Category: Politics (page 2 of 4)

500 Words on Normal

Original Image courtesy Getty Images

“This is not normal” has become something of a rallying call for the resistance against the rising regime on a local, national, and international level. It’s not a bad place to begin. It’s true, after all — none of the confusing and detrimental decisions being made by this rising regime we’re dealing with is normal. And yet, people are trying to make this situation in which we’re now living normal.

“Stop protesting,” they say. “Accept your new president. Get a job.”

They try to silence voices of dissent while their demagogue leaders silence voices of fact-seeking and science.

This is not normal.

Then again, neither am I.

I’ve never been ‘normal.’ Even before my diagnoses began to emerge, I didn’t fit in very well. Teachers told my parents that I would “always march to the beat of [my] own drummer.” In a way, for a long time, I’ve been afraid to truly stand out, or assert my own goals or personality. I felt more comfortable trying to weave it into the patterns of others, in their individual lives or the life of a community. I never really took care of or connected with myself; I made the needs and wants of others more of a concern. When my own desires would emerge, I’d be impulsive or even reckless in pursuing them, and then berate or flagellate myself (or worse) in the aftermath. I understand now how typical that is of those with bipolar disorder, even my less severe flavor of Type II.

That impulsiveness or recklessness was never normal, nor is it, nor will it ever be.

Some chose to subscribe to the interpretation that they were, and are, and always will be.

Those toxic, short-sighted, and regressive perceptions of me are not normal.

Just like this new regime and its toxic, short-sighted, and regressive decisions are not normal.

I think that’s an underlying reason why people trying to normalize such things pisses me off. It’s the same sort of normalization people tried to ascribe to my aberrant behavior.

I don’t know where this infection of imagination came from. I don’t know why so many people, some of whom I used to believe were incredibly adept at imagining others complexly and engaging in progressive, independent thought, fell so easily into group-think tendencies and mob mentalities. Correcting erroneous thinking and toxic behavior is never a simple, once-and-done affair; it takes sustained, thoughtful, compassionate effort.

Some people, I guess, just don’t care enough to do that.

That should not be, nor should it ever be, normal.

We are on this planet together. We are in this fight for survival together. And we will not survive if we continue to tear ourselves apart just to get one over on our neighbor.

We need to fight back against ignorance and mindless mob mentalities. We need to demand more comprehensive and compassionate allowance for the rights of individual human beings. We need to put a stop to the toxicity and fascism.

Because it is not normal.

Holding Together

The challenges that we as independent thinkers and non-normative humans are facing are going to be increasing in pervasiveness and difficulty as the next few years unfold. We’ve already had to work hard to maintain that this new status quo that most people are settling into is not normal, nor will it ever be. We’ve voiced our stance of standing up for those who are, now more than ever, targets of an emboldened, vocal, and violent minority. We’ve resolved to hold together.

I want to add to all of that — with which I agree completely and will shout from mountaintops as I light every beacon I can find — a warning. The big thing fueling the new boldness of the willfully ignorant and gleefully hateful is utter and thoughtless submission to groupthink. While we as individuals draw a lot of strength from solidarity, and should never be expected to handle challenges like this on our own, the trick is to not fall into the sort of non-thought that makes people jump to conclusions, ignore facts, and pour more fuel and add more weaponry to any number of bandwagons. We must never lose our grip on individual thought, never stop questioning sources, never stop investigating accusations with care and thorough consideration for all, even the accused. After all, at least on some level, the accused are human beings, too.

I use the turn of phrase “imagine each other complexly” on a pretty regular basis. I picked it up from John Green and the greater community called ‘the Nerdfighters’. While personal experiences have soured me against greater participation in medium or large groups, as I said above, sometimes we must fall back into communities that can and wish to support us. The problems arise when elements of those communities cease fostering the independent thought of its constituents, and instead issue clarion calls that demand affirmation while denying or even expelling counter-arguments. I’ve seen people raise contrary points of view to sweeping statements that have little basis in facts only to be silenced, ridiculed, and even accused of themselves being coerced, blinded, or ‘traitorous’. That is not imagining each other complexly. That’s groupthink. That’s toxicity.

When we imagine each other complexly, we take into consideration our backgrounds, our experiences, our points of view, our motivations. While intent does not free one from the consequences of action, the source of our motivations can be revealed as ultimately faulty, due to one of those factors. If we can come to terms with such things, we can work to correct our mistakes, seek reconciliation from those affected, foster better communication within our communities and, as a result, become even stronger and more positive. When instead we make grandiose declarations that seek to divide, expel, and generally cast community members as ‘other’, we reduce the authenticity of said community. It becomes less a gathering of like minds and, for those employing these divisive tactics, tools for personal advancement.

To hold together is to avoid this at all costs. To hold together is to challenge those who’d fall into such patterns of behavior. To hold together is to foster one another as individuals, to imagine each other complexly, to practice and share love, a dedication to facts and forgiveness, and the ultimately mutually beneficial goal of holding space for those who can make our communities better, stronger, and more resilient.

Make no mistake. The groupthinkers, the willfully ignorant, the knee-jerk reactionaries, the insidious demagogues and oligarchs on scales large and small — they will not do this. They will place themselves in the way of progress. They will seek to silence all dissent, rally supporters with incendiary invective, prey on fear and foster negative influences that deny the facts. They will shun more complex and comprehensive responses, and expect you to do the same. They will pat you on the back when you succumb to anger and trauma, and foster that into feelings of hate and personal admonition. They will weaken you to make themselves stronger. They will divide and destroy. And they will laugh and celebrate their victories the entire way.

Personally, I do not know how or why this has become the baseline for discourse in the past year. I’ve seen it in so many aspects, from small communities that I thought were above it to the larger political machine of the United States. And while I want to find the root causes, understand the motivations and goals of those who seek to rob us of our freedom, I know that, in the end, those are not the people who think I matter, who care about me (if they ever really did), who’d hold space for me and imagine me complexly.

We must fight this sort of toxicity. We must foster healthier discourse between us as individuals. We must imagine each other complexly, stand in solidarity against ignorance and hatred, and lovingly but firmly demand of one another the denial of groupthink and the exaltation of each individual being an individual and still making whatever community we choose to support better, stronger, and more exemplary of the best that this species has to offer.

We must hold together.

Wednesdays I wonder at the world in which we live.

My Country In Wartime

We Shall Overcome

I have felt this atmosphere in my country before.

In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, there was a palpable aura around the people who walked to and fro, doing their best to go about their daily lives. We fought back against a paralysis so gripping, it threatened to choke the life from us. We’d been knocked back on our heels. We’d taken a sucker punch to the gut. And we resolved, as a nation, not to let the fear rule our lives. We didn’t normalize what had happened. We fought back. We went to war.

I hate that word. War.

FDR hated it, too. He said as much in an address given at Chautauqua, N.Y. in 1936:

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping, exhausted men come out of lineā€”the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.

I am seeing, and feeling, so many parallels, between those times and now, that I have to use a word and idea that may prove antithetical to what’s best for our society, but rings true no matter how I might deny it.

What has happened in the wake of this latest election in the United States is no less than a declaration of war.

I look at the rhetoric. I read between the lines. I see what’s been spewed from the deep places of the Internet. I hear tell of ambitious plans to continue shifting the global atmosphere to one of hatred and “cleansing”, from electing more radically prejudiced leaders to a delineation of in what order to “purge” those who are “lesser”. These are more than words. These are weapons. And they are aimed directly at a global heart of compassion and understanding just now beginning to emerge from the darkness.

In art, there is truth, and words from one of the authors who helped shape me ring true:

ARAGORN: Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.

This is why it is so important that this behavior, this aggression, this warmongering, is not normalized. We cannot and must not accept it as the new zeitgeist. We must stand together against a tide of ignorance and smug notions of superiority. Our imperative, as a species that wishes to survive and prosper, is to stand together, in love and understanding, and declare that this venom will not kill us. Regardless of our colors, genders, orientations, creeds, and backgrounds, we owe it to ourselves and each other to work as one to overcome what threatens to undermine, belittle, divide, and destroy us.

We had a hand in how this came about. We ignored the warnings. We downplayed the severity of the potential consequences. Some of us fell into arrogant presumption, others savored the opportunity to say “we told you so”, still others took the proceedings as a joke, and as a whole, we failed to stand against a rising tide of darkness that now threatens, more than it ever has before, to engulf the world we are trying so hard to save.

The mistakes are ours. We made our decisions. We behold and are sickened by the consequences.

Blame does not matter. Being crippled by guilt is no better than being crippled by fear.

What matters is — what do we do now?

We stand. We plant our feet. We take one another’s hands. We look at one another to see the light we have to share, and foster that light to shine with our individual flames.

We meet the enemy on the field and declare that we do not and will never surrender.

This is not normal. This is not right.

It falls to us to protect the work we’ve already done and the potential we have to make our future better. Each of us, as individuals, has something to offer in what is to come. If we can come together, if we can stymie the growing threat of all-encompassing hatred, if we prove that love can, should, and must prevail — we can win this. We can protect ourselves and our future. And we can look back on this moment and say that, this time, this time, evil was not allowed to rule the day. We can prove that we can get, and be, better.

We shall overcome.

If my voice has any reach, any meaning, I use it to say this: join me. Not in accepting this as the new normal, but denying it power over us and our future. Join me in a community that shares love, strength, and truth. Join me in looking past one another’s flaws, mistakes, and prejudices, to the veracity and beauty of our inner Selves, and telling the darkness and hatred in the world that it cannot prevail, it cannot destroy or conquer us, and it cannot and shall not pass.

I will not be silent. I will not stand idle. I will not let this poison kill us.

I will stand with you, in this time of war.

Will you stand with me?

This was a terrorist attack.

Looking at the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States, that is the only conclusion that makes sense to me. Granted, I’m no authority on such matters, but the evidence points to a large number of voters who did not respond to polls, organized and mobilized in large numbers, and took action to undercut and disenfranchise a progressive movement that, while stymied thanks to the DNC, still has momentum and promise.

A lot of people are terrified as a result. And that is the goal of a terrorist attack.

Not the loss of life. Not the damage to property. The fear.

We don’t talk about white terrorism a lot in this country. It doesn’t get a lot of press. It doesn’t sell headlines. And even if it would, the white businesspeople in charge of the news media don’t normally allow such things to come to light. It’s always been easier to foist blame upon the other and alienate those who are different. It’s deflection. It’s projection. And, most disgustingly, it’s worked for millennia.

I know this might be coming off as hysteria or paranoia, but this is the only way the outcome makes any sense to me. White rural voters — poorly educated, irrationally angry, entrenched in antiquated notions, and/or deliberately misinformed — let their hate fester in their homes and hearts. They ignored polls and pundits. They anticipated election day. And they turned out in droves. Motivated by ignorance, hatred, and fear of their own, they pushed their racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic agendas through in the form of a demagogue, and they’re salivating at the thought of ‘taking [their] country back’ and ‘making America great again’.

If that isn’t terrorism, I don’t know what is.

It was arrogance, on both sides, that allowed this to happen.

I mean, we’ve been on this path since before the “American experiment” began. But I don’t have the room to expound upon that here.

All I can do is look at the facts. Not cast blame, but discuss facts.

The DNC, in its arrogance, turned its nose up at a progressive platform full of motivated, well-educated voters whose candidate spoke with conviction, passion, and honesty. The prevailing Democratic campaign, in its arrogance, did not take the threat of hate-fueled demagoguery seriously. Disgusted voters, in their arrogance, raised middle fingers to the call for a unified front from the very candidate they had backed, and threw their votes away on candidates that did nothing but fracture their own base. And the arrogance of the opposing voter base that they would ‘rise again’ pushed them to take deliberate action that threatens to set this country back decades, if not reshape it into something truly ugly and unrecognizable to the idealists who fought for the freedom of slaves, women’s suffrage, and the rights of the LGBTQ community.

In one way or another, we all have a share of responsibility in how things have turned out in this country.

Which means the responsibility of pushing back against our mistakes and doing better, acting better, being better, falls to us, as individuals, and as a people who need to stand together, believe in ourselves and one another, and not go quietly into the night.

I’m terrified.

I worry about a lot of people around me. My thoughts are with the wonderful human beings I’ve met who boldly express their nonbinary identities, the indigenous people of this land who have been cruelly and wantonly abused since Europeans landed on their shores, and the women and people of color who now have to wonder what the future holds for them and their families. I’m disconnected from many of those I knew personally. I’ve worked hard to be a better version of myself than I ever have before, in spite of the fact that, in the long run, that work may not matter to anybody but myself.

Every day, that work continues, in spite of the phantoms of my mistakes and this renewed feeling of despair.

But this is not a time to crawl into a hole and cover oneself in dirt.

I feel and acknowledge my fear and my grief, but I will not allow them to prevail over me.

I recognize that my sincerity and integrity and veracity may be questioned, but I will not allow my voice to fall silent.

In spite of all the damage that has been done, through deliberate acts or poor decision-making, on a national or personal level, I still believe we can rise above our circumstances and what is set against us. I still believe in the better natures within us — as Yoda put it, “luminous beings are we, not this crude matter” — that defy basic animal reactive impulses of lashing out blindly, fleeing, or freezing. I still believe that love is far, far more powerful than hatred. I still believe that our capacity to imagine one another complexly is far, far more powerful than reducing one another to caricatures of humanity or spectres of monstrosity. I still believe that, without violence or destruction, love can prevail over fear, knowledge can prevail over ignorance, and barriers set up by established and insecure bastions of power can be smashed by those who stand together, as one unified force of understanding and love, and say


Like so many, I feel like an outcast, disconnected from what I thought I knew, adrift in uncharted territory.

But dammit, I am still holding onto the idea that there is good in this world. And it is worth fighting for.

It may be a foolish idea. I’ve had quite a few foolish ideas in my lifetime. Some lead to horrible mistakes.

This isn’t one of them. This foolish idea, this one, is good, and worth sharing.

And if all I can do is share it with you, tell you that you’re not alone, and that I love you — we may have never met, we may have lost touch, we might never meet, but dammit, I love you — and that we can and will fight back against this — not just fight, but win — then that is what I will do.

With all the strength I have. With all of the love in my heart. With every breath I take until I breathe my last.

I stand with you and for you.

Now. And always.

Let’s get to work.

Lest We Forget

American flag

I know this is a rehash of a previous post. I’m not altering a word in or after the block quote. I believe that these ideas are worth repeating, because we’re talking about people who voluntarily walk into warzones and don’t necessarily walk back out; if they do, chances are, they will never be the same.

I tend to run a post that reads like this when a posting date falls on Memorial Day:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

We have the country we have today because people got pissed off enough to fight for it.

America’s military is based entirely on volunteer service. People enlist for various reasons, from pure-hearted desire to serve the country to paying for a college education. And those who can already afford college can embark upon a career as an officer right from the start. The important fact, though, is that none of it is compulsory. Nobody is making these young men and women sign up for service that could ultimately mean they’re going to die far from home, in some foreign land, possibly alone with no one to remember them save for a line item in a report listing them as “Missing In Action”.

Other countries compel their citizens to join the military from an early age. There’s no choice in the matter. Regardless of how you feel about your country, you’re going to be serving in its military. As much as I admire Heinlein, the idea of compulsory military service being the only route to citizenship is a pretty scary one. But unless I’m mistaken, no country has gone completely that far yet.

Here, though, every person who puts on that uniform, male or female, young or old, gay or straight, left or right, does so for the same reason. They want to serve. They chose to answer the call to duty. Nobody made them.
And if they died on a foreign shore, they did so as the ultimate result of that choice. As lonely, painful, cold and dark as it might have been for them, it is a deep hope of mine that they do not consider themselves forgotten.

We have not forgotten.

Read the rest here

It may seem we have forgotten to some veterans, though. If they make it home, they tend to bear scars, and not always obvious ones. It’s shamefully easier to sympathize with a soldier who’s lost a limb or suffered major facial trauma than it is one who seems intact in body but says nothing about what’s going on in his or her mind.

These are people who, because of a choice they made, have stared death in the face, and been told, ordered, demanded not to flinch.

We hold soldiers in high esteem. Most see them as brave or even fearless. But they’re human beings, just like you and me. They have our doubts, our fears, our weaknesses. They, like us, are mortal. They’re going to die, and some die on foreign shores because they’re told to be there.

They fight for us anyway, and that’s what makes them great, and worth remembering.

I don’t have any particular charity or cause to champion here, nor do I know how easily one can get to some place like Walter Reed to see what becomes of those who only partially make it home. All I ask is that you remember them, not just today, but every day.

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