Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Politics

When You Forget How To Enjoy Life

Do you ever forget how to enjoy life? I don’t mean sinking into a full depression where nothing holds the same joy. I’m referring more to when responsibilities and relationships and work and bills and politics and injustice take over most of your brain power, and you forget to make time for things that suddenly feel a bit trivial.

I wasn’t even sure what I was thinking or how to articulate it, but then Twitter came through for me. A write for The Establishment, Ijeoma Oluo posted a piece today that targets a lot of what I’m feeling. If you’re not familiar with her, Google her, she’s got a lot of great things to say.

ijeoma

Her piece today is called, “What I’m Doing To Get My Black Ass Ready For The Next 4 Years.” I read it and so much of it resonated with me. In it was a call to action, and a reminder for self-love. Seeking out community as well as allies is essential.

In case you don’t understand, the worry of the next four years is almost entirely about Trump. In just the two weeks since he was elected, the ugly underbelly of America has shown it’s ass. A lot of people aren’t sure how to respond.

Here’s what I’ve personally been doing:

  1. Putting my money where my mouth is. I make monthly contributions to Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood. I also have donated money on different fundraising sites to help different causes such as Get Rodricus Crawford Home! and Baton Rouge Legal Defense Fund. And I’ve taken out a subscription for Mother Jones, independent news outlets will likely be our only hope in the coming years.
  2. Adding my name to the roll. I’ve signed a number of online petitions, and I’ve made a number of phone calls to elected officials to make sure they know at least one additional person cares about what bills and policies they support.
  3. Reaffirming for myself what’s most important. I have to be in a position to protect and support those I care about. Making sure my priorities are in order a useful bit of self-care so I won’t have to make hard choices later.
  4. Maintaining my health and wellness. Continuing to try and live healthy and happy will keep my body and mind fortified for what’s coming. And I signed up for more volunteer work, it benefits me just like it benefits others.

When Trump is sworn in, will the sky fall? Maybe not for all of us, but definitely for some of us. In just the month of November, he’s both promised to indict Clinton and backed off from that. He’s promised to build the wall between USA and Mexico and later spent a lot of time talking about everything but. He’s completely full of crap in almost every way possible. The only thing he’s been clear on is his business interests and his need for constant praise.

Trump settled the Trump University lawsuit for $25 million and has an upcoming rape trial. A lot of that is too hard to even process for most people still in election shock. This is all just what’s happening now, while the executive branch is still in transition. No one knows what policy positions he’ll actually land on for anything.

We must remain vigilant because there is no telling what he will do.

I have a lot going on in my personal life, so focusing on both the big and small pictures will be hard for me. Worrying about myself and those closest with me will not always line up with worrying about the world around me. But I’m not going to stop trying to do both.

fist-lead

I borrowed this image from Ijeoma Oluo’s article. It’s such a powerful image, and it strengthens my resolve every time I look at it.


Life Goes On, But Don’t Let That Fool You Into Complacency

Unless you are an undocumented immigrant, or a Muslim immigrant whose visa is about to be up for renewal soon, chances are you are not one of Trump’s immediate targets.

Do the rest of us have things to worry about? Hell yes we do. But when six months pass and the sky has yet to fall on your head, you may begin to think, “hey this Trump presidency isn’t so bad, I’m living and thriving and no one I personally know has been affected. Maybe we were being hyperbolic to be so damn afraid back in November.”

To that I say, “nah.”

We gotta stay woke out here. History’s great dictators, demagogues, and assholes didn’t attempt to burn the world down all in one day. No, they slowly ramped up their awful behavior until suddenly everyone looked around and realized the hellscape had been there all along.

As usual, I’ve fallen down several rabbit holes on Twitter. I’ve come across some amazing threads that everyone should read to understand where your focus should be. I have them posted at the bottom.

But first:

Am I suggesting you forgo living your life to sit on your porch, vigilant with a shotgun, waiting for the Trump-induced apocalypse? Mmmmmmmm, no…. Not unless you’re independently wealthy, a confirmed bachelor, and willing to raise the alarm to the rest of us as soon as that shit comes over the horizon.

Seeing as how those descriptors describe very few people, what are the rest of us to do? You must keep living and finding joy in life so that anxiety doesn’t take over the world. But you can’t put your head down and stop paying attention.

  1. Re-read Trump’s policies and consider how those policies will affect you personally. Seek out allies who are already building a coalition to fight those policies.
  2. Ask your friends, families and colleagues to do the same. Then discuss how those policies will affect each of you. Become each other’s allies. You may not have to worry about deportation, but you’d be surprised how many people you love have close family members or friends who worry deeply about it.
  3. Stay vigilant and raise the alarm. Don’t stop talking about damaging language or behavior.
  4. Resist the draw of mainstream media. Resist the words of people you admire who are asking you to do things and saying things that don’t make sense. For example, Oprah suggested Trump’s body language shows winning the election has humbled him. To that, I say a giant WHAT THE FUCK, and OH HELL NO. Have any of you ever seen a humble Trump? Even when he’s proclaiming how humble he is? I didn’t think so. Don’t let the people you admire most lead you down a dark and confusing path.
  5. Learn what gaslighting is. Begin to practice real techniques to combat it. Your sanity may literally depend on it.
  6. Lastly, find specific ways to keep life as happy as you can. I suggest exercise, sex and travel, if you can afford it. The steady stream of endorphins, along with constant exposure to different parts of the population will keep you balanced (no Fox News) and keep things in perspective.

At some point in the near future, I’m not gonna make every single blog post about how I’m feeling post-election. Right now, I’m still smack in the middle of stage two: anger.

They say you don’t necessarily reach all five stages in order or at all, but I haven’t come anywhere near bargaining. I can’t think of shit I could’ve or should’ve done that would have prevented this outcome. And I’m certainly not interested in compromising with Trump. I’m looking to resist his dangerous policies at every turn.

Right now, the only thing I can think of to support that he wants to do is improve infrastructure around the country. My main issue is concern for how he’s going to do it.

One of my best friends has this term I love to hear her use: pissed-tivity. It’s usually mentioned as a scale. For example, right now I have a high level of pissed-tivity for folks trying to normalize Trump.

I’m still going to live my life. I’m currently shopping for an external charger or perhaps a charging case for my phone because life. My husband and I are going to Paris for New Year’s Eve next month. We have to start planning activities to try and enjoy our vacation and perhaps plot becoming illegal immigrants somewhere in Northern Europe (I kid, I kid, we’d of course get tourist visas before we’ve worn out our legal welcome).

But trust that I’m maintaining a high level of pissed-tivity, even after I’ve moved past the anger stage of grief. It’s my best way to stay alert and keep motivated for this long fight we have ahead of us.

Now, please see below three amazing Twitter threads you really should check out.

This is from an Iranian American feminist. She knows what it’s like to live under a dictator. Heed her warning about how easy it is for the reality to become commonplace.

This guy is great, and if you love comic books and feminism, you’ll love him even more. This thread isn’t about politics. It’s about the place of black women in comics and media and their imperfect allies, or lack thereof.

Matt McGorry, who I love as an actor and activist, has a lot to say about how to be a better ally, He is a dedicated ally of Black Lives Matter and NoDAPL.

To sum up everything above: stay vigilant, keep living, prepare for the fight, actually fight when the time comes.


Race Baiting. Let’s Talk About It.

Oh yeah, I’m going there.

I spend a lot of time on twitter. Every time one black activist or another posts literally anything about race issues, someone responds with hateful awful language. They usually spout the worst stereotypes anyone has heard about whatever group being discussed.

Sometimes that activist retweets the words or responds to them, usually highlighting the bigotry, prejudice, or outright racism of the language.

Inevitably, a third person responds, accusing the activist of race baiting.  Every time I see that accusation show up on some activists timeline, I get confused.

My first thought always is: how is it race-baiting to simply talk about and acknowledge that race issues exist? How is that activists to blame for some awful language of some random online troll?

The mere mention of possibly settling Syrian refugees in their home state makes many an online troll express dangerous and scary views. I’m an American born and raised, and the words are frightening to me. I can’t even imagine how those words land in the world of a refugee, simply here to make a better life for themselves.

But then, the part of me that is always looking to try and understand the sliver of logic that usually exists in even the most fucked up arguments kicks in. I think: Do I know anyone who unreasonably lashes out at a culture they don’t understand the second they perceive a threat from that culture?

The unfortunate answer is I do.

In black American culture, there is a lot of intolerance towards others who don’t follow traditional black (read: protestant/intolerant Christian) views. The stereotypes towards the LGBTQ+ community, Asians, Latinxs, and women are damn near intolerable to my ears. They are mostly rooted in ignorant stereotypes because of how segregated so much of the American black population is from the rest of the country.

I think about the communities I don’t hear a lot of aggression towards: indigenous Americans, refugees, disabled people, vets. I’m not sure why those people have escaped widescale ridicule in the black community. Or maybe they have and I just don’t know those people.

Let me finally get to my point.

In the times of life where I’ve been present for one of these ignorant rants against another community from the mouths of black folks, their justification is usually along the lines of, “well, if you didn’t bring it up, wouldn’t have to share my crappy views with you on the topic.”

They literally accuse whoever mentioned the touchy subject last of being at blame for their toxic language. It’s the same though pattern that produces such gems as “I don’t care if you’re gay, I just don’t wanna see that shit” and “This is why the black family isn’t intact, feminism is tearing apart black men and women”.

For the record, I’m not saying that ignorance in the black community makes it okay for the white trolls on Twitter. The ignorance of both makes me sick to my stomach.

What I am saying is that because this toxic pattern of behavior touches closer to home for me, I think I understand this thought process a little bit.

That’s how I know it can’t be tolerated. This gaslighting bullshit cannot go without challenge. I’m not suggesting getting into an online fight with a Twitter troll, but I’m suggesting confronting it when you hear toxic language come from the mouths of your friends, family, and colleagues.

You may not change someone’s mind, but we can at least restore some decency in terms of what is okay and NOT OKAY to say to and about others. Free speech is one thing, but targeted hate speech and menacing is on a whole other level.

Even if you can’t get through to someone, you never know who is listening. Maybe the person overhearing your defense of what is right will come around.

Don’t let the accusation of race baiting back you down from talking about marginalized communities. If your words precede someone spewing toxic language, that’s not your fault. If merely the mention of someone different makes someone go off like a crazy person, that’s not your fault. Don’t let them drag the fight down to their level.

Keep standing up for what matters to you. Keep fighting. Keep speaking up. Continue to fight for your own community and work harder everyday to be an ally to other communities.

Don’t let racists, xenophobes, homophobes, and misogynists turn your words of power into bait.

If you’re looking for a sound argument against gaslighting, particularly in light of the results of this most recent American election, check out this Twitter thread.

twitter-gaslight


I’m Officially in the Second Stage of Grief

There are 5 stages of grief.

Starting pretty much from 10pm Tuesday night, I was in stage one. Full blown denial and isolation. As it became increasingly clear that Clinton was not going to be our next president, I folded in on myself.

My husband was so upset and wanted to talk about his feelings, as usual. The folded-in-on-myself version of me listened, but not really, as usual. I had empathy for what he was going through, but I had trouble getting out of my own head. I fell asleep on the couch with CNN loud enough to wake me up every time they played their Breaking News ominous music. He finally went to bed around 2am. Neither of us slept well.

I didn’t get much consistent sleep as I watched headline after headline say in different ways the Trump was going to be the next president. It was a dark night.

At work yesterday, everyone was commiserating, some people joking to get through the day. I was sitting quietly at my desk for most of the day, and people kept noting that I didn’t look okay. Some even asked, “are you okay?” With a firm answer of no, the conversation didn’t go much further than that. People aren’t used to someone claiming something other than being “okay.” But yesterday, I gave zero fucks.

I was in full blown isolation + denial. But the events of the rest of night helped push me into the next stage.

My husband Chris and I went to the Knicks game last night. We bought those tickets a while ago, excited for the chance to see the Knicks play the Nets, some new version of a cross-town rivalry for us I guess. I decided to root for the Nets because I love Jeremy Lin, but unfortunately he was out with an injury, and also Derrick Rose and his poor understanding of consent made it hard for me to root for the Knicks.

Neither of us paid close attention to the game. I fell down the rabbit hole that is Twitter. I was reading account after account of people being harassed, threatened, and menaced by Trump supporters. These people were female, trans, black, Muslim, Hispanic, Latinx, Asian, immigrants, Jewish, or some combination of those identifiers. And they were terrified. Their accounts terrified me.

If you have some time to read what happened, you can check out Shaun King’s twitter timeline, he’s done a pretty good job of tweeting and retweeting accounts of what’s happened in just the first 24 hours after Trump was elected. He’s also tweeted messages of hope as maligned communities and allies posted messages of support and reassurance to those feeling fear.

Chris was in a text message discussion with a woman he’s close to. They were in a disagreement about the appropriate reaction to someone who’s voted for Trump. To Chris, a vote for Trump was an unequivocal vote for his bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic positions. A person who’s voted for Trump gets no benefit of the doubt, no olive branch extended.

I’m sure I know a bunch of people who voted for Trump, they just aren’t saying it. Those are people I have to deal with professionally and where I do volunteer work, likely even where I go for yoga. But I sure as hell am not going to be friends with anyone I know voted for Trump, nor anyone I know doesn’t vehemently rebuke those who have voted for him.

This woman felt like Chris wasn’t being understanding of how difficult it is to have one set of beliefs, but then to make compromises to that for the sake of peace in the family. Right as he was relaying her statement to me, I came across this on Twitter.

twitter-bad-allies

He tried explaining to her that she was being an inconsistent ally, choosing her comfort over the struggle of the communities she claims she supports. In that moment, he realized that she ain’t really down for the cause. She’s not where she needs to be yet if she’s going to be a real ally. Their conversation is still ongoing with no resolution in sight.

The game ended with the Knicks winning by a bunch of points. I headed home to get some sleep before work today. Chris headed to Trump Tower to join the protest. I was so proud of him in that moment. I made sure he unlocked his phone, and my info in his phone could be searched by looking for the word wife, just in case.

He came home safely, and now he’s messaging me to tell me about how the protest was. I didn’t expect to move past denial so quickly, and there are moments where I flicker back to that stage and think: is this really life?

But for the most part, I’m in full blown anger right now. Every time I read about some poor woman who’s accosted by someone trying to rip off her hijab, I get angrier. Every time I see some member of the liberal establishment tell me we need to “unify” and “give Trump a chance to lead,” I get angrier. Every time I read the word nigger in some tweet from someone with an egg or a frog for a face on Twitter, I get angrier.

Supposedly this anger is healthy. I wonder how long I’ll feel this way before moving on to bargaining.