Category Archives: politics

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.

The 2016 Republic of Pants election

The time has come once more for the Pants Republic to change its pants. Another 4 years have passed since the re-electon of Corduroy O’Bloomer to the Seat of the Pants government after his first election 8 years ago. This year, after another embarrassing fashion show, the Pants Republic’s two major fashion houses have chosen their candidates: Pantsuit Linen and Doubleknit Trousers.

Pantsuit Linen is a garment of a feminine cut as yet not seen covering the Seat of the Pants Republic. Pantsuit Linen is well known to the public eye, known first nationally as the First Raiment to previous Pants President, Twill Linen. Pantsuit, as her supporters like to call her, has also had other important roles in the National Pants Governement, both as elected garment, and as an appointee to the O’Bloomer Wardrobe. Pantsuit has long fought for the representation of skirts and shorts in the Republic’s wardrobe, as well as access to laundry care for all.

Doubleknit Trousers is known to the public eye for more for his showiness and his attention-grabbing appearances in commercials and catalogs, rather than for any material contributions to Pants society. Trousers boasts of having deep pockets and the best tailoring, but his claims have been unsubstantiated due to his refusal to show either his pattern or content tags. Many are unimpressed by the flashy gold stitching of Doubleknit’s style. While his fans claim his tendency to come unzipped in public show that his pants are relatable, others have been embarrassed and offended by what lies behind the zipper. It has been shown on many occasions that Doubleknit’s orange polyester fabric is threadbare, that it snags easily, exposing the tacky and often indecent fabric of his lining. His tendency to come unravelled at the slightest provocation is not only unflattering, but has demonstrated that his cut is unfit to cover the Seat of the Pants Republic.

Both candidates have been accused of breeches of decorum, and many rumors fly. Doubleknit was responsible for weaving rumors that O’Bloomer is a muslin and was sewn abroad, in spite of the manufacturing documentation to the contrary. Doubleknit has further torn the Pants of the Republic apart through giving priority to Pants of the traditional cloth and color of the Old Chaps Club, and devaluing pants of more diverse origins and hues or imported styles. On the other leg, many Doubleknit supporters question the integrity of Pantsuit’s construction, in spite of decades-long inspections of her fabric, thread, and stitching. Pantsuit’s sturdy tailoring has stood up to many attempts to shred her fabric, but she has not shown herself to be impervious to stains on the fabric of her character. Many feel that she has revealed too much of the warp and weft of the Pants Nation’s Undergarments, and much attention has been paid to her Briefs. Her biggest detractors argue that she should be belted.

Overall, the Pants of the Republic are stretched thin and uncomfortable around the waist, and all are ready for this election to be over. Shopping for pants is often demoralizing, but it has never been harder to for this nation to find a pair of pants that fits all.

Tonight I am grateful for laughter, and thankful that I can still find humor in these stressful days of the US election.

history has its eyes on me

My life is busy, and my life is full, but these days it is hard to think of things beyond the upcoming US election.

I have a lot of thoughts on this election, but I want to cut to the chase and say that I am appalled and embarrassed that one of this country’s major party nominees is…and I can’t even type his name without a turn of the stomach…Donald Trump.

I am appalled by his bigotry, his offensive words and actions. I am horrified by the way he has demonized muslims, and spread fear of refugees. I am disgusted by the way he treats and talks about women. I am largely baffled by the way a shockingly high percentage of my fellow Americans are unfazed enough by his words and actions that his candidacy is still considered viable. (And this doesn’t even cover his lack of competence or relevant experience.)

I am, quite honestly, nervous about the results of this election. I know that the world is watching nervously. And I can only wonder how future generations will look back on this time. I am exhausted and don’t want to get into fights, but I don’t want to risk that the future take my silence as agreement with policies and attitudes that are antithetical to my worldview.

Tonight, I am grateful that I live in a country where free speech is protected.