Welcome To The Bitch Bubble

Before I get into the business of telling you why you should buy and read Lauren Dixon’s story collection, Welcome to the Bitch Bubble (and oh, how I love that title), there’s a certain elephant in the room to be addressed: namely that Lauren Dixon is my sweet Dr Bae, the love of my life, and my romantic and domestic cohabitee. How can I not but be biased?

And of course I am. But what you may not realize is that we knew each other for years before we ever kissed or even thought about it. We were in a critique group together, a sort of vicious writers’ circle where drafts are submitted and then vivisected in front of their proud, anxious parent, in the hopes of the next draft coming out better.

What I mean to say is: I’ve known and respected Lauren’s work a long time. If I didn’t, we would never have gotten to the aforementioned romantic and domestic bliss.

Now, let me tell you why you should read her book.

***

What’s the flipside of body horror? Vagical surrealism. What’s that? Well, like surrealism, it delves into the messy unconscious, the blood and guts and organs and bile beneath the clean white surface. What distinguishes vagical surrealism is its generative force: inside this womb are monsters born, fever-dream chimeras that howl and shriek and whisper secret truths none dare speak by light of day. Wild joy, profoundest despair, love and need and desire given flesh made of words and set free in a world seen anew through their eyes. They know things, these chimeras, these creatures of word-flesh conceived and born in Dixon’s mind. If you listen, they will tell you. They’ll cut you open in all the right places and plant seeds there, seeds that’ll grow into something unknown.

Whether it’s a girl sent back in time to the Catholic laundries, a yeti passing through portals in space and time, a woman trying to hold on to her adopted, eight-legged child or connected all her life to her mother through a never-cut umbilical or exiled happily to live among pigs, the strange landscapes Dixon carries us through feel real as pain, thanks to core emotional throughlines, visceral imageries, and a fearlessness matched by very few writers of this or any era. Laid bare in her wake? The pale pillars of patriarchy, crumbled and empty, revealed as more surface than substance, mostly layer upon layer of whitewash over a shrivel-dicked core of fear at the wild possibilities of the unchecked generative power of woman and womb. And there, among the wreckage and ruin and wrack, there you’ll find Lauren Dixon, playing unashamed as an unchaperoned child, gluing ragged-edge pieces together into new shapes with her own bodily humours, shapes that seem somehow both brand new and inevitable.

I’m telling you. You gotta check this shit out. It’ll do things to you, things you won’t even realize until later, or maybe you won’t. You’ll just be changed into something different, altered by your passage through vagical surrealism’s birth canal. As someone who’s already passed through to the other side, I’m here to tell you it’s worth it.

81yPaB-IDGL

The Customer Is Always Right

Give me liberty or give me death. That’s what the sign says. She stands in front of the Baskin Robbins, not a manager in sight, her roots growing out, her mouth open mid-rant when the shutter clicks. She has her weight canted forward, on the balls of her feet, and a small American flag in one hand.

A vintage troop transport pulls up to a corner downtown, filled with cosplay paramilitaries in masks and sunglasses and ball caps and body armor. Each carries his customized Armalite one handed, to keep the other free for high-fiving. This is even better than the titty bar.

A quad-cab faces off with a nurse in mask and scrubs, tired of this shit. Not pictured: the hospital, maxed out and running out of PPE. A woman hangs out the passenger side window, hollering. Her hair is bleached. Her shirt says USA. The truck gleams, freshly-washed, in the sun.

***

For most of my adult life, I worked in bars and restaurants. And while food and drink were what we charged the money for, that wasn’t all we were selling. Core to the transaction, if unspoken, was customer service: treating people like they’re important and like what they want matters. In due measure, it can be rewarding both ways. But one of our exceptionally American cultural pathologies is that we take it waaaaaaay too far. Here the customer is king, and always right, and we’ll be happy to comp the meal you didn’t like and bag up the leftovers so you can take it home with you for later. Have a nice day and like us on Yelp!

You see that same sense of entitlement on display at these astroturf ‘protests’ that keep popping up like cold sores on state capitol steps. Like cold sores, they look like a lot more than they are, especially with the camera zoomed in so the people fill the frame, and all the empty space around them disappears from the context. They carry signs that say things like ‘I need a haircut’ and ‘Give me liberty or give me Covid-19.’ Maybe one in ten has a sign that says ‘I need to work.’ The one in ten has a valid point, but what the other nine want is only going to make things worse. More people will get sick. More people will die. The economy will, in the long run, take a bigger hit.

Doesn’t much matter when you’re broke and hungry and the rent is due now.

Do you know what else has that kind of urgency? When an addict needs a fix. Because let me tell you something: for every alcoholic, functional or not, that I served a drink to, I served three people addicted to being served.

The nine in ten? Didn’t know they were customer service addicts. Didn’t realize how much they depended on that presumed (purchased) deference. They thought that was just how the world worked, how it ought to work. How God wanted it to work, with his hierarchied omnibenevolence and preference for white Christian Americans. Take that away — take away any addict’s fix — and all they have left is the hole they’re trying to fill, the damage they never healed, the emptiness, uncertainty, and dread. For half a month or a month, they’ve been drying out in quarantine, no one to treat them like they’re important, like what they want matters.

And they are freaking the fuck out right now. Their roots are showing in more ways than one.

But it makes for good TV. And the operation was successful. The record shows: people protested. Those governors looking for a reason to kick poor people off unemployment rolls and deny small businesses support have their cover story. Someone else will come along and open new gyms and nail salons and restaurants after all this is over. The economy will go on.

(Someone else’s) death is a fair price to pay for liberty. Anything else would be tyranny in the land of the free.

And the addicts? They get their fix. Everybody wins.

Except the people who die.

***

I tried to quit smoking the first time when I was nineteen. Don’t think I made it a day. It wasn’t til I was in my thirties that I managed to quit for more than a couple weeks here and there. Every time I tried it was like every negative emotion, every hurt and disappointment and anxiety and guilt I’d ever felt and repressed welled up in me all at once all the time no matter what was happening around me. It was like that because that’s what was happening. My addiction tamped all that shit down, so I could get through my day without screaming or hurting myself or, as too often happened anyway, someone else. Because what is anger but weaponized pain, and what does a weapon want but to be wielded?

It took a lot of years and a lot of tries before before this last time I quit. It took also a lot of hard looks in mirrors and calling spades spades and a lot of coming to terms with things and a lot of humility and work. I also lucked out in having a first date with my partner the day after I last quit. That probably has more to do with my success in staying quit for this long than anything else.

***

It’s hard to feel sympathy for the entitlement of the customer service addict, especially as someone who made a career of abetting them for three decades. Negotiating with someone who’s just waiting for a reason to ask for your manager — or being the manager who has to step in and grease the squeaky wheel — will erode your faith in humanity and leave a dirty taste in your mouth. Doing it for not enough money to live on sucks even worse.

Early in my career, I found a way to console myself when I encountered such a person. True, they might make my life hell for five minutes or an hour. But it was always like that inside their head. You’d be surprised how much that realization helped.

Anger is weaponized pain, and now, without service industry people to point their anger at, these pampered beasts are finding their pain again. How can they know they’re always right if they aren’t anyone’s customer? Who will treat them like they’re important, like what they want matters?

***

Once upon a time, some scientists addicted some rats to cocaine. They put it in the water, put regular water next to it, and watched the rats choose the cocaine water again and again. Who wouldn’t, living in a scientist’s cage?

Someone had the idea to put the rats in different circumstance. They put the rats in rat paradise: room to run, things to do, other rats to be friends with. They offered them cocaine again. They wanted it less.

***

The guns the boys are playing with are real. So is the virus that shut down the service industry. The one they’re protesting from their self-defaced cars so they don’t catch it. So are the people they’re willing — implicitly or ex- — to sacrifice the lives of so they can have their fix again. So they can feel like the always-right kings they’ve always known themselves to be.

No addict quits without wanting to. Because when you quit you have to deal with all the things the addiction tamped down for you. It hurts, and it takes a long time. To be honest, it’s more ongoing process than final result, journey and not destination. But like anything, you get out of it what you put into it.

But what the one-in-ten need (the ones whose signs say ‘I need to work’) is more like what the people the customer service addicts want to go back to work need. It is, funny enough, the same thing our economy in its present form needs: free money to keep the charade going until we can build our own robust paradise, free health care in case we get sick, a rent and mortgage and debt payment freeze, and a reason to believe we might come out of this in a better place.

This doesn’t serve the customer service addict, nor the governor who has interests and oligarchs to placate.

But I can’t help but wonder: if we build the paradise that the rest of us want, where everyone gets what they need and no one has to worry about problems we have the means to solve, maybe the rats in their self-imposed cages will stop wanting the cocaine water so much.

Probably not. But I think we should do it anyway.

How to Writer

So here you are, stuck inside – if you’re a person of conscience anyhow – for the foreseeable future. And while it’s a perfect time to tackle your to-read pile, or catch up on your binge-watching, maybe you’ve been thinking about starting that novel or memoir or other big writing project you’ve wanted to do for so long. To which I say hell yeah, go on with your bad self, let’s do this thing!

But maybe you’re not sure exactly how. You’ve got the passion. You’ve got the idea. But you haven’t ever had the chance to sit down and do the thing. You know it’s probably not like in the movies – it isn’t – but knowing what it’s not is only so helpful when you need to know what it is. ‘It’ being the kind of writing practice that can get a big project done. Because if you’re relying on flashes of inspiration and feverishly scribbling in a notebook til all hours of the morning to get you there, well, best of luck to you, cuz that never worked for me.

You may be asking yourself right now: ‘I’ve never heard of this guy. Who the hell’s he think he is?’ The answer is: no one of consequence. But I have written like three million words in the last fifteen or twenty years, and continue to write almost every day without much in the way of outside validation.

Now, one thing I can’t teach you is how to write. That’s something that can be learned, but not taught. What I can teach you is how – for lack of a better term – to writer. And yeah, I know, ‘writer’ is a noun. But it’s also, as we’ll see, a verb. And it’s the verb that makes the noun, not the other way around.

***

The key thing is to establish a writing practice, by which I mean an ongoing routine, integrated into your daily life, like going to the gym or to work. It means finding time – and space – to do your work, and keeping at it consistently.

Let’s break that down:

First, if you can, find or make a dedicated workspace for your writing. It doesn’t have to only be for writing – I am at my kitchen table, right now, because our house is small and that’s the space I have – but it’s good, in my experience to have a particular place you go to to work. Much of what I have to teach here amounts to self-programming, building chains of association and habit in your mind that will prompt your writing brain to kick in when you sit down at keyboard or note-pad.

For that same reason, it’s also good, if you can, to set aside a specific, regular time that you write. Lots of people will tell you first thing in the morning is best. Others will say late at night, when the day’s work and worries are done. Myself I tend to be most productive in the mornings, but the takeaway here is not that you need to write in the morning so much as it’s good to write around the same time every day, or every day you’re able to write. It helps prime your mind, teaches it that this is what you do this time of day, and it will, sooner than later, learn to grab its shovel and headlamp and descend once more into the word-mines to dig up today’s nuggets of gold and/or shit.

For now, especially while establishing your practice, there is no functional difference between shit and gold, by the way. You will also, for various reasons, sometimes think shit is gold and gold is shit.

Now for me, I like to strengthen those chains of association with the music I listen to while I write. By which I mean I have a writing playlist, which evolves over time, but which I listen to consistently and in the same order every time. It’s just as useful to have some ritual (Stephen Pressfield, author of the War of Art, which you probably ought to read, likes to read the invocation at the beginning of the Odyssey) or other that you do, no matter how simple or even what it is. It’s the ritual that’s key, the thing that signals passage from one kind of time to another, in this case not-writing time to writing time.

It’s important to remember: none of this is magic. It’s training and discipline, programming your brain to devote unconscious resources to the problem of turning the nebulous inchoate desire/idea/intuition into something that will move someone reading it, cause things to happen in their brain such that they, too, can begin to grasp this thing you’re reaching after. Okay, so maybe it is magic. But it takes a fuck-ton of practice to say abracadabra right.

***

Okay, so we’ve made time and space. We’ve got some ritual or trigger to activate our writer brain, and we’re ready to actually, you know, write. So what about that?

I said before I can’t teach you how to write, and that’s true. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help you teach yourself. So here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way, that have proved useful in my own writing practice.

Hemingway famously said ‘Write drunk, edit sober’, which is pretty on-brand for such a famously alcoholic person. But his formulation is actually pretty useful, because writing and editing are two totally different things. It’s like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, in which you can know either a particle’s position or velocity but never both at once and, in practice, the more you know about one, the less you know about the other. It’s the same with writing and editing. Put it this way, you can create or you can judge. Trying to do both at once is a recipe for failure.

I’m going to set aside editing, because that’s a whole other thing that comes way later in the process, and has no place here, where we’re establishing a practice and finding our way to the end of a shitty first draft.

Yes, your first draft will be shitty. Accept it. Embrace it. It’s what first drafts are for.

Put it this way: it’s easier to fix something that’s broken but already exists than it is to conjure it up in the first place. And that’s what you’re doing, right? You’re conjuring something into existence that wasn’t there before. Even if there are other things like it, that you made it makes it different from what anyone else can make. So give yourself, and your draft, a break. You can get all judge-y later, when it might do you some good.

Should you outline? Probably. I almost never do, and when I do, it never makes it onto the page how I meant it to. But it’s a good exercise, and it can save you some time if you’re the sort of person who sticks to plans that they make. Me, I’m more of a headlights writer, in which metaphor the draft is a journey by car, driven at night: you never see farther than the headlights, even if you know which roads you plan to take and where you’re ultimately trying to get to. It may or may not be the best, most efficient way, but you’ll get where you’re going, and you might find some things along the way you’d have missed if you’re too stuck on keeping to your itinerary. Still, outlines can be useful, even if you outline as you go. Planning the next night’s leg, in this metaphor.

What if you get stuck? Unlike a road trip, you can totally skip these parts, and come back to them later, either during the first draft or later, when editing or revising. I’m not much for it, myself, but I know lots of writers better and more successful than I am who won’t think twice about writing “[insert awesome swordfight/space battle/conversation about feelings here]” and move on to whatever’s next. In fact, you don’t have to do the whole thing in order at all if you don’t want to. I mean, I do, but the purpose here isn’t to turn you into me, but to take what I’ve learned to help you find your own journey to the end of the draft.

Another thing you can try if you’re stuck is to switch your method. Writing longhand? Switch to keyboard. Tapping away at the laptop? Bust out pen and paper. The two use different parts of your brain and sometimes you can get yourself unstuck by switching which part you’re using to try and solve the problem.

If all else fails, take a walk. Even if the solution to your problem doesn’t come to you, it’s good to get outside and get some exercise.

One thing, though, and I can’t stress this enough. Even if you hate what you’re writing, and intend never to show it to another living soul, try and get all the way to the end before you go back and try and fix things. Yes, there are writers who do edit as they go, but we can’t all be William Gibson, however much we might wish we wrote Neuromancer. He’s also been practicing since then, so…

Believe me, I know it can be hard. But it really is best to write one draft at a time if you can, in my experience.

***

So what about inspiration? Where do the words and ideas and stories come from? The answer is mostly ineffable. But let’s see if we can’t eff it just a bit.

The usefullest way to think about this I’ve found comes from Kate Wilhelm’s book Storyteller, about the founding and early years of the Clarion Writers Workshop (which I attended in 2010 and highly recommend, but that’s a whole different post, and not all of it’s about writing). In it, she talks about what she called her Silent Partner (her real-life partner, Damon Knight, called his Fred). Your Silent Partner lives in your unconscious brain, which I’m convinced is about ninety percent of you, and is where that canard that people only use 10% of their brains comes from. You can’t speak to one another directly, but you can send messages across the transom, and receive insight and inspiration in return. Training your Silent Partner what to work on and when, and yourself to ask the right questions and listen close for the answers, is what I was on about earlier, when I urged you to set up a consistent writing practice.

I call mine the Tinkerer. He has a giant workshop full of half-finished projects (not all of them having to do with writing, either) and is easily distracted. If I don’t keep the work orders coming, he’s really good at wandering off and thinking about things like how to build and run a socialist restaurant, or how life might have turned out if I was smart enough to date that one woman in college, or whether I ought to start an online magazine in my roughly zero hours of spare time. And of course I let him, when it’s not time to work on my novel, because he deserves to have some joy, too, and there are only so many hours I can write before I turn cross-eyed and things get weird.

I do my best to keep him fed and happy. I read, I exercise, I stare into space for minutes on end, letting him put on his conductor hat and play with his train-of-thought set. Most of all I take him seriously – I take my work seriously – and in return he keeps whispering more crazy and awesome shit in my inner ear than I could ever get on paper.

***

I know, things got a little woo-woo there at the end. What can I say? As pragmatic a person as I am, and as much of the practice I’m trying to teach you is programmatic, even mechanical, at the end of the day, creation and creativity remain ineffable, part of the spark – be it magic, divine, or just random chance – that makes us want to take that nebulous inchoate something inside ourselves and wrestle it into a form others can understand.

If you want to do that, you can, but it takes practice, and discipline, and faith.

That’s how I writer, anyway.

The Sanders Ceiling and the Dirtbag Left: Why Democratic Socialism Fails Without Social Justice

Friends, humans, socialists! Lend me your eyes. For I come to bury Bernie, and to praise him.

When the histories are written – if histories are written, and more on that later – I think Bernie Sanders, though he will almost surely not be President, will rank as a transformative figure in American politics. How can he not? Things that are mainstream now, things like Medicare For All, a $15 minimum wage, a Green New Deal, were politically unthinkable four and five years ago, and it is, for the most part, entirely thanks to Bernie Sanders.

Turns out that progressive policies are actually pretty popular. As many of us suspected they would be, if the media could be convinced to take them seriously (more on that, too). Bernie’s run in 2016, and the energy that manifested behind it, put those issues into both the Democratic Party platform and, more important, the marketplace of ideas, where they sell like hotcakes at a lumberjack convention. Because why wouldn’t they? They’re great fucking ideas that would make almost everyone’s life better.

So why can’t Bernie, and Democratic Socialism, seem to break through electorally? Or at least get past the dedicated core of supporters who have already joined his Political Revolution?

***

The answer is complicated. But it can be broken down into elements, some of which can be controlled, some of which can’t. For instance, one element that can’t be controlled is the cultural and historical weight of the word socialism, whether you modify it with the word democratic or not. Especially among Americans over the age of, say, forty. You know, the people who actually vote in meaningful numbers. I’m pushing fifty, myself, and remember the Cold War pall that hung over my childhood, where at any moment the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics might erupt into nuclear holocaust. That’s some heavy shit to lay on a kid. But more important, that early training (friend/enemy, good/bad) is hard to transcend even if you’re consciously trying.

And yeah, socialism is much more agreeable to Millennials and Gen-Z and whatever we end up calling the ones who’ll come after them. We could have had it already, too, if they’d fucking turn out to vote in bigger numbers. Not that any generation ever has any moral high ground on that. So file that under ‘we’ll work on it, but don’t hold your breath.’

Also in that file is what I’ll call the Resistance of the Punditariat, who perform our national political discourse on TV and podcasts and radio, and from the pages of newspapers and magazines and political websites, and who are, for the most part, handsomely compensated for doing so. Their salary depends on their not understanding certain things, especially those that might upset the status quo. Not only are they invested in that status quo – as the successful will be in any situation or system – they have also been worked like sports refs for decades now by the folks on the right, who never miss an opportunity to accuse them of liberal bias. It’s to the point where a fair observer has to say they’ve overcompensated. Why else was every third question Elizabeth Warren was asked – back when she was the front-runner in national polling – whether or not she would raise taxes on the middle class? The question’s as loaded as an AR-15. Like in middle school when that kid thought the funniest thing in the world was to ask ‘Does your mom know you’re gay?’

So figure the punditariat – who are mostly fairly liberal in their personal attitudes; I do believe that – will continue to skew anti-liberal/progressive/socialist for the foreseeable future. You can’t control it, but you can take it into account and start working them yourself, calling out bias in framing and the focus on horse-race ephemera when lives and livelihoods are on the line. Like anything, if enough people do it for long enough, that tide can be turned, too. Evolution has a thousand mothers.

***

So what factors can we control? And what does this have to do with Bernie Sanders and his Political Revolution? I’m glad I asked, cuz I got a theory.

My theory is we have two problems, which are inter-related. The first is simply this: socialists, especially the core of Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution, are really shitty at being allies, and, as such, are even shittier at building coalitions. If you think I’m wrong, I’ll point you to all the people demanding Elizabeth Warren endorse Bernie Sanders because of their friendship and ideological similarities. People who, some of them, got in a flame war with Warren’s supporters back in January when her so-called friend and ally called her a liar on national TV, and who called the person who built the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (and was forced out of running it) a corporate stooge. Shit, Warren’s people reached out to Sanders weeks before Super Tuesday and her dropping out of the race, and were rebuffed.

Some of this is the Dirtbag Left, who not unlike the above-mentioned punditariat, have found a profitable sort of noise to make, and whose new salaries depend on their not understanding things like how being an exclusivist jerkwad pretty much guarantees nobody wants to join or even work with you. It’s somewhere between a faith tradition and a cool kidz club from what I can tell: you’re in or you’re out, and fuck you if you’re out, even a little. It works as entertainment, but it’s no way to build a governing coalition. Which is what you need if you want to enact policy to, like, change people’s lives and shit.

But there’s a whopping dollop of blame to put on Bernie Sanders’ fudge sundae, too. For some of his hires, definitely. But the man made some seriously flawed choices. For one thing, his insistence on running as much against the Democratic Party as the Republicans and the billionaire corporate oligarchy is just a really not good way to get Democrats to support you. It riles up the kids, but til they show up to vote that’s a human interest story at best.

But it was Bernie’s choice to dismiss social justice issues as ‘Identity Politics’ for so long that really doomed him.

Put it this way: the backbone of the Democratic party is not, as many white college-educated progressives believe, white college-educated progressives. The ‘Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party’ as folks used to put it. We think we are, and there’s a certain logic to it. But we aren’t the party’s backbone, nor its heart and soul, either.

Women of color are the backbone of the Democratic Party, its heart and soul and animating force. People of color generally, but women of color particularly, and African-American women particularly-particularly. They’re the ones who show up, no matter what. The ones who do the actual work that makes the party go.

Women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants. You can win without them. But only if you’re a Republican.

So, if you want to, say, get the Democratic Party nomination for President, you’d best have a plan to win those voters over. Give them a reason to take a chance on you, Because as previously detailed, anything that can be labeled ‘socialism’ has a hard row to hoe in the US, and since those folks are the ones who catch the worst when Republicans and their coalition of White Christian Nationalists and the Actual Oligarchy are in charge, yeah, they tend not to want to take chances. I mean, put yourself in their shoes for a minute. If the house is on fire, you want to hear from the guy talking about how to put the fire out, not the guy talking about what kind of house you might build later.

And that brings me to the second prong of my theory, which has to do with the limits of a purely materialist critique of the status quo’s utility, not only as rhetorical but an analytical tool.

Like any reductive analysis, a purely materialist (the corporations and the 1% have captured the state and unofficially enslaved us all to an unsustainable economic system with disastrous and unjust real-world consequences) critique flattens the object of its critique, examines it through a lens that shrinks the spectrum in order to highlight certain wavelengths over others. All too often, issues of social justice are among those excluded wavelengths.

Those for whom social justice issues are of more than academic or conscientious interest aren’t thrilled to have their concerns so cavalierly excluded, it turns out. Nor are they thrilled when, as I’ve seen so often, they are blithely told how their issues will be magically solved through solely economic justice, and called names when they fail to achieve the expected moment of epiphany and join the faith tradition.

Remember, these are the natural, obvious allies any effective democratic socialist movement needs to achieve even a fraction of its goals. It’s time to stop asking why they aren’t joining us, and start asking how we can grow not only our tent but our worldview to include them.

***

I have a deep and abiding respect for Bernie Sanders and the movement he’s built. I think we all owe him a debt of gratitude for bringing the issues – and policy solutions – of economic justice and class war and democratic socialism into the American mainstream, where even a resistant punditariat has to take them seriously. But I think it’s safe to say we’ve reached the limits of not only a Sanders-style Political Revolution that demands adherence instead of building alliances and coalitions, but of a purely materialist socialist critique of late capitalism that filters out issues of social justice and asks those for whom social justice is lived reality to take it on faith that they’ll be included.

For what it’s worth, on a personal level, I still think that more actively fighting the class war and striving to establish economic justice will go a long way to righting social and historical injustice. Like the cereal commercials from when I was a kid used to say: it’s an important part of this nutritious breakfast.

We just have to remember there are other things on the table, which are just as important, some even more so.

***

If you want to change hearts and minds, you have to meet people where they are. You have to find out where they’re coming from, what they need, what they want. And you have to, you know, help them get it. Do the work for them. Don’t tell them how being your ally will benefit them. Show them how it does. It means reaching out, but it means stretching out, too. Becoming bigger yourself.

The most basic tenet of democratic socialism is that we’re all in it together. So let’s start acting like it. Let’s start acting like we understand the only socialism worth having is one that begins with social justice. Maybe then we can get some shit done.

Something for Warren Supporters to Consider Now She’s Dropped Out

I don’t regret casting my primary ballot for Elizabeth Warren. And no, I did not register a protest vote, though I think that’s legit during primary season (the general election is a different animal). Be it cussedness or hope, I cast my ballot a few days after it arrived, before Super Tuesday put a period at the end of the campaign of the best, most qualified, most potentially transformational candidate of my life time.

Sigh.

But, you know, I’m kind of glad. Like, today I broke my social media fast for an hour or so and went on Facebook, and I read a very smart friend of mine’s long post comparing, contrasting, and weighing the pair of shouty near-octogenarians left vying to vie with the shouty near-octogenarian currently failing our country even more obviously than he has been these last three years and change. As I likely would have, he came down on Bernie’s side, with all the caveats you’d expect, and which I won’t reprise here.

But it got me thinking.

I know the CW is that most Warren supporters have more in common with Sanders than Biden (the actual behavior of said voters seems to be more like a 50-50 split), and on the policy merits that’s true. But that CW doesn’t take into account that Warren supporters are Democrats, and while that may, to some Sanders supporters, make them snakes, or at least complicit with the corporate machine trying to make cogs of us all, those same Sanders supporters seem to forget that running more against the party you’re trying to represent than the party you’re trying to beat in the general election puts a pretty hard cap on the support you can draw. Put another way, the best way to defeat your enemies doesn’t start with beating your allies into submission first.

Still, it’s not like Joe Biden is a particularly inspirational or transformational figure, and if the kind of big, structural change necessary to make our government into something that can address not only our legacy problems of racial, gender, and social justice and rampant, unsustainable income and wealth inequality but the upcoming climate eschaton also happen under his Administration, it will be a fucking miracle.

So yeah, tough choice. One I don’t envy anyone. And if you’ve got strong feelings on the shouty near-octogenarian question, you should absolutely cast your primary vote accordingly.

But if your choice is a) neither or b) who the hell cares?, I have a third option you might consider.

Vote for Elizabeth Warren anyway.

She won’t get the nomination. I know that. I haven’t made peace with it quite yet. But I know it. Another thing I know is she’d make a fine VP choice for either of them. And while I’d prefer her on top of the ticket, I’ll settle for having her on it. Especially given that both these guys are pushing 80, and Bernie already had a heart attack. Way I see it, if she’s getting votes without even running, that makes her a stronger contender, and frankly either of them would be well-served to choose her, since she has at least the capacity to build a bridge to the losing side. That was the campaign she ran, after all, being the bridge between the two wings of the party. Even if she doesn’t get tapped, it still ups her leverage when Convention time comes, and the party’s platform’s drawn up.

Anyhow, it’s just a thought I had, a rationale, if you want one, to vote for the candidate you believe in, even though she’s dropped out. Like I said, if you’ve got strong opinions on the Sanders/Biden question, or just want to have your say in who gets to beat Trump in November, do that. But there’s good reason to follow your heart if you don’t.

Come the general, it’s blue no matter who, all the way down the ticket (and fuck you if you choose otherwise). Between now and then, there’s room left for conscience. Don’t be afraid to stay true to yours.