Yesterday in Charlottesville....

There is much to react to, much to be shocked by—much to be enraged by—so it’s difficult to know where to start.

The 'Unite the Right' protest was a glaringly public display of American racism’s ‘all-clear’ to crawl out of the shadows and dance in the daylight. These men and women brandishing their swastikas and their confederate flags and their message t-shirts sense that in a country that has voted Donald Trump into the highest office, their hatred is free—is welcome—to display for all to celebrate.

The president—a uniquely un-qualified non-politician who embodies the words ‘epic and embarrassing failure’ more than any president in the history of the office; a man who just two days before was taunting North Korea with rage and nuclear fire because that’s how temper-tantrum prone man-babies behave when they have no other skill-set—drew a false equivalence between the 'Unite the Right' demonstrators and the counter-protestors as if racial hatred and the reaction to that hatred are the same.

They are not.

Those marching in support of 'Unite the Right' are driven by a loathing (and by extension fear) for whatever and whomever is not them. It’s prejudice that was long-ago sewn into the fabric of American society, into our institutions, and into our individual lives. It’s racism that we’ve all learned and had modeled for us, it’s hatred that we ourselves have given voice to and have spread.

Our job—collectively and individually—is to acknowledge that this gut-level acrimony is wrong. It is evil. It is a response and way of being that one should in fact be ashamed of. Racism is a base human reaction that we must work on in ourselves and within the broader social fabric. Giving into it—celebrating it, killing in the name of it—denies our ability to grow and to evolve. It holds on to a retrograde way of being ‘white and right’ that is dead. Gone. The ghosts have not yet given up the body. But they will.

The ideas, theories, emotions expressed by those marching on behalf of the 'Unite the Right' are not of equal weight and value as those who counter-protested. A president worth anything would have seen and acknowledged this, but we don’t have that kind of president.

We have Donald Trump. And we live in his America now.

Suffering Suffrage

I don’t seek them out, per se, but when I encounter Trump Supporter ‘outrage’ over the investigation into the Trump’s administration conduct during the 2016 presidential election, what I hear is fear.

Fear that the obvious question before American citizens will be raised: Did Russia’s interference extend to the 2016 vote counts themselves, ultimately altering or negating votes intended for Clinton?

Once we ask that question, once we raise the possibility that our supposed democratic process is compromised, how do we shore up the flaws in the technology in order to re-gain trust in the results of future elections?

(I’m setting aside the just as consequential detriments to voting rights -- gerrymandering and voter suppression -- only because they are each topics too large for this post. And frankly, I can only take on so many depressing topics in one morning.)

Although I work with cyber-security experts, I am not one myself, and I don’t claim to have access to classified intel about how far the Russians penetrated our voting system. I am, however, a US citizen who thinks it’s time to tolerate the inevitable discomfort around this topic and address the concern directly.

Regardless of your political affiliation, regardless of where you stand with the current presidential administration, we can (and should) all agree that the sanctity of the American voting system is paramount.

Several recent articles and podcasts of late have shown just how vulnerable the technology supporting the American voting system is.

 

Fly Away With Me

I don’t often fly with my kids. When I travel, I’m most frequently boarding an airplane for work so that I can visit a client in another city.

But there’s something about being at the airport and watching those exhausted, stressed and strung-out parents with one or more freaking out children in tow that makes me—somehow—wish that I were experiencing my currently uneventful and comparatively stress-free travel with my own two sons.

Typically, any travel experiences with my kids culminates in the convincing decision that I will never, ever, travel with my boys again.

Then, when I’m back to again traveling solo, I find myself looking at these wrecked parent-child units and yearning for the chaotic, sometimes frustrating presence of my own offspring.

There’s probably a broader observation to make about parenting here. How before kids my mood could be altered by some (admittedly) trivial inconvenience whereas now the energy available for self-flagellation is no longer accessible because I’ve already spent that energy parenting.

Having children is a constant pull and push that singes the emotional receptors of your being every day until you collapse in bed at night exhausted, fulfilled and regretful. It’s the regret that is, for me, the most pervasive of parenting-hangover emotions. Regret that I didn’t get more time with them, regret that I didn’t appreciate their attention while I had it, regret that I didn’t do better.

A Student of Gratitude

I’ve been reading the The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

I’m a fan of her study on vulnerability (and have in fact written a blog post about aspects of that research). In returning to her work, I’ve found elements and nuances that I’d either previously missed.

In her discussion on gratitude, for example, she notes that joy and happiness are two different experiences (‘Happiness is tied to circumstance and joyfulness is tied to spirit and gratitude’), and that joy’s opposite isn’t sadness but fear.

She then parses that fear and puts a label to an emotion that I’ve lived with but hadn’t been able to properly explain: scarcity.

I don’t consider myself ungrateful, per se, but I fully acknowledge that I worry and fret that the elements that make my ordinary, day-to-day life joyful will be removed. I do fear that pointing out to the Universe that I love my family, my job, music, writing, art, spirituality, will somehow ensure that those things will be taken from me.

Perhaps scarcity is more acute for those of us who grew up in broken homes where economic security and emotional security were fleeting and yet also somehow intertwined, the one working for, with and against the other.

So, I’m afraid to be grateful, and it’s time to change that.

On Advice of Council

I used to be better about taking time out for purely aesthetic experiences.

Granted there are legitimate obstacles to doing that these days: I have two young sons, a more than full time day job, a home and family which are certainly blessings but they bring with them more responsibilities and tasks in a given day than I once had.

Days, as you all well know, have a tendency to flow one to the other in a rush if we don’t pay attention.

Still and all, I should like to be better about taking time out to listen to music, take in a film (do they still make films; not movies, like the kind that I take my kids to, but actual films?), read some poetry or spiritual texts and contemplate.

It’s not fair to compare my life now to when I was in college, or to those rough years immediately afterward when I was apprenticing my writing (and being absolutely broke in the process). And yet I do miss giving over entire hours if not days to creative, artistic and aesthetic experiences. I miss that primal hunger.

The world being what it is, chasing beauty while we can is essential.