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.

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

Share Your World 8/14/17

Here are my answers to Cee’s questions for the latest Share Your World:

When you leave a room, do you turn the lights off behind you or keep the lights on throughout your house most of the time?

I keep the lights off, and the habit is so ingrained I’ve been known to turn the lights off on my poor showering husband. My dad helped create this habit with his constant reminders during my youth. I more recently read that the biggest impacts on the family electric bill come from the hot water heater and the furnace, and with low energy bulbs throughout the house, I’m not sure I really need to be so diligent about the lights.

What do you feel is the most enjoyable way to spend $500? 

I just got back from a foodie visit with my son and daughter-in-law. I would definitely spend it trying new restaurants with friends and family.

Complete this sentence: My favorite thing to do on my cell phone is…

I don’t have a favorite. I do enjoy having a mini-computer available all the time. I enjoy taking pictures, even if I have my DSLR hanging off my shoulder. I love being connected to my family and friends. I also love being able to Google anything! I think I’d be lost without my phone at this point.

What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

I just got back from a visit to Charlottesvile and DC. I was overwhelmingly inspired by walking in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers. I toured Monticello and learned about our conflicted Thomas Jefferson, who believed that all men were created equal and apparently opposed slavery, yet owned hundreds of slaves himself. I walked through the rotunda of the University of Virginia and reflected on the ideals of Jefferson that his newborn democracy should have an educated population of citizens to support it. (I am a teacher and a firm believer in public education.)

In DC, I walked through the halls of Congress in awe of the grandeur and history of the place. At the end of the tour, our guide, an older woman, related being evacuated and running from that very building in fear on 9/11 as a plane approached. She said that as she ran, she looked back over her shoulder and saw smoke rising from the Pentagon. She later learned that her husband’s office was ground zero in that attack, but shared that he had not gone to the office that day. She impressed upon us the somber knowledge that she worked in the number one terrorist target in the country, but also how important it was to show strength and not fear. I was not the only person in tears hearing that story in that great setting.

The day we were in DC was the same day the KKK rally was happening in Charlottesville. We were getting updates via Facebook, text and Twitter as we toured. It struck me that at the same time that was going on we were walking the mall in a giant crowd of people of every race and color, listening to many different languages being spoken. A rainbow of humanity was sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the same day a group of white men beat a black man with poles and another angry young man bore his car down on people standing up for the rights of all.  I read the words of Lincoln from his second inaugural address and thought that imagining the world he lived in was not as far a stretch as it should have been. And just this morning I heard echos of Reagan, Bob Dole, and Bush Jr., excerpts from speeches strongly and definitively denouncing white supremacy and the KKK, only to be saddened by the tepid response of the current resident of the White House.

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What inspired me? In the past week I walked in the footsteps of one of the authors of our founding documents. I read the words of another great leader who sought to rectify this situation. I sat on those steps and gazed out upon a mall that was the scene of a historic march for civil rights.

And I wondered, isn’t the time for KKK rallies long past?

And lest you think these outsiders represent Charlottesville, I can tell you as an outsider myself that I found the town charming, educated, and progressive, which is why that darn statue is coming down in the first place.

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Aren’t you glad you asked?


As always, thanks to Cee for the chance to share our worlds. Thanks for reading. I wish you all safety in these troubling times. We do live in a great country.

In memory of Heather Heyer.

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Small Things

Tonight wasn’t the night to be missing one ingredient for dinner. I was tired, and had changed out of my work clothes into my jeans and pro-science political T-shirt so I could pull weeds and wash some dishes. I tried to get Maverick to run my errand, but he was heading off with a friend. Everyone else was gone. It would have to be me.

Since the election, I exist on a reverberating wire of tension. There’s a charged electricity in the air of people just looking for an excuse to tell you what they really think. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) I decided to get gas first, and ended up behind a patriotic pick-up that was emblazoned with an American flag all across the tailgate and a Trump make America great again slogan slapped on top of it. I groaned and snapped a picture. I groan a lot anymore, like yesterday when I passed a pickup with two giant American flags fluttering behind it only to come across another one sporting a confederate flag. Just some good ol’ boys. People making statements. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) It’s a conservative town. I am the dissenting opinion. 20170602_222224

I decided on the humble bulk foods store over Safeway. I just needed some celery. And maybe an avocado… Oh, and milk! I made my way to the checkout line with the cold jug of milk in my hand. The man in front of me turned and said it was going to be a minute. The people a couple spots ahead of him were having trouble with their SNAP card. I assured him it was okay, that it’s always my line that has the problem. We chatted as we waited. The woman fiddled with the card reader while the checker exuded irritation. The man I was talking to called up ahead for the checker to just charge him for the item and give it to the people. She seemed not to hear. The couple thanked him and assured him it was alright. He paid for their item anyway and mentioned something about paying it forward.

When it was finally his turn, he bantered with the checker, spilling over with friendliness, making light of life and the high cost of groceries. She smiled. I smiled. I wanted to thank him for offering to pay for the groceries of the struggling couple. I wanted to thank him for being so kind, and so normal, and for talking to me as if I weren’t wearing a pro-science political T-shirt in a small conservative town. I was kind of glad I had to run out for one ingredient.

Some ingredients, it turns out, are indispensable.

Damage

As spokes of a wagon wheel of old
They radiate out from the center,
Intentions played out in actions,
Cruel words spraying out in torrents of hatred
And fear,
Until those who would seek to curtail the damage
Are flailed by ever loosening,
Wildly unstable shafts,
Radiating out from the center.


RIP brave souls who stood up for all that is right and human on the Max train in PDX last Friday. They came from divergent backgrounds, but a common humanity.

53-year-old Ricky John Best
23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche.

We should also not forget the surviving hero, who also put his life on the line. Thank you for stepping up, Micah David-Cole Fletcher. (21)