An Open Letter to Elected Democrats

Well, we’re two weeks in, and it’s as clear as it ought to have been all along that what we’re dealing with the Trump Administration and the Republican-dominated Congress is as far past normal as Alpha Centauri is past the corner convenience store. A blitzkrieg of bad policy and worse nominees is overrunning the nation’s institutional defenses, as between them the Administration and Congress try and push through every bad idea the right’s ever had. I’m sure you don’t need me to read you the laundry list.

 

So here’s what I and my fellow liberals, progressives, and sane Americans with functioning empathy, conscience, and reason want you to know:

You. Must. Resist.

At every turn, in every way you can. Throw up roadblocks. Boycott hearings. Present amendment after amendment until the docket is filled til 2018. Whatever you can do to fight them or gum up the works, we expect you to do it.

It’s time to stop bringing a strongly-worded letter to a knife fight. The America we love and put our faith in is on the line. History is watching.

And you know what? We’re watching, too. And we’re going to remember.

Here’s something that I think is worth thinking about, if the case on the merits isn’t enough motivation for you. In October 2002, then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq. At the time, it looked like the politically-smart play, even though the Bush Administration’s case for war in Iraq had more holes in it than a paper bin Laden target at a West Texas shooting range. But the Bush Administration had a strong hand, politically, and made a disciplined push. In the wake of 9/11 there were few Democrats with the foresight and backbone to vote no.

That vote’s been an albatross around Hillary Clinton’s neck ever since. It cost her the nomination in 2008, and the Presidency in 2016. Because a lot of people never forgave her for that. Never forgot the calculation she made, for short-term political gain, and the tragedy, horror, and damage to our national soul that resulted from the war, and the bipartisan cover she and her fellow Congressional Democrats provided its justification.

Left unchecked, the present Administration and Congress are going to unwind a century’s progress. A lot of people are going to suffer and die unnecessarily. It’s up in the air whether we’ll have a trade or shooting war first. Up in the air whether we’ll still have a democracy.

The only option open to a person of conscience is vigorous, unflinching, disciplined opposition. At every turn. On every front. That’s what we want from you. That’s what history demands at this moment.

So show us what you’re made of. Give us a reason to believe in you, a reason to keep backing you. Do this thing, and we’ll do everything we can to get you re-elected and expand your caucus til we can do some good or at least unwind some of the bad.

If you don’t? Well, you’re already hearing from us, and seeing us everytime you go out in public. We’ll keep that up, month in and year out. And the next time you run for re-election? You can expect a primary challenge from the left.

And by then? We’re going to be really good at this organizing thing.

What Do We Accomplish By Marching?

Donald Trump is still President. His cabinet of incompetents, grifters, and deplorables is as likely as ever to be confirmed. The conservative agenda of small-government austerity and the rollback of hard-won rights and protections is still on the table in a House and Senate likely to ram them through and — to borrow a phrase from the folks doing the ramming — down the throats of the citizens of these United States, whether we like it or not.

But yesterday, the day after the least popular incoming President in history held his poorly-attended inauguration, four million Americans took to the streets of cities and towns across the country to march for women’s equality and women’s rights.

A cynical person might ask what it is we think we accomplished. All of the above is still true, after all, and it’s unlikely to change as a direct result of the largest political demonstration in our nation’s history.

It’s a fair question.

The simplest answer is that we came out and showed our sheer numbers. It makes a splash, makes the media pay attention. It changes the conversation. It puts our elected representatives on notice that the ideals and policies we marched for has a constituency they ignore at their political peril.

Those answers are meaningful. Important. But they aren’t the whole story.

A cloud has hung over vast swathes of the American people these last two and a half months. A feeling like we lost something important. Like something critical to our happiness, our well-being, our safety both personal and economic died. We have been grieving that loss. Mourning it. Fighting hopelessness and despair.

But not today.

Today my social media feed is full of fired-up, hopeful, and energized people. People ready to organize and fight for what they believe in. People whose faith is re-energized. People whose hope is restored. Whose resolve is galvanized, and whose hearts know joy again after a long, gray season of despair.

And that, to me, is the real answer to the question. What do we accomplish by marching?

We march to turn grief into power.

And with our faith re-energized, our hope restored, our resolve galvanized and our hearts filled with joy, we will overcome. We will bend the moral arc of history towards justice. We will make an America whose greatness isn’t grounded in power or wealth, but in fidelity to our highest ideals: to life, liberty, equality, opportunity, and security for every American regardless of who they are, what they want, or what they believe.

Yes we will.

What I Will Do Today

Today I will work on my novel. I will string words together in service to a story and character that grabbed hold of me four years ago and still won’t let go. A story of, in its essence, a clear-eyed woman’s ascent into power from nothing, fueled by her wit, grit, and resolve.

Today I will go to my wood shop. I will take salvage and scrap, the used-up, cast-off pieces, and make them into something useful and beautiful, through the work of my hands and the labor of my heart and mind.

Today I will go to the gym. I will challenge and refine my imperfect body, work it to exhaustion, that it might become stronger and healthier for the work that lies ahead.

Today I will read a book. I will fall into another world, another mind, another way of seeing and experiencing, that my own world, my own mind, my own way of seeing and experiencing will become larger, more encompassing, more compassionate and clear.

Today I will be kind to every person I meet. I will willfully and purposefully manifest what is best in me, and offer it freely to all I encounter. I will do my best to be the change I want to see in the world, to let the better angels of my nature take flight.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow, I will march. But today I will do those things that give my life meaning. I will ground myself in them, to give me strength and fuel my resolve for the long, dark road ahead.

I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On: Taking Action in the Face of Despair

Depending on how well you know me, you may or may not know that I suffer from depression, and have for most of my conscious life. Most of the time it presents as a sort of miasma in which everything seems pointless, or requires too much effort, or is just overwhelming enough to keep my brain turning in circles, which feeds the miasma because I use all my energy being anxious about how I’m not doing all the things instead of doing all or even some of the things.

At its worst, the despair is acute enough that I understand why people might take their own lives to make it go away, even if they know consciously that it will go away, because it has before. And before you freak out, no, I am not declaring myself a suicide risk, nor need you concern yourself overmuch about my condition, which I’ve been living with and learning to manage for my whole conscious life.

No, my purpose here is to share some of the strategies I use to move forward and accomplish things. Because let’s face it, there’s a lot of despair going around right now thanks to the election and the political situation in these United States, and if we’re going to make it better, we’re going to have to figure out how to move forward and accomplish things in the face of the depression and despair that situation engenders.

Some of what I’m going to say will seem contradictory, even paradoxical. This is partly due to the welter of contradictions-in-tension that makes up who I am. But mostly it has to do with the fact that you need different tools for different jobs (and the wisdom/know-how to pick the right one).

So, let’s jump right to the first contradiction: self-care and abnegation of self. Continue reading “I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On: Taking Action in the Face of Despair”