Why I Won’t Wear My Politics on My Chest

I don’t wear political t-shirts anymore. It’s not a fear based decision, though that can be a factor these days. Why wear a target in these volatile times? It seems that everyone is packing a gun and bad tempers are more infectious than COVID-19. No, the answer is simple and boring. I’ve made this choice out of respect for the idea of community.

If you read my blog, you know that I don’t shy away from politics. I like discussing current events and how politics weave their way into our daily lives. The difference between this and that is that the reader can choose not to read. They can find something less political or happier out there in the blogosphere. I’m not in their face, whereas if I wear a t-shirt, that statement may unintentionally trigger someone and cause their blood pressure to spike. I won’t know that that’s because of a recent argument they had with their dad. I won’t know if my shirt might instantly remind someone of the reason they don’t speak to their best friend any more. We don’t need this stress in our lives. So if you see me on the street, that prime advertising space on my chest won’t be promoting politics. I’ll probably instead be a walking advertisement for my favorite tourist destination.

This came out of an “aha” moment a few years ago. I had purchased a shirt from Redbubble that read, “Science is not a liberal conspiracy,” with scientific tools lined up in a simple silhouette above. It was kind of cute. It was pink. Not super political, yet it was. I wore it to the local March for Science, where it fit in perfectly. Then I wore it to the local grocery store in my conservative, Trump-supporting town.

There was a man standing in front of me who looked very typical of people you see in my town. It’s a town full of hard working farming and logging families, and it shows in the slight roughness around the edges. I was the slightly rounded, middle-aged, suburban-raised woman proudly wearing my pink science t-shirt. We looked each other over, making our snap judgements before we resumed our silent queue.

The woman in front of us seemed to be having problems at the checkout. For some reason she couldn’t pay for all of her groceries. This man quickly stepped up and kindly offered to pay. I was humbled and felt immediately ashamed by the mini-stalemate that had just occurred. I knew that I had allowed my t-shirt to make me an “other” in his eyes, and I had let my own judgements make him an other in mine.

I relegated the shirt to the pajama pile.

Human brains are lazy organs. They are happy to make snap judgements, to categorize things into neat little boxes. We go along with it. Black/white. Good/bad. Happy/sad. But there is a lot of room in between. Those boxes we like to put people in have nonexistent sides of our own creation, yet how often we keep people there, virtually trapped in the place we’ve imprisoned them. My t-shirt was a wall of my own creation, cutting me off from another person with whom I might have found some commonalities.

I know choosing not to wear a political shirt is a very simplistic approach to a complex problem. I don’t wear the t-shirt, but I’m not giving up the face mask, which has unfortunately become a political dividing line. I am loathe to approach someone with any sort of Trump MAGA merchandising on their person or vehicle. My own brain has categorized them into aggressive, mindless, cult followers. Is that fair? Not necessarily, but it’s exhausting to battle the brain’s natural tendencies, and it often reboots to default. Letting go of the political t-shirt statements might give the brain the rest it needs to tackle the real dividing issues.

This leads me to wonder how the social climate might quiet down a little if everyone just decided to not wear political t-shirts out of respect for community. We might say no to tribalism. Instead, we could take a collective deep breath and talk to people. Tell them what we think is important. Listen to what they have to say. Have a civil dialogue, if at all possible. Maybe then we can start toward finding our way back toward finding what we have in common. And maybe if we choose to wear a souvenir travel shirt instead, we will find we have something other that politics to talk about.

Seeping In

Oh, man. I wrote this a week after Trump was elected. It’s been a long 4 years. But, looking back, there are no surprises. Not one. And his followers haven’t changed one bit.

Views From Around the Corner

We’ve had a week to percolate
A thousand words to navigate,
It’s up to us to find the truth
That’s hidden in the voting booth;
Cryptic meetings, cracking code
May lead us down a dark, dark road
A small machine that stands alone
While Sally goes to get the phone,
A small adjustment, just a smidge
Is all it takes to burn that bridge.
Now exit polls don’t match results,
But we can take this; we’re adults.
Concessions speech that asks for peace,
And hope, and for a wide release.
We split, and while a segment cheers
Others must confront their fears,
Voices raised in deep despair,
Asking, how can this be fair?
How can a campaign run on blame
By a man who gained his fame
Through TV shows and business fails
Be asked to hoist the country’s sails?
A man who counsels with our foe.
Who knows…

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Hamilton and the Preamble

I just watched Hamilton on Disney+ the other night. I know, I know… late to the party. But, man, what a show! I’ve had Hamilton tunes flowing through my head like a fountain, just popping up, over and over, on a continuous loop. It’s not the worst thing that could happen. Occasionally, I’ll pull Alexa into the fun. “Alexa, play One Last Time.” “Alexa, play Hopeless.” “Alexa, play Satisfied.” Let the songs keep on coming.

Hamilton is good theater, but it also speaks to the strong patriotic vein running through me. It’s not a MAGA patriotism of whiteness and big trucks and flag waving and red, white, and blue clothing. It’s more of a patriotism that’s moved by a truly eloquent speech by an elected official or a giant American flag fluttering in the wind. It celebrates new immigrants taking their vows. It recognizes our wrongs, celebrates our small steps toward justice, and sees American exceptionalism as a willingness to keep working for good, not just for us, but for the world. And for better or worse, it keeps me hooked on political news. And it loves Hamilton.

But let’s put Hamilton to the side for a minute and talk about the Constitution.

I was humming Schoolhouse Rock’s The Preamble in the shower this morning. (I see your eyerolls. Have you never done this before?) What brought it on? I was thinking of the clip of the woman in DC who had been maced while trying to enter the Capitol. She was crying. “We’re stormin’ the Capitol,” she wailed. “It’s a revolution.”

I was thinking of the role of government. I’ve heard a lot of MAGA people complain about government overreach, and that the government is only there to provide for defense. Wait a minute, I thought. I pay taxes. My taxes are going to fund a gigantic military complex. I’m not sure I’m completely okay with that. Are they right?

What were the goals of the Founders. Cue Schoolhouse Rock.

(Disclaimer: I am not a constitutional scholar. Not even close.)

We, the people – Okay, MAGA people have that right. It’s about the people. But I’m one of those people, you are one of those people, as are my liberal and independent friends. It’s about all of us. Yes, even the knuckleheads in red caps.

(Oh, and by the way, this person (ME) waited a long time for her turn to tour the Capitol.

In order to – (Stating the goal, here. Pay attention.)

Form a more perfect union union… unity. Not leaving people out. Not races. Not classes. Wouldn’t that mean that the goal is for everyone to have the same chances? Should we be preventing people from voting?

(I know perfect union is in reference to the states, but still…)

Establish justice – Hmmm…. I think we have work to do, judging by the size of the police presence and subsequent tear gassing and arrests during the BLM protests (where no elected officials were in harm’s way). Compare that to the response given to the most recent attack on Congress, where armed insurgents stormed the Capitol, attempting to upend democracy by disrupting the counting of electoral ballots. That’s without even getting into the legitimate issues of the BLM movement.

(Keep bending that arc, America.)

Ensure domestic tranquilityGrade: F- Dear Founders, you might think we’ve come close to this lofty goal. Au’ contraire. We have quite the opposite right now. Our leader is inciting violence. Our leader is calling on people (well, just some of us) to storm the Capitol and tip your well-planned country upside down. It seems we’ve strayed from your goal, but don’t you worry, we’re on it. We’ll have this guy out in… Wait… What?…No 25th Amendment ?…… Impeachment papers will be filed on MONDAY?

We’ll get back to you on that.

Provide for the common defense – Yep. Got that covered. In spades. Well, except for the “suckers and losers” comment and Russian bounties on our troops. But financially, yes. We’re covered.

Oh, unless you’re talking about a pandemic, then it’s each state to itself, and “blue” states… well, nice knowing you.

Promote the general welfare – Do you know what would help promote the general welfare? Making sure everyone had access to affordable food, housing, education, and health care. I’m not talking socialism. Just the ability to reasonably attain necessities.

Secure the blessings of liberty – preserving the rights and freedoms of each of us. Each. Of. Us.

To ourselves and our posterity – Okay, the founders were probably talking about themselves. They weren’t known for being terribly inclusive to those outside their ethnosocial group. But in the time since then, we’ve added civil rights and immigration to our stated goal, and America has been richer for it.

There you have it. My interpretation of the Preamble of the Constitution. (Aren’t you glad you stuck around?)

What’s a really great way to celebrate all of this? Why, with a Broadway musical, of course. And I know of a really good one. Hamilton’s ethnically diverse group of talented actors tell this story of the birth of the USA from the viewpoint of one of it’s original bootstrap immigrants. We all see ourselves in the people who populate this show and the people who created this country, and that’s the beauty of it.

As we move away from the events of January 6th, the United States of America, the great, beautiful, flawed experiment, continues on. The likes of Donald Trump and his minions will not cause her fall.

We are living through history. Who will tell our story?

Hamilton. Watch it. Celebrate America. Continue the dream.

Everything good or bad that was present at the founding, at the roots of the birth of this country, are still present. The fights we had then are the fights we are having now.

Linn manuel miranda

It’s Been a Dark Day

I was just finishing up my blog post this morning when I saw the news. Trump supporters were massing in front of the Capitol Building. Oh, great, I thought. Here we go. I don’t like to see Trump protesters massing. They are openly angry. They yell. They carry guns. They drive big trucks waving big flags. Overcompensating? Sure. Meant to intimidate? You bet. I worried, because I follow politics. I know how incendiary Trump and his sycophants have been lately.

But we all have the right to protest.

Suddenly the news shifted. The “protesters” (can they be called that now?) had broken into the Capitol Building. I watched in horror, tears in my eyes, as Lisa Desjardins of PBS reported from her hunkered down position behind a barricade while Capitol Police tried to clear the area. I messaged my kids. Are you watching the news in DC? Text messages started popping off like fireflies. My kids, my friends, everyone was horrified.

I continued to watch Lisa Desjardins, who was reporting again as she was evacuated into the basement hallways with senators and representatives. Relief flooded through me when I realized they were safe. But how could this happen? How, in our nation’s capitol, were our public officials not more protected?

Back to the news. The questions began. “Will you still vote to oppose certification?” A senator or representative started blaming the Democrats, if they hadn’t opposed this president… if they hadn’t resisted… we wouldn’t be where we are today. Lots of whataboutism. Yes-buts. Yada-yada. Garnering irritated eyerolls on my part.) All the while, Judy Woodruff kept her calm demeanor, reiterating that the issue had already gone to court. That the states had already certified, There was no widespread voter fraud.

Over the course of the day the whataboutism died down. Trump’s responsibility in all of this ramped up. Someone somewhere in the basement must have found a backbone. As of 5 PST, they seemed nearly ready to throw him to the sharks. Well, it took long enough.

In all this, I have to say that I’m grateful to the Republicans who never stood by this terrible person, the Never Trumpers. I’m grateful to the people of the Lincoln Project. I’m grateful to any and all Republicans who saw Trump for who he was, who walked away, and who didn’t stay silent. I’m grateful to Mitt Romney, with whom I disagree with on just about everything it seems except the importance of honoring your integrity and your faith. I cringe to think what might have happened with any pushback.

Some things I heard and saw throughout the day are things I never thought I’d see in my country.

  • People storming the Capitol, rushing the Capitol Police inside the building
  • People in MAGA hats who had just broken in wandering blithely through the Capitol like they were tourists on a tour
  • That “protesters” managed to get in the Capitol
  • An American flag coming down and a Trump flag being raised in its place
  • A traitorous confederate flag being waved in the halls of Congress
  • Senators lying on the floor and hiding behind barricades because there were guns in the building

I hope this is a wake up call for people who have supported this madman. I hope that somehow they can extract him from the People’s House ASAP. I don’t think we’ll make it another 2 weeks.

Today has been a dark day. May tomorrow bring a new dawn.


(Bright spot – If we do make it to the 20th, Democrats control the Senate! Bye-bye Mitch! Thank you, Georgia voters!!!)

Headwinds and Tailwinds

Photo by Joshua Abner on Pexels.com

In my previous post, I was hoping to discuss something I heard about on NPR this past weekend. I was listening to an interview with Maria Konnikova, psychologist and poker player, and as she discussed learning the game of poker, the idea of headwind/tailwind asymmetry was introduced.

Headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry is the work of Thomas Gilovich, psychology chair at Cornell University. The premise of the argument is that in our daily lives we struggle against headwinds and are boosted by tailwinds. Our outlook, motivation, and tendency toward resentment are all affected by these forces. Gilovich makes the point that, like runners and cyclists, we are very aware of the headwinds that are relentlessly buffeting us. He says that when we get a good tailwind, we are initially grateful, but quickly stop paying attention to the boost it’s giving us.

He links this to the ideas of gratitude and resentment. We all understand the headwinds. We’ve all felt them. It’s the lack of acknowledgement of the tailwinds that tends to cause problems. Maybe that’s a human brain problem. The brain is a lazy organ. It likes to go on autopilot. If it’s not dealing with a situation that’s impacting “survival,” the operating system puts the process in the background. Resentment comes from thinking you have it harder than the other guy. The way I understand it applying to the headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry is that we stop paying attention to our own tailwinds and notice only the headwinds, we experience life as being hard. But that’s not all. We notice others’ tailwinds, but not headwinds. They must have it easier. This leads to resentment and a lack of gratitude.

What would happen if we chose to focus in on our own tailwinds instead of those of others? We experience gratitude. With gratitude comes happiness.

Going back to the interview with Maria Konnikova, she relates this all to the idea of internal vs external locus of control. Who is responsible for what happens to you? When something bad happens, is it your fault or the fault of someone or something apart from you? This gets to the idea of responsibility and accountability. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge our role in our failings. It’s easier to push them off onto an external factor. Most people do this. But if you could get over the ego hurdle, there is growth to be found in self-reflection. Unfortunately, some of us make self-reflection an art form, putting an undue burden on ourselves for our failings. Our inner critic is strong.

Conversely, when something good happens to you, is it due to your actions, or is it due to luck or good fortune? The tendency for many is to have an internal locus of control for the good things and an external locus for the bad. For some of us, there is a reluctance to attribute our successes to our own hard work and perseverance. We may instead give all of the credit to something outside ourselves, such as luck. Most of the time, however, the path toward success has been built piece by piece, reflecting hard work and planning.

We have a lot to say about where we go in life and the attitude we exhibit along the way. Resentment leads to self-handicapping and excuse making. In contrast, gratitude leads to happiness and a feeling of self-efficacy.

How do you usually reflect on the successes and failures in your own life? Would a change in perspective set you on a better path? Do you practice daily gratitude? Feel free to comment below.

Fear of Failure, Success, and Perseverance

What is the key to success?

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pexels.com

I’ve spent a lot my life honing my skill at flying under the radar, of going unnoticed, blending in. I was the teenage girl with the long bangs hanging in front of my face, hiding. I was the girl on the bus with my nose in a book while the social dramas raged on around me. I’ve been the wallflower by choice, afraid to join in the game. Until lately.

The name of my blog reflects my challenge. Views from around the corner is where I began this journey and was meant to highlight this apartness. It’s a safe space, but it’s an empty one. Nothing is required of you when you are the onlooker from a distance. Nobody notices you. And that’s always been okay with me.

But I’ve gained a little courage. I’ve put myself out there. It was so hard at first. People who operate in the normal realm have no idea what it is for someone who suffers from intense anxiety and fear of failure to take this step. I’ve written before about the nerves that came with publishing that first blog post. I’m talking stomach in knots anxiety. Hot flushed face, trembling hands anxiety. I had to walk away numerous times. Did I really want to do this? Finger hovering over the enter key for what seemed like eons. Walk away again. Ask myself again. Then finally, just taking the plunge and walking away with a feeling of horror at what I’d just done. Oh, the mental anguish! And this all from the comfort of my own home!

But do you know what? It got easier. Each time I did it I felt the same fear, but the amount was diminished. And I liked what I was doing. I was writing, something I’d always felt a passion for, but never shared with anyone. I got feedback, mostly good, but some of it with a critical eye. This was hard, but when I removed my ego from the equation, I could see that it was necessary for growth.

Trying became fun. I wrote about the world. I tried fiction. I honed my poetry skills. I interacted with other writers, reading and engaging with their own thoughts and reveling in their wordcraft.

I put my photography out there. (It’s my other passion.) I inquired at the local gallery, and they accepted my art. It’s been hanging in there for 2 years now, and I’ve become an integral part of a great group of local artists, managing the social media accounts and website presence. It’s a co-op, so I work there. I still feel a knot in my stomach when people wander over to look at my photos. Will they like my art? Feedback has been important in feeling grounded. Imposter syndrome is real. I went from feeling embarrassed when talking to people about my photos to being excited when telling them how that one picture ended up important enough to me to be mounted on the wall. This usually related to the quality of the light or the ambiance of the moment/location. It’s become a shared experience more than an offering on a pedestal of judgement. I do still feel humbled when people walk to the register with something of mine. I probably always will.

There are always chances to try new things. Sometimes we try and find we want to give up. Is that okay? Maybe. Depends on if you’re giving up out of fear or disinterest. I’ve found that perseverance comes with caring about what I’m doing. If it’s important to me, I keep going. Some things are going to fall flat. It happens to everyone. Thankfully, I’m at the point I can mostly just shrug and move on. Every failure is a step toward success, and every success beats back the fear of failure. How will we know if we don’t try?

Are you struggling with putting yourself out there like I did? I encourage you to take that first step. What are the things you’re passionate about? You’ll never know success if you’re not in the game.

What are you waiting for?

Where Do You Get Your News?

These past 4 years have been excruciating. It’s no secret that I don’t believe Trump is president material. Never have, never wiil, and he’s completely met (or exceeded) my expectations in this. Before he descended that elevator I’ve known. From the moment he took to the podium with his doomsday speech about American carnage I’ve known. Most of the people I know have known. Which begs the question, how can so many not see?

I had a brief messaging conversation with someone I love dearly. I tried to bring up some things Trump has been widely known to have done. He wouldn’t even read my message. He read a couple of lines, pictured CNN (which I don’t even watch), and stopped reading. Good job FOX. Good job right wing radio jocks. Your job is complete. If I ever wanted to brainwash a population, the first thing I would do would be to convince them that everyone but me was misinformed. That everyone but me was spouting false information. I can’t even get this person to listen to NPR.

I have to admit to a penchant for steering toward the liberal side of things. I follow certain anchors on MSNBC, but I know I have this bias, so early on I found Republicans that I trusted who also don’t think Trump is presidential material, who also know that he’s leading this country down a dark path. I followed them. I read what they have to say. They are conservatives. They believe in limited government and strict adherence to the Constitution. They provide balance to my leanings. I can accept and respect their position because I know where it comes from. Many things I disagree with. Some I agree with. I’ve always believed we were a better country when we strike a balance between the disagreeing factions.

FOX News watchers rightly believe that the other news channels have an agenda. What they fail to see is that their chosen news source has one as well. They have been convinced over the years that their chosen news source is the holy font when it comes to information. I’m sure the Murdochs are thrilled.

It’s always a good idea to consume news with a critical eye. Question what you are being told, and if you only watch one source, be it conservative or liberal, break out of your bubble and ground yourself with a different take.

I found this article on the subject interesting. It’s notable that Republicans see everything outside of their bubble as being biased, while Democrats are more flexible on this issue. Scroll down to the bottom to see the graphs. My takeaway is that you can’t really go wrong with checking in with NPR News.

I don’t know how we come back from this great divide. With so much technology and access to information, confirmation bias is a very real thing. It’s cementing ideas in people’s heads. Somehow we have to find common ground. We have to be able to discuss differences with an ear to understanding. I hope it’s not too late.

So… where do you get your news?

P.S. If you want a humorous take on the right wing side of confirmation bias, I recommend Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse from the Daily Show.

Looking Forward

I know I am not alone in my eagerness to bid farewell to 2020. I go into the new year a bit reluctantly, however. I was really looking forward to 2020. It seemed so symmetrical, such a nice number. It was an election year, which brought hope for a better future. Then the shit hit the fan. Once bitten, twice shy, as they say.

But 2020 hasn’t been without its merits. I’ve thrown myself into my art. I’ve spent a lot of time at the co-op gallery that I belong to. I’ve watched our small town rally around local businesses. I have invested myself in its social media presence and tried to learn all I could about driving business our way. While I haven’t been out taking pictures far and wide, I’ve made forays to day trip locations and have focused on improving my craft. I’ve also taken on Illustrator and tried my hand at digital design. That all came from my stress-relieving mandala drawing obsession. One thing leads to another. You know how it goes.

My newest venture is creating a website for my photography to highlight the images I have both at the gallery and on print on demand sites like Fine Art America. I’ve actually purchased greeting cards and notebooks with my images on them from a couple of the sites and thought they turned out really nice. My hope is that the pandemic has created a new breed of consumer who is more willing to support independent artists and local businesses. At the gallery when people purchase greeting cards it helps the artists pay for their space. Not everyone is looking to fill a spot on the wall, but anyone can share art in the mail for a small investment. Win-win. If you have the time and inclination, check out my FAA (Pixels) site. You can buy my photography on all sorts of items. Even if you don’t buy, it helps me if you look. (One of my favorites photos is the ocean wave. If I didn’t already have way too many mugs, I’d have one of those.)

I wish you all continued health into the new year and a budding, welcome happiness with the freedom to roam and interact that comes with the vaccine. Until then, may we all continue to practice patience. This too shall pass.