Hillary Clinton

He is my President, but I don’t have to like it

Number one rule; respect the office, not the man. I believe in our government. I trust our constitution and the checks and balances it ensures. I believe that we must, if we want to preserve our republic, honor the greatest achievement of that republic by continuing the tradition of a peaceful  transfer of power.

At the same time, it is not an over reaction to be terrified that the man might do the things he expressly said he was going to do. It is not melodramatic to be heartbroken that someone who brags about sexual assault, is lauded by the KKK, and advocates violence against his critics is the man I have to now have as president. A man I wouldn’t even want to be on the same bus with is my president. It is not an overreaction to mourn for this planet and the irreparable damage that will be done to the climate by the man who denies the consensus of science and the majority of world leaders. And it is not irrational to fear for the future as our president will surely, willfully, gleefully even, neglect to address the greatest human rights crisis of our generation and leave the victims of extremism to whatever perils on the baseless, heartless fear of their religion.

I think about all the people who visited Susan B. Anthony’s grave on Tuesday, ecstatically hopeful that by the day’s end a woman would finally break that last glass ceiling. It’s easy to feel defeated by this. This feels like a serious blow to progressivism. It is a serious blow, but we are down, not out.  Remember, Susan B. Anthony never voted. Think of all the civil rights defenders who died before they saw their dreams come to fruition. Think of those who were fighting in times when popular opinion was so much against them that they were lightning rods for constant unabashed hate and vitriol. And yet they kept on fighting. They were standing up when they were the minority, we are the majority, we are the popular vote. Maybe we have grown lazy, maybe 8 years of a progressive icon, a wise and honorable man at the head of our country has made us complacent in our causes. Maybe that’s why not enough of us got up and voted on Tuesday.

We need to tend our wounds and regroup, we need to assure each other that we are all still here and still believe. That is what I hope these demonstrations are about, expressing to ourselves as well as to the rest of the world that progressivism is still here in America because we need to feel that hope right now.  But I hope these demonstrations are not a futile exercise in wishing things were different, in wishing for our druthers, and begging for a do-over.  The election was not stolen from us, we lost. Now we have to find a way to recover, move forward, and keep fighting. We also have to find a way to heal.

The good that might come from this is the bursting of the progressive bubble, the one that protected us from recognizing that those in opposition to us are not the stupid or the evil. They are wrong, not evil. And we don’t persuade them from their wrongness by vilifying them. This nation is too polarized to continue to function. We have to rethink our rhetoric recalibrate our message and truely become the politics of understanding and acceptance that we have always pretended but rarely suceeded to be. The unexamined vilification of the opposition is what has taken us to this point. Let’s be active, let’s be motivated, but let’s also be civil. We can no longer play the game of emotional politics in this country, if we want to do good and do good together we have to start to reason with each other and make reason above all else the greatest political virtue.

We are now the opposition. We are probably experiencing some of the same emotions that were felt by others when Obama became president, those emotions which looked irrational to us then. We should recognize now that to wallow in them will do us very little good. The republican party has made hay off of the myth of its own oppression (despite controlling congress), the ‘war on Christianity’, the ‘loss of American values’. Don’t let progressive values become empty those buzzwords, continue to believe in them because they are right, not merely because they are opposite. Don’t let MSNBC become the new FOX as we all bemoan the strawmen who oppose us, we must continue to present reasonable arguments for the progressive cause.

There will be so much more to say about this is the next four years. And I’m sure I will often be angry and emotional and not follow my own advice. I know that I will not remain silent while the marginalized suffer I will use my privilege and whatever other powers I have to push for progressive aims. I don’t know what else to say, there still remains so much to be seen. Just keep believing, we’re stronger together.

Here are a few speeches from progressive champions who faced greater opposition than this, to encourage you throughout the coming weeks.

Harvey Milk

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Robert Kennedy

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Make the impossible possible.

Love,

Jo

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I refuse to feel bad about my ballot

I voted and I feel excited!

That’s right I said, excited. Everyone is posting about how dirty they feel casting their ballot. How they don’t like anybody, but really hate somebody. Well, screw that! I’m stoked. I just cast my ballot for the first female president. Someone who has faced constant scrutiny and personal attack and risen above it. Someone who has been raked over the coals too many times to count but each time she gets back up and keeps plugging away at policy.

Do I agree with her about everything, of course not? But that is what democracy is and how it works. It’s about consensus, trust, and reason above emotion. I refuse to hate my ballot. I researched every candidate and voted for those that I thought had the skills and the vision to do what is best. I voted for candidates in three different political parties and all of whom possess views that don’t match my perfect picture of the United Sates of Jo. But I am not the only citizen of this country, and in the grand scheme of things my druthers should not impede our perseverance. We are in this together. We are stronger together.

I refuse to feel ashamed of my vote. I am proud to live in a country of consensus, of reason, and of hope. The worst thing that this election has done is cause us to lose sight of how wonderful it is to vote and to have a voice. I also refuse to believe that those who voted differently than me, did so because they’re mean, or stupid, or evil.  Different visions coming together to find one unified ideal, that is democracy and it is wonderful and I feel good about it.

No more talk of the devil or the end times. This election is about what every election ever has always been about. A society built on cooperation. The peaceful transfer of power from one individual to the next is the greatest display of that cooperation. We all want the same thing, a country that thrives. Though we all have different ideas of what that country looks like and how to get there, we shouldn’t exchange our greatest attribute for petulance.

I voted. I loved it. I’m excited for the future. You can’t bring me down.

 

What I Just Heard…

I listened to about 10 minutes of the presidential debate and it was intensely uncomfortable. But also incredibly disturbing to hear a candidate tell his opponent that if he becomes president he will make sure his opponent is put in jail. He will “instruct” his justice department to make sure she’s found guilty. This is after she was investigated and cleared. This is not only, not how our justice system works, but it’s not good practice in a democracy to start threatening the opposition. That’s how dictators work.

Quick thought on hate speech

Please read this article to know what I’m talking about (tldr; the number of hate crimes against the Muslim American community is on the rise.

This violence is a direct result of hate speech. It is not a coincidence. It is not just some people taking it too far. Continual statements from public figures that demonize all of Islam, that spread fear about people who think and look differently, that propose that an American citizen who practices Islam is anything other than an American citizen. Those statements create a hateful cloud of misinformation from which acts of violence are the lightning strikes.

Those that commit hate crimes don’t do so because they are ‘lone wolves’ and they don’t do so because they are misunderstanding what a politician is saying when he’s “telling it like it is.” Picking out a group as ‘unamerican,’ repeatedly making statements about the danger of this group, makes that group into an ‘other.’ (An ‘other’ is a nameless, faceless, straw-man diametrically opposed against everything that you are.) A group, once othered, is subhuman. They are not worthy of empathy, their lives mean less.

For example, look at the discourse surrounding the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust. The victims of those crimes were likened to vermin. They were said to be the enemies of the ‘true’ people. Nurturing the othering of any human is the first step in every terrible act that the human race is capable of.

That is why I say that hate speech is the direct cause of hate crimes, not the unfortunate misunderstanding of a misguided few. It is true that not everyone who spreads hate speech commits hate crimes, but everyone that commits hate crimes believes in the hate speech. Those that perpetrate violence do so because they are acting on the necessary extension of the logic laid down by hate speech, “these people are not my people”, “these people don’t belong here”, “these people are my enemy.” They feel that their actions are legitimate because those in authority repeatedly tell them that they are under attack.The repeated message “All practicers of Islam are the same. America is at war with Islam. To be Muslim is to be against ‘true’ America*.” sinks in, people believe it is true and act as if it were true. Without hate speech constructing that dichotomy of the other and the “true American” violence would have no narrative through which to legitimize itself.

Words have power. It is with words that people create their understanding of the word  and their understanding of themselves. There is no such thing as an innocuous statement, particularly from a person with power and privilege. Perhaps if we were living in a culture that valued substance over sound bites we might be better equipped to critically pull apart all that is entailed in a public statement. But until then we should recognize hate speech for what it is, a threat to peace.

* “True American” can be interpreted as “White Christian”

 

Post Tuesday Blues

Well, I’m disappointed. It’s not as if I believed the highly unlikely would happen. I tried to temper my enthusiasm and remind myself that generally, there are never surprises in politics, it’s too big and too well orchestrated a game to have any unexpected results.
I was ready for Hillary in a big way. Almost immediately after I cast my vote for President Obama in 2012 I was eagerly anticipating her run in 2016. But then Bernie Sander’s entered the race.
Wednesday, in the aftermath of my disappointment I’ve been reading the liberal op-eds and their tone is far from victorious. It’s a strange reaction when you consider that we are so close to a history making election. But it makes sense when you take into account the tone of the Clinton campaign thus far.
When I said that there are never any surprises in politics what I should have said is that there are never any good surprises. He-who-shall-not-be-named (because every time we type his name it only increases his brand value) threw the republican primary into a sharp spiral towards the far right. When we had expected the usual battle between moderate forces and the theocratic Tea Party we ended up with a massacre of moderation in favor of bluster and hate speech.

On the other side, Senator Sanders’ entrance pushed mainstream debate further left and for liberal democrats like me it was thrilling. To have things like single payer insurance even enter the sunlight of the national discussion was something I had previously only dreamed of. Even if that discussion played out; “Single payer insurance? Psht, that will never work.”

The deficit of exuberance I think we are seeing post California is a result of the Clinton campaign’s winning strategy. She was forced to define herself from Sanders’ as the practical one, and define herself from you-know-who as the less evil one. Stuck in-between these two swelling tides, Clinton became the campaign of “Psht, that will never work.”

As much as moderation is a necessity for a healthy democracy there is still as sense of deflating when the supposedly cooler head has prevailed. I don’t think that this deflation is merely our idealistic bubble bursting. I reject the characterization that all Bernie supporters are a bunch of hippies chasing a pie in the sky. California is the unsatisfying reminder that liberal politics is not about ideals, is not about innovation, and it is certainly not about rocking the boat.

Of course, it is not great for government to be the sort of organization that moves on whims or gets too experimental, but when the fear of change stops even the conversation, when the knee jerk mistrust of anything remotely socialist means that the attitude that prevails in liberal discourse is dismissal of new and engaging ideas, those are circumstances that continue to make liberal voters disengage from the process. We have become the party of the safe bet and we are stagnating under incremental change that moves in millimeters.

The fact that the only challenge to the status quo which has managed to take root this primary season is the challenge to our decency and inclusiveness is a disconcerting indication of where American politics is headed. It is a result of timid liberalism that stifles itself with the fear of being challenged. I wish that we could be more comfortable with our critical capabilities and raise the level of debate over the punchy zingers or easily digestible, but nutritionally valueless, fluff. I am sick of throwing the socialist baby out with the communist bathwater, because politicians don’t have respect enough for the intelligence of American people to standup for a platform with any shades of nuance.

Negativity won the day Tuesday, both for the people who want to regress the country back to the point before all those irritating civil rights came about and for the people who look at a bold vision for real change in this country and think, “psht, that will never work.”