Category Archives: politics

Vote well, USA, vote well.

There are a lot of important races and questions on the ballots across the United States for tomorrow’s election. I have become deeply invested in many races, near and far. I have given of my time, my energy, my funds, and so much more. There is a lot at stake.

One question that should not even be up for debate, but has somehow made it onto the ballot in Massachusetts, is about whether my state should maintain protection of the rights of transgender individuals. To protect transgender rights, I hope that my state overwhelmingly votes “yes” on question 3.

yes-on-3

If you are a voter in Massachusetts, please vote “yes” on question 3. Please protect the rights of transgender people. (I made made these buttons to show my support.)

Or, as this video so eloquently puts it, “Be a Masshole, not an asshole.”

What are some of the races and questions that you are invested in? There is so very much to care about right now.

hitting the snooze button (a letter back to myself from 10 months ago)

IMG_2704 - Version 4Dear Me of January 2017,

Thanks for your letter. I did get it as planned on July 26th,  and the alarm went off, as planned. I couldn’t motivate myself to write right away, though. I didn’t exactly go back to sleep. But I did hit the snooze button, so to speak. For four months.

Anyhow, I’m doing okay, thanks. At least, me personally and my family. We’re all in good health, and not in any immediate danger.

As for the country as a whole, and the whole world? Well, things aren’t looking so great.

It’s not exactly that my worst fears were realized, because, let’s face it, my worst fears are a touch dramatic. I can safely say that, at the very least, we haven’t yet devolved into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and I haven’t been jailed as a political dissident. Other than that, though, the outlook isn’t great.

You’d hoped that impeachment processes would be underway,  but in spite of some petitions and the occasional vocal politician, we haven’t had much progress. There have, though, been ongoing investigations into collusion with Russia from the Trump campaign. So maybe there’s still hope there.

One recent bright ray of hope came in the form of state and local election results earlier this month. Around the country, we saw that progressives are ready to fight back. If we can keep up the momentum, the 2018 and 2020 elections look promising as well. But there’s a lot of work ahead.

You wondered if I’d still be resisting, and I generally am. I did attend the March for Science in Boston, but I haven’t managed to attend any other marches. I know it sounds like excuse-making, but I have had reasons. Schedule conflicts or insufficient time to plan. I haven’t yet found a Black Lives Matter event to attend. I guess I need to try a little harder.

I did finish reading the New Jim Crow, but the online discussion group that prompted me to read it largely fizzled out. I did attend the talk in February on dialect discrimination. I also helped to organize a workshop addressing systems of oppression through the social justice group at a friend’s UU church. I am also happy to say that I did start volunteering with immigrant populations, and have started working as a volunteer ESL tutor through the public library of a neighboring town. It feels productive and personally enriching in ways that many of my other efforts don’t.

IMG_2704 - Version 3 As for my work with my Democratic Town Committee, there I can honestly say that I have not let that ball drop. I have invested many hours on outreach projects, including design and a mailing, contributing to our social media presence, publicizing and attending events, and even spearheading the design and construction of a float in our small town’s arade. I have been following state and local races, and supporting progressive candidates. I’ve attended meetings and trainings and fundraisers.

I have channeled much of my angst and worry and anger about the national scene into my efforts on the local scene. More than ever, we need to keep progressive voices in the House and Senate, because they are fighting the fight every day. We need to have progressives in our state legislatures, because this is our best chance to preserve what progressive  policies we have, at least close to home.
IMG_2704 - Version 2

Yes, I am tired, as you imagined. As you and I both know, I tend burn the candle from both ends preparing for an event. Then my health tends to suffer afterwards. But then I recover, rally, and dig back in. I am still very aware that what is going on in our government and our society is not okay, and not normal. I have been horrified by the numbers of people who feel able now to openly embrace and display their views of white supremacy, and disgusted that this administration fuels that display of hate. All the institutions and groups of people we were worried about in January are still just as threatened. There are good people who are fighting back, though, and this gives me some hope. The press is still free, and and far as I know, people can still protest and freely assemble. But it does give me a nagging sense of worry that the frequency and visibility of protests has decreased. I am not the only one who is tired.

Your big question for me, which I really can’t ignore was: Are you paying enough attention?

I’m afraid that the answer is probably “no.” The constant alarm bells, such as about attacks on healthcare, net neutrality, horrifying judicial appointments, threats of war, and so much more, are causing so much noise, that I am surely missing a lot.

While I am worn out and deeply worried, I am also bolstered every day by my friendship and connection with friends and family members who share my values and worldview. I know that there are many of us, and we are not going to back down.

I also do not doubt for a moment that we are on the right side of history.

In solidarity,

The Current Present Day Me, Who is now 10 Months Older than the Me who wrote that Last Letter

p.s. I realize that you can’t write back this time, because you are in the past, and I don’t believe we have access to time travel. But perhaps another Future Me will write back to us both.

p.p.s. Not sure I can blame it on the crumbling democracy, but I’m still not finished with my work for the NSF grant. I’m still giving at least part of my time and attention to my work as a researcher, though.

p.p.p.s. I totally forgot about that puzzle. Did not even try to finish it, and probably never will.

This post is a follow-up to one I wrote 10 months ago, setting an alarm (a letter to myself 6 months from now),  the motivations for which I described thusly¹:

This post was inspired by a quote shared by a friend on Facebook, excerpted from a column in the New Yorker:

At a writers’ protest organized by the PEN America Center, on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum last Sunday, Andrew Solomon, the organization’s president, decrying Trump’s apparent disregard for free speech, quoted a South African friend who had lived through apartheid: “ ‘What is most shocking is not how shocked you are right now, what is most shocking is how unshocked you will be in six months time.’ ” Solomon went on, “When I heard him, I took it as an occasion to declare that I will remain shocked. That we will remain shocked.” –Emily Eakin, The New Yorker, January 20, 2017

I commented that the quote made me feel like I should set an alarm. I have effectively just done so. I put an event on my calendar for 6 months from today: RESIST. I wrote in my new paper planner, and put it in my computer with it set to alert me a day before. I very much hope that I remember what this means.

This post ended up being super long, in spite of my efforts to trim it down. If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I’d love to hear more ideas about how to keep the resistance going. What have you been up to? What do you hope to do next?²

¹ I also wrote that post as my third entry in #52essays2017, a project to write and post an essay each week this year. Clearly, I have not kept up that weekly challenge.  If I had, this would only be my 4th essay. (To read more about the 52 essays project, visit Vanessa Martir’s Blog.)

² In case you wondered about the images in the post, they are some buttons I made. I couldn’t wrangle up swag for an event, so I decided to design and make some of my own.

setting an alarm (a letter to myself 6 months from now)

Dear Future Me,

I just wanted to check in with you to see how you are doing. From back here, during this first week of the new administration, things look pretty dark. When the election results came in, I braced myself for a dystopia. But I guess much like the expected death of a loved one after a long-term illness, you can never be truly prepared. The grief and shock still hit hard.

I hope that from where you stand, 6 months into the future, in July of 2017, that the outlook has improved. Hopefully impeachment processes are already underway. Hopefully rational voices have finally prevailed, even among the conservative right. I know that Pence is not the president you would ever in any way have voted for, but from back here, he looks at least sane compared to the dangerous madman now in office. If Pence is the one now in office, I hope that you are working to block his attempts to move policy back 60 years.

Either way, I hope you are still resisting. I hope that you are still outraged. I hope that by now you have attended marches and helped to keep the flames of hope going in yourself, your friends, your family and your community. Did you find a Black Lives Matter march to attend in Boston? Did you finish reading the New Jim Crow? Did you attend that talk in February at UMASS on dialect discrimination? Did you attend a march in support of science? Did you find a place to volunteer with immigrant populations? Have you done your part to help your Democratic Town Committee keep up the momentum and follow through with outreach plans?

I imagine that you are tired. While I hope that you have held on to your sanity and your health, I want to make sure that you have maintained a level of awareness that this is not normal. Have you found yourself thinking things are getting better? If so, are you sure that things really *are* getting better? Better compared to what? Have you checked in with your conscience and your friends of conscience to make sure that you are not just getting used to the new normal? 

How are Syrian refugees doing? Are we welcoming them with open arms and resources? Has all the nonsense about building a wall along the Mexico border been shut down? Has the Black Lives Matter movement been recognized as an important political movement by the mainstream? Are people expressing anti-Islamic or anti-semitic or other religion-based bigotry getting censured by the mainstream? Are our legislators working to protect all people, regardless of religious background or ethnicity or gender? What is the state of the first amendment? Is the press still free? Can people still freely assemble? Have people been able to hold on to their healthcare, or are families with sick children facing bankruptcy over life-saving medical interventions? How do things look for women’s health and access to birth control? LGBTQ rights? Public education? Climate change research? Science research in general? (I’m afraid to even ask about international relations. Please, please don’t tell me that we’ve started a new war.)

As you can see, future me, I have a lot of questions for you. But here’s the big one, the key one, that I have for you right now: Are you paying enough attention?

With love and encouragement to stay in the fight,

Present Day Me 

p.s. I hope you can write back.
p.p.s. I hope you didn’t let the crumbling of our democracy keep you from finishing your work for that NSF grant. Science and accountability are still important, right?
p.p.p.s. Did you ever finish that one crazy Hogwarts jigsaw puzzle with the irregular edge? That thing seemed pretty near impossible. 
This essay is my third entry in #52essays2017, a project to write and post an essay each week this year. (I’m a week behind, but not giving up.) To read more about the 52 essays project, visit Vanessa Martir’s Blog.
 
This post was inspired by a quote shared by a friend on Facebook, excerpted from a column in the New Yorker:

At a writers’ protest organized by the PEN America Center, on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum last Sunday, Andrew Solomon, the organization’s president, decrying Trump’s apparent disregard for free speech, quoted a South African friend who had lived through apartheid: “ ‘What is most shocking is not how shocked you are right now, what is most shocking is how unshocked you will be in six months time.’ ” Solomon went on, “When I heard him, I took it as an occasion to declare that I will remain shocked. That we will remain shocked.” –Emily Eakin, The New Yorker, January 20, 2017

I commented that the quote made me feel like I should set an alarm. I have effectively just done so. I put an event on my calendar for 6 months from today: RESIST. I wrote in my new paper planner, and put it in my computer with it set to alert me a day before. I very much hope that I remember what this means.

resist

resistance is not futile

mail

I engaged in an act of political resistance this week. I sent a letter to each of the 20 electors of Pennsylvannia to urge them to consider casting their vote for anyone who shows better respect for international diplomacy and the office of president than the president-elect. I don’t expect my letters to change any minds. There’s a good chance my letters won’t even be read, that they won’t arrive before the electoral college meets. That they will be buried in the bags of letters being sent. Even so, I wanted to add my plea to those of many thousands of others to voice that the upcoming administration does not have a mandate to carry out policy changes that put our world at risk.

As an aside, when I stopped by the post office to buy my stamps and mail my letters, I was amused by one of the signs in this quaint little scene at the back of the building.

loading-dock

“Do not climb or jump on or off the dock. Use stairs or ramp.”

jump

It is rare that we are publicly invited to jump off stairs in public buildings. (But I did resist the temptation.)

 

Welcome signs

I went on an excursion into Boston today with my mother (visiting from California) and my son. My son has a school project this year for which he is encouraged to visit various historic and culturally significant sites in Massachusetts. We went to the State House (just the outside), hit a few more landmarks on the Freedom Trail, and then headed to the Boston Public Library. Getting out of the T station at Copley, we were greeted by banners at the beautiful Old South Church proclaiming: “Love thy (Muslim) neighbor as thyself.” I was very heartened by this message of love and inclusion, what I see as an overt and beautiful response to the islamophobia that is running rampant among many in this country. (And which is sickeningly encouraged by the President-elect.)

img_3726-version-2img_3726img_3730

I have been running behind in my enumeration of gratitude, which I had intended to post here daily this month. However, tonight, it is easy for me to say that I am immensely grateful to live in Massachusetts: a state not only rich in history, but which has frequently shown itself to be on the right side of history. While not everyone in the state feels the same way I do, Massachusetts voters by and large choose social progress. And there are many, many people in Massachusetts speaking out loudly for these ideals.

Still processing.

I’m still in shock about the election results. I have oscillated between feeling defeated and deflated, and feeling resolve to roll up my sleeves and get back to work and do more. I think I will need a bit of time to recover.

Today, I was very grateful to have my children here with me. Really, I am grateful for them in so many ways. This morning they helped me to pull myself together, because I didn’t want to pass on to them the levels of fear and despair that I was feeling.

I voted.

I voted today. I didn’t have an appropriate pantsuit to wear, but I did carry my Woman Card in my back pocket. Now, watching the election results roll in, I am sick with worry. I am baffled that things are this close. I’m going to have to go to bed and hope for the best.

Today, I am grateful for the right to vote. It was a hard won right, and I don’t take it for granted.