Monday, August 29, 2016

Things That Made 2016 a Life-Changing Summer: Part Two

The Fourth of July! I didn’t get to do much in June, and with the broken-arm grief it sometimes felt like all was lost, but when we drove up to my sister’s for Independence Day, summer started to light up the way it’s supposed to. Watching the Oswego parade with my sister and niece and nephews gave me such a feeling of childhood joy combined with grown-up patriotism and progress—the parade even included a giant rainbow flag and ladies dressed as suffragettes!

In between fireworks, (both the mom-lit and city-provided varieties) swimming, and red-white- and-blue “Patriotic!” cookies, my nephews asked a million political questions and I showed them how to use the candidates’ issues pages so they could learn all the points themselves. Holden really hates fracking and Kieran told me that whenever he has a substitute teacher, the class asks who he or she is voting for. My niece is the youngest person in her school’s Acceptance Coalition, so they give me more hope for the future than anything else.

Helping Open the Neighborhood’s PA Democrats’ Office! This is where I felt the most at home this summer. Whether I was calling to ask people to volunteer, making art to hang on the walls, or hearing the entire headquarters sing “Happy Birthday” to Amy, I felt a sense of love, inclusion, and purpose—I felt most welcome to be myself. There are only (thank goodness!) 71 days to go ‘til election day, but I’m hoping to serve Planned Parenthood in some way after this, so hopefully the love will keep inspiring me.

The Filibuster and Sit-In! After Orlando, it was hard to deal with the fact that friends and family didn’t always see the personal nature of the tragedy, the implications of such a large-scale massacre of LGBT people. When Chris Murphy, John Lewis, and Nancy Pelosi lead our lawmakers to really take a stand for gun control, it felt like such a relief, like oh, thank goodness, someone sees us. After decades of being ignored and/or vilified by my own government,  I’m grateful that public opinion and grassroots activism has given Washington the push and the permission to take a stand for LGBT people in so many ways, even if there’s still a long way to go. Also, sending thank-you tweets to the sit-inners and tweeting vigil pictures at Paul Ryan was pretty fun.

My West Wing Rewatch and Hamilton Obsession! Though I certainly favor either/or thinking that leans fully to the left, the West Wing has helped me to understand progress as a long game, and one that is peopled by public servants who, as Brené Brown would say, are doing the best they can. As much as I am a raging partisan, it heled me to see that even when Paul Ryan is forgetting what the fuck a gavel is for, is probably doing what he thinks is best for the public good. It feels healthier to me to believe that everyone, especially on the blue team, is really fighting hard to do the most possible good. I get that the West Wing is fiction, but it’s just such great counterpoint to my depression-brain.

Hamilton, besides providing the “How lucky we are to be alive right now!” of it all, (And another awesome way to bond with the niece and nephews!) helped me to understand why we HAVE partisan politics, why conflict and vehement disagreement are as much part of our values and freedom and inclusion are/should be.

I feel extremely dorky and sometimes freakish for believing in these things, but it’s just a nice way to see the world. If I didn’t believe that I could be a genuine part of progress, I don’t know how I’d ever get out from under the injustices I’ve seen.

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