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Re-Inspired

February 5, 2020

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Today was a very inspiring day.

But I’ll start with where I’ve been for the last couple weeks…. which is thoroughly, emotionally beat down.

Let me say first that I am more or less an optimistic, hopeful person who believes that justice generally prevails and that the good guys usually win, and if you do the right thing the universe usually comes through.

Meaning….  as bad as the state of our world can be, goodness is at its core and we can usually trust that goodness will prevail. Even in politics.

But the last three years under this amoral, egotistical, insufferable president have been scary, shocking and demoralizing.  His reality show presidency has ensnared me (all of us) in his theater-of-the-absurd horror show.  Norms are gone, nothing makes sense anymore.

Then, impeachment. While its outcome didn’t surprise me, the farce of the impeachment trial, as I watched it unfold over the last couple weeks, really felt like a gut punch. I felt like we’d really sunk to an even deeper, more profoundly twisted place where the basic assumptions we’ve always had about our institutions, the lessons we’ve learned over a lifetime about right and wrong, our general trust in authority and in those who’re entrusted with protecting the common good, were now out the window. Everything felt upside down, buried under layers and layers of hypocrisy. If we can’t count on our elected representatives to govern from a common set of rules, we are lost, as Adam Schiff said, far more and so very impressively.

Worse, I felt like there was hardly any point in the kind of grassroots political volunteering I’d been engaged in for the last three years. I felt naive and ridiculous for believing in citizen activism, for believing that there could be a role for citizens to play. Suddenly it felt like a sham democracy.  I felt jerked around and profoundly disrespected as a conscientious, engaged, informed, intelligent American. And no matter how hard we work toward something better, and no matter how right we are (we who believe in truth, facts, science, decency, the rule of law, the constitution) I felt certain we’d lose the battle to those who would lie, cheat and manipulate in order to maintain their grip on power.

A few weeks ago, I thought just get to November 2020, just hold your nose and soldier through his inevitable ugly, juvenile, lying bullshit of a presidential campaign. This will be a long, distressing year, but he just cannot win again…. especially since, I, along with all my Davis comrades, will work our butts off to register voters, canvass, phone bank, text bank, write postcards, contribute money to campaigns and vote, just like our fellow inspired dems across the country. It worked in 2018; it will work again. It will be worth the work because after this train wreck of a presidency, the good guys will surely prevail. It is obvious to me: we’re right, there are more of us, he’s evil and evil can NOT win. I’ll just have to bear the ugliness of the 2020 campaign–and I have strategies for that–but, come November, we’ll be ready to turn the page on this horrific chapter in American history.

But as the impeachment trial wore on, it became clear their team was spinning in the bizarro world of an ever-shifting defense based on fiction and twisted legal technicalities, and our team was presenting a case that was evidence- and fact-based with an indisputable conclusion but we were going to lose anyway.  I felt increasingly hopeless. The unreasonableness and inevitability of his acquittal, and the realization that they were playing a wholly different game with different rules made me viscerally ill. I realized his grip on the impeachment process, via strategies faithfully executed by his lawyers, aided and abetted by the senators who were deciding his fate, made for a lost cause.

As Heather Cox Richardson said, “…this chilling perversion of the American presidency does say a great deal about today’s Republican leaders. They have bought into the idea that they, and only they, should rule. This has been a long time coming.”

And it became clear to me we won’t be saved by the next election… no matter how hard we work. Whether he has the votes or not, and in spite of the fact the majority of people in this country are against his vision and his brand of power, he’ll “win” the election, and maybe every election thereafter. We missed our window. It’s too late, he has seized a hold on power that is un-get-backable. The republican’s decades-long efforts to manipulate the elections through voter suppression and gerrymandering, coupled with T’s eager cheating and complete lack of ethics, with grand assists from his foreign allies ensures it.

I’m not even exaggerating my despair.

I wrote a long, sort of pathetic, email to Kelly describing my need to regroup. I said that I was trying to imagine how to approach the next ten months.. to figure out how and where I might be able to make a difference, but that I was expecting to be pulling back, in the interest of self-preservation.  I said I was having a crisis of political marginalization.  I felt utterly beat.

Nothing has really changed as far as my overall assessment. My hope and optimism are still way down, but my attitude has turned around a little.

Because…

I drove with three others to Modesto today to do some voter registration at Stan State (Cal State University Stanislaus). We talked non-stop all the way down. This was a savvy group, up on the issues and challenges, current on facts and fictions. Tim said something that resonated with me. He spoke about the journey. It may well come to pass that we lose in November, at least the big race. But the past three years, and no doubt the one coming up, have been, will be, instructive and shaping. We’ve learned a lot, we’ve met a lot of good, good people, some of whom are becoming real friends. We’ve struggled to make sense of things that are incredibly bizarre and difficult to process, we’ve learned new vocabularies, we’ve learned how to mobilize and coalesce around shared values. We’ve worked hard together, with others in our community, with groups beyond Davis who are working toward the same ends.  Whole organizations have sprung out of the shock and despair of the 2016 election.  Working together at weekly postcard writing sessions, or learning how to master dozens of text banking apps, or training with Field Team Six or Flip the West on basic political organizing strategies–all of it–has provided a constructive way to channel the rage. It’s offered camaraderie and community in place of the anger, the absurdity, and deep sense of injustice.  It’s all been a journey, and for the most part it’s been fun and healing. It’s the journey not the destination. It was a great observation.

I was extremely inspired by the voter registration we did today at the university. Because: 21-year-olds. I have one of those! To me, this was all about Peter. I was able to articulate to myself, and to some of the kids I spoke to today, that I am registering voters because of him (them). I know, absolutely, and have for all three years of this so far, that this concern about the state of our country and my involvement in all this political volunteering is about Peter and his future. I am worried about the country he’s (they’re) inheriting, the mess we’ve given them: the state of our polarized, compromised democracy; the climate crisis; the wealth gap; the loss of basic safety nets; the failures of education; global financial instability; the prospects of war…and what it means for their qualities of life, and their kids’.  This isn’t about me and Jim; we are old, we are settled in life and want for nothing. We are living wonderful, privileged lives and will, likely, for the duration. Pretty much no matter what happens in Washington or the world, our lives in Davis will be buffered from anything bad; we have thick cushions. We have the luxury of ignoring politics (we don’t). But Peter’s just starting out in life and I’m worried about where this is going.

I also got clarity, again, on why it’s important for young people to vote. So many reasons, not the least of which: it’s their future, not ours. We’re aging out. It’s their voices and their engagement that will shape what happens next. I’m walking around a UNIVERSITY. These are the best and brightest. There are a lot of youths out there.. but these youths are the ones who are getting an education, who will be in positions to effect outcomes, make change. They have to step up, pay attention, figure it out. They can control where this goes.

I feel very strongly about this. I felt it with each kid I registered today. I wanted to hug them (I didn’t), but in all cases I looked them right in eye and smiled and congratulated them on doing something really important, really good for them. I may have even said a couple of times that their parents will be proud of them because I was thinking about Peter and how proud I am that he considers voting a no brainer responsibility and privilege.

This youth voter registration thing gives me something to really focus on in the next 10 months. It’s enormously rewarding and will have benefits well beyond November. Statistics show that the earlier young people register to vote, the more likely they’ll be to stay engaged.

It’s all really good and really inspiring.

 

2 Responses to “Re-Inspired”


  1. Your thoughts and feelings speak for many of us.


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