Someone posted an essay (see below) on Facebook the other day; I can’t stop thinking about it.
I was already thinking about it when a couple of weeks ago people were debating whether the Speaker of the House should be Nancy Pelosi, or whether maybe she was too old or too old-school, or too-old-something!
My politics mostly align with the social democratic ideas of Alexandria and Bernie. But I do remember back in the late sixties when a lot of people with whom I fellow-travelled thought that social democracy was a pathetic excuse for real revolutionary politics. I too thought of myself as being “more” revolutionary than that. The truth? I wasn’t. But I wanted to be. I wanted to be fucking La Pasionaria from the Spanish Civil War. I wasn’t her either.
I remember clearly how much the Trotskyists and the Stalinists I knew detested each other (long after Trotsky and Stalin were dead). I remember reading how Frida, Diego and Trotsky had been good friends in Mexico City, but that then Trotsky was killed with a ice axe to the head and that maybe Frida and Diego (or another Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros) — who were Stalinists — had something to do with it.
I remember being in a small group in the early 70s that was attempting to do “revolutionary” work in the San Bruno Women’s Jail, under the guise of being healthworkers. We did manage to replace the very uncaring and patriarchal male gynecologist who was the jail doctor with an extraordinarily bright and wonderful woman doctor named Josette Mondanaro. But once we accomplished that, we turned on ourselves. Though our hearts were in the right place, the truth is none of us knew what we were doing. Finally, one of our members decided the ONLY right thing to do was to encourage women prisoners to “Off their pimps” (that is, kill them). The rest of us disagreed mightily but since her position was SO righteous and extreme, we didn’t know how to deal with the dispute. The group collapsed.
Since those days, in-fighting and sectarianism in any movement I’ve been a part of has rattled my nerves. I found the whole Bernie-Hillary affair quite exhausting. From both sides.
When the question of whether Nancy Pelosi should or shouldn’t be elected House Speaker came up, it took me only a few minutes this time to realize I didn’t need to get caught up in the debate. I prepared myself to be ok with whoever got elected.
Now, Elizabeth Warren is considering a run for President. There will be others. I like Elizabeth, and at the same time, feel curious about who the other candidates will be. I can feel battle lines being drawn, huge opinions, knowing stances taking shape. Certainty and anger ready to spring forth. I hate it.
My antennae are up. Frankly I feel worried. Will we be attacking each other? Sadly, probably. Or will it be Russian bots or trolls sowing hatred and suspicion? Yes, them too.
I hope we have all grown and matured a little since the late 60s and early 70s and since the 2016 election. I hope we can keep our curious minds more receptive and open for longer. We’ve got almost two years to go. That’s a long time to be in anger and hate mode. Can we hold off on solidifying our opinions and the stridency of our accusations? Can we try for an extended period of curiosity and information gathering? Can we try for love, not hate, even as we consider all the variables of who will ultimately be our best candidate?
Here’s the essay written by Emily Holmes that inspired me to finally put (computer-keyed) pen to page right now, and in addition I’m posting this most wonderful interview between writers Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Gilbert who both make interesting points about looking at things in different ways, and esp, Elizabeth Gilbert on the subject of curiosity.
The essay is much more political; the interview more personal. Like wisdom and compassion, in these times of great societal dangers and threat to our very existence on this planet, I believe the personal and political are also the two wings of a bird. Both are necessary in order to fly.
And please, I’d love to hear your thoughts and your response to Emily’s letter!
from Emily Holmes…
Liberal Friends, listen to this right now: Democratic Nominees are not clay pigeons.
DEMOCRATIC NOMINEES ARE NOT CLAY PIGEONS.
But, Emily, whatever do you mean? What is this metaphor?
It goes like this.
One by one, over the next couple of months, Democratic nominees are going to launch their official bids for President. They are going to launch themselves, one by one, into the sky, right into our line of vision.
Our job is not to shoot them.
Our job is NOT, the second we see them cross the sky, to reach out for the gun being handed to us by conservatives (because duh, conservatives and guns) and take aim, and blast them, one by one out of the air, for not being absolutely perfect.
Not likeable enough. BOOM.
Not an inspiring enough speaker. BOOM.
Said that awkward thing that one time. BOOM.
I wouldn’t want to have a beer with them. BOOM.
Too old. BOOM. Too female. BOOM. Too white. BOOM.
Not a fucking flawless progressive superhero. BOOM.
Because what happens next? We shoot the candidates down. We degrade them. We belittle them. We smear them. Then we hand the gun to the media. They do the same.
They hand the gun to the conservatives. They do the same. Then the bots start reloading. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.
And then at the end of primary season, we have to pick up the shattered remains of whoever got the most votes and attempt to glue them back together into a candidate who can win the general election.
And we will lose. Because we learned fucking NOTHING from 2016, apparently.
Trump didn’t win because every conservative loves him. Most of them hate his fucking guts. But they held their noses and voted for him because he was the only way to push their agenda forward. And holy shit, have they pushed it. Despite his complete ineptitude, his bumbling, his gross incompetence, his blatant corruption, they have shoved through some really damaging policies that are hurting real people every single day, and they will continue to do so for as long as we let them.
So, here we are. You’re not jazzed about Liz Warren? Awesome. Beto not your boy? Swell. Sick of Biden memes? Good for you, friend. Keep it to yourself. Why? Because EVERY SINGLE DEMOCRAT WHO RUNS IS INFINITELY BETTER FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY THAN THE FLAMING RACIST POPULIST TRASH CURRENTLY STEERING THIS COUNTRY DIRECTLY INTO THE SUN.
I’m not sure if you noticed, but we already elected a guy based on a cult of personality rather than on whether he was qualified in any way to do the job, and we’re going to be putting out the flames for DECADES.
But what do we do instead, you ask? Watch debates. Compare platforms. Be informed. Choose your favorite BASED ON REAL FACTUAL POLICIES AND EXPERIENCE, NOT ON YOUR DELICATE FEELINGS AND WHETHER YOU FEEL SUFFICIENTLY ENTERTAINED OR INEXPLICABLY HAPPY AT THE VERY SIGHT OF THEIR GLOWING FACE. Then get involved. Register people. Drive to the polls. Hold signs on street corners. Write postcards. Knock on doors. Don’t tell us why the other candidates suck, tell us why yours is THE BEST. Fight FOR them. Remember how we used to fight FOR things, rather than against them? I know Trump makes it hard to remember, but I promise, that’s a thing we used to know how to do.
Then we all, collectively, wholeheartedly, throw our weight and energy and voice behind whoever gets the nomination. If we do that, we win. Period.
It’s not a question of who can beat Trump, don’t you get it? A sentient fucking houseplant with a liberal platform could beat Trump, if we do this right. It’s a question of whether WE can beat him, or would we rather tear ourselves apart?
Look around you, folks. The stock market is in free-fall. Our international reputation is in tatters. Our foreign policy is for sale to dictators. Our free press is under daily attack. Our Supreme Court is one conservative white dude away from full-on Gilead, and we can’t keep asking an 84-year-old-woman recovering from broken ribs and a third bout of cancer to hang on for six more years because we can’t get our heads out of our own asses. I mean, she’ll do it, obviously, because RBG is a BOSS, but she shouldn’t have to.
I repeat. This is not a test of our candidates. There are lots of good, solid options. It’s a test of US. Of OUR ability to unite. Of OUR strength. Of OUR ability to put aside selfish arbitrary purity tests and scales of “likeability” and to just FUCKING GET IT DONE. We don’t need the perfect candidate to rescue us. We need to realize that we can rescue ourselves.
So, how about it, Resistance? They want us to forget that we have the numbers, the motivation, and the power. They want us to implode. Let’s explode instead, and leave nothing but a charred ruin of this nightmare administration in our wake.