Detail

I had an encounter on the way home from zumba tonight. I can’t even tell you how silly zumba feels to me now, like fiddling while Rome burns. Still I tell myself, “Now is no time to be soft in mind and body” and heave myself in the direction of the gym. And then the whole time I’m doing light-hearted dance moves I’m thinking, “Later we’ll see ourselves as naive in these days. I guess this is our life now. Trying to preserve something of the U.S. from creeping autocracy. Trying to keep autocracy to a creep.”

At the end of summer, in sunnier times in these United States, I was walking down the street in my neighborhood in something that could only be described as a get-up. It was layers, and flouncy, and competing patterns.

I heard a cheery voice call out “Great eye for color!” and looked down to see a wizened, nearly toothless man in a heap of colorful rags, sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk and smiling at me. He seemed to be genuinely hailing me as one aesthete to another.

Tonight I saw him outside the drugstore. He asked me for a quarter because he wanted to buy a bottle of nail polish for his artwork. He had a feathery staff and a woven, feathery hat. No one would doubt that he really did need nail polish for an art project. So I gave him six bucks, which was all the cash I had on me.img_2742

In exchange, he gave me a card-sized print of a piece of artwork, and told me about himself. “I’m an artist,” he said, “but I have no patience for the academy. I would rather live in quietude in the woods than surround myself with rich people and their rabble.” He had dirt-blackened fingernails, fingerless gloves, and he swished his hands around artily while he talked. He smelled like tobacco and unwashed human. The card was a color photocopy pasted to a magazine cover for stiffness.

It wasn’t until I got home that I saw the words he’d written down in one corner: It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

And underneath that… arbeit macht frei.

6a00d8341c60bf53ef0120a762559c970b-500wi
(A gate at Auschwitz. It means “work sets you free.”)

An incomplete list of incomplete heroes

My mom, Ijeoma Oluo, Lindy West, Alexandra Petrie, Bill Sienkiewicz, Gail Simone, Dan Rather, Van Jones, Keith Ellison, Patty Murray, Kamala Harris, Harry Reid, Orrin Hatch (standing up for the filibuster), John McCain (speaking out against torture), Lindsay Graham (calling for investigation into Russian involvement), Rand Paul (speaking out against secretary of state short list), Ma’Chell Duma, Kara Porter Helgren, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, Barack Obama, Michele Obama, Kurt Eichenwald, David Farthenhold, Ezra Klein, Suzan DelBene, Ed Murray, Dow Constantine, Kathleen O’Toole and all the other city and county officials who have spoken up preemptively to say that their cities will remain sanctuary cities. All the Republicans who voted for Hillary Clinton. All the Republicans who might have voted for Trump but will be speaking out against fascist tendencies in a Trump Whitehouse. All the Christians who are Christ-like. All the Jews who said they would stand with Muslims. Everyone who won’t look away.

I’m hoping to add a lot more conservatives for a lot more reasons.

Shrugging off the Mope

Some conclusions after Saturday’s shlumpy behavior:

  1. You can do all the actions without reading every headline and feeling every feeling.
  2. It’s going to be a long 4 years so preserve your strength.
  3. You deserve the blanket fort of personal okayness that exists in the present moment.
  4. You have to keep your job in order to keep tithing funds to the ACLU, NRDC, etc.
  5. In order to keep your job you need to be somewhat rested and able to focus.
  6. Pretend to be a ruthless businesswoman.
  7. Grow bigger. Get more shit more done. Apply this across your life.
  8. Leaders will emerge out of this chaos, and then we will start to feel better.
  9. More hope: the voices of Michelle and Barack come February 2017.
  10. People more scared than you (and with more reason for immediate fear) need steadying people about them.
  11. Times are sad. We’re in this together. Don’t feel so lonely.
  12. You can still feel gratitude.

A Mope

I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to turn shit into gold. I have a list of snappy essay ideas, but I have no snap today. The letters on the screen are swimming because I’m teary again. Yes, I feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for all of us, the country, the earth, the human race. I feel really sorry. If this sounds stupid to you, just remember a time that you had a nightmare that didn’t make sense but terrified you anyway. You don’t even have to agree on the premise of fear to acknowledge that the fear itself is real.

But yes, I feel sorry for myself. I feel like my life is gone. Not only do I have to be a bigger person now than I was before, but all I really see happening is us going down swinging. If we’re lucky, our integrity will be intact. If we’re lucky, we won’t have to make too many impossible, heart-breaking choices before we meet our personal ends. I am trying to write my way to something more hopeful.

I had positive plans today to get out and connect with people and talk about what we’re going to do. I’m even wearing a reasonably good outfit right now. My plans fell apart because of bad planning and my car not starting. So now it’s just a long lonely day with me and the internet. I’m waiting for Triple A, but it might be a couple hours still before they come. I feel trapped in my messy apartment as the daylight wanes. I finally turned some music on and got away from the internet. It’s one of the KEXP running podcasts. It’s upbeat in the rhythmic sense but not in the optimistic sense. It is helping somewhat.

I wish I could escape this into something else. I can’t find any breaks or distractions that work. I wish I were a self-centered person who lived in the woods and I could just ignore it all and live my life. I know there’s a responsibility to enjoy life. I don’t know how to do that yet but I’m taking small steps toward being ok with other people enjoying their lives. I still can’t imagine posting anything on Facebook that isn’t about the new administration and what’s going on with that. But now when other people post random things I am able to say “That looks fun!’ or “Beautiful picture of you.” Because I’m sad and I just want to be nice.

I’ve always been a hermit, but since the election I crave company and connection. I think that’s why I’m so upset today. I was alone all day yesterday too, home from work. Work is its own problem, with every task a puzzle I can’t focus on, and comfortable, normalizing banter grinding me down.

I wanted to write something that would be strong and true, and lift readers up. I wanted to even make people laugh. I try to be good at making fun of myself. Even when I’m sitting around crying, I try to make a joke out of it. I always wanted them to say at my funeral, “She could always laugh at herself and she didn’t mind if you canceled plans.”

Yesterday I talked to my mom on the phone and she said, “I keep thinking someone is coming to save us, but nobody is.” I had a doctor’s appointment and he said, “We just have to hope that Seattle protects us for as long as possible.”

So I don’t know how to turn shit into gold today. It felt good typing this out, so thanks for indulging me. I’ll try to be a bigger person tomorrow. Now I’ll get up and clean the apartment a little. I just realized that I forgot to drink any coffee today, so I’ll do that. We’ll see how that goes.

Safety

I hope to God that in four years, we will be coming out of this nightmare, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m back here because I don’t want to be silent. As I start to speak up again, it may be halting and loose at first. I’ll describe clumsy circles that trace back over things that people have already been saying everywhere else all over the internet. But I have a responsibility now to have a voice and to use it. This is just the tip of the iceberg of my new responsibilities. Like parenthood when it’s new, the responsibility I feel now is frightening, all-encompassing. But the love I feel for our rights, my family, and the people of my city is also heightened.

I’m not wearing a safety pin. So far, I have only seen that in Facebook profile pictures, and not in real life. I hope that if I see bullying and cruelty, I will do the right thing. I have a decent track record with that.

Several years ago, a bus full of white collar white commuters gaped like stupid fish in my direction as I drew four young men away from a woman who looked like she was trying to disappear into herself. She was smaller and younger than I was, and they had her surrounded, were calling her racial and sexual slurs. After I told them to leave her alone, they spent my whole bus ride harassing me, touching me, poking me, jeering at me, draping their arms over me, and flicking (wrapped) condoms at my face and eyes. The white people on the bus just watched. They saw everything while they acted like they couldn’t see anything.

The young men were black, and the woman was Asian. Did the white people think, it wasn’t their (our) business? Are young black men such boogeymen to them that they are afraid of them? They think they are all serious criminals with guns? They can’t just see them as young people who are behaving badly? I was angrier at the older white people than I was at the young men. None of them had my back. They were cowards.

After several stops of trying to tough it out, I went up to the front and told the white male bus driver that there were men in the back harassing women. He said, “What do you want me to do?” I got off the bus at the next stop. The guys got off the bus behind me, laughing. I hurried up the block and hid in the back of a store. I texted a friend. He said, “If that happened in SOUTH Seattle instead of North Seattle, an older black person would have intervened and straightened them out. That is some white bullshit.”

So let’s at least get over our white bullshit, Seattle. And that also means we get out and march with Black Live Matters like we should’ve done all along.