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Talking About A Revolution

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I spent much of my adult life certain that being born into an era of domestic assassinations must have affected my worldview. I often wondered why there weren’t studies of my age cohort. Did we grow up cynical and afraid? Did we superimpose targets on the backs of charismatic leaders? Did we think that dissent equaled violence? I assumed that my earliest civics lessons must have left a semi-dark imprint on my consciousness. And like most early assumptions, as time passes, I begin to see that I was wrong. In fact I would go so far as to say I was a complete 180 degrees wrong.

Unbeknownst to me I actually absorbed the other side of the coin all along. My worldview was shockingly optimistic. I grew up during a time and in a place rife with women leaders; Bella, Phyllis, Angela, Golda, Gloria; hallelujah. Ms. Magazine came to my house, that is until my mother felt her Erma Bombeck (with a smattering of Betty Friedan) brand of feminism was being dismissed. I came of age when access to birth control and prevention were an assumed right. For a small child there was nothing radical about Shirley Chisholm running for president. Nothing at all. I proudly wore my “Never Again In An Unratified State” button to school, not needing to explain the reference to the ERA and the DNC. It never occurred to me that I was experiencing a bubble. Just as it never occurred to me that; Joni Mitchell, Carole King. Judy Collins, Phoebe Snow, and Janis Ian should hire stylists, pyrotechnicians, back-up dancers and learn to simulate sodomy on stage. They appeared on stage in all their stupendously talented glory, no more or less spiffed, buffed, and polished than their male counterparts. This was my world as a child and teen. It never occurred to me that women were not equal to men.

In 2016 this worldview seems as grounded and realistic as Willy Wonka’s factory. I am continuously gobsmacked to discover how false my assumptions now are. The only realization more chilling than the severe backlash to feminism is how far reaching bigotry is today. In the 21st century. As children we made fun of Archie Bunker and his views on immigrants, gays, women, and people of color. He was a pitiful anachronism surrounded by an argumentative greek chorus on the side of right. It was his one loud voice versus the evolved masses. Something has dramatically shifted since then hasn’t it? I don’t mean to suggest that the 70s were all fun and games for underrepresented people. However, choose any group and you can find the ephemera of a movement. Migrant workers, “Chicano” and Black Power, Gay Liberation, and of course the ERA were in full force in the 1970s. Movements by definition are hopeful. People gather to make change because they believe they can. That’s a heady concept for adults let alone a 2nd grader.

Is it a handicap to grow up with such rose colored glasses? Does it lend itself to resting on one’s laurels and to missing the warning signs? Are we too tired and distracted to pick up the mantle? Is it no longer our problem? Has life just gotten in the way of our ideals? Is it all just too big, too daunting, too exhausting, too depressing, too deja vu all over again? I know my dabbling in protests, petitions and politics is not enough. But how does one muster the urge to fight after witnessing the erosion of progress? Isn’t that the very definition of insanity? Or is it in fact the very definition of the human experience? Do we keep trying regardless of the odds, regardless of the outcome, because to not try and right the wrongs is simply intolerable. Do we stop finding solace in raging with like minded people, and instead rage for change? When this whole world keeps getting you down it’s time to roll up your sleeves, slap on those protest pins and take to the streets, community organizations, polls, and elected office. It is not enough to tweet, Like, or blog. If it were, everything would be better by now. Today’s children are growing up with their own version of domestic assassinations, that on a personal level are far more terrifying than what my peers and I experienced. Is it not our responsibility to show them the other side of the coin? We have been there before; small people witnessing atrocities, we know the way out. We have been shown how to muster our outrage and hurt and create something liberating and good. We know that out of loss and pain can be growth and freedom. There’s no quick fix, but I suspect that if we can focus less on generalizations and surreal presidential campaigns, and more on specific issues, we will get somewhere. If we can focus on one or two issues and give them the kind of attention and passion they deserve, we might just start to move things. The thing about a movement is that once it starts it can really get going. But it’s got to start, it’s simple physics. So the next time a like minded friend engages me in conversation about the woes of the world, my response will be; “let’s do something about it.”

 

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Cultural Critique

 

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The Personal Is Political

During the rare moments I was cognizant of a presidential election occurring in France, I wondered why we never heard of the candidate’s personal life.  I chalked it up to my own media feed not being as international as it should be.  Being an American, my experience with presidential races is that the public is wildly interested in high school antics, college-age romantic dalliances, inhaling, spouse’s income sources, how the dog travels, etc.  If you aren’t assured that a candidate watches the same television shows as you do or eats the same snack foods, how in the world can you make an informed decision?

Now that President Hollande is in office, a bit of his personal life is finding its way into our media.  His first lady (Ms. Trierweiler) is a twice-divorced mother and works for Paris Match.  They (somewhat surprisingly) will be the first non-married first couple of France.  This seems to be of interest to the French from the perspective of protocol.  After all, the highest offices are nothing if not bastions of antiquated protocols.  President Hollande was not living in secret; the voters knew of his marital status and voted for him.  It’s hard to imagine this happening in the United States.  Yes, the governor of New York is living with his partner without benefit of marriage.  But would voters have been disinterested in this arrangement if he wasn’t the son of a former governor and she didn’t have her own television show?  Doubtful.  Americans love a good scion story as much as they love celebrity.

Who one chooses to whisper goodnight to at the end of every day has nothing to do with job qualifications.  The only time when one’s personal life should become public is when his/her position and/or office are involved.  So why is it that we obsess over such things?  Why do we care whom and how people love?  I’m not so sure we actually do.  I think it is far easier to understand someone’s personal life (we all presumably have one of those) than to wrap one’s brain around the complexities of the issues.  International economics, national security, international relations, national economy, higher education, medical care, aging nation, worker readiness, jobs, housing, climate… Need I go on?  The issues are endless, particularly during a time of economic uncertainty.

If our candidate’s messages are being parceled out into lunchable size (and quality) it’s because we buy them and gobble them up.  If there really was a time that we sat down and read lengthy narratives about a candidate, it’s long gone.  Are we just lazier now; our attention spans withered into nubs?  Maybe.  Is it that with globalization comes too much information?  Probably.  Perhaps I’m romanticizing, but to my mind fifty years ago, the most one had to know about the rest of the world was; “we can kick their ass, right?”

If we’re lucky there will be one presidential debate in which the candidates discuss their ideas and what their plans are for implementation.  Will we watch it (either in real time or streamed?)  Or will we rely on what others tell us?  Can a candidate really be blamed for going for the soundbite when it stands to reason that is what the greatest majority of voters will actually hear?

There’s so much noise now living along side so many vital issues.  These are not the makings of a good marriage.

 

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