"Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength. " Betty Friedan

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Civic Disengagement And Cynicism Redux: Election 2016 Edition

I am not sure why I find myself here, on a personal blog that I haven't written on for over a year, and that I haven't written on much at all. But, here I am. Perhaps it was the hours of tears that made for a sleepless night, or the fact that I cannot relate to, nor understand, half of my fellow citizens, and worse, some of my own friends and family.

As I always say, this is my personal blog, my personal space. Those who know me well know that I have a real need for, and issue with, personal space. These are my opinions, and if you don't want to hear it or disagree with me, that is your choice, just move on. This especially goes for anyone who wants to be the Grammar Police today. These are my feelings. I am not editing them for any reason, including grammatical correctness.

I am many things. One of those is liberal, and not just a little liberal or "kind of" liberal, I am left of left. I am not ashamed of that word anymore nor do I hide from it any longer. That is one of the biggest perks of aging, you just run out of fucks to give, and finally give yourself permission to be who you are. Aging has also changed the way I engage with people, or rather, disengage with them.

You can read any number of my personal posts (including this one) that describe how I used to confront people, argue with people, or generally get downright nasty. When I was younger, I even made my own nephews uncomfortable to be around because I was the "too politically correct" Auntie that you couldn't say things in front of. I don't do that anymore. I just don't talk about politics or religion anymore, or when I do I tread as carefully as I can. Or, I just don't bother talking to you anymore if I think there's no point.

Which makes me wonder: does that mean I don't care anymore, or even worse, that I have sold out? I know it certainly doesn't mean that I don't believe the same things that I always have. In fact, I am even more fervent in some of those beliefs than ever. As for selling out, while I think my job as an elder is to educate and make the younger generation aware of things, I don't think it's my job to alienate them, attack them or to make them want to disengage. I did that for a long time, it does not work. Or worse, it leads to what happened last night. We need them to make things better, to fight for the things that we think are wrong, and to counter the cynicism that many of us feel, especially on a day like today.

And, we need them to help us get over the paralyzing sense of fear that has gripped us as a result of this acrimonious campaign and that led to the results of this election. I believe that like with all things, fear is at the root of not only the hate that we have seen, but the inexplicable results of this election.

I have been voting now since 1980 and spent over a dozen years voting for the "losing" candidate. I sat by and watched the issues and institutions that I believe in get dismantled, tossed aside and vilified. This is not new for me. What is new is the level that it's at. The ginning up of our fears due to the incessant fear mongering that has been on an endless loop for the past year and a half: fear of the "other," fear of being left behind, fear of the differences between us, and fear that those differences are bad or evil. Coupled with the exclusion of facts and the exclusion of empathy and understanding of one another as human beings it shouldn't come as a surprise to me that this happened.

But it did. As I sat and watched the results of the election last night, it was as if I had been transported back in time. I kept thinking this wasn't real, It felt both surreal and so familiar. I couldn't help but think about one of my favorite sayings:

And, I couldn't help but think of all the things that are at risk now, and that all the things that have been created to protect the rights of all Americans, will once again be dismantled. I fear that I will never see a woman president in my lifetime, that my health and those of others are at risk because we can't afford to pay for health insurance. That my gay friends and loved ones can't love who they want to. That my friends of different faiths and different colors, and from other countries will not only be persecuted, but will meet with physical harm.

So what does one who believes like me do? I am stubborn, and I never give up, I am a fighter and while I might not fight about issues in my personal life, I still fight like hell for them where it is more appropriate. Though I am no longer 18, or 22, or even 35, I am strong as hell and will fight for the things that I believe in, those that I believe make America great. I don't care what that flaming orange cheeto says, America already IS great. And, there are others who think the same thing. We can mourn that we lost, but we have to rise up and organize. We have to do what we have always done: we have to fight for what we believe in and to make this a better place.

My beloved California has given me some hope that this is still possible. We have elected Kamala Harris our first African American Senator and the country's first Indian American Senator. But it's her speech, this speech, that stopped my tears before bed last night. As she says in it: "Do not throw up our hands when it is time to roll up our sleeves!"