplessness, the feeling no one is listening to your (mostly spot-on, legitimate) demands. Here’s the thing: That feeling’s not new. I think the folks who write these articles forget what it’s like to be in that 18-25 year-old age bracket. Or perhaps they just haven’t left the bracket yet themselves.

But, damn you guys! You have ushered in an era where it is not only easier for LGBTQ youth to come out, but one which supports them, both socially and legally. Don’t think that’s big deal? Go check out those John Hughes movies Generation X are so fond of. There aren’t any gay characters in them. That is a seismic cultural shift. You showed the country there was room in The Breakfast Club for the “gay one” as well.

You did that.

You live in a world where you don’t understand why it’s such a big deal that a woman is on the top of the Presidential ticket. The year some of you were born I sat in stunned silence as Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. And then watched as Congress approved him for the Supreme Court of the United States anyway. Yeah, we’ve still got a long way to go on that one, but we need your help.

Your detractors call you lazy, entitled, apathetic. I think you haven’t had time to live yet.

Life is experience and experience is nuance. You get older and you live longer and you realize, quite clearly, there are terrible things out there in the world. As a young adult there is love. There is war. There is right. There is wrong. There are clear lines in the sand. And that is as it should be. You need that clarity, that focus. If at eighteen you realized how many different ways you could be truly fucked, you’d never get out of bed. We’d lose an entire generation.

You may look at us, slightly pudgy and graying, comfortable shoes reminiscing about our youth and think the fire’s gone out. But the thing about fire is that if you can’t control it, it burns the whole place down, the good with the bad. The trick is learning how to tame the flames enough to make them useful.

I guess what I am saying is don’t give up. You have the elasticity to bounce back. We may be living life with our slightly less radical and slightly more centrist ideas, with our boring policy talk, doing things the only way we know how. But you? You have the opportunity to live the lives never offered us. Use that gift to tame the flames in a way to make them work for you.

act-up-phila-on-broad-stI know you won’t listen. I know because I wouldn’t have when I was eighteen, nineteen. I would have looked at the middle-aged person trying to give me advice as a relic of the past. A pudgy fossil on their way to Shady Pines.

I’ll say it anyway. Don’t throw a bucket of cold water on your fire because it’s not burning in the direction you hoped.

You can’t fake experience. You have to live it. So sure, we may seem stodgy and middle-aged now. It may look like we sold out, became complacent, gave up. But really we’re just getting ready to pass the baton.

It’s up to you to run with it. Don’t sit down on the track before you even start.

Love,
Generation X

Like a Death Row Pardon Two Minutes Too Late

irony-bonus-panel-1When I was but a wee lass, the children’s show Sesame Street used to end each episode with a little blurb about the show being “sponsored” by a number and/or letter.

Today’s show was brought to you by the number 5 and the letter P!!

Well, today’s rant is brought to you by the words hypocrisy and irony.

Much like a WikiLeaks e-mail dump, it’s one of those days when I need to empty the random from my head before it curdles and turns to whey…and my family abandons me and I end up in Roswell, NM with a tin-foil hat and a houseful of cats. ¹

A while back I did a post about the U.S. suffering from a bad case of the ironies–well, it appears that much like finding a way to combat Zika, Congress couldn’t get their finger out of their ass and that irony spread unchecked. It covered the US like a bad rash. It festered. And just to make things worse, the U.S. went and caught a bad case of hypocrisy as well.

Is is not a little bit ironic that Donald Trump lashed out at Mr. Khan, an American citizen, for criticizing his lack of constitutional knowledge—yet….wait for it….what Mr. Khan was doing was the VERY THING THE FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTS…criticizing the government.

Yeah, I really do think.

Or that that he wants to open up libel laws to sue the media for printing falsehoods (which aren’t really) but he thinks the NATIONAL ENQUIRER should win a Pulitzer Prize?

Like a no-smoking sign on your cigarette break.

Isn’t it hypocritical that Donald Trump calls the media biased, but only when it doesn’t agree with him, criticizes him, fact-checks or prints what he actually says but without the ‘sarcasm’ air quotes? ²

Maybe it’s just me looking for a free ride when I’ve already paid.

Isn’t it just a little bit hypocritical that Hillary and Hillary alone is solely held responsible by some for the deaths of four Americans, but those same folk seem to be a-okay with the deaths of thousands of Americans and Middle Easterners stemming from false intelligence reports of Iraq’s new program of weapons of mass destruction? ³

Or that the GOP holds Hillary’s vote for the Iraq war against her but not Mike Pence’s? 

Like a frigging traffic jam when you’re already late.Abortion rights

Isn’t it a wee bit hypocritical (not to mention suspect) that Julian Assange champions himself as warrior of truth for leaking emails which disclose bias when he himself is displaying bias by only leaking information from one party, after admitting to an extreme dislike of Hillary Clinton?

Isn’t it ironic that hypocrisy rhymes so nicely with GOP?

Isn’t it ironic that so does irony?

Isn’t it hypocritical that so many far-right Christians spread fear of Sharia Law like butter on toast yet that’s EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO IMPOSE UPON THE UNITED STATES, legislation based on their own Christian beliefs, to the complete and utter disregard of EVERYONE ELSE?

And isn’t it ironic that these are the VERY SAME PEOPLE WHO SCREAM ABOUT THEIR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BEING STRIPPED AWAY?

Isn’t it ironic how there are already claims from the GOP leadership that the national election will be rigged, yet as court case after court case shows, voter ID laws, like the one in North Carolina, all signed into law by Republican legislatures, have been shown to unfairly target and disenfranchise minorities who…. surprise, surprise, tend to vote for Democrats?

Like winning the lottery and dying the next day.

(And PLEASE. PLEASE. I want someone to argue with me how the founding fathers could not have foreseen the need for voter ID if only so I can throw back in their face not being able to have foreseen the advent of the AK47 either. Pleaaasseee…)

Isn’t it hypocritical that the “pro-life” agenda doesn’t apply to ‘life’ beyond the birth canal?

And is it not the height of hypocrisy for people to rant and rave about fetal tissue supplied by abortion providers and then take advantage of medical advances and technology which have advanced because of fetal tissue research?

(I have an idea–everyone who is anti-choice should refuse all medical treatment that is directly or indirectly a result of fetal tissue research, which includes, but is not limited to vaccine research, strokes, Parkinson’s and here’s irony within irony–to study fetal development to better understand and prevent miscarriage)

Isn’t it ironic that Chris Christie led a chorus of  “Lock Her Up” and has repeatedly admonished Hillary Clinton for lying and corruption and….BridgeGate?

hypocrisyIsn’t it hypocritical that Hillary Clinton is demonized for staying with her unfaithful husband in order to further her political career but all those Republicans standing behind a candidate they don’t believe in in order to keep their jobs are just a-ok?

Look, I’ve waited my whole damn life just to take this flight. I’ll be damned if the fucking plane is going to crash down now.

Don’t let Alanis be right. Oh hell, she’ll be ok regardless. She’s Canadian. *

Don’t let this election be a death row pardon two minutes too late.

#vote

 

¹  I have no real problem with cats, nor with people who own cats, even multiple cats. I went for the cheap joke.

²  I’m aware that most news sources lean one way or another, however, I’ve chosen to use a combination of NY Times, NPR, BBC, WaPo, and CNN as my base. And yes, I’m aware of the irony.

³  I’m going with the NY Times (see ²)

* Most ironic, none of Ms. Morissette’s musical examples are actually examples of irony. But let’s be fair, “Isn’t it Coincidental?” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

ALL politicians are hypocritical. They ALL hedge their bets, fudge the truth, and diminish and exaggerate to secure a vote. They ALL lie, break promises, and get mired down in the complexities of running a country, state or city. They ALL hand out favors and they all take the choicest pickings from the spoils. They ALL make decisions which are going to leave a pretty large chunk of the populace out. The ALL make decision which from time to time favor some over most. They ALL make the wrong decisions from time to time, sometimes with devastating consequences. It’s the way it has always been, it’s nothing new. What’s new is the complete and utter disregard for fact-based analysis and discourse. What is new is an Evangelical supported platform which, if instituted would be disastrous for women and minorities, not to mention completely against everything I feel the United States is about. For me, this year, the Republican party exemplifies the absolute worst aspects of this process.

Sure, focusing on just that is a little hypocritical.

Isn’t it ironic?