In Honor of Rebellion

I wrote this blog a year ago, before COVID-19, before the Black Lives Matter movement gained ground, before the staggering abuse of power from one of the most self-interested presidents we have had went full on “tear gas peaceful protesters so they don’t get in the shot of my photo op” crazy.

In the original version I was careful to try and not alienate readers with use of politics. Re-reading it now, after what we’ve all been through this year, I’m resubmitting it with more balls. (I never understood why “having balls” was equated with being tough. We all know those things can’t even withstand a little nut tap without shriveling into a vomit inducing pity party. They should really say “grow a vagina” or “have a uterus” those things can, as Betty White once said, “take a pounding”. Anyway—on to the point.)

Independence in our country used to mean the freedom to pursue our dreams. But now we’re finally opening our eyes to the fact that not everyone has the same opportunities for this pursuit. Discrimination based on race, the disparity between economic status, and various other homophobic, misogynistic, and white-power-driven stereotypes were collars that kept a majority of this nation underfoot and away from an “American Dream” that was really just a concept reserved for the continuation of power for those already in possession of it.

This week, “Hamilton” will be available for the general public’s viewing and I hope you and everyone you love has a chance to watch it. Here’s what I had to say last year, adapted to call out the injustice I should have been brave enough to speak against before.

“Independence”

For the last few weeks I’ve been listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack, catering to my daughters’ obsession of the rhythmic and addictive lyrics. I realize there’s some language in it that many would deem inappropriate. But being a lover of all language and knowing my kids’ ability to differentiate between words used for flavoring and appropriate alternatives for mixed company, I don’t shy away from it. Because more important than a few f-bombs is the fact that they love it, and by loving it are learning from it.

I love it too. I love that this amazingly talented writer and performer (hats off to you, Lin-Manuel Miranda), took an overlooked story and breathed life and passion into for a new generation with quick-witted writing that tied the past with present day issues including but not limited to the fact that this country wasn’t built by white landowners but on the backs of the slaves they held captive for generations.

Suddenly, not just my family but the entire country will be witness to this snapshot of history and remember the grit it took for our country to break free of tyranny. If ever there was a time to break free of the tyranny in our government and economic systems, this is it.

We should all strive to remember the past. When we don’t, we stop being on guard for the behaviors and situations that can lead to tragic ends in our own country.

For the last three years we’ve been idle as a nation, allowing forgiveness for “jokes” that weren’t funny, policies that bullied our allies, and the practice of placating dictators who held their own people beneath their boots.

Some of you rolled our eyes. Some of you applauded. Some of you tried to justify his inability to understand complex foreign policy and economic issues by saying he was an outsider. (That’s like saying the intern you hired was given a roomful of mentors and material to study up on for the job and then shrugging when he runs the skid steer into a pile of propane tanks while smoking and jerking off, sans a mask while he’s at it, and shouting “I don’t need you idiots! I know exactly what I’m doing!”)

We are living beneath a dissonant administration that has sought to divide us as a nation. and WE NEED TO REALIZE THAT WHEN ONE PERSON IN POWER DISENFRANCHISES ENTIRE GROUPS BASED ON THEIR GENDER, RACE, RELIGION, OR ECONOMIC STATUS IT SETS US BACK AS A NATION AND BURNS TO THE GROUND ANY FALSE CLAIM WE HOLD THAT ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED EQUAL IN OUR ‘GREAT’ NATION.

On this day, I want you to consider what it means to you to have independence.

Look to the people standing six feet away at the grocery story, in the parking lot, grabbing food to go. Look at them, their skin, their difference, SEE RACE AND UNDERSTAND THAT IT HAS KEPT YOUR FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS FROM BEING TREATED FAIRLY AND OWN THAT YOU’VE NOT HAD TO SUFFER THE SAME FATE BECAUSE YOU WERE BORN WITH DIFFERENT SKIN COLOR.

There are cries from the opposing side that all lives matter, failing to grasp the concept that if all lives truly mattered you’d stop imprisoning, persecuting, discriminating against, and killing people of color and see that its an unbalanced scale. It’s like having two kids; one you’ve put in the best schools, fed nutritious meals, spent quality time with, and gave adequate medical care to, the other you’ve neglected, forced into hard labor for no pay, sent to an over-taxed inner city school, given no medical care, and barely fed. Can you truly claim that they both matter equally to you? Actions and results of where we are on the path towards the American Dream speak louder than those words. So until balance is achieved, their lives matter more.

Watch “Hamilton” if you can. Think about this country. Think about what makes you proud of it (if there’s anything anymore.)

We were a bunch of ragtag rebels once. Who burned things and refused to be taxed without representation. Who stood up to an upper ruling class who didn’t give two shits about us. Our country was built on the riots of people who had had enough of injustice. That’s why the FIRST amendment of our constitution guarantees the right to protest. Because for all the stupid ways those first founders screwed up, at least they recognized that a country full of free and empowered people is stronger than those kept under the shiny shoe of a narcissistic dictator.

Revolutions rarely take a day. They are years in the making, with sacrifices of blood and lives. Revolutions are not free. There is a cost to rise up against the powers that seek to tie us, bind us, use our one precious lifetime for their own gain.

I could tell you to sit back, relax, enjoy the barbecues and hot dogs, slather your standard American body down with potato salad and jump into a kiddie pool filled with Bud Light while waving sparklers from every available appendage…but I won’t.

Today I’m going to tell you to remember the past, remember the fight. Remember there are things worth standing up for and things don’t change unless you rise up and change them.

Free yourself from the fear, trepidation, and self-doubt that keeps you from standing up for the rights of every man, woman, non-binary, and child in this country. We are Americans and we stand together against the forces that seek to keep any one of us down.

Rise up.

Don’t give away your shot.

Be young, scrappy, and hungry, and take back your life, your country, and the principles that sparked revolution and never give up the fight to win freedom for all of us to pursue happiness.

Photo by Sides Imagery on Pexels.com

Life Without FaceBook

Let’s admit it, the last fifteen years have been a time of experimental growth for humans and their technology. Zuckerberg and his pals in Social Media Land rolled a tiny pair of dice and took the house. It is in everything we do. Its how we communicate, how we share, how we learn about each other (or at least what we choose to tell people in our half-truth screen life). It’s also how advertisers find us, how personal information is given out to people we never intended it for, and how the dangerous Echo Chamber was born.

I decided, last week, to step off of that particular merry-go-round. Yes, it hurts my online presence as a writer. But let’s be honest, not many people read my work anyway, so its not like I’m at a huge loss there. Yes, I miss seeing pictures of my friends and their funny posts, or catching up with my mom via Messenger. I miss seeing my nephew grow like a weed, and laugh at the geeky memes from my writer and nerd friends.

But one of the biggest reasons I left was that I realized how much I would miss the immediate gratification of a thumbs up sign to the comments, or pictures, or jokes that I used to post.

You see, FaceBook didn’t just sell us “connectivity” with our friends, family, and community. It sells us self-esteem, self-empowerment, even self-justification. And it reinforces those things by allowing us to filter out the people and sites we don’t agree with, and keep us comfortably surrounded by our already accepted beliefs.

Fifty likes on a post made me feel like I was some sort of rock start writer, or that I was cared about after a rough day.

Three made me feel like no one was listening and I didn’t matter.

None at all, I admit, somedays made me wonder if I existed at all…

I became a person who measured her self-worth by how many people were paying attention to me.

I became a person who was in need of the treat, like a dog who’s been clicker trained. Combine that with the perfectly filtered photos of friends, their lofty career accomplishments, their ‘humble’ retelling of good deeds done and I often felt self-stigma as to why I was not doing, being, having more. I teetered on the edge of what was real. I dove directly into self-loathing on more than one occasion.

Then, life threw in a few major world-events, the dividing lines between friends and family started cutting deeper and deeper and every post became something that set you apart from or joined you to one side or the other. Just like the Kardashians, FaceBook thrives the most when it’s got a healthy plate of drama in front of it.

We are a nation and world in the midst of a health crisis as well as sitting on the precipice of FINALLY understanding what America has been doing wrong since the creation of our country. I began to realize that no matter how loud I shouted on-line that racism was real, that being white and poor is not the same as being black and poor, that white children will never know the fear and limits that have been placed on black children, I would never change the minds of people who were not ready to accept it.

And watching that disheartening ignorance was just as bad as seeing well-MEANING friends post the trendiest slogan and know that that was the extent of their epiphany on the matter.

So I left. Not because I don’t love pictures of toe-headed babies and Star Wars Memes. I didn’t leave because I don’t like reading well-thought out and civil discussions on hard topics (a few of those do exist). I didn’t leave because I didn’t want to connect with all kinds of people from all spectrums of the scale.

I left because it’s not real. There’s always an angle, even from the most well-intentioned person.

I left because I don’t trust Zuckerberg to fact-check if it doesn’t suit his bottom line.

I left because most of the conversations I read or engaged in, have devolved into ugly name calling and personal attacks that have nothing to do with compassionate communication or the intention of trying to understand.

I left because in the last week I’ve actually connected on a personal level with friends I hadn’t talked to in years.

I left because I want to be more real and not just someone hiding myself  behind a glossy filter of anonymity.

I left because I know that all those perfect people out there aren’t so perfect.

I left because I am enough and I don’t need someone else’s approval to justify my worth.

I left because FaceBook is fucking addictive and I don’t need another addiction in my life.

I left because I can’t change the hatred driven opinions of anyone, and I’m done trying to at the expense of my mental health.

I left because my time is better spent working towards a new, hopefully better, future for every human in this country.

I left because I want to make a difference, not just crow about it for the ‘likes’.

I don’t have a writing exercise for you, but I would encourage you to give up FaceBook for one week. (They even have a ‘take a break’ option if you’re not ready to throw in the towel completely like me).

See how much time it frees up. See how much mental space it frees up. Enjoy a meal without having to share a picture. Enjoy a song and call the person who it reminds you of, instead of posting it. Try being a real person for a bit, and see how your mental health improves. Remember, we actually all got along pretty well before it came around, you won’t die without it.