this is not okay and we need something to definitively say so

I didn’t read every last article about what the president did or didn’t do this time and I don’t know every nook, crease, and cranny on how the impeachment process works. Here, I’m taking a step back before diving in and organizing my simplest thoughts on impeachment:

  1. If the president committed an impeachable offense, then impeach.
  2. Impeachment is not a “waste of time” that detracts from the “real issues” because upholding democracy is a real issue. I think this argument against impeachment stems from being far too comfortable in the concept of an “eternal American democracy” and not realizing that decline doesn’t happen overnight.
  3. How impeachment affects Democrats’ election chances in 2020 should not be a factor. I believe Democrats should model what democracy looks like now; we cannot put a pause on the democratic process and then hope to reinstate it later. Model what you hope to achieve – and Congress, what is your job? 
  4. It’s a process, not theatrics, so treat it like one. This is a president that will thrive during his impeachment – let him throw his own party. He’s an obstacle in the way of American democracy and we must put that on full display without throwing cake (let the record speak for itself). As for Democratic elect-ability following impeachment proceedings, I believe swing districts will be put in less in jeopardy if Democrats handle the process with a straight face. In doing so, we will avoid a). further rallying a Trump base and b). pushing away any swing voters that are seeking a sense of political and societal stability.
  5. Removal of the president is a vote that will die in the Senate, and if not, removal will still result in Mike Pence. Impeachment here will not be about immediate, tangible results, but the precedent we set for the Democratic process and test of moral courage.

I’m not sure if this impeachment decision will be a reflection of American society’s moral courage or an example set for us by our elected leaders’ moral courage or lack of. For me, the jury is still out on whether or moral courage trickles up or down, but I do hope it comes from somewhere; after all, this is not okay and we need something to definitively say so.

meet you in my neighborhood

We were told to follow our dreams, we were told that courage is king, we were told to do the right thing; oh, the things we were told. Yet, if these were meant beyond platitudes, then tell me, who cared to show us how? We now live our ideals in fragments around what consumes most of our time. In the face of all that was said, a retreat into safety replaces our highest aspirations – what we believed as teenagers and what we heard at our graduation speeches. Did the adults in the room know? Or do graduations only exist as a cyclical flair of hope that this one, maybe this one, will have the courage to live their life as they imagined? Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

So, this must be where resentment is born and raised, is it? Remembering those years where anything is possible, and then refusing to recount each decision we fell into, taking us further and further away? Maybe we’ve retreated so far that we lash out at anyone with the courage to live and ask for anything different than what’s on the menu. This is the land of Dairy Queen, SUVs, and Little League games, not a bad life by any standard, but one void of the vision most of of once had; no one is 16 and dreaming of living without dreaming, having two weeks of vacation a year, with evenings spent falling asleep in front the TV (any channel will do). 

Here, there is basketball, football, hockey, but there is no art. With subdivision after subdivision lined with house after house of the same cookie cutter mold, how could there be any art? Art is something not to be taken seriously because art is only meant for artists, not the physical therapists, not the bank tellers, and not the plant managers. Art is only meant for those who can feed it through capitalism, and we all know that only a few artists can actually make it. 

Our neighborhoods have man-made ponds with flocks of geese, but we left ourselves no tools, no precedent for the expression and understanding of our souls; so when we are confused we are automatically angry. We are then so disconnected from anything human and so willingly tied to a line that pumps into our veins so much boundless interactions and information that nothing means anything at all. Do you now wonder why so many people in the land of the free voted for the angriest, most disjointed reflection of themselves they could find? Do you now understand why anything that seems like human decency doesn’t actually seem to matter? You have to feel human to act human, and here we are at the breakneck convergence of the mighty rivers all depriving us of it: mass market capitalism, mass erasure of the practice of art and culture, and the mass mind warp into our back-lit screens as a retreat from anything that might ask us to fully grow into ourselves as human.

on a federal level, how can we arrange the tables to facilitate connection?

How do we create poetry in the land of Arby’s, McDonald’s, and Dairy Queen?

These corporations are detached from the communities they profit from. Ownership is not the neighbor who cut your lawn the summer your wife was sick.

Detachment: the state of America. Can we get a cafe grant? Federal funding to subsidize locally owned cafes, created in the spirit of the community with town-favorite brunches? After Little League games, let’s meet at the cafes – not the Dairy Queen as I did, where the recipe was created in a lab somewhere with no vein connected to us.

In my Indiana home town, there’s a small cafe that’s a Chinese restaurant by evening. It’s what I mean by serving in the spirit of the community. There’s no almond milk lattes with modern industrial style decor here. It’s got crispy fried potatoes, hot coffee, and framed Chinese artwork hanging above plastic leather booths. The genius part of the place is these long wooden tables that seat multiple parties. You want to eat here? More than half the time the only available seat is right up next to another family.

The last time I was in town, I went with my parents and we sat down next to my Mom’s former co worker that she taught with at a nearby high school almost 20 years ago. Her and her husband exchanged stories with my parents about retired life and decluttering their houses.

That kind of social connection, along with good prices, is why that place is packed, always. It’s not a fancy brunch menu (not an avocado in sight) or award winning interior design. It’s how the tables are arranged – that’s it. After all, there’s no way around it – if you want this bacon, you’ll be sitting elbow-bumping distance next to someone you didn’t come with – may as well chat.

Now my question is: on a federal level, how can we arrange the tables to facilitate connection? It’s multi-layered, I know, but it’s got to be the end goal as opposed to simply increasing our material wealth and calling it a day.

watching the script play out

Reading a history written in history and seeing how all history is understood through the lens of each generation.

I read German and the Jews: The Right, The Left, and the a Search for a Third Force in Pre-Nazi Germany first published in 1987, by an German emigre historian. In school, I learned about the Holocaust, but recently, I’ve been interested in how it got to that. What were the events leading up to it? What did it German society feel and look like – from the dinner table conversations to the classrooms to the streets?

“German and the Jews” focuses on the different factions of political thought and alliances in pre-Nazi Germany. It answers part of my question. It shows how, when neither communism nor capitalism could provide answers to the chaos following WWI and the Great Depression, a third option emerged: nativism, or going back to the way things were. It showed how “going back” could be revolutionary.

“Make America Great Again” is a homage to conservative revolutions: as to say, “let’s move towards something behind us!” It mirrors the Volkish revolution in early 20th century Germany, a revolution to return to German roots, nativism, and “blood and soil.” It’s the convergence of striving towards something and believing that that something only existed in a past society. In this way, history repeats itself: when people feel threatened in some way, what do we often do that remains the same across nations and time? Resort to tribalism and other-ism, resulting in dehumanizing the “outsiders.” Yet, will simply having this knowledge stop it in it’s tracks or will the tape continue rolling? There has to be something in order other than watching the script play out, mumbling each line before it’s said.

truthfully, I wish I paid attention then

When do we start to care about democracy?

As a college freshman, I took a short study abroad in Hong Kong over the summer. I remember showing up to lectures hungover with my fellow American study abroad classmates, more focused on our plans for that night out than anything the professor had to say. The lecture was on democracy in Hong Kong, and she was passionate, and sadly, that’s all I remember.

Now it’s six years later and I know considerably more about what democracy is and is not, but more importantly, I care. Democracy in America wasn’t a perfect democracy even before the Trump election, but why did it take that for me to finally start looking into it?

First reason I think is that I grew up in a household that never talked about politics on any level – if we ate dinner together, our conversation was about our softball or basketball games. Next, and probably most important, is that I remember learning general history in school, but never anything specific to what it means to have a democracy, how it can dissolve, or what happens when it’s undermined. That being said, I did learn that explicit racism was bad and that it’s wrong to discriminate based on religion. So, when I saw this unfolding in front of me, coming from the highest office – I knew something was up. From there, I learned, read, and conversed my way through multiple essays, books (most recently: How Democracies Die), and conversations; I matched the insights against each other, compared my own thoughts, and held them up against what I was seeing clearly play out in the government (and on Trump’s Twitter).

Though, I still wonder, what does it take for a public to take an actionable interest in democracy, especially the people of Hong Kong against a Communist government? I listened to the New York Times’ The Daily podcast Inside Honk Kong’s Airport episode where they interviewed several Hong Kong protesters and Chinese mainlanders. The protesters filled up the Hong Kong airport, trying to reach mainland Chinese fliers about the importance of democracy, but felt they were at a standstill; as the NYT podcast portrays it, the mainland Chinese didn’t care as much about their lack of a democracy since the Communist Party had brought so much stability and prosperity in such a short time. **there’s more to learn for me here – my first questions: hasn’t the Hong Kong region been extremely prosperous as well? is it at all related to the British colonial history?

When it comes to the United States, I sometimes doubt our commitment to democracy – though, admittedly, I might be tainted by a skewed sample on my Facebook feed. Even so, when I hear something like Mayor Pete Buttigieg saying that his highest priority as President would be restoring democracy, I question: how sticky of a talking point is this? Even if America has been a democracy in theory for centuries, how many Americans really care or know how the threats to our democracy could lead to its ruin (i.e. lack of fair and secure elections, gerrymandering and a continuance of racial exclusion, etc.)? Then again, I care now – and the only leg up I might’ve had is the time and energy to educate myself on democracy and gain an awareness. Maybe Trump made a mistake in not quietly and slowly taking democracy back, and now, general people like me are woken up and hyper aware. Time (a.k.a. Nov 2020) will tell.

I now consider my University of Hong Kong lecturer: I wonder what she was thinking, seeing a bunch of American college students – America, the “symbol of democracy – not really giving a damn about democracy at all (especially while in a place that so desperately wanted it). If I could slide back into that lecture in Hong Kong from six years ago with the same knowledge I have now, I know I’d be on the edge of my seat. Though, truthfully, I wish I paid attention then.

i’d pawn diamonds for sleep

Nothing is more luxurious than a full, deep night’s rest – waking up feeling, not like you have to somehow make it through the day, but instead, ready and pulling in the day with a lasso: the parts to enjoy and the challenges. I just slept eight and a half hours (diamonds on my neck). But no one will put any money into selling this idea of luxury to you. You can’t swipe a card and buy REM sleep. It’s one of the most elusive, priceless luxury goods not on the market. Known to some, but not all – available to some, but not many. The investment is time, energy, and focus on getting the most out of every night, both on an individual and societal level. For some of us, we’ve got to admit we’re prioritizing meaningless things over sleep and health – late night entertainment and overworking (recognition, achievement – for our corporate, late nights: do you ever just say, “hey, I gotta go – will start again tomorrow”?).

And this is where I’m going to stop calling sleep a luxury in a sense of what we all deserve. We have to demand a better economic system that doesn’t force people to sacrifice sleep at the expense of getting by. Sleep is a basic need to feel human – get your emotions right and find the answers. It doesn’t cost anything but stepping off the throats of the middle class and those in lower economic tiers (stifled by time & stress). The ability to take care of one’s health feels luxurious, but should not be reserved for a select few. Where health is wealth, this will be an America where we can all be rich.

“go high,” not complacent

“When they go low, we go high,” said Michelle Obama to the 2016 Democratic Convention. It was a rallying cry then, but what does this really mean for us now?

What does it really mean to “go high?” It feels like a rush of spirit to hear, but we’re left hanging – there’s no guidelines or pamphlet for what “going high” really entails. An indiscriminate giving of patience, understanding, and compassionate education has not moved the boat. For the millions of dinner table representatives of a progressive America, there’s no playbook what to focus on, what to give energy to, and mostly, how to communicate in a way that fully captures “going high” without “going complacent.”

Democrats will win in 2020 if there’s a plan we can take to our dinner tables, Facebook feeds, etc. We need to define what is not in scope to focus on as much as what is in scope. Educating a historically racist Aunt Jane at Thanksgiving when she’s never shown a single ounce of interest in seeking truth, should be out of scope – or otherwise, not worth finite emotional energy. Crafting a narrowed scope definition is not complacency – it’s strategy.

Why is a communications strategy important for every day progressives and not just those running for office? Because our every day interactions with people we know mean more than anything they watch on TV from a Democratic candidate. How we frame these conversations and the spirit we bring to them (a spirit we must consciously preserve) – over time, creates a ripple effect.

There’s just enough people hovering right on the edge of stepping onto the dance floor. How do we communicate safety, trust, and the emotional embodiment of “going high?” The answer is not to backtrack on progressive policy, but instead to understand people vote on feelings, energy, and spirit, and not policy alone. We need to rise to this understanding and, for the people on the edge, who sincerely want to live as good and just, answer for them “how does a progressive vision make me feel not only secure, but more alive, more human, and more connected to my community and the country?” We need an actionable strategy for what it means to “go high” in this political climate, in our every day lives, and our every day interactions. We need a “go high” communications pamphlet in every progressive’s back pocket.