Now look, I still love Bernie, and I’m not going to call him a “fraud” or a “sell out,” nor am I going to get pissed at him for using the word “irresponsible.” And, honestly, I think that people who are pissed at him for these reasons maybe didn’t totally understand who Bernie is from the git-go. And maybe they’re taking the whole “irresponsible” comment a little too personally. Don’t get me wrong. I, too, was disappointed in Bernie’s performance in the primaries. I, too, thought he should have been way more aggressive and persistent. And also, you’re certainly entitled to your feelings. So, go ahead and feel them. Release them. Get them out. Just don’t wallow. And don’t hold a grudge. ‘Cuz that would be counterproductive and unhelpful, to say the least.
Here’s the thing though: a true “Socialist” would have been calling for much more than just Medicare For All and free public college. He would’ve been calling for nationalizing energy production and probably food production, too, as well as proposing not just UBI, but also Universal Basic Housing. I’m not a big foreign policy wonk, but he probably would have significantly different foreign policy proposals, too. And maybe he would’ve been calling for a move toward a parliamentary style of government instead of whatever it is we have now.
And if he were a true “revolutionary” he would’ve been calling for completely tossing out the old system and replacing it with an entirely new one. M4A is the one proposal that comes close to that, but it still would have been just phasing out one part of the current system while simultaneously phasing in and expanding another part of the already existent system. Not scrapping the whole system and replacing it with something entirely new, which is the definition of “revolution.”
What Bernie Sanders is, truly, is a Social Democrat and a reformer, which is not a bad thing. His policies certainly would be a huge improvement over what we have now, and I have no regrets about my vote for him or the money I sent him to support his campaign. And, if your state has not had its primary, yet, you should absolutely vote for him. Even still. But the guy has been a member of the US Congress for thirty years. He’s not an “outsider” in the way that you and I are “outsiders.” He’s also not an “insider” in the same way that, let’s say, Chuck Schummer is an “insider.” What Bernie is, and also what AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rhasida Talib and other progressives in Congress are, is “our person on the inside,” “our people on the inside.” But they are all still “on the inside” because they are the law makers. They just happen to be more responsive to what we, The People, the outsiders, the commoners, want from our law makers than the true “Washington Insider” law makers, who are way more responsive to the other insiders, the “Corporate Insiders,” than they are to us plebs.
So then why does Bernie call himself a “Democratic Socialist” when he isn’t one, and why does he call for a “political revolution” when he doesn’t really want one? Did he lie to us about these things? Was it stupid for him to use these words that have such negative connotations for people in the US? Especially since they are not an accurate description? No. I don’t think so. And here’s why:
Because people’s negative connotations of these words are the result of at least eighty years of gaslighting and manipulative bullshit. And because in a country where any run-of-the-mill neoliberal Democrat can be accused of being a “socialist” in a cynical effort to further brainwash and manipulate The American People, a candidate who bravely reclaims these words and redefines their connotations should be applauded for his efforts and encouraged to continue. And because in a country where we’ve been sold what is, in effect, no real substantive change at all as being “realistic, pragmatic, incremental, gradual change;” then actual, real, substantive change and reform is going to take the energy of a revolution to accomplish. So why not harness that energy by using that word? If it’s going to take a revolution for us to get any reform, then shit, let’s call it a revolution. Might as well.
Our view of “reality” in the US is so extremely skewed, perverse, and yes, unrealistic, that its going to take a lot more reclamation and redefinition of these words we’re so fucking scared of for no reason before we can see people like Bernie Sanders for what he truly is, a soft-hearted old man who just wants to do what he can to alleviate at least some of the suffering of his fellow human beings. He tried. And he’s still trying. You may think that the ways in which he is trying are doomed to be ineffective, and you might be right. You might disagree with the way he is going about it. Fine. But the one thing you should not do is expect him to be something he’s not.
Once upon a time, I was a VBNMW person. This was before “VBNMW” was even really a thing. During the Obama years, basically. Why? My logic was pretty much what you’d expect: that the Democrat is always at least a tiny bit better than the Republican, and Republicans always vote, because “civic duty,” while people who would vote for Democrats when they vote, don’t always.
My actual voting record, which I shared in a previous post, indicates that I have not always believed this, nor do I believe it now. I’ll chalk my Obama era logic up to one thing: not wanting to think about it too much.
I spent most of the Obama years teaching in inner-city Denver in the school district’s expulsion program, so yeah, my mental energy was being thoroughly expended elsewhere.
But this reasoning also came from a place of privilege. I was privileged enough to be able to afford to “not think about politics too much.”
Similar to my criticism of the interpretation of “Vote your conscience” that assumes it just means “turn your brain off and vote third party,” what “Vote Blue No Matter Who” basically means is “turn your brain off and vote for the Democrat.” The big difference is that “Vote your conscience” is a bit more open to interpretation, and therefore, can be connotatively rehabilitated to mean “actually look at all of the information about the candidates, even the stuff you may not like, and give it real, honest, clear-eyed consideration, and then listen to what your conscience is telling before you vote.” Whereas, there’s really only one way to take “Vote Blue No Matter Who.”
I have tremendous sympathy for people who have too much other crazy shit going on in their personal lives that taking the time to carefully consider and think through their voting options is just not something they have the energy for. And I don’t fault anyone for it. However, I can no longer advocate for any option that encourages people to turn off their brains when it comes to voting. Especially since the attitude I’ve seen evinced by the die-hard VBNMW crowd lately is seriously abusive. Let’s call it what it is.
Now, I hear a lot of you saying, “But Eli, don’t you think ‘abusive’ is a bit of an overstatement? It’s not like anyone is being physically attacked here.” To which I reply, “Is there no such thing as psychological abuse? Emotional abuse? Verbal abuse?”
I believe that abusiveness is an attitude, and this is backed up, at the very least, by Lundy Bancroft and Jac Patrissi in their book Should I Stay or Should I Go?, which I definitely recommend reading. But in this book, they describe the abusive attitude as one where the abuser feels superior to the victim and feels like he or she has the right to abuse and control the victim. It’s an attitude where the abuser feels that his or her needs and desires come first and that the victim has no right to stand up for him or herself, as well as no right to have his or her needs and desires met, or even heard. The abusive attitude is all about exerting power over the abused, and coercing the abused party to fall in line, basically.
This is exactly what the VBNMW crowd is doing.
There are several ways in which they do this:
Kyle Kulinski, which, if you’ve never watched his show on You Tube, you really should, but he has played a clip a couple of times of none other than Lawrence O’Donnell, back in the day, saying that, in order for the Democratic Establishment to pay any attention to the needs and desires of progressives, progressives have to be willing to not vote for Establishment Democrats. That we have to be willing to threaten the Establishment by withholding our votes and letting them lose. That is the only leverage we have. And if we aren’t willing to use it, we’ll continue to get nothing.
It’s kind of like in an abusive relationship, the only way to get an abusive partner to actually put any effort into changing is to leave.
Do I believe Trump is the worst president ever and that he is doing untold damage to our planet and our country that we may never recover from? Yes. Absolutely. That’s why I voted for Bernie. Are Leftists such as myself now in possibly the shittiest position ever as far as the choice before us this election cycle? Yes. Which is why I’m advocating voting your conscience as I re-defined it above, not as the knee-jerk, emotional reaction of voting third party just because.
Do I think that Trump winning re-election will actually be the fault of Bernie supporters not voting for Biden? No. Not really. But, Kyle Kulinski, once again, in his brilliance, put forth an idea the other day that is really growing on me and is so crazy that it just might work.
What if, when confronted with a VBNMW troll who tells us that our third party vote is a vote for Trump, what if, instead of arguing against this, what if we said, “That’s right. Trump’s gonna win again unless we vote for Biden. So then what are you going to do for us? What are you going to do to make sure we vote for the Democrat? Here are our demands. If you want us to VBNMW, you gotta give us something.” Of course, this may not matter to you, if Biden’s sexual assault allegations are a deal-breaker, which they are for me, for sure. But still. Hypothetically, even if it were another mainstream Dem candidate.
I think this might be the way we take our power back.
Online lately there’s been a lot of vitriol, a lot of angry name calling and finger-pointing. I’d like to invite us all to calm the fuck down for a second and actually think about this.
I’m a firm advocate of voting your conscience. In fact, it’s the only way I ever think anyone should vote, and I think the US would be in a much better place if we all did this. But what does this even mean?
In 2000, when I voted for Ralph Nader, it meant “Vote for the Green Party.” But, is that all it should mean? I think that’s still how a lot of people take it.
What I would like to suggest, though, is that it means, or should mean, something much deeper than that. I would like to suggest that rather than having it mean ” turn off your brain and go with your emotional, knee-jerk reaction” that maybe it should mean that we actually take some time to think about this shit. That instead of pointing accusatory fingers at other people, maybe it should mean that we do some deep introspection and acknowledge the extreme difficulty of our own, personal reality.
Full disclosure, I am a strong Bernie Sanders supporter, even still. In 2016, I did vote my conscience. I voted for Jill Stein. Now, before you yell at me for “electing Trump,” know that I voted in Colorado, which went for Hillary anyway, even without my one, little vote. And also, please realize that the number of people who didn’t vote at all probably had more to do with that than little ol’ me. And also, please consider that Hillary was a shitty fucking candidate in her own right. Just think about these things before you judge.
This was not an easy decision for me, nor will it be this time around. It’s not an easy decision for any of us, and I think we should acknowledge that. Part of the reason why it’s such a difficult decision is because of our shitty, two-party system which attempts to force a binary choice on many whose ideology just does not fit into either of those binary options. Yet, we’re told (thank you South Park) that we must choose between a giant douche and a turd sandwich, but that perfectly edible bean burrito over there isn’t an option because no one else is eating bean burritos.
Okay. That’s probably as far as I should take that analogy.
I have deep respect for Noam Chomsky, and I usually agree with him, too. 99.999% of the time. But Noam Chomsky is a much more nuanced thinker than many of us. He has stated that what we actually have in this country is one party, the corporate party, with two wings, the Democratic wing and the Republican wing. I think this is spot on. However, what a lot of people take away from Chomsky’s statement is that both parties are “the same,” which they are most certainly, provably not.
Before I go on, let me re-emphasize, that I am not a mainstream Democrat, and I am not a supporter of Joe Biden. Nor could I see myself actively supporting any neoliberal, mainstream Democratic candidate that the DNC might replace him with, should they do so. And, regardless of anyone voting for any “third party” in the general election, I think Joe Biden is Hillary Clinton 2.0, plus cognitive decline and a credible sexual assault allegation, and he will lose. To Trump. The worst president ever. If I end up being wrong about this, I will happily admit it.
But let’s think about this for a minute. Just think. You don’t have to make a decision. Just consider. Joe Biden would be “better” than Trump in a few very specific ways, although better than god-fucking-awful is still not very good. But one of the ways in which Biden would be “better” than Trump is with regard to environmental issues, which are my top issues, honestly. Also, I believe that environmental issues should be a lot more important to most people than they often seem to be. Not that Joe Biden would do “enough” to mitigate climate change and stop the mass extinction we’re in the middle of. He would not. But Trump is actively speeding up both of these destructive processes.
For instance, A Biden administration would not roll back decades of environmental regulations that have slowed the rate of climate change, prevented toxic shit from being spewed into the air and the water, and brought animals back from the brink of extinction. I’m guessing, he would probably re-instate all Obama era regulations, which would be a small step back from the cliff. He wouldn’t ban fracking or anything, but he probably would at least re-instate the Methane Rule, which prevented fracker-fuckers from venting methane into the atmosphere. Methane, by the way, is one of the nastiest greenhouse gasses of them all, if you didn’t know. And Biden would not put the likes of Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA. Or William Perry Pendley in charge of the BLM. And Trump absolutely did.
Biden, or any Democrat, would also not have shrunk Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, and would probably restore them to their original boundaries. There’s a lot that I could say about this, (and there’s a lot I do say about it in my book, How To NOT Be A Dumbass In A National Park (And How To Fight The Power), available now on Amazon Kindle for the low, low price of $0.99! Just sayin’.) but this is something else that should be a much higher priority to most people than it is. For one thing, Trump’s shrinkage of Bears Ears was an absolute middle finger in the air to the five indigenous tribes that petitioned the government for years to have Bears Ears designated. And for another thing, the shrinkage of both monuments made accessible all kinds of nasty, toxic, climate change increasing shit, like coal, tar sands oil, coal bed methane, and uranium, that now can be mined, drilled, and fracked because they are no longer inside a national monument.
If Trump is re-elected, the mining, fracking, and drilling of these area will go forward, as will the mining, fracking, and drilling of hundreds of other federally protected lands that any Democratic administration would not be quite so quick to allow the fossil fuckers to have their way with, such as the beautiful North Fork Valley, which is just a couple hours drive from my house. So, yeah. This does get kind of personal for me.
These are just a few small examples of how a Biden administration would be “better” than a Trump administration. I’m sure there are others.
But so, I ask you to think, really think about this. If you vote for a third party, or don’t vote, and if then Trump wins again, and knowing what you know about what Trump will do to our planet, is your conscience going to be okay with that?
Seriously. For real. I’m asking myself these very same questions. And I’m not rushing to an answer. We’re in a shitty position. It sucks. Because we’re being asked to give up one of the very few ways in which we get to exercise our power, our autonomy, our voice. Joe Biden does not speak for me, he does not represent me, he does not express “my voice.” Neither does Trump. I am wholly unrepresented by those two candidates. Yet, I am being asked to vote for one of them because the other one will fuck us all to death, and we don’t want to be fucked to death, do we? (Again, thank you South Park.)
My inclination is still to vote for Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins. I am still in Colorado, which will still probably go for Biden anyway, or whoever the Democrat is. And Hawkins actually does represent policies I want to see happen.
But if I do entertain thoughts of voting for Biden, will my conscience be okay with that? Because I believe Tara Reade. I believe Joe Biden probably did sexually assault her. And I believe that, although he may undo some of the environmental damage Trump has done, he still won’t do enough to put us on the track that leads away from mass extinction and global climate chaos.
This is a shitty situation. No two ways about it. And I probably won’t make up my mind until I have that ballot in front of me, staring me in the face. I’ll sit with it for a while, maybe a long time, and contemplate, and ask myself, “What feels like the right thing to do?” The one thing I’m for sure not gonna do is give anyone else an ounce of shit about what they decide after closely examining their own conscience.
Read Related Post “On Wasting Your Vote.”
The first presidential election I ever voted in was 1992. I voted for Bill Clinton. I was twenty years old and relatively politically unaware, although I had already thought Republicans were assholes since I was about ten. Not really based on many specifics, just based on the general vibe I got from them whenever I saw them on TV.
By 1996, I was voting for Ralph Nader. I still was not following politics terribly closely, but I had figured out that Democrats were basically just caving to Republican demands in the name of “bi-partisanship.” And, I didn’t even know Nader was running until one of my friends, who was in line to vote right in front of me, told me. I had planned on just voting for Clinton again, but once I found out there was an alternative, I took it.
By 2000, I was much more politically aware, but from a (to this day) much more radical perspective. I was living in Oregon and had fallen in with anarchists, tree-sitters, “anti-globalization” activists, some of whom thought I was naive and silly for even voting, period.
But, I voted for Ralph Nader then, too. And before you go screaming at me for “handing the election to Bush,” understand that I was voting in Oregon. So, essentially, my vote didn’t make a difference at all in the outcome of that election. Bush had already won electorally before the polls in Oregon had even closed.
But, by 2008, after more-or-less sticking my head in the sand for eight years because it was just too painful to watch, I voted for Obama. I was never one of those people who expected a bunch of awesome, progressive shit out of him. I knew that he was just talking the talk during his campaign, but that as soon as he was elected, he’d go back to the same old neoliberal walk. I understood this and expected it. I mean, that’s what Democrats do, right? But by that point, I had pretty much given up hope that any political candidate would ever actually represent me and had accepted my cynical, defeatist fate of always having to settle for the “lesser” of two evils. I was still, though, not following the actual goings on of national, or local, politics all that closely. Again, it was just too painful.
Also though, around 2012, I started listening to “liberal” radio. I live in Denver at the time, home of AM 760, which billed itself as “Progressive Talk” radio. It has since switched to sports or something lame like that. But, I listened to Bill Press, Thom Hartmann, David Sirota, and Nor-man Gold-man. Hartmann, once a week, would do a “Brunch with Bernie” segment. That was my first introduction to US Senator Bernie Sanders.
So, in 2015, when Bernie announced he was running for president, it was like a lightning bolt of hope. Finally! Someone was running who actually represented policies I wanted to see at least discussed, if not, perish the thought, implemented. Finally, maybe I wouldn’t have to completely swallow my integrity when I voted. Finally, maybe, there was a chance to pull the entire debate we have in America back over to a center-left position, back from the far-right place it had drifted to before my very eyes over the course of my lifetime.
In 2000, when Nader was running, there was a phrase uttered frequently, and even got made into a bumper sticker: “Vote Your Conscience, Not Your Fear.” There’s something very empowering about that idea. It’s basically suggesting that maybe we should vote for what we actually want, instead of voting against what we don’t want, or voting for some totally diluted and compromised version of what we want, which turns out to be not what we really wanted at all. After a while, though, this phrase kind of became code for “just turn off your brain and vote for the Green Party.” Don’t bother paying attention. Don’t bother thinking. Just vote for whoever is “anti-establishment.” I think you can see the danger in this.
But what if we took this saying more literally? What if we really and truly examined our conscience? What if we stopped emotionally reacting to the candidates, or how their campaigns were or were not run, and actually thought long and hard about the consequences of a particular candidate winning or not winning? What if we stopped telling other people who they should and should not vote for and allowed them to examine their own conscience and make their own decisions?
And, what if we stopped over-exaggerating, or under-exaggerating, the power of our one, tiny, drop-in-the-bucket vote. Because your one vote is probably not going to decide the fate of a presidential election. Sometimes margins are slim with only a few thousand or hundred thousand votes in an electorally strategic state making the difference, but still. Your one vote is only one of those thousands, and it may only matter if you’re in this electorally strategic state. I don’t think any of us would have guessed, in 2000, that it would come down to Florida.
But this is why I still, stubbornly, insist on voting, even when I don’t have any good, viable choices. Because my vote is one of the very few, insignificant powers my government allows me. It isn’t the only power. I also have the power to protest, to contact my elected representatives, to write this blog. But if I chose not to vote, I would be giving up one of the tiny specks of power I am afforded. It may not be much, but my vote is my autonomy, my agency, my voice. It’s not the whole of any of these things, but it is a small part, and in a system that consistently disregards and dismisses the needs and desires of insignificant nobody’s like me, I just wouldn’t feel right about giving up even the smallest sand-grain of the power I’m allowed to have.
But so then, I also don’t want to “waste” my vote, right? Let’s think about this, too. What is “wasting” your vote? Because the mainstream argument against voting third party is just that. That, if you do, you’re wasting your vote. But why? Is it just because in our fucked up system a third party candidate could never win? What if I vote for the Democrat, or the Republican, and they lose? Was my vote “wasted” then? What about all the people who voted for John McCain or Mitt Romney? Were their votes wasted? What if you voted for Hillary in 2016? Was your vote wasted? By this mainstream logic, yes, it was.
No vote is ever wasted unless it was not counted. Even if it was counted for a losing candidate, it still was not wasted. Because you used your voice, you expressed your autonomy, you exercised one of the few infinitesimal specks of power you are allowed as an average, ordinary, individual citizen of this republic.
Vote your conscience, not your fear. But VOTE.
Read Related Post: “On Voting Your Conscience.”
While US TV talks about Iran and Impeachment, an entire continent full of animals is burning to death.
I remember back in the ’90’s, it was a thing among a certain segment of the environmental activist community to openly grieve and mourn the loss of trees, animal species, ecosystems, and etc. Basically, the idea was that these are living things that have been destroyed and killed by humans, but no one ever mourns for them. Humans have other humans who would mourn their loss, so why not non-human beings? Why shouldn’t they be like really mourned. Openly wept for. Cried for. Felt the loss of. Why not?
The question is rhetorical. It’s because humans tend to think of themselves as more important than any other animal. The Bible even more-or-less says so. But are we really? Just because we have opposable thumbs and big brains, that makes us more important than anything else? Oh, no, no, that’s right. It’s because “God” said so. Or, so we are told.
The other reason why I think this practice of mourning the losses of the natural world was developed was because we humans, with our big brains, believe that it’s silly to mourn the loss of animals, plants, and etc. We’re supposed to somehow be above feeling that loss. We’re supposed to be tougher than that. That’s why so many people are hesitant to show much emotion when a pet dies. It was “just a stupid dog” or “stupid cat.” We feel almost like we are not allowed to mourn them, like it’s a loss we’re supposed to be able to just suck it up and get over.
If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know this is not possible.
This practice of mourning the loss of trees, forests, animals, etc, was ridiculed to the extreme by those who believe humans should be above such behavior.
But, what about when entire continents die? When entire species are wiped off the planet, in one fell swoop, because of human greed and stubbornness and self-righteousness and stupidity and inaction? Are we allowed to mourn now? Does it seem “silly” now?
I mourn the loss of Australia’s wildlife. I grieve their absence from my home, my planet, my family of carbon-based life. I mourn the loss of Australia’s ecosystems. They were innocent, blameless, helpless to defend themselves. Today, I mourn them.
Tomorrow, I will swear on the graves of my own ancestors to avenge their deaths. All of their deaths. We must not let them die in vain. We must fight the climate crisis like we have never fought anything before. We must fight it in their names.
a) – Don’t let him get away with it. Call out all the bull shit. Call out abuse. Call out gas-lighting. Call out false superiority. Call out condescension. Call out authoritarianism. Call out dishonesty and manipulation. Call out the use and abuse of the “power over” dynamic.
b) – Make myself heard. Speak my truth, even when he’s trying to shout me down. Don’t walk away before I have made him understand.
c) – Stand up for others who are being dominated and silenced.
d) – Vote based on substance, not identity. Vote based on policies and trustworthiness and nothing else. Always vote.
e) – Center the “other.” Center the Earth, the mother of us all.
f) – Remind people that “fair” does not mean “equal.” It means everyone’s needs are met.
a) – Acknowledge and honor emotion, my own and others’.
b) – Connect with my true spirituality that comes organically from the land, from the natural world. Speak out against man-made, manufactured Religion.
c) – Listen before I speak. Think before I act. Maintain calm strength. Maintain integrity.
d) – Know myself. Accept myself for who I am. Accept others for who they are, especially children.
e) – Let go of what is out of my control. Take back what I can control.
f) – Pay attention to the Moon, its phases and their effect on water. Remember that 60% of my body and 71% of the earth is water.
a)- Awaken womxn and grrrls to their wildness. Be constantly aware of my own wildness. Remind myself and others that wildness, like power, resides within and cannot be taken unless it is given away. It is my autonomy, my self-determination, my ability to chart my own course and walk my own path. My ability to be who I am and do what I do, unapologetically.
b) – Join in a circle with other womxn and grrrls. Talk. Talk about emotion. Talk about experience. Talk about art. Talk about society. Talk about culture. Talk about the Goddess. Talk about Patriarchy and how we subvert it. Talk about Matriarchy and how we build it.
c) – Create.
Is anyone else as exhausted as I am right now? I mean, I’m always kinda feeling that around the holidays, especially if I have to travel and see family. It’s very stressful, no matter what, every year. But, there’s something about this year that feels worse.
It reminds me of the first really profoundly unhealthy romantic relationship I ever had. It was with a man who, when we first got together, was extremely complimentary, attentive, and intensely, passionately expressive of his undying love for me. Then, after about six months, all of that just came to a grinding halt for no particular reason, and I spent the next six months desperately trying to get it back until, finally, he dumped me. A couple weeks later, he hooked up with a girl who was still in high school. Yes. High school. He was 24.
But, after that relationship ended, I felt like I had been on some very intense drug, like speed or coke or something, for the entire previous year. And now I had finally come down, hard and suddenly – crash!
That’s kind of how I feel right now. It’s the whole “you never know how tired you are until you’re allowed to slow down for a second” thing.
People like to talk about “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Others talk about “Outrage fatigue.” But, how about “Patriarchy fatigue?” “Capitalism fatigue?” Or, “Life fatigue,” how about that one? And I don’t mean that in a suicidal way at all. Here’s what I mean:
Here it is, it’s Xmas. Winter Solstice. The time of the longest nights of the year. From here on out, the days get longer and the Sun returns to the northern hemisphere. And there’s a New Moon on Xmas, no less, which energetically is the low point in the Moon’s cycle. This is also the time in the Moon cycle when many women start bleeding, myself included. So, grrrlfriends, in case you were wondering why you’re so tired right now, this might be part it. I know I always have to remind myself. It’s not an “excuse,” but it is a reason.
But, Xmas day is also the day when we all get a little bit of a break from another cycle – the news cycle.
So, that ex-boyfriend I was talking about? Well, one of the lessons I left that relationship with was that there are some people who are addicted to drama. This trait often goes along with narcissism. Everything was either the greatest or the worst, there was never any normal, it-is-what-it-is, non-dramatic, in-between. Everything was profound. Everything was a big deal. Everything was something that one had to have very intense feelings about. And, by the end of the relationship, I was also addicted to that drama. That’s why, once it ended, and the drug had been ripped abruptly away from me, I felt so empty, drained, depleted. It was not healthy at all.
Once I had some distance from that relationship and some perspective in life, I began to see all the ways in which our entire culture is addicted to drama, though. And our media feeds this addiction and feeds on this addiction. Our culture, in many ways, is designed to get us addicted to drama. Why? Because money, that’s why. Think about it. Movies, TV shows, even music that is not dramatic in some way does not hold our interest. It gets “boring.” It doesn’t get the ratings. It doesn’t “sell.” And in Capitalism, everything must “sell.”
I maintain, as I always have, that the election of the orange nightmare was the logical conclusion of many different cultural propensities in our society. How so few people saw it coming, I still don’t understand. How else would we end up with a president who is, himself, addicted to drama and crisis, and thus goes out of his way to instigate drama and crisis as much as he can? Because our society, our culture, our economy even, loves drama and crisis. That’s why the media feels a need to cover his every fucking tweet. That’s why, in 2016, he got more media coverage than any other candidate. And that’s what gives him such a strangle hold on his supporters. In some ways, they’re like I was in the last six months of that toxic relationship. Desperately hoping he will do what he said he would do when we first got together, desperately hoping he will live up to his own hype.
I’ve got some news for his supporters though. He won’t live up to his own hype. He won’t do anything that will actually benefit you directly. He’s just using you. And in fact, he’ll toss you out the window like so much used Kleenex at the first opportunity.
For the rest of us, I think it’s more that we’re caught up in the media hype. Whether you’re watching TV, reading a newspaper, or on social media, there is always something to be outraged about. There is always someone who is posting in all caps about some crisis, real or perceived, that they are utterly outraged about, and that they think we should be outraged about, too.
Here’s the thing, though: this is not healthy. Sure, outrage has it’s place, but when we’re outraged all the time about everything, this is what burns us out. I also contend that getting caught up in the drama, the outrage, the crisis mentality, doesn’t do anything to avert the crisis. All it does is stress us out to the point where we can’t recognize a true crisis and are rendered incapable of taking any action that might avert it. Too much stress makes you less able to do something about the situation. It depletes you, exhausts you, makes you unable to function.
After the aforementioned toxic relationship ended, the main thing that got me back to feeling like myself again was connecting to the natural world. The mountains did not care about one crazy relationship I had with one crazy dude. Likewise, trees have no idea about Resident Dump’s latest tweet. Squirrels don’t know it’s an election year. The Sun and the Moon didn’t see the latest outraged Facebook post. The natural world goes on doing its thing with no knowledge of the petty affairs of human beings.
So, maybe we should take a clue from the more-than-human world, and from our own bodies. While you have a chance, while you still have “The Holidays” as an excuse, while the Moon is still dark and the Sun is still low in the sky, slow the fuck down. Turn off the TV. Turn off your phone. Go outside and ground yourself. Feel the Earth beneath you, breathe deep and feel the air expand your lungs, let the Sun shine on your face for a moment, take a sip of life-giving water. Right now, there is no crisis. Right now, there is no drama. Right now, where you stand, this moment, there is only calm and peace. Only calm and peace. Only calm and peace. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.
No one even listens to me anymore. Not anyone in my day-to-day life, anyway. Not my partner. Not my dog. Not my family. Not the people I work for. Not “my community.” Do you ever feel that way?
Why are we so fucking insecure? All of us? Why do we all build walls around ourselves? Why do we all attack each other? Why do we feel the need to dominate? To get our way? To control the behavior of others?
Or maybe the better question is “Why did we build, or buy into, a system that at least encourages, if not requires, us to be that way?”
Why did we build a system dependent upon “competition?” (Yes, Capitalism. Yes, Patriarchy. I’m talking about you.) Is that really necessary? Is it really healthy? Does it really “make us better?” Is it really “human nature?” I mean, I have no problem with little kids winning soccer championships, but doesn’t it seem like we carry this “competition good” mentality a little too far? “Competition is what makes us strive for greatness,” or so we’re told. But, is that really true? Think about it. And if it is – if – does that mean that we should make the competition as difficult as humanly possible? Isn’t it hard enough already? Shouldn’t we be trying to create a less competitive environment so that more people’s needs are met and more can survive?
Do any of these stories we tell ourselves, do any of these American myths, hold any truth? Or, did we set it up this way because we convinced ourselves it would be more fun and exciting? Is that it? Are we just addicted to drama?
Or, did some people see this as an easy way to cynically take advantage of the good will, generosity, and honesty of others? An easy way to gain power? An easy way to “win?”
If this is so, and I think it may be, then that’s fucked-up.
If you’ve ever been in a dysfunctional relationship, you know that a big part of the dysfunction is that one or both partners feel threatened somehow, like they have to compete to get their needs met. Like, if your needs are met, then mine are not going to be met, and then I will surely shrivel up and die. And, I can’t meet any of my own needs, of course, so you have to meet all of them for me. This also means that I cannot meet any of your needs for you, nor can you meet your own, because your needs don’t matter. It’s all about mine, so both of us need to focus on mine. Because it’s a competition. If my needs compete with yours, and mine get met and yours don’t, then I win. I win. I WIN! And you lose.
What neither partner often realizes is that it is possible for everyone’s needs to be met, and that it’s actually not a competition. My needs and your needs can be met at the same time. It is possible for both of us to “win.” If we cooperate instead of compete, we can learn what needs we are able to meet for each other, what needs we can support each other in meeting, and what needs we just have to suck it up and meet on our own. This requires open, honest, non-cynical, non-insecure, non-advantage-taking, non-fucked-up communication, though. So, good luck!
But this, I contend, is why so many of us feel like we need to hide who we truly are, and what we truly need. It’s a survival skill. It’s like we “can’t” show people our authentic selves, like we’re not allowed to say what we think and believe, or to do what we need to do. Like if we were to truly be ourselves, that would not be okay with our family, or friends, or our employers, or our society. People would feel threatened. Our very expression of who we are would make people feel insecure. People would feel like we somehow threaten their survival, even when we totally do not. People would attack us. Just for being ourselves.
And a lot of the time, people do. They do attack us.
So, we hide. Out of fear. Often very justified fear.
But, that fear teaches us to hide who we truly are, what our true feelings are, what our true opinions are, all the time. Even when maybe that fear isn’t entirely justified.
And it also teaches us to be intolerant of who other people truly and authentically are. It teaches us that we have to be “right.” Remember, if it’s a competition, then someone must be “right,” and the other person must be “wrong.” To be “wrong” is to lose. So, we must never admit that we may be wrong. We must never admit that the other person might have a valid point. That they might actually be “right” about something. And if they are “right” about something, that means we lose, so we must not even listen. No sooner can a dissenting opinion be expressed than we need to attack the opinion’s proponent as “wrong,” “bad, ” “a loser.” Because it’s a competition, and we must “win.” If we tolerate other opinions, other beliefs, other ways of being, then that means those other people’s opinions, beliefs, and ways of being might be, if not “right,” then at least “not wrong.” And we cannot allow that. No, no. Someone must be “right,” and someone must be “wrong.” Someone must “win,” and someone must “lose.” That’s it. So, we must never listen, never concede, never consider, and certainly never respect. Because it’s a competition.
If I only ever listen to my own opinions, my own beliefs, my own feelings, my own thoughts, and dismiss everyone else’s, then I will always be “right.” I will always “win.”
But, it’s not a competition. Not really. I can be who I am, think what I think, believe what I believe, and have it cause you no harm whatsoever. It’s okay for us to disagree on somethings. Not all of them will be deal-breakers. We can both survive, both get our needs met. It doesn’t have to always be a big, dramatic competition. We can both “win.” And that’s okay.
But, how will you ever know that, my dear dysfunctional, gas-lighting darling, if you won’t even shut your mouth for a second and listen?
Whenever he is in a bad mood, I go outside.
Whenever he interrupts me to criticize the content of the sentence I have yet to finish, I go outside.
Whenever he argues with me when I’m agreeing with him, I go outside.
Whenever a story I’m telling, for some reason, or none, pisses him off, even when it’s just a story, I go outside.
Whenever he is obsessing out loud over a future that isn’t happening,
Whenever he is telling me what jobs I need to apply for,
Whenever he is expounding upon opinions and beliefs that I am really supposed to agree with whole-heatedly, all the time, and never say anything . . . or else,
Whenever he isn’t listening, which is all the time,
I go outside.
It’s not much, just my backyard. But, there’s a lavender bush that I rescued after the landscaper guy, who lived in his van, mowed it down.
I stopped getting angry a long time ago. It’s not worth it. Nothing changes. It’s screaming into the void.
I’ve just been hanging on, until it’s time. Going within, and going outside. Smelling the lavender as I rub its buds between my fingers. Admiring the bees and their diligence. Digging in.
I did choose to be here, after all. Even if I didn’t know what I was choosing at the time.
And, this, too, shall pass. I just have to stand here.
It’ll be a hard winter. One way or another.
It takes a lot of energy to be strong. A lot of breath. A lot of air. A lot of digging in.
I go outside because that’s where my power is. Because that’s where I am. And in the Spring, when the freezes and frosts are done, I’ll plant some more lavender bushes in the circle garden, next to the one that still stands, digging in.
Today, I feel a need to turn off the noise, to ignore politics just for one day, to take a fucking moment to think. To look around. To notice.
Where am I?
Where am I going?
What is going on?
And how the hell did I get here?
And what is that thing off in the distance, up ahead, looking somewhat ominous, barreling towards me at probably a very high rate of speed? It looks big. Huge, even. And dark. I think I can hear it rumble.
Is it death? Or just another challenge?
Is it the tunnel, itself, or the light at the end?
Soon, I will need to decide. Soon, I will need to act.
For now, though, I need to just stop. Pause. Listen. Inhale. Look behind me, to the left, to the right, to the sky, to the ground.
This is where I am. This is who I am. My feet touch the soil, and my head touches the wind. My veins hold water, and my heart holds fire.
Tomorrow may be chaos. Tomorrow may be pain.
Tomorrow may be liberation.
Today, I just wait. Ready or not.