The beginning: Let’s talk

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Behind this blog is what any writer starts with; a smidge of a deeply contemplative offering of one’s work to test it on an audience.  Also known as a dash of ego.  Beyond that, and truly, mostly this is a place where I’d like to put together a product that is helpful and makes us talk about it. “Us” meaning you and I, who are in such disagreement right now about politics, and “It” is the state of the place I live, the United States.  The idea bubbled up in the days leading up to the 4th of July holiday 2021, where the very idea of being patriotic is so complicated right now. Our flag is flown from pick-up trucks as a symbol of a conservative political set, not a widely adopted symbol of pride for that very reason. I think that’s very sad. I think everyone should feel like the flag of their country is theirs, for they are the very reason the country exists.

This is hardly the first time someone has noticed this phenomenon, nor the first time someone took a crack at ending it.  I know that. But, I’m stubborn and mouthy so – deal with it.

We don’t talk. We live in different parts of the country and watch and read entirely different news sources. We know one another by political monikers and demeaning nicknames.  Woke vs Redneck vs you know the rest. When we do talk, its behind user names from Facebook/Instagram/TikTok and other social media platforms in comments where these tides meet like oil and water, and we likely rarely leave those exchanges without much more than heightened blood pressure and cemented disdain.

Before I’m confused as a person seeking compromise first and foremost above all; please don’t be confused. I think there’s room for compromise about things like whether we perpetuate Daylight Savings Time.  I don’t think there’s room for compromise about whether we treat human beings with respect and meet their basic needs, including; food, shelter, health, liberty and safety.

And, here we are. I won’t expand much because I feel like this timeline will be captured later for everyone to read and summarized as a very polarized and difficult point in our history and if you’re living it, I don’t need to explain. Its one where suffering is cultivating activism, and culture wars are spurring radicals of all kinds. These things always have a place in society and one could argue we couldn’t live without them; however, we’re in a moment where we are in danger of being ruled by dark motivations. We need more people on team compassion and team let’s do something about it.

That leads me to the purpose of this first post and I think what most of this blog will ultimately be in the end. Let’s talk. We won’t get there without a dialogue. We won’t get there holding points of view that are so consequential, and sometimes harmful to others, but treated like a sports team and we blindly wear the t-shirts and hats to show it without the contemplation behind it. We won’t get there without getting to know one another.

I’d like to share my story here to start and I hope you share yours. This is the story of what shaped my values. This is the story of how I became who I am.

I was raised Catholic and up until my teens, as I think is the experience of most people, my values were parroted from things my parents taught me without much contemplation.  I was a child so that’s natural. We went to church on Sundays, said the Rosary, participated in Lent, and I recall a few moments of activism.  One, where I helped make sandwiches for houseless people in downtown Portland, OR so we could hand them out of the back door of our church, and another, where we attended a picket line in opposition of the movie “The Last Temptation of Christ”. There’s a lot I could expand upon in this paragraph but I have a deep respect for my parents and their faith, and I’ll only say; I chose to keep the first set of those activist experiences, and not so much the latter. I also kept my faith in God. I didn’t keep my faith in organized religion.

I had a very difficult teenage experience – many of us do. I’m not the first or last person who will experience that.  But, I’m sharing because it shaped me, a lot. I began experiencing depression at about 11 years old and it accompanied puberty. I was ashamed of my body, my emotions, and developed a serious case of social anxiety. I lived in my head and at the height of that experience, at about 15 years old, I became extremely anti-social and would go days without speaking to anyone at school or home. Some traumatic experiences jettisoned that along, too, and I was largely left to my own devices to work it out. I didn’t talk to a doctor or a therapist and the darkness was very, very difficult to work through, but I will never forget the people who held a torch out to show me a way to the end of that tunnel.  My parents did their best and I had some very close friends and a supportive sibling. To mask my feelings I turned to substances like marijuana and alcohol. Learning that I had free will, but I could be ruled by something other than myself, was something that took me many years to understand and I respect anyone else who has walked that road. I was incredibly lucky to avoid being caught up in the punitive punishments that could have accompanied my activities and would have done little to change the course of my life.

I was fortunate to land myself in some AP classes in high school, which offered a window into subject matter that wasn’t familiar to me. I was a white, middle class, teenage girl and my first experiences contemplating the reality of others started with books. My curiosity was all I had and I’m grateful it was present. I read a series of Alice Walker’s novels, where my femininity was validated and I could see the world through a Black woman’s eyes while I walked that road. I wasn’t fully appreciating it, though, don’t get me wrong. You can’t read a book and suddenly be caught up on another person’s experience.  It did plant a seed and it also most importantly, it wasn’t on the official reading list.  One of those adventures outside of my “lane” happened after reading Ralph Ellison’s works, and I identified with the psychological stress of living one’s identity in The Invisible Man and developed an acknowledgement, truly, for the pain that accompanies it.

The magnum opus of all consequential periods as a young person for me came when I began raving. I stuck to my older brother like glue and probably wouldn’t have gotten there without him, and he wouldn’t have without his girlfriend, who I also began sticking to like glue.  I also married her brother and had a baby, but more on that later. Rave culture was young, diverse, and accepting. Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. For the first time ever my social anxiety disappeared because I was in a room full of other misfits, who were incredibly uncomfortable just like me, but happy here dancing in a sweaty warehouse wearing incredible clothing and dancing to incredible music. It was where I met many LGBTQI+ youth, mostly from rural areas of the PNW who shared stories with me about their journey through darkness to light, here, in the accepting place with lasers and glowsticks that I shared with them. One character from these parties has always stuck out in my memories; Todd, who was an EMT by day and raver by night/weekend, and brought first aid knowledge and wares with him always. Drugs were rampant at parties and Todd dispensed advice and medical attention to anyone and everyone. It was my first experience with mutual aid. It was my first experience meeting people who were non-binary and had a goal above all else of being happy.  Not rich, happy.

That gem of an experience reset my focus.  I have since lost the same sort of non-stop contemplation that was always in the background of my mind as a young person to the fillers that overwhelm that now – life’s responsibilities take over. I’d wanted to make my life’s focus first and foremost that same sort of unbridled happiness I knew existed from people I met through rave culture and secondly, maybe do something to spread that force out to others. I mentioned earlier about getting married and having a baby – and that came as a surprise and suddenly, and at 24 years old I was doing that. Having my son was the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced and still my crowning achievement. I’d never change it but its undeniable it came very early and just out of need, the course of my life changed to a much more practical pursuit.  I had to support my family – I was the breadwinner, and I was a mom.

My family was also bi-racial. My son’s father is Black. I still cannot say I “know what its like” to be a Black person in America, but my learning curve was cut a bit with the experience of walking around with a Black husband in rural Oregon, putting a bi-racial boy through public school – where he was bullied with the N-word without much of a consequence from school administrators – and after trying (and still trying) to get my son complex medical care and watching him get slammed to the ground by six security guards in a children’s emergency room while a white child was left to move about freely. I was asked if I “did that” by a white supremacist on a public bus, “that” being my child, while others present only darted their eyes our way and buried their heads in newspapers and books. I don’t know all of it, but I know a little about how dark this country can be. I understand that simply not partaking in the racism isn’t enough.  You have to put your book or your newspaper down and say “stop it”.  I also found my way to single parenthood in this process.  One income is not enough.  I still do not know how I do it, will do it, or what will happen. Its anguishing sometimes who much more I want to provide for my child but simply don’t have the means to do so.

That’s where I’m coming from. Some of you are led by your devotion to your faith.  Some of you have been to war.  Some of you are members of law enforcement and fearful presently about your safety. Some of you have experiences that you share with me.  And, I care about all of you.

Those are my politics.  How about you?

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