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.

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!!!)

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.

PTSD

So, who watched the debate?

My son told me they talked about it at a work meeting this morning, where it was described, aptly, as a sh*#show. I told him I felt that by watching I had volunteered to be flogged. He didn’t watch. He’s better about self-care than I am.

I’m curious how anyone can support Donald Trump. Each time a scandal comes to light, each time he gets up on stage and spews his hateful, divisive rhetoric, I think that will be the end of his support. I wake up to hearing the same excuses, rationalizations, and justifications for his abhorrent behavior. My neighbors on three sides have Trump flags flying. At this point if you are still a Trump-supporter, I’m questioning your humanity.

“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.”

― Naomi Shulman

It was torture watching our bully president rage over both moderator Chris Wallace and former VP Biden. His whole demeanor was aggressive and mean. He repeatedly name-called and dehumanized democrats by calling us crazy, left-wing liberals. This democrat (me) is a human, with a view that you should help others and be a good steward of both money and natural resources. Come over for coffee sometime. I’ll show you my garden, such as it is. You can meet my dogs. They are sweet. I’ll tell you about the peaceful protests I’ve attended, what they’re really like and what prompted me to go. What name-calling and depersonalization do is to make someone the other, to make him/her less than you. It’s the first step toward being able to commit atrocities. Don’t think I haven’t wondered who’s coming for me.

During the debate, Trump got personal. It was awful hearing him steamroll Joe Biden and dismiss his son Beau in order to smear Hunter. I thought Biden had a classy parent comeback. He acknowledged that Hunter had dealt with his drug issue and that he was proud of him. What a great dad! Those boys had to be dealing with a lifetime of trauma after losing their mom and sister. Their dad did everything he could to alleviate their suffering, but nothing can make up for that. Some of us are more resilient than others.

If you want to see the fruit of the tree, turn the spotlight on the Trump kids, none of whom were wearing masks during the debate, in direct violation of the rules set by the venue, showing at the very least a contemptuous lack of respect.

Joe Biden is not a perfect candidate, but he has what it takes to lead this country. He’s not going to be a cult figure. We don’t need any more of those. He does have experience. He knows people, and knows people who know people. He has experience on the world stage. He knows how to form coalitions, and he understands that shows of force and belligerent attitudes don’t push our country forward. He will hire experts and defer and delegate. This, my friends, is leadership. Getting on stage and yelling the loudest is not.

Please vote blue. We desperately need a reset.

Side note: In looking something up, I found that there’s a whole Wikipedia page devoted to Trump nicknames. This grieves me. This man should not be leading our great country.

2020, Are You Done Yet?

“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

So, how’s everybody’s year going?

It’s been so hard to write anything coherent lately. (And by lately, I mean the past few years.) I have issues with anxiety, and these past 4 years have had me quite stressed out. I know I’m not alone.

It’s not just having Trump in the White House. It’s also knowing that people I care about are supportive of him despite his despicable character, his atrocious policies, and what seems to be his determination to be our Dear Leader for life.

I know I don’t do myself any favors by constantly updating myself on the latest scandal or misdeed of this administration. It’s all consuming because it’s so important. If mental energy were votes, Biden would have a clear path to the White House.

As it is, I cling to every Republican Voters Against Trump video and every whistleblower, thinking that this is the one that’s going to tip the balance. I thought it would be child separation. I was wrong. I thought it would be his abysmal response to COVID 19. I was wrong. I thought it would be his real view of our veterans. This seemed to push a few more people away from him. But this is a cult, and as with any successful cult, people are stuck in it by fear and righteous indignation and can’t be simply peeled away with logic and good sense.

And as if things couldn’t get worse, our fighter on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away. It has been about 24 hours since I heard the news. This seems to be my breaking point. I had hoped against hope that she would fight it out to the election, to the inauguration of a sane president Biden, and to a little retirement before cancer got the best of her.

But cancer is a bitch. Cancer doesn’t care about the state of the world. It doesn’t care if there is a mobster in the White House. And it certainly doesn’t care about the plans a diminutive powerhouse of a woman.

RBG fought the good fight – for us. Now we need to pick up the banner and continue the fight – for her.

Upon the news breaking, there was a swirl of seemingly immediate political talk of replacing her with a conservative justice. I had to turn it off. I can’t take it any more. Can’t we even have 24 hours of political radio silence? Can’t we give her that respect?

I found it interesting that she passed away during Rosh Hashanah and what that symbolizes.

Think about her sitting on the court these past 3 1/2 years. Despite her age. Despite cancer. What will we do to carry the fight forward? For starters, it wouldn’t hurt to give to the cause. I’m donating a dollar for each year RGB sat on the Supreme Court. That’s only $27, but if we were to all give $27, we just might make a statement. Won’t you join me?

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bidenharris2020

Let’s light a candle for RBG. Let’s have a moment of reflection and remembrance. Let us all to take stock of what’s at stake right now.

Then vote like your life depends on it.

I’ll leave you with this.

““When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Desensitizing the USA – Trumplandia

Photo credit: Geoff Livingston on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

I have a confession. I used to respect the office of the president, no matter who held it. I no longer do. Respect must be earned. Even worse, I used to believe our checks and balances would get us through anything. I am questioning this now. Our Constitution is only as good as the voters who choose people to uphold it, and they seem too easily swayed by fame and “fortune,” too easily conned by an adulterous cheat who claims to uphold Christian values.

We have undergone a year-long desensitization in the U.S. toward all things ugly and mean. There is no longer any shock value to what our president says about anyone or anything, regardless of what those in the media would have us believe. For me, the shock came during the race for the presidency, where he mocked a disabled man and, in true middle-school bully manner, gave ugly nicknames to his opponents. He apparently, through his wealth and power, quashed stories of his philandering and sexual predation, but we knew. I thought right would prevail and people would choose decency. I was wrong.

Now my reaction is only sadness.

How low have we sunk as a country that we are willing to push all this man’s indecencies to the side and accept him as our leader? He’s not even a good leader. He doesn’t inspire or pull people together. His vitriolic speech and tweets divide and anger the many who disagree with his gated-community vision of the world, and guess what – they are not all people of color. He pulls on a trucker cap and speaks in an uneducated slurry of superlatives, the con man who tells us to trust him. Is this a good sell for people?

I don’t understand.

Sometimes I see Donald Trump with the eyes of a parent or a teacher. I am both. I have seen these behaviors before. Kids who are starved for attention will try with any means possible to get it, and if they are not noticed for good behavior, they will pour on the bad. I don’t think our president ever got the tough love response of ignoring the temper tantrums that would have helped him develop a deeper character. He’s a paper cutout, a simplistic, greedy man who, like a child, is all about himself. His willingness to “help” our country is only insofar as it helps or boosts him. He is not one of us, no matter how many red hats he puts on.

I long for the day when I can respect the office of the presidency once again. May that day come soon.


For my evangelical friends who believe this wolf in sheep’s clothing, let me leave this here for you. Wake up.

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost;
When health is lost, something is lost;
When character is lost, all is lost.
~Billy Graham

Almost There

It’s been a year unlike any other I’ve experienced in my lifetime, a year of uncertainty mixed with sadness at people of faith trampling the values I’ve held so dear for most of that lifetime – humility, kindness toward others, community-mindedness, selflessness. It’s been a year of selfishness and greed, a year where stewards of the land circle the wagons against an imposing army of extraction industries. It’s been a year of vindictiveness and anger toward people who are content with letting others live as they see fit (pursuit of happiness, anyone?) and dredging the rivers of cash to more fully fund the well-funded. It’s been a year of statues over people, of incompetency at the highest levels, of America’s dirty laundry flying for the world to see.

And I’ve been hiding.

A good friend of mine, a sensitive, caring woman who would raid her pantry to feed anyone, was beset with a auto-immune malady after the election of Donald Trump. Her system couldn’t take the stress. She has finally found balance and peace through nature, and after about six months her rash went away, allowing her to re-enter her social circles. I didn’t have an auto-immune response, but I do feel like a turtle who has pulled into her shell of self-preservation. No writing to speak of; no words were there. Just stress and more stress. Instead I turned to my photography – visualizing the world I want to surround myself with, a world carefully created and preserved by dedicated conservationists.

The year is almost over, and this funk I’ve been in, this fog, is lifting. I still wake every day with the stress of not knowing how my world might be upended. I fear war for the first time in ages. I have a constant finger on the pulse of our institutions, whose failure might affect my mixed Hispanic-American family. I wonder daily if 1930s Germany could happen here.

But a shell is a confining place to be, and my creative muse is pushing at the boundaries. It’s lean, starving, hungry – and the muse must be fed.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

I am heartbroken, along with much of Oregon. A group of young people were hiking in an area to the east of Multnomah Falls, and apparently one of them thought it would be funny to throw a smoke bomb from a trail down into a ravine. Fireworks. Into the dry forest. In August. Now this whole area is a raging inferno, zero percent contained.

The earth is resilient. It will recover, but it will never be the same in my lifetime. I am grateful for the many times we braved the crowds and headed to this beautiful, popular location, most recently after the ice storm, when it was the coldest cold I’ve ever experienced, and again last May when I took my car to Portland to be serviced. That last time was a spontaneous decision to drive over after my appointment just to take a few pictures and drink in the forest beauty before heading home. It may have been the last time I will ever see it like this.

Sometimes it only takes one person to ruin it for everyone. Treasure that which you hold dear.

Blocking the Opponent

Let me start off by admitting that I’ve never been much of an athlete. I tried track in high school and got 4th out of 4 by hanging back to encourage a teammate during the mile. (She had the nerve to sprint ahead of me at the finish!) I was the kid shooting granny-shots in middle school basketball during the last 5 minutes of a winning game. So maybe my view is skewed, and maybe I have this wrong, but allow me an attempt at an analogy.

I remember during that middle-school basketball experience learning how to plant my body in front of my opponent to impede his progress. I don’t remember the name of the move, but I do remember that it was risky. Placing yourself in front of a charging, basketball-wielding player intent on hitting the goal might cause you, upon contact, to go flying across the court. It was also tricky. Not fully planting your feet would cause a foul call upon you. Your job as defense was to plant your feet firmly and road-block your opponent.

Progressives are now playing defense. Not only that, but we are playing against the team that is known for playing dirty, and they’ve probably bought the refs. But we can use and must use this play.

It’s time to dig in our heels and not chase down the players. It’s time to plant ourselves firmly in front of the player with the ball and not move. He may, and probably will, get around us, but hopefully we’ve given the blockers time to move into position to successfully throw the ball back to us. The opposition may score a few points, but this is a game we must win. Our democracy depends upon it.