democracy

Shouting into the void…

Like the people who say that protests are a waste of time there are plenty of people who complain that there’s too much complaining about politics on the internet. “Can’t we go back to baby pictures and funny cats” they say, and then something about how pointless it all is to rant online. And I get it, facebook is exhausting these days and we’d be better off calling or representative when we really want a change but also

Closed mouths don’t get fed. 

It’s an expression I used to hate, like ‘if you’ve got time to lean you’ve got time to clean’ but my dislike of folksy aphorisms aside, it is seeming truer by the day. Congress recently backed down on a plan to sell off public lands because of the hashtag #keepitpublic. Like it or not, in a world where a twitter troll is president, what’s trending is our direct line to the halls of power. It’s how we show we care and that we’re paying attention.

I’m sorry that Facebook is no longer a place expressly for engagement pictures. Facebook has been, I think, misunderstood in the past. People treat it like a friend’s house, a semi-private gathering place to be polite and to talk about safe things. But if that were the case it’d be a pretty crowded party considering all the passing acquaintances and former work colleagues in attendance.

No, Facebook is a semi-public space and in all public spaces where we are afforded with the ability to share ideas and anxieties, we should do so. That’s good citizenship, not just because of the current administration but in all democracies at all time. Being vocal is a part of vigilance and being vigilant is how we guarantee it remains the people’s government.

So maybe you think we don’t need vigilance, and maybe you think that this is all liberal backlash and paranoia. Maybe you think that political opinions should be kept to yourself and that what’s currently happening in DC will work itself out. Three things:

Three things:

  1. DC should not work itself out. It should work to please us. Leaving DC to its own devices is to say that every four years you put in an appearance at being a Democracy then you bail to the backseat and let yourself be driven wherever DC wants you to go.
  2. Liberal backlash it may, this is as much a problem with the Democratic Party as it is with the Republicans. But this is not paranoia. This is not normal. It is not politics as usual to have a man who bragged about assault as Commander and Cheif. Nothing makes that okay, not ever.  Nothing is normal about the audacity with which White Supremacists are becoming more vocal and violent. Nothing is normal about the authoritarian turn this country has taken.
  3. Every time you keep silent you surrender a little bit more of your autonomy.  To use another stupid aphorism; A stitch in time saves nine. The time to react is not after we wait and see but while we still have a platform and a voice.

I believe in this country and I trust our government to remain true to its constitutional mission. Because I believe in this country I feel that it is my duty as a citizen to share my concerns in every public forum available so that we keep communication going, keep engagement thriving, and protect our fragile democracy by being the demos which powers it.

So, I know that you’re tired of my anger and I’m sorry that I don’t have a baby to share pictures of instead. But this is my baby, if you want to know what’s happening in my life this is it.

As long as I have a voice I’m going to use it.

If you want to talk about what comes next, I’m game. Let’s talk about getting the Herbal Tea Party started. Let’s talk about making sure this remains the home of the free by getting people into office that want to move us forward. Let’s talk! Comment on my angry posts tell me how your feeling.

But if how your feeling is that I should shut-up, sorry that’s not happening anytime soon.

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Fight No More Forever

Wednesday was the anniversary of the surrender of the Nez Perce at Bear Paw which brought an end to the Nez Perce War. I didn’t want to let the day pass too far by me without remembering what Chief Joseph said on that day 139 years ago;

“Tell General Howard I know his Heart. What He told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting, Looking Glass is dead. too-Hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are–perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

This speech is both haunting and incredibly beautiful, but I’ll try not to focus too hard on the beauty. Often in American culture, when we do acknowledge indigenous people, it is with a kind of orientalism. New agey myths surround the “wisdom” of the first Americans as if they only existed as shaman proffering a fun spirituality that we can pick-up in our twenties and decorate our facebooks with, then just as easily toss aside for the next culture we want to fetishize. In remembering Chief Joseph’s words, I want to remember that this was a human man who suffered great loss.

But I do think it’s important to remember these words because they, like all beautiful things, reach a place in ourselves that would otherwise be unreachable. They are a visceral reminder that this nation was built on a genocide. (And if you now want to stop reading this now because you don’t like that last statement you’re actually exactly who I want to talk to (hopefully not lecture, but talk to)). I don’t think we love our country any better by pretending history never happened. I don’t think blindness is good patriotism.

We pick and chose and borrow and steal from those parts of this nation’s history that are beautiful, affirming, and encourage us to think of ourselves as the hero of history. We get very, very angry at anyone pointing out that firebombs killed civilians in WWII, internment camps imprisoned law abiding US citizens and stole their property, slavery was an evil that made America rich (North and South), the wounds of Jim Crow have NOT healed. We get very, very, very angry when a man uses his very public stage to say that justice is not available to everyone in this country.

The outcry is “How dare you not love this country!” But if that’s how you love your country, I don’t think you and your country have a very healthy relationship. Total and unquestioning acceptance is not love. It is not loving to sit in silence while your loved one hurts herself. It is not patriotism to make standing for a song, repeating a pledge, and never ever criticizing, the hallmarks of good citizenry. Especially in a democracy where it is our duty to be vigilant protectors of this fragile experiment.

Love for America is not contingent on the belief that America is without sin. Rather, the ability for democracy to grow, and learn, and change, depends on people challenging the complacency of believing we’re perfect. That is what we should take pride in, protestors are patriots. I believe that we are strong enough to challenge ourselves and overcome, to acknowledge the sins of our past and from them learn to do better and be better. That is how I love my country. So from time to time, I remind myself of the worst parts of history so that I can find ways to make us better.