Lately I've been pondering the interruptions of Bernie Sanders campaign events by Black Lives Matter folks and all of the ensuing noise.*
*(Full disclosure: I did personally comment to a post in which I said it was plausible that the latest two individuals were hired by another campaign. I am not saying this is the case, just that hiring people to voice a particular political opinion in order to help or harm a campaign is not unusual; there's now even an agency called "Crowd on Demand" which provides such services)
I have little interest in debating the validity of the women who took part in the latest interruption or the validity of the tactic. (Though I will say that I'm glad to see the campaign putting forward a stronger position regarding race issues. To be fair though, when we saw Sanders in Portland, ME he did speak about race inequality just as much as any other issue, and this was before the interruptions began.)
My question is this: Why all the noise?
All I have seen offered by anyone on this issue in my daily online travels have been people pointing fingers, name-calling, anger, and narratives which rely heavily on the words "them" and "us."
None of this does us any good at all. I've seen a lot of people (myself included) asking why BLM would go after the one candidate who actually has any interest in civil rights issues without receiving any answer. (I am not suggesting that nobody tried to answer these questions anywhere on the internet, just that I had not seen any.) Then, rather than digging for answers, speculation ensues, some of it pretty wild. I went looking for answers and found some that made sense, some that didn't, and virtually nobody who seemed interested in having a real discussion about it, black or white.
Ok, I guess I sort of know why. There may be other things at play but it seems as though much of the problem centers around 1) a rage born of oppression (no shit, really?) and 2) white fragility. We can debate which is more valid, or that people of color need to chill, or white people need to get over themselves, or whatever...but none of that really matters because both things need to drop (at least to a lower simmering point) in order for there to be any real communication at all.
It's tempting for me to say, "Screw it. I'm just going to try to be the best person I can be to everyone and not worry about this shit." But that seems like the exact sort of attitude that has put us in the very situation we are in today.
I want the discussion. I want to try to understand. I want to help change things. And I know I'm not alone. But if we are unwilling to talk then none of that happens.
Yes, if you talk to me about racial issues I will probably ask stupid questions and say dumb shit, just like when I've had discussions about religion, gender issues, and so on...it's what people do when they are learning... if I already knew everything we wouldn't have to talk to begin with, there would be no problem to talk about. There has to be some space allowed for ignorance to happen without having it completely shut down the dialogue. How can you shine a light on ignorance if it isn't allowed to come out of its hole?
And I'm not sure that the internet is the best place to have this conversation. Yes, messages can reach many more people more quickly, but tone and body language are so important in communication, especially with emotionally charged topics. Of course Maine isn't exactly racially diverse, so in my experience, when race does come up in face-to-face conversations it's usually, once again, a bunch of rather pale people speculating over something we know very little about.
So what's the answer? I really don't know. I just want very much for the vitriol to ebb and the conversation to flow.
If you want to talk I'm all ears.
For a few years now I have avoided viewing TV "news" fairly successfully, and it has truly been nothing but beneficial. Every once in a while though it surprises me, like the old pie-in-the-face bit, but in slow motion...and as the filling starts to inevitably engulf my face...I realize with horror that it is made not of cocount cream...it is made of shit...
Yesterda I brought our car in to be serviced. Somewhere between the front desk and the waiting room I remembered that the TV would be on, as it always is, and probably at a volume which would make reading difficult. (Usually there are three or four people obediently gawping up at the screen, regardless of what is on. Daytime game shows, soap operas, and the news channels all seem equally enthralling to the viewers somehow.) Today there was just one other man. He was leafing through a brochure on the new 2016 Silverado while the TV assaulted the room. Sure, the brochure wasn't exactly deep reading, but he wasn't absorbed by the TV which was promising. Then with a smile he handed me the remote control and said, "Whatever you'd like to watch is fine by me."
Returning his smile I replied with a hopeful, "Actually I'd prefer to just turn it off entirely."
His smile disappeared and he looked at me as though I had just suggested we pass the time by trying to guess how many men his mother had slept with in her lifetime.
Ok then. CNN it is.
A press conference had just started where a bunch of appropriately somber-looking officials took turns talking about bravery, tragedy, sacrifice, and then offering little to no information about the latest shooting. Makes sense. They're investigating. More info to come. Check.
No. Now it's time for the press to ask questions. And boy, what questions they were! "Was the slain gunman shot multiple times, and if so, where was he hit?" The answer to this was probably the only one which I found to be personally satisfying: "The forensics aren't back yet but he was hit enough times in the right places to kill him." I can't recall the other questions; almost all were inane, pointless, and asked with an excitement that made me feel ill. The questions seemed to be posed simply because they wanted to have something, anything, to ask, to have something add to the non-story that had just been given to them. But why?
My answer came after the press conference wrapped up and a commercial break.
Back to the studio and a parade of anchors, "experts", and a few contributors that seemed to have wandered into the studio, found a microphone, and just started blathering nonsense. They dissected every piece of non-information, mentioned multiple times that the FBI said the shooter had been wearing a "load bearing vest" (which is relevent to us sitting at home how?) and, most astounding, started filling in all the blanks with wild speculation. I get it; they are trying to fill 24 hours by spreading the most sensational stories of the day incredibly thin. How do they seriously call themselves a "news network?"
Of course it's not just CNN. There are several. The majority of them really. And they do it with enthusiasm...a thinly-veiled glee. Yes there are a few that straightforwardly report the news, such as the PBS NewsHour, but they garner just a tiny fraction of total viewership.
Why do we feed this machine? Why do we give energy to this...sick, awful THING...a Thing that picks at the bones of both the dead and the still living with barely contained ecstasy? Why?
The next time someone asks, with that usual air of surprise and mild superiority, why I don't watch the news my answer will be simple:
Because this is not news. It is the most vile sort of pornography. It is the pornography of pain and suffering. It is obscene and I refuse to give it more power.
And If enough of us stop giving it power, it will die. A death which cannot come too soon for my taste.
So yesterday was my birthday, and it was almost perfect.
The not-so-great stuff in my day was my own doing of course. I discovered shortly after I started my day that I had made a mistake at work that may turn out to be very costly. I frequently tell my kids that beating themselves up over mistakes is pointless and only serves to work against them; that one should take responsibility for the problem, be determined to try to not repeat the mistake, work out a plan to achieve that goal, and move on...so naturally I spent quite a lot of time simply beating myself up over my own mistake. My oldest kindly pointed out my hypocrisy, of which I was already uncomfortably aware, but I'm very proud that at 14 she sometimes has the ability to offer insight with gentleness.
Anyway, after I got up I was greeted by the girls yelling, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!" with hugs and a huge card that they had made from a deconstructed cardboard box. I have no idea where I'm going to put this thing, but I love it. Along with their names and some artwork it says:
45 Years of...
Love Peace Hope
Laughter Friends Hardship
Hating Soup Mischief Fun
(For the record, I don't actually "hate" soup, it just seems like a lot of work for not much payoff.) Anyway...
I also got a wonderful painting from Amy which I love. It's a girl with flowing text which says, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." I think that's her way of telling me I need to quit my crotchety-old-man bitching (and she'd be right).
In the afternoon we went to see 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' which was a wonderful movie, and perfect for a birthday. So perfect was watching a movie that addresses death on this particular day that I've decided that I want this to be an annual tradition; to do something which involves the topic of death. If I am going to recognize my birth day (which already happened long ago) then it makes even more sense to acknowledge my death day (which became certain even before I was actually born and gets closer all the time.) Keeping death in mind is not something I find morbid or scary; it helps me to be grateful for what I have, to keep in mind what is important, and to truly enjoy every moment while I'm here. In short, death awareness makes me more likely to light a candle rather than to curse the darkness. :)
After the movie we wandered over to Bull Moose and browsed the used books and records. Amy picked up yet another translation of the Yoga Sutras, but I didn't get any books (prefer the library). I did come home with some used vinyl though (AC/DC's Highway to Hell, Handel's Messiah, The Sound of Music soundtrack, Jethro Tull's Songs From the Wood, and a 45 of YMCA by the Village People) all for under $5. Sweet.
Next was a trip to Home Depot and then we decided to have breakfast for dinner at a local diner. I got a combo that takes up two large plates and ate all of it. (Sometimes death awareness also encourages me to eat whatever the hell I want.)
When we got home we went for an hour-long walk then sat on the deck with an amazing ice cream cake made by Amy. So good.
And here we are today. Another birthday really. Every day is a new birthday.
Happy birthday to you!
Make this one amazing, for you may not get another. <3
So there are a few things that I hear people say frequently when it comes to elections. I've translated what these phrases actually sound like to me when my brain interprets the words:
Statement: "I like what s/he is proposing but it will never happen"
Translation: "There is a better way, but I've given up hope."
Statement: "Only the candidates who raise the most money can possibly win."
Translation: "Corporations and special interests run our country and there's nothing I can do about it."
Statement: "A candidate who isn't near the center cannot be elected."
Translation: "As a country we've decided to elect those without principles; those who will say whatever it takes, usually vague, false, and meaningless rhetoric."
Statement: "I'd vote for her/him, but I don't think they can win."
Translation: "Our system does not work in a way that represents me as a citizen."
Statement: "I never vote because it doesn't really matter what I think or how I vote."
Translation: "I never vote because it doesn't really matter what I think or how I vote."
(Ok, so this last one didn't really need translation...)
These statements are not just frequent, they are so common that I'd be willing to bet that almost every person reading this has said or thought one or more of them, and probably recently. The recurring themes are no hope for change, no hope for better government, no hope for the future in this country.
So what are we going to do about it?
Are we going to keep voting for the same homogenized caricatures over and over again? Keep allowing ourselves to *not* be represented? Keep feeling powerless? Keep bickering partisan politics which only serves to divide us and maintain the status quo?
Screw that noise.
Listen to the candidates who are actually saying something; don't just swallow the rhetoric of your chosen party or a particular candidate; think it through and see if what they are saying truly makes sense or if they are simply full of balloon juice. Show up to events to support them. Talk to others respectfully about the candidates and the issues. (Also try be sure to listen as much or more than you talk! It's impossible to learn anything when your mouth is running. ;)
Then vote your conscience.
Vote for the candidate that best represents not just your immediate interests, but for the best interests of the country and the world as a whole. We are all in this together and more interdependent than ever before. What most benefits us globally will best benefit us as individuals.
Ok. Enough of this soapbox. I need more coffee. This video is a little on the nose, but I just couldn't help myself. I hope it's prophetic...