You Go, Then I’ll Go

November 2, 2010

The rally stage.

To express our gratitude for life and liberty, and as a way to pursue happiness, my family and I attended The Rally to Restore Sanity on the National Mall on October 30, 2010.

Our daughter.

We’re glad we were there. And although I found the experience to be more philosophical than political (see photos of signs at the end of this post to understand why), I can think of no better thing to send out into the blogosphere today—Election Day, 2010—than Jon Stewart’s closing speech. Please read it, from beginning to end, and tell me if you don’t agree that it should be required reading for all residents of the United States of America.

Jon Stewart on the Jumbotron.

I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith. Or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous-flaming-ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult—not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put forth the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish between terrorists and Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything we eventually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. Yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you slim and taller—but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass like a pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together?  Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster?  If the picture of us were true, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable.  Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?  We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. Most Americans live their lives that our just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often it’s something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things get done every day that are only made possible by the little, reasonable compromises.”

Stewart then plays a clip of cars merging before entering the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey

“These cars—that’s a school teacher who thinks taxes are too high . . . there’s a mom with two kids who can’t think about anything else . . . another car, the lady’s in the NRA. She loves Oprah . . . An investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah . . . a Latino carpenter . . . a fundamentalist vacuum salesman . . . a Mormon Jay Z fan . . . But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile-long, 30-foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river . . . And they do it. Concession by concession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go—oh my god, is that an NRA sticker on your car, an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s OK. You go and then I’ll go—Sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute. But that individual is rare and he is scorned, and he is not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness.  And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey.  But we do it anyway, together.If you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me.  You’re presence was what I wanted.  Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.  To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.  Thank you.

I went to the rally thinking I wasn’t guilty of demonizing those whose political opinions I disagree with, but while there I realized  that I have given some fellow Americans some degree of enemy status. Mantras work well for me when I want to change a bad habit, so my new mantra is “You go, then I’ll go.”

To my friend who likes the Tea Party, I’ll say, “You go, then I’ll go.” You explain your position to me, and I’ll explain mine to you. Even if we can’t find common ground politically, we still have over thirty years of common ground in other areas. To my relative who disapproves of health care reform, I’ll say “You go, then I’ll go.” I can understand why this reform makes you uncomfortable. Let’s talk more about it.

I remember working on group projects in high school. There was usually someone in the group who had a ridiculous idea, and someone who wanted to run the show, and someone who wound up doing a majority of the work without receiving credit or thanks. But, somehow, everybody got handled, and the project got done. How I’d love to see that happen in the Senate. And whatever is happening or does happen in the Senate from this day forward, I want to focus on solutions—and I want the media to do the same.

My thanks to Jon Stewart and company for an enlightening, enjoyable day, during which I laughed (a lot) and cried (a little) and proved that a human being can go eight hours without sitting down once. Everyone we encountered—on the Metro, on the Mall, and on the port-a-potty line—was cheerful, kind, and reasonable. It was like being in a perfect USA for a day. With Cat Stevens/Yusef. (That’s the part that made me cry.)

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This blog began as a page on my other blog, The Expanding Life, where I write about the life of our family: no school, lots of learning, plenty of intellectual and creative stimuli, and more than our share of love and laughter. I wanted my readers there to understand why I occasionally wrote about things political.

Then, my political side grew, as I became the Democratic Party Editor for BellaOnline.com. I wrote essays I was proud of for that site, but I eventually came to believe that an online gathering place for everything from soap opera fans to car racing devotees was not the best place to pursue a serious discussion of politics. BellaOnline.com does what it does very well; it was not the right place for me to do what I do (however well I do it).

That’s when this blog was born. I wanted a place of my own to store my essays, and I wanted to write more of them. It’s been a confused journey. I read voraciously about politics, and I often wondered why I want to write about it at all: so many others tell it so well that I see no place for myself. I enjoyed writing my book and film reviews, but I didn’t see that as my main role here, either.

Looking for a friendly place to send my posts to get more exposure, I found none, and so I began the Blog Carnival of Progressive Politics. It really took off; others must have been seeking the same kind of haven I sought—a place to write and read about true liberal values, such as civil liberty, environmental protection, clean energy, and compassionate policy-making. Organizing the carnival each month was a joy for me, but I still wanted more from this blog.

Recently, I received a carnival submission from a blog that has a bona fide perspective. It made me see that what I’d been doing here—poking around with posts, trying to find my way into this blog of mine—had been a very unfocused attempt to write about politics from my perspective. The problem: I hadn’t defined here what that perspective is.

Until now:

  • I grew up in the projects (government-subsidized public housing).
  • My father was chronically disabled from the time I was born until he died when I was twenty-three years old.
  • My family lived on Social Security disability checks.
  • We had no savings.
  • We had no car.
  • My mother took impeccable care of my father every day.
  • We lived in a town with a main street and local businesses galore.
  • I went to college on Pell Grants (they were called Basic Educational Opportunity Grants then) and state scholarships.
  • My husband and I have schooled our child at home, for mostly political reasons (not wanting to turn her over to the capitalist, consumerist culture at large).
  • I was raised Catholic, but the only Biblical thing that ever stuck to me was The Beatitudes.
  • My first ideas about human relationships (i.e., politics) were formed by my much-older sister’s Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul, and Mary albums.
  • The first presidential campaign I followed was the McGovern campaign in 1972. I was fourteen years old.
  • My first-ever vote, at age eighteen, was for Jimmy Carter for president.
  • If Bill Clinton could have run for a third term, I would have voted for him. I’d still be voting for him, if I could. In my opinion, my president’s personal life affects me no more than my dentist’s personal life affects me. Both are people I pay to do a job. I wouldn’t change dentists because mine was unfaithful to his wife. I’d only change dentists if mine destroyed my mouth. (And no, to anyone contemplating a cheap joke here, Bill Clinton did not destroy this country. I’d give that prize to Ronald Reagan.)
  • In 2000, I foolishly assumed Al Gore would win the presidency.
  • In 2004, I worked for John Kerry, but not hard enough.
  • In 2006, I “called for change” with MoveOn.org and felt the power of activism for the first time.
  • The experience of learning these things from a professorial Bill Clinton at Radio City Music Hall in the summer of 2008 deepened my understanding of the world I live in immeasurably.
  • In 2008, I worked with MoveOn councils to help elect Barack Obama.
  • In 2010, I became an elected official, a Democratic county committee woman.

So, that’s who wrote My Political Side. Not some anonymous book reviewer, or would-be opinion columnist, but a poor daughter of parents who never owned their own home, an honor student who couldn’t afford to pay for college without the government’s help, a woman with 1960’s sensibilities who has participated in 21st-century campaigns, and an American who wants her country to allow the meek to inherit.

My Political Side is not just my left side. It’s my most personal side—the real me, formed by my experiences. Now, I’m going to focus on writing a book and let this blog stand as a personal and historical record, however small. Thank you for reading here.

Who I Am

November 11, 2009

susanfacebellasmallI have been a liberal Democrat all my life. I come from a long line of Democrats because I come from a long line of poor people.

Since 2004, I have been very active in presidential campaigns, finally experiencing the thrill of victory in 2008.

I was a Regional Coordinator with MoveOn.org throughout most of 2008 and learned a great deal about community organizing. In a nutshell, many people are out there, just waiting to be asked to do something for a good cause. Ask, and you shall receive.

I was the Democratic Party site editor for BellaOnline.com throughout most of 2009.

Now I am here — not primarily as a Democrat, but as a writer with a passion for progressive policy and social equality. I don’t want to live in a country where the playing field is at a 45-degree angle.

I hope you will visit me here and read my thoughts and add your comments.

In addition to this blog, I write about unschooling at The Expanding Life.

Welcome to My Worldview

November 6, 2009

This is my new blog, where I will write about politics and American history as the mood strikes me.  Visit here if you like:

  • a progressive attitude
  • an unabashedly liberal heart
  • a fair mind
  • passionate book and film reviews

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back soon.