My Evolving Radicalism

  1. I was a very political child.
    In 1st grade, our class held a pretend election to vote for President. I appointed myself a Caucus leader and tried to whip votes for Clinton until Ms. Thompson made me sit down.
  2. Starting in 4th grade, I read the daily newspaper front to back (at least in part because my mom said it was written at a fourth-grade reading level and I took that to mean that it was compulsory for 4th-graders). The concerns of the world really weighed on me.
    One time that year, I read a letter to the editor from a left-leaning man with whom I strongly agreed. I looked his address up in the phone book (!) and wrote and mailed him a letter thanking him for his civic engagement (!!). My parents found out when he sent me a letter a back and they asked why a strange man was mailing me something.
  3. Fast-forward through my early 20s. I was a staunch Democrat. I wanted to believe in the establishment. I wanted to believe that the system worked as long as the "right" people were in charge.
    I'm a natural rule follower.
  4. I joined Teach for America.
  5. But when I finally left my Oregon Bubble, I lived a life that actually tested my professed values.
    (Omg, I am hoping against hope that someone list requests me a list about Oregon as a Racist Utopia, because that shit is too real).
  6. And I read stuff by more rigorous thinkers than I, and I listened to my students and their parents, and I ran into a political wall over and over again.
  7. There was a period where confronting the system and my issues with it was just too demoralizing. Because I saw everyday the way the system continually let down the most vulnerable and the most marginalized.
    This is a privilege thing. I could see it, and then avoid it. I didn't have to live it.
  8. And then I had a couple "aha!" moments that helped me understand my radicalism and feel confident in it.
  9. One was when my parents - lifelong Democrats, toe-ers of the "Good Liberal" line - expressed that they thought Edward Snowden should go to jail. They cited "National Security."
    And I realized: their default assumption was that the government is good and should be trusted. And mine wasn't anymore.
  10. One was just two weeks ago, when a group of "Good Liberal" women at a party talked about how the prison system is full of rehabilitative efforts and checks on abuses of power.
    I can't even write more, because my blood boils at this assertion.
  11. Anyway, here's what I've come to know is true for me: I agree more with the Democratic Party than with the Republican Party...
  12. ...and the Democratic Party - and our system of democracy as a whole - is still conservative.
  13. I know this isn't some kind of Truth Bomb that a lot of people don't know. It's probably pretty obvious.
  14. But it took me a long time to get there, and I want to share that. Especially now, during election season, when all debates become binary.
  15. I believe all of the following:
  16. Donald Trump is truly vile and his beliefs are anathema to me.
  17. Hillary Clinton is someone I respect and admire and I am so happy to have a female nominee. I will vote for her in November.
  18. AND Hillary Clinton doesn't represent all of my beliefs very well. She is an agent of a still-pretty-conservative party.
  19. This is part of my work in life, I think: how do I live within a society I often disagree with, engage productively, let my beliefs fuel openness and activism, not become isolated in cynicism, and not alienate others needlessly?
  20. The first step for me is just recognizing that what we have is not enough for me. I'm not cool with the status quo. And I am owning my membership in a long lineage of people who've also said, "This isn't right and it isn't enough" and who fought for more. This list is partly a libation to those who came before and a nod at those who I'm with now.
  21. Let's not give up.
  22. "Let me respectfully remind you — / Life and death are of supreme importance / Time swiftly passes by, and opportunity is lost / Each of us should strive to awaken... / ... Awaken! / Take heed. Do not squander your life."
    The Evening Gatha.
  23. As always: thanks for listening.