TOWOIT #240

September 19, 2017… Day 243

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I caught snatches of Trump’s UN speech as I was walking through rooms. The fact that I didn’t go out of my way to dedicate a chunk of time to watching it makes me feel like I’m growing as a person. My favorite politically aware bartender grandpa Facebook friend posted in dismay. I saw the photo of John Kelly’s face-palm on Twitter. And I fully co-sign this from Lauren Duca:

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I started a memoir-writing class. I’m re-writing a manuscript from my early 20s. It’s also going to have to be hacked down a lot. The existing manuscript is 90,000 words and it’s a tight 8th draft. It leans more toward a work of reporting than a memoir, but it’s a bit confused about its narrator (moi) and its structure and its themes. I’m re-framing it as a memoir in which young me trotted about as a wannabe reporter. I’ve thought about this… no one wants to read 350 pages about me. Even I don’t want that. Boiling things down is so important. I’m going to have to re-name my class, “Darling Murder 417” (Not 101, because I’m an advanced darling-killer already).

I’m also hoping this year-long class will teach me how to turn around and help other people write their stories. That’s what’s really interesting to me in the long-term.

Cognitive dissonance: the word long-term, spending time writing a book, prioritizing clipping fingernails and flossing, wanting to lose weight, being happy about your relationship and loosely planning a future together where you do things like go to the movies or grow plants for fun and not for survival. Thinking every happy person is like in-love Bronwyn from How Green Was My Valley, ignoring the slag heap. That novel might be more than 50% responsible for how romantic and declensionist my personality turned out to be.

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TOWOIT #239

September 18, 2017… Day 242

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I went to hear Pramila Jayapal speak tonight. She wore a deep pink kurta. She was funny and frank and personable. It was a relatively small gathering, so she was only across the room from me. She’s smaller and prettier in real life. She talked about Don Young calling her young lady, and how he had to apologize. It made me grin because I grew up in Alaska with Don Young as my representative. He’s been there forever. We called him Yawn Dung.

It was fun to see the Congresswoman in person, and it was fun the way she would casually refer to Maxine, and Nancy, and Gloria by first name. It made me feel like the women of the world were one great continuum and I was included.

It was also chilling though, to hear how far we are from regular order in the House of Representatives and how hellbent the Republicans are on rolling back Obama’s policies and shifting wealth up toward the top income brackets. I’ll never understand why really rich people are interested in getting richer, when they are already so rich that it is an abstraction to begin with. For people in the lower income brackets, nothing is an abstraction!

It had been a while since I had a startle moment — you know, when you realize in the middle of the day that Donald Trump really is president, and you feel sick with the surprise of it. It happened though, listening to Pramila Jayapal speak. She’s so close to the action.

I wanted to ask her about DACA protesters shutting down Nancy Pelosi’s press conference. Yelling at her that she’s a liar.

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But I didn’t ask.

This week we have to be calling our representatives over health care. I haven’t done mine yet but I’m going to. I struggle with a great reluctance to participate in any kind of activism at all. Even after listening to Pramila tell us exactly what to do! I know having this blog might make me seem engaged. But whenever I do something — make phone calls, go to rallies, go to meetings — I have to fight against a lot of inertia every inch of the way. I worry that too many other people are like me. I seem like a bad sign to myself. A lot of the time, this administration makes me feel like I’m lying under a heavy mattress with a headache. I have the headache, not the mattress. The only things that come naturally to me are reading, writing, editing, being a good listener, and sending money. I’m also good at taking notes. I know this is privilege, but even when it’s on a matter that cuts right close to home, I still feel kind of numb.

I’d better keep reading Hillary Clinton’s book so some of her Methodist can-do spirit can rub off on me!

 

 

 

 

TOWOIT #237

September 16, 2017… Day 240

Hillary’s book has sent me off in a little backwater eddy of reflection, but this here’s what has also been going on all week: JEMELE HILL.

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She’s been railed against for mentioning on ESPN that Trump has emboldened white supremacists. And she’s not backing down. I didn’t know about her because I’m not sporty, but I love her now.

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TOWOIT #236

September 15, 2017… Day 239

I’ve been candid a few times since Monday’s Effective Candor workshop at the office. None of those times did I stop and consider a single thing from the workshop — but that’s how it’s been with me and lessons lately. Maybe it’s that I was standing up for myself, and I think it’s better to just do it than to laboriously figure out how best to do it.

In a team meeting yesterday we were asked for feedback about whether we felt aware of what our potential career paths were at the firm. I said that I felt like as “support staff” there was just a general assumption that I must not care much about my career path. I was reminded that I was lucky to be where I was and had it pretty good.

Then today I told a man I worked with that he was being sexist. He said to me — a calm, professional person listening to him with a neutral facial expression, a person prepared to collaborate — “I don’t want to stress you out.” He says this all the time, prefacing statements and requests with, “I don’t want to make you anxious” or “I don’t want you to get flustered.”

I said, “Please don’t get meta about my feelings in conversation with me. I was sitting here completely calm, but now you’ve made me angry. Angry. That’s different than stressed out. You’ve done this several times and I’ve never said anything. Now I’m telling you that it’s sexist and I don’t like it.”

He quickly said, “Ok, I didn’t realize that, and now I understand and I won’t do it anymore.” Forty-five minutes later, I happened to see his phone lying somewhere, and I took it into his office and handed it to him. He said to the other guy in the room, “See what good care she takes of me?” 

This man is younger than me and has been at the firm half as long.

As I was leaving for the day, my boss said to me, “You get an F in effective candor for this week.” 

When I got home a bit ago, I sat cross-legged in a sunny patch of dead grass outside my apartment complex, reading What Happened. I had tears streaming down my face from a particularly tender part where Hillary talks about her mother.

“Oh, I see you got Hillary’s book!” a man’s voice said. I looked up to see a 70-year old white man standing there looking down on me.

It felt like the whole thing could go any which way, but I decided to enter the conversation in good faith.

He said, “It looks like you’re about 40% of the way through–what do you think so far?”

The sun was blazing at me from over his shoulder and I had to crane my neck way up to see his face. There were still wet tears all over my face. It was awkward, but I was committed to giving my review of the book, and to just hope for the best. After all, we’d been chastised for hiding in secret Facebook groups.

I said, “On the one hand it’s like a big cutaway diagram of a presidential campaign, which is fascinating. On the other hand, it’s also a very human memoir — which I love.”

He said, “Yeah, I was a Hillary supporter in 2008 and 2016, but I just don’t know. I don’t know if we need to be re-hashing last year, and I’m not happy with how she ran the campaign.”

I said, “Well, I understand that. But the book is both broader than last year, and much more intimate than just the campaign. I think it’s ok if not everyone is ready for this book right now, but in five or ten years we’ll be glad it exists.”

He said, “I don’t know.”

I said, “Another thing is, I’m enjoying it because it has a lot of relatable insights for professional women.”

He said, “Maybe.”

I said, “No, not maybe. I’m telling you that the wisdom is in there and I am receiving it.”

So that’s the real-life exchange I had with a man who was a two-time Hillary supporter.

I still can’t believe he said “Maybe.” 

 

 

Questions for General H.R. McMaster, Nikki Haley and Sarah Huckabee Sanders today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #236

TOWOIT #233: What Happened Day

September 12, 2017… Day 236

Today, they arrived: What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Unbelievable, by Katy Tur (who covered the Trump campaign for NBC).

In the under-the-radar, “actually-I’m-not-that-crazy-about-Bernie” corners of the leftwing Internet, there’s a buzz of energy surrounding the release of What Happened. What people don’t understand about the women and men who supported Hillary is that the book’s release has turbocharged their commitment to what they were already committed to and talking about. Most immediately, with everybody’s eyes on 2018, those topics are voting rights, voter enfranchisement, voter registration, and voter turnout. Because they are about that action.

I have a deliberate schedule to follow for the next year to maintain my work, classwork, writing, sanity and health. There’s sleep hygiene involved, there’s deliverable dates for finishing book chapters. There are final exams and there are important dates when the big boss is in town. There’s family stuff too. And a boyfriend. But now I know I need to work activism back in more than it has been, because when the election happened I considered every marginalized young person as my young person and I felt responsibility to do my best on their behalf. And I still have to do that.

I also know though, that I have to write like hell. Even when I’m tired and I don’t feel like it. Because I said yes to writing in order to run headlong in the direction of my innate abilities and inclinations. Activism and organizing are not in the direction of my innate abilities and inclinations. They’re the opposite, and I’m going to do some of that stuff anyway. But saying yes to writing will curb my time and energy for activism. So all writing has to be Hell Yes writing. There can be no dilly-dallying in this matter. No dawdling. No equivocating.

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(this decaf Americano is having a dangerous placebo effect on me)

I have barely begun to look at either of these books, but I’m already energized.

Hillary Clinton’s and Katy Tur’s author’s notes start out similarly. In What Happened, Hillary writes, “This is my story of what happened.” In Unbelievable, Katy writes, “This is a true story. It is also my story, which makes it a work of memory.”

Flip to the beginning of the next section a few pages later, and Hillary writes, “Deep breath. Feel the air fill my lungs.” It is Trump’s inauguration day, January 20, 2017.

Flip a couple pages to the beginning of Katy’s next section, and she writes, “I’m about to throw up.” It’s late on election night — November 8, 2016 — and a fellow reporter has just told her that Trump is going to continue to do rallies. Victory rallies.

These women felt it in their bodies. That’s the way I felt it — a lot of us did. It was a body blow. We were holding our breaths, waiting for an abuser-figure to finally fade away after a long year of Trump on television, Trump on the radio, Trump invading our nightmares. And instead we knew he would be everywhere, in everything. For years. And not just on television. He would be fucking with our very worlds.

And that’s why I want to hear what Hillary Clinton and Katy Tur have to say about what happened last year.

TOWOIT #232

September 11, 2017… Day 235

This day always gets me, even if I think it won’t.

I am still really out of the loop on politics, by my new standards. Found out this morning that my cousin did ok in Plant City, Florida over night. The hurricane had weakened enough by that point. Listened to some political podcasts at work, and the talk of Jared, Don Jr., and Russia just swirled into background noise. When you step out of the flow of the news cycle for a few days it’s like double-dutch, a little hard to get back in. I didn’t even look at the Gallup approval ratings. Mostly I noticed headlines for op-eds bashing Hillary for writing a book.

I had so much more to say about the Girl Scouts (for grown-ups) weekend, and the thoughts it gave me about the cultural programming that girls get. It’s not all good, but the good parts are just amazing. I’m grateful for the warmth, openness, intimate platonic friendships, empathy, sensitivity, and concern for others.

However, I still do have to stomp around and forget people’s birthdays and refuse to unload the dishwasher, in order to avoid being The Office Mom.

Today we had to do a workshop called “Effective Candor” on how to give and receive criticism, and my friend was laughing into his sleeve at me all through it. We were supposed to confront a fictional character named “Jess” about how his bad attitude was really dragging morale down for the whole team. And I was just like, “Well maybe Jess is right. I mean, maybe it IS a dumb project. Jess has got a lot going on right now. People should just get off his back and deal with their own shit.”

Apparently it was a little too obvious that I AM JESS.

I wasn’t that excited about Hillary Clinton’s book until people kept telling her she shouldn’t publish it. It’s just like how I saw her with new eyes after she was flinty during the Benghazi hearings.

Katy Tur’s book comes out tomorrow too.

 

TOWOIT #231

September 8, 2017… Day 232

Yesterday I experienced something that was like this for me: I was reading a deliciously well-written essay on my phone, while standing at a busy bus stop, and then suddenly a friend of mine, who is a black man, was standing RIGHT in front of me, inside my personal bubble, nostrils flared, sort of sputtering, and I was just like “What happened?” But then his bus came and he walked away and got on the bus, making an angry dismissive gesture with his arms.

What HE experienced was that he received a bunch of racist guff at the bus stop, that I had no idea was happening because I was looking at my phone and tuning everything else out.

The next day he filled me in. He said that it was loud and prolonged and he could not BELIEVE that I didn’t pick up on any of it. He got out of a car next to the bus stop and some white guys started yelling at him that it was a “bus only” lane. He was like, “Yeah, but there are no buses here right now, so what’s your problem?” And everyone else was just standing around either looking at him blankly and/or joining in on giving him attitude. Meanwhile, a white uber driver came up and dropped off white uber passengers at the same exact place and the people still hassling my friend didn’t say anything to the uber people.

I apologized for being physically there but not THERE for him. After venting for a while longer, he said, “I mean, I know, I know, I’m the one who is the fish out of water here in Seattle, I’m supposed to adapt–” and I said, “No! What happened is bullshit and your feelings are valid!” I don’t know, that’s all I could think of to say. That, and I’d do better next time.

Shortly after that convo, I left for a weekend of “glamping” at a Girl Scouts campground with mostly white women, mostly from Seattle. It was a fundraiser for the Girl Scouts and I went with my book club. It’s a feminist group, and I thought maybe we’d talk about sexism out there. My head had been all abuzz about misogyny all week, maybe because everyone is working over time again to tell Hillary Clinton to sit down and shut up. And people on the left AND the right are starting to give Kamala Harris the Hillary Clinton treatment, just in case she gets any BIG IDEAS about 2020. And Betsy DeVos is making it easier to be a rapist on campus again. And sexism is everywhere in my every day life, confronting me and needling me.

But no. Once I was out in the woods with all of these liberal Seattle (pre-dominantly) white women, NO ONE was talking about sexism or Hillary Clinton, because all that anyone wanted to talk about was racism. If they did talk about feminism, it was painstakingly intersectional. Ta-nehisi Coates and Ijeoma Oluo were the names on everyone’s lips. DACA was a top concern. Everyone was onto themselves and their own latent prejudices. Everyone was trying to figure out what more they could do to fight racism. It felt strikingly different than similar pre-election gatherings would have been.

There’s still lots of room to criticize us white women as a demographic group. We have problems. We have blind spots and ways we’re obnoxious and entitled and clueless and privileged. We didn’t just stop being all those things. I’m not mad when black people talk about how white women voted Trump in and why white women are culpable. I’m just mad when white men pick that up from them and use it against us too. Which they do. All the time. Anything they can get their hands on, it seems.

Hillary Clinton’s book arrives in the mail on the 12th (I hope! It better!) and so does Katy Tur’s.

TOWOIT #230

September 7, 2017… Day 231

My cousin in Florida is preparing her bedroom closet as her hideaway during Irma. Food, water, flashlights, batteries. Hopefully some comic books to keep spirits high. Maybe that description just made me think of Calvin & Hobbes. Or maybe it’s just me acting Calvin&Hobbesian by putting three novels in my backpack for camping this weekend. “We can stay out here for weeks!” I’m a little concerned about the fires because they seem to be everywhere, just outside city limits. My friends-who-know-what-they’re-doing are not concerned though.

I stared at this photo for a long time, trying to gauge the distance and the casualness.

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TOWOIT #229

September 6, 2017… Day 230

Today is Irma day. The U.S. Virgin Islands got shellacked. We won’t know until the morning how bad it is — by the time the storm moved on, it was dark and the power was out. Everyone is staying hunkered through the night. I’ve been listening to the radio at night, to voices from around the Caribbean, wherever they could get in touch with someone.

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One meteorologist laid Irma on top of Ohio to show how big it is.

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Hurricane categories only go to 5, but there was talk of creating a category 6 for Irma. Either that or that was just Alex Jones being weird — it’s been a big day.

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I think we should get used to weather graphics. There’s going to be a lot of these before tribalism and/or AI takes over. Then everything will be on a strictly need-to-know basis.

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I didn’t get what Trump did when he agreed to Schumer and Pelosi’s plan instead of McConnell and Ryan’s plan. I didn’t get it. I needed the internet to create a digestible bolus for me.

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Meanwhile, the DACA fight continues.

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The Internet chased its own tail about the forthcoming Clinton book. Everyone’s a pundit.

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There’s so much to dislike about this string of words. It can be so easily deconstructed. It’s not even worth doing it. These are a dime a dozen. It was posted publicly by a Bernie supporter in response to a woman who said something positive about Hillary, so I’m not going to bother to blur this stinker’s name.

Other odds and ends:

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A lot else is happening but it’s past my bedtime and I need to live to fight another day.

Watch out, Florida.

I love you, Puerto Rico.

I’ll check in on you tomorrow, St. Thomas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOWOIT #228

September 5, 2017… Day 229

So much of the country is hurting, between DACA, Harvey, Irma, and this:

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Wild fire map courtesy of OregonLive, which does a nice job with this. It’s interactive and frequently updated.

Ash and smoke in Seattle. People of all walks of life are stricken over DACA — even in these days of people being generally stricken, this stands out. I heard university student bodies were walking off campuses and merging with other student bodies, aggregating like slime mold. Good.

I’m so sick of the Trump administration, I’ve even lost my appetite for the White House Press Briefings. And you know I love watching those.

Sessions grinned today, talking about rolling back DACA. His eyes glittered merrily.

My community organizer friend conscientiously avoids daily national news coverage because it makes her too miserable — in a way, she’s become an escape for me too, because we text most days and she only wants to talk about very personalized, local things. I try not to bring up Trump (too often) out of respect for her embargo. But today she cropped up out of the blue with commentary on how evil DACA is. It probably affects people she works with, and maybe even members of her extended family. You can keep your head down (doing good, important work in her case), but that Trump/Sessions stench will come to you.

I don’t know what more to say right now. My Western Oregon friends are really hurting in a way I can understand, being from the Tongass National Forest myself. Sometimes what gives us hope, comfort, and perspective is the same thing that’s going up in flames (or getting logged, strip-mined, or sold out from under us).

I am grateful for the fellowship I have in my life.

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For instance, 16 years ago, this beautiful journalist and I were feckless editorial assistants sharing one cubicle in midtown Manhattan, snort-laughing the day away. We rang in the new year together. We protested the invasion of Iraq together. If one of our moms visited, she would have to take us both out to lunch. We’ve long since gone our separate ways and she’s not on social media much, but I still read her articles in the Intercept, and I love that that’s her husband who retweeted her. (P.S. her parents brought her here from Colombia and she didn’t start learning English until kindergarten.)