How to Stop Wrestling with Nonsense and Influence Meaningful Positive Change
This is the second in a two-part series. Click here to read Part One.
One emotional advantage I do have in the realm of politics is the slightest indifference to heated issues like abortion and gun rights. I respect the intensity of people’s opinions on these topics, assume there are sound reasons for them, and therefore won’t debate either.
When the shooting happened in Las Vegas just over a year ago, and Facebook erupted as it always does, I watched. By then I was asking new questions and Facebook had become the mental equivalent of Friends reruns — except a lot more upsetting.( I don’t know why I keep watching this show; I can recite it by heart at this point, you know?)
During the initial battle over gun rights, triggered by America’s latest psychopath, I stumbled into this article by “rogue journalist” Caitlin Johnstone. It somehow made words out of my position, which was rooted in confusion and a dire need for new discovery:
“Being a human is weird, man. Days like this make it seem even weirder. You come out of the womb clueless and screaming, a bunch of grownups teach you what they were taught by the grownups who got here before them, then before you know it you’re walking around on your hind legs with a sex drive and a student loan debt. Then the talking heads on TV tell you “Oh hey, sometimes people flip out and shoot hundreds of other people and we don’t really know why or how to stop it.”
Yes, Caity, say more!
I started following Caity online, reading everything she wrote. I realized she had a lot of the same progressive positions as me, but she shat on Democrats as much as she shat on Republicans. Through her words, I started seeing holes in these establishment narratives. The ways Republicans and Democrats were not the way forward whatsoever. As Johnstone put it:
“In boxing, a jab with the lead hand followed by a cross with the rear power hand is the most common and fundamental punch combination thrown, in which a stunning, blinding, distance-measuring strike is used to set up a subsequent knockout blow. In U.S. politics, the Democrats set you up, and the Republicans knock you down.”
This is how we end up with a system that doesn’t really change all that much ever. Sure, America is a free country. But as information goes, we are only as free as we make ourselves. For the lazier researchers among us, it really depends who we choose to box ourselves in with. We are tribal beings afterall — we like to pick our group and let these people tell us how to think. We like to say we are free, but we also like some direction so we don’t have to think too too hard about the big stuff.
Let me just side-note that last paragraph by saying information is entirely free to be looked into further by intelligent seekers if wanted. We can blame the president for lying, we can blame the media for lying, or we can take responsibility for our own brains and go looking for the truth. We don’t have to be this lazy. We don’t have to believe the first thing we hear and then blame whoever we heard it from.
Upon this realization, I began entertaining conspiracy theories for the first time ever. I then thought ironically about those crazy people I avoided eye contact with when Barack Obama was the President. The ones saying strange things about Muslims. How funny that the election of Donald Trump was bringing me down this path. Perhaps I was now crazy too, or perhaps I was I coming to terms with the dark realities of politics. I had trusted everything Dems said to this point because of how I was raised, perhaps it was time to break free…
So I did.
Let it be clear that I am still a loyal employee of Labor — my grandpa’s legacy is actually more important than I was told as a child and tween. Giving regular people the tools and confidence to negotiate contracts with their boss for how they expect to be treated? YES WE WILL. This movement helps the working class reach into power structures and have a chance at justice. Without Unions, I believe we do end up in an Oligarchy.
I believe deeply in the purpose of Unions, but I won’t tell you I’m a Democrat today. The Democrats I was raised to believe in were for equality and free thinking. I was under the impression that we were the listeners for the better part of my intellectual life. But when I think about 2016 Michelle blocking all the Barbara’s on Facebook, I realize I wasn’t a listener at all.
The video below is long, but it provides a lot of important insight for the back of our minds. It takes a lot for some of us to step far enough back to respect the other team, but this is a good place to start. I believe in a moral right and wrong, but I don’t think anymore that it is defined by Democrats vs. Republicans. There are morally “right” people in both categories, just as there are morally “wrong” people in both.
I hope anyone who has decided to block the ideas of another party will watch this and try to respect that good morals can be different but equally meaningful from one person to another. I hope we can stop being afraid of what the token Dems and Repubs in the room might say if compelled to speak, and instead be more ready to listen.
I hope we can accept that the people who dig a kneeling Colin Kaepernick are good people, as are the people who feel deeply offended by the position taken as the flag flies and the National Anthem plays. Both are patriots, I swear to you. Both are. We can listen and understand that while continuing to stand firmly in our own authority. We don’t need to be blocking each other to protect our personhood.
The following are some new political rules I am following in the wake of all of this. I offer these with the hope of enlightenment to you all, regardless of what you believe:
1) Be the change you want to see. (Seriously, act like that person.)
You want people to treat you like an equal? Then convince yourself that you are. Walk up in there like you own the place and sell that freaking story. The strongest power the establishments have over you is your fear and belief they will abandon you if you get out of line. Test those boundaries. Say your truth. Have a plan just in case they listen. Whatever you do, move ahead after you’ve stood on the corner with your sign. People will raise awareness by demanding equality, but they will make it real by acting equal.
Martin Luther King did not make his mark by taking people on their word that his voice didn’t matter. Rosa Parks could not have owned her seat in the front of that Montgomery, Alabama bus if she didn’t know deep in her heart that she deserved to sit there. People can’t ignore someone this convinced. They will wonder if you are right even if they never say it. And then one day, after you believe it long enough, you will be right.
2) Your brain is not the the media or the president’s responsibility.
Let me just set a scene for this one: Consider my husband and I going to the grocery store together. When we get back, I tell you a pretty lifeless story about how it wasn’t too bad, we got the toilet paper and the line was short, and here we are. On the other hand, he was irritated by the cashier and didn’t like that they were out of Cottonelle. He tells you never to shop there, the place sucks. This is the same event, coming through two different filters, and to add further variables, you will perceive one thing or another based on who you talk to and what you already think about either of us.
Everything in society is like this. Literally, all messages have a source and a biased receptor. Especially in the social media age — information isn’t just information anymore. We can’t invest too much emotion in this house of cards. You are the only truth in your own life. Trust yourself and stop listening to that other crap. It’s all crap, and it’s distracting you from living your best life.
3) The media and the president can’t ruin your kids either.
Maybe it’s silly, but I literally feared that in the days after the election and I don’t think I’m alone. I didn’t want my kids to grow up listening to this person. But I came upon Barbara Bush’s 1990 Wellesly College commencement speech after she passed this April, and was truly moved by this quote:
“Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside your house.”
So profound, but I would even go a step further to say that our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside your own moral center. Even more focused than parenthood — as an individual.
We have to be our true selves before we can pass lessons of honesty and authenticity to our kids. At the end of the day, we are their leaders, not Donald Trump. Stop worrying about him, or the “fake news” if that’s your version, and show them what you want them to see.
I believe now that the surest path to improving the world is through improving ourselves. Mentally and physically strong people who believe in themselves can move mountains. They know they can do it and they’ll inspire that belief in someone else.
I used to sit around and wonder who I could call, what events I could attend to make things better, and I would agonize about how I’m just one little person and then decide, meh, pipe dreams.
It wasn’t until I self-realized that the lightbulb came on. The one thing I have full control over fixing is me. And if each and every person in the country could realize that? They could take themselves to rehab, get themselves healthy, start the charity, host the event, organize the union, slay the interview, write the book, sing the songs, start the small business.
Go hard on yourself and share what you learn, share your results, be proud of what you are doing. You might have to upset people who love you in the process, but this is not about them. It’s about being so honestly you that people can’t help but respect that, and influencing others to do the same.
Stop looking at all those people you can’t change and start looking at the only one you can. Everything you do is allowed to be in improvement of yourself. This is not selfish — in fact, it’s the only way you’ll honestly be able to serve your family and community to your full potential.
When in doubt, take it from your friend Michael: “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change.”
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