Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Right Now

"What'd you do last night?"

"Oh, I mutilated an innocent garden vegetable, ground up its insides then threw it into a hot oven to make a dessert for a yearly ritual feast."

Baking is so metal, guys.

While I'm waiting for my pie to finish baking, I thought it would be a good time to sit down and check in. I've been trying to get the momentum to start writing again, but truthfully, I've been so preoccupied that it hasn't even occurred to me. Writing, yes. That was a thing I used to do.

In light of the most recent current events, though, anything I have to say pales in comparison of the magnitude of what some people are experiencing right now. I don't have the words, nor do I have the appropriate lived experiences, to be able to express anything meaningful about what's going on right now. I could link to one of a never-ending parade of articles I've read that manage to nail down some perspective, but if I've seen them, I'm sure you have too. Follow the right people on Twitter, and you'll see them. It's easy to sit here, safe and sound in my cozy little apartment hundreds of miles away from the eye of the storm, and focus on literally anything else. I have that privilege. I have that luxury. I don't have to be afraid of the people sworn to protect me. I don't have to worry about being treated like a second-class citizen because of a random genetic lottery that gave me pale skin. And it sucks, it sucks so hard that there are people that do. People that live an entirely different life than anything I can fathom. And it doesn't occur to me, on a daily basis, that I am so incredibly lucky, because that's how privilege works. It's invisible to us because it's our normal. It's not right, but it's real, and it's been that way for... well, forever, really. It's uncomfortable to realize, and it should be. It should make us cringe. It's not a societal construct that we built for ourselves, but it's one we inherited. So what do we do about it? Well, right now, I'm going to do the best thing I can do: I'm going to shut the hell up, and I'm going to let the POC voices be heard instead. They are the ones that need to drive this narrative, not me, not most of us. It's not about me, and my opinion and empathy means precisely shit. I'm going to sit back and I'm going to listen, instead. And I'm going to hold onto that ever-idealistic, ever-optimistic part of my heart that believes that things can get better in our lifetime.

Anyway. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I'm making a pie, and I will eat too much food and try to stay out of the retail melee. I will sleep in if I can, I will enjoy my day off of work, and I will go through my life like I always have. I will acknowledge that I've got things pretty damn good. And I will be thankful that there are people out there who will fight for change, who also believe that things can get better. Not everyone is horrible, though it's easy to be discouraged when you constantly hear the loud shouting of the people who are. I will be thankful for the people who still give me hope for humanity.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Divided We Fall

HERE IS MY NONPARTISAN(!) RANT ABOUT A THING THAT IS BOTHERING ME MORE THAN ALL THE OTHER THINGS THAT ARE BOTHERING ME: ELECTION EDITION.

For being the "United" States, we are about as divided as I think we've ever been. Those who lead this country have done a bang-up job of pitting us all against each other. With all the vitriol that is spewed across the aisle, you'd think this country was full of rabid extremists. Yet it's interesting that most of the people I know, regardless of their party affiliation (if they have one) are pretty reasonable people and most of them can find a moderate middle ground. Yet you'd never know that, watching the news or even scrolling through your social media feeds.

Our government used to be representative of the people. They used to serve their constituents. They occasionally even listened. It was really interesting to watch the movie "Lincoln" last year when it came out. Politicians using their power and playing the same game they do now, but angling to make a change that actually helped people (ending slavery). Our government also used to get stuff done. We built this country, then we built railroads and highways to travel across it. We did a lot of great things that has led to our collective ego that thinks that we are untouchable, invincible. We're not. We're losing a lot of things that made us great. "For the People, By the People" has gone out the window, and that breaks my idealistic little heart.

Instead of celebrating the melting-pot diversity that this country was founded on, people are using those differences (any differences they can find!) to drive in wedges to make hard and fast US VERSUS THEM politics stick. George Washington warned about this, he saw how toxic it would be. He was right. He gets more right with every passing year.

While they have us all bickering amongst ourselves, you know what politicians fight for now? Money. Corporate interests. Pandering to the extremes (and yes, both sides do this.) They've long ago lost interest in the everyday American citizen. The ones that hold down multiple jobs to make ends meet, the ones that are buried under the crushing student loan debt that they were told it was necessary to take on else they never get a good job, the ones who have to make tough choices about love and money and family. American citizens are just props who they only seem to care about when it's time for re-election. Sure, we vote, but the choices are almost already made for us: one of two candidates that were picked out by each side, whichever one they think they can win with. Then they pander to us and make us believe that THEY will be the answer to our problems, while the other candidate is a lying liar demon straight from hell who will ruin this country as soon as their name placard gets made. Even then, most people don't vote, because they are too jaded by the whole thing, or they don't care, or they don't have time. And the politicians count on that. They love it when we don't vote.

Because the politicians have to protect their sponsors, their special interests, lest they lose the cash that's lining their pockets. They have no interest in getting anything done - they just want to stop the Other Team from doing anything. Then they point fingers and place blame. Meanwhile, the rest of us are too busy trying to survive our lives to be able to take a vested interest in correcting any of it.

We've stopped being a democracy. We're a textbook oligarchy - money rules this country. It snuck in and wrapped its hands around our throat and we're stuck. That's what's so frustrating. There's very little hope of untangling ourselves from this mess because it's so entrenched, and who's going to convince the politicians to give up that cash? Nobody, nothing.

So they fear-monger and make outlandish claims that, even if they are blatantly false, in this culture of insta-everything, a retraction will never be seen the way a first impression is. You can tell blatant lies and it will never catch up to you, because you can say "oops" and put it in the fine print that you were wrong, but everyone has already moved on and doesn't bother following up. Nobody cares about facts. They care about rhetoric.

I still have some faith in the government. (Local governments, mostly.) Because there are a lot of good things that government can and does do, and a lot of parts of it that I think are important. Funding for education (to paraphrase author John Green: I'm okay with paying taxes for schools because I don't like living in a country full of stupid people). Funding for streets and bridges and various civil projects. All of the things the FDA does to keep our food and medications safe. The things the EPA does so that we can have clean air to breathe (as opposed to China, who has such bad pollution that respiratory illnesses abound). We can't afford to dismantle these things. The postal service. National parks. Medical research. All the other things that we missed when the government shut down last year. Those are the good things. Those are the things I wish our politicians would focus on.

Instead, to steal part of a facebook comment from a friend: all they have succeeded in doing is turning this country against itself.