My Progressive Bubble

I confess. I live in a bubble. Absolutely. I click on my Facebook feed, and all I see is a solid wall of politics and art (all well-spelt, by the way). I live in the kind of idyllic, upper-crusty neighborhood I never even dreamed of as a kid, because I’d never seen this kind of suburban utopia. And I teach community college, so I’m surrounded by educated people who, like me, have had the privilege and sheer joy of many years of the best education this planet currently has on offer and chosen to – wait for it – help other people instead of profit. I don’t socialize willingly with a single Republican, and I donate to public radio, drink responsibly sourced espressos, have a hemp shopping bag, all the rest of it. And thus, per the NYT, I judge Fox viewers without knowing them, I don’t understand the pain of white gun owners, I’m a coastal elite, and I’m the one who let Trump win.

Well, yeeeeah. That’s all kinds of bullshit, and I’m not even going to delve into WHY that’s all kinds of bullshit. But it has made a little light go off for me, a little realization about the bubble I actually do live in.

I live in a bubble with refugees, with immigrants, with new citizens and fleeting visitors. I work and live, day in and day out, with people who are everything except “white” and everything but “American.”

I hear ten different languages spoken a day, every day. I’m an avowed atheist who’s celebrated Eid, who’s broken fast with friends at sundown during Ramadan. I’ve helped women adjust their hijab and had veiled women uncover in my office with relief. I’ve helped undocumented students figure out housing applications, helped DREAMers write college essays, helped Afghani military translators find therapists to help with their PTSD, tried to help a mother stop her daughter’s planned genital mutilation. I live in this bubble with people who have seen loss and pain, and joys as well, that I will never understand.

In my bubble are people who tried to rise up in their home countries and make it better – and couldn’t; who are here because otherwise, they would certainly be dead. And every term, every ten weeks, for the past sixteen years, I have had the pleasure, the honor, the responsibility to meet another fifty, sixty, seventy of these people: to meet them where they are, get to know them, and to love them, as best as I can. Because you can’t teach – excuse me; I should say, I can’t teach – someone unless I feel some love for them.

Even the torturer.  Even the war criminal. Even the rapist.

And certainly, for fuck’s sake, the woman in a hijab.

And this is where I live. Inside my bubble.

And it’s bigger, so much bigger, so much more wild and complex and beautiful than the entire world of so many Americans.

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As If You Needed Reminding

I guess it’s the smell of Sarah Palin in the air these days … it just brings back memories.  Precious watercolor memories, of why this left/right, progressive/liberal/conservative thing MATTERS.

Really, the name says it all: http://www.republicansexoffenders.com/

But it’s not updated as frequently as http://home.conservativebabylon.com/

Politics is how we put our morals and our beliefs into action in the world.  Or something like that, right?  We run the world according to what we believe to be right just as much as what we know to be true. Or we try, playing by one set of rules or another, in competition with others.  And that’s politics.  So what you’ve got to know, before you can take a political stance: What is my moral imperative?

Mine is simple: I am outraged by the abuse of the powerless. That’s it, in a nutshell; why child abuse, animal abuse, sexual abuse are the crimes which truly horrify me.  Why the rape of the Earth, the oppression of the poor, racism, sexism, homophobia, the whole structure of capitalism are the issues I will never tire of taking on.  There is a common theme in all: the weak are abused by the strong. That is the thing I find unbearable. It’s not the mere existence of suffering, it’s not injustice, per se.  Oh, those things suck, but you know, they come with the package of being alive at all: you gots no choice, there.

And that, I think, makes me a lefty.  Call it what you will – I kind of like “progressive,” maybe “radical,” maybe even “idealistic” (because, yes! I actually believe in human potential!).  You could use “liberal,” if you like, though it strikes me as too corporate for my tastes.  But I prefer the old-fashioned heft of “lefty.”  It gets to the simple moral center of the core value that makes me who I am.  Add to that my personal twist — I prefer reality-based EVERYTHING; I believe facts exist, independent of opinion and faith, and that facts matter. Pretty unpopular at the moment, sure, but there it is.

Knowing that about myself, I have to ask: What does the right believe?  What’s their moral center, their moral engine, that everything else springs from? And when I ask, I think not of abstractions, but of people I know and love and who confound me by their voting patterns.  I don’t think about this flippantly, in other words, or theoretically.

What I keep coming up with is something like this: The right’s moral obsession is: Me first. Something like that.  Don’t take my money in taxes: I never asked to be part of your stinking society.  Don’t ask me to share.  Don’t ask me not to pollute.  Don’t tell me what I can or can’t drive, or do, or say.  If other people are getting hurt, don’t tell me: it might make me feel bad.  In fact, I will do what I can NOT to feel bad: I will choose not to think about animals/children/racial minorities/sexual minorities/other nationalitites/anyone else as actually having feelings. “Me first” is so much easier when I’m the only thinking, feeling, REAL person in the universe.

But you know where that leads you … you want to fuck … oh, let’s be coy. Let’s just say, someone or something that does not want to be fucked by you. But, hey, you’re the only real person in the equation.  Me First … and there we go: another entry on RepublicanSexOffenders.com. (You know, that list has been around a long time, and there have been many, many attempts to come up with a “DemocratSexOffenders.com” equivalent.  But there just isn’t anything to fill such a website with.)

And you know where else that leads you: if anyone transgresses against you: KILL THEM.  In a war or on death row; by malnutrition or environmental disaster. If they offend, if they annoy.  If they get in the way of Me First.

And what boggles my mind, really, is that so many of the working class have embraced this thinking.  They pay and pay and pay for those with true power to keep it: they pay with their bodies, with cancers and infertility and ADD and migraines and asthmas from living in a world filled with the chemicals, preservatives, electrical fields, hormones, antibiotics, wastes and poisons of the TRULY powerful, those whose “Me First” actually pays off.  They pay with addictions to the garbage drugs, from meth to oxycontin to Adderall, that give them an illusion that they are, somehow, First. They pay by working like drudges in an endless cycle with ever-diminishing returns.  Because “Me First” satisfies them, somehow; they aren’t first, but they like hearing that they are.  Or maybe, kicking some ass now and then – metaphorically or otherwise – feels “Me First” enough.  Or maybe, because of their own endless suffering, they just can’t be bothered to hear about anyone else’s.

Or maybe they’re just plain bastards.

Which bring me back, I guess, to Sarah Palin.  The pure id, the utter personification of the “They’re just plain bastards” version of the Me-First doctrine.  Her heartlessness, her coldness, her manipulativeness, her flat-out meanness goes head-to-head with her incompetence.  Forgive me, gentle readers, forgive me, God or Gods: I pray for Palin 2012.  I said more than a year ago, “Palin is the guarantee that McCain will lose,” and Palin 2012 is the guarantee that the self-destruction of the Republican party will be complete.

(And if you’re wondering: My conference this weekend (ORTESOL) went rather well.  First presentation, OK, but started a bit late and my Powerpoint was missing a few images; nothing fatal, but not the best ever.  Second presentation — well, I am my own harshest critic, and I was quite happy.  Yeah, actually very happy.  SO that’s that for a while.  One or both of these presentations might turn into something bigger, as in actual papers.  And the struggle continues …)