I haven't written. I mean really, I haven't written much of anything since early November. I'd like to say there are a variety of reasons, like the weather has sucked or because I've been too busy. Both of those things are true, but they're not why I haven't written anything. I've just been too upset and depressed about the state of the world to arrange my thoughts in any coherent fashion beyond anger. And really, that's not what anyone needs. That won't make the world a better place. So I've stayed quiet.
This is unusual for me. I am, and always have been, a bit of a loudmouth. Quite possibly too full of opinions for my own good, I'm not a quiet person. If I am, it's because I'm thinking about things. There is no "off" in my head, no peaceful quiet place that I go to. My head is full of chatter and so is the rest of me. I like to write not because I think my opinions are so unique but because there are so many people who share my thoughts but aren't able to articulate them, or not in the same way.
I am what could politely be described as "progressive", politically. "Dirty hippie" might also work. 😊 This is not because I'm surrounded by like-minded people (if nothing else, living in Alaska fixed that right up) but through thoughtful inner searching and talking with people who are not like me. It's been very popular since the election to say that "we lost" because "we're in liberal bubbles". No. We all lost because of fake news is profitable, and because there are people in the world who want to profit off of our communal loss. There would be no fake news without a hefty profit margin, and I don't think the advertisers we can see are the ones profiting most heavily.
The nature of human civilization is progress. There are small steps backward, but in general the trend is to move forward, to better ourselves, to move beyond what we have been. I am not trying to say that human nature is any fundamentally different than it has been since before written records, but it's obvious to anyone that we've moved on from what we were. That we've changed and that in that changing we've shaped the world as it now is. Progress.
On the other hand, conservatives want to keep the world as it is or even move it backwards in some basic ways. That is in the very definition of the word "conservative". It takes a very rosy view of the past, ignoring the realities that life has been a difficult, dirty struggle for most of humanity for as long as there has been humanity. It's also a misguided philosophy because it assumes that we can, as a society, stagnate. We can retain things as they are and everything will work out!
Again, that's not how the world works. That we will move forward should always, always be implicit. Progress will happen whether we all have to be dragged kicking and screaming into our collective future or whether we work together to ensure a more equitable, fruitful, people-centered future. I want to help shape that conversation. Really, I think that's what we all want, deep down. To argue against that, to claim that things are fine as they are or were better in the past so we should go back to that ideal is just dumb. It is never going to happen, and you wouldn't want it to if it did. Help shape the future instead of looking to the past for all the answers, because the latter is a quick way to get humans nowhere fast. Learn lessons from the past, but work to move forward. We can always make the world a better place.
Hearing the voice of progress be so gleefully drowned out by sore "winners"* and crack-pots has been, frankly, heartbreaking. What do you say in the face of such fundamental stupidity? You can't argue with a fool, as is being proven every single day to anyone paying the least amount of attention to the news.
So I've been quiet in the face of all of this, and yet I haven't. I've used some of the time I would have otherwise spent on this blog writing to my elected officials instead. I've even tried calling a few times, and despite how much I love to talk I do not enjoy talking to strangers over the phone. I've been working quietly to support friends who are getting involved in politics, trying to support friends and family who are in vulnerable groups--the people who are Not Like Me but who've helped shape my worldview and from whom I've learned so much about the varied, wonderful human experience. The fact that some of them, maybe even many of them, are in a position to lose the rights and supports that they should be able to take for granted is infuriating and terrifying. I'm honestly scared of the people who think that this is all right, who go along with it or even actively support it. Seriously, what is wrong with you?
All of this is also driving home my enormous privilege. HusbandX and I have the means for insulating our family from many troubles. Not all of them of course (no one can escape climate change) but many of the ones that are so scary won't actually affect us. I won't have to walk into a bathroom with a picture that doesn't represent me because someone else decided that I'm some sort of dangerous abomination. My marriage is never in danger of being de-legitimized. If the schools suck, well, we have the means and education to home school our kid.
But it's always in my mind that others, including people we like and respect and love, don't have those options. Some of them don't feel that they can speak up on their own behalf, because drawing attention to yourself can be dangerous. (If you don't believe me, talk to a Muslim or an LGBTQ military person.) How could I look at these people I respect so much and not work to give them the same level of safety and security that I have? How does it not hurt some people to think of hurting others in such basic and cruel ways?
I'm still working on how I can fight back in both large and small ways. The hardest part is that I feel like this is such a multi-faceted battle we're fighting. Do I focus on climate change or LGBTQ rights? Muslim rights, Black Lives Matter, women's rights, or healthcare access for all? They're all important, as are many others. How do I work on all of them? Do I just pick one pet cause, and if so how do I choose when they're all crucial? Are small pieces okay, or do only larger actions matter? It's enough to make me want to go hide in a book. And I have done that. In doing so, I came across this:
"Progress is the mode of man. The general life of the human race is called Progress. Progress marches on; it makes the great human and terrestrial journey toward the celestial divine; it has its halts where it rallies the belated flock; it has its pauses where it meditates, in sight of some splendid Canaan suddenly unveiling its horizon; it has its nights when it sleeps; and it is one of the bitter anxieties of the thinker to see the shadow over the human soul, and to feel progress asleep in the darkness, without being able to awaken it."
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
It turns out that Victor Hugo was wrestling with some of the same thoughts and anxieties that I was, over a hundred years ago. As I said before, human nature has not changed despite the massive changes in society and technology. It was oddly comforting to read that, to know that this has come about before and will almost certainly come around again. This period will be uncomfortable. I see bad things looming in our future, and I know I'm not the only one. However, humanity has survived these dark times in the past and we will again. We will find a way to thrive, to find moments of peace and joy despite everything around us. That's what we do.
So, that's become part of how I'm fighting back. I can't change what others do, but I can work to spread happiness in my own little sphere. I decided that the best way to start changing the world in the way I want was to simply be kinder to everyone. Patience is not my strong suit, and while I can generally be dubbed cheerful it's not always easy to remember that I should be as cheerful around strangers as I am with those I know. The cashier or the bus driver are as deserving of a smile and genuine thanks as anyone else who helps me. It's not much, but it fits with my ethos of making the world a better place. Even if all I've done is offered a smile, it's a start.
*Seriously, no one won this election. All of humanity lost.