Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Searching for My Voice

More than a year ago I began a series of posts on politics. After the 2010 elections, I got stalled.

The reasons were many: family responsibilities, my struggle to manage a growing an overwhelming workload, but also an emotional paralysis that arose from the events that unfolded in my home state and in the nation over the last year.

I knew what I wanted to say, sort of, but I couldn't find the words or make the time to lay it all out.

Today I read this article in Yes! magazine. It comes as close as anything I have found to articulating where I have been moving, spiritually and politically, in recent years:
I participated because I have witnessed overwhelming evidence that the economic and political systems of my country stand against those people who the God I worship stands for. My conception of God, inadequate as it may be, is better described as the Love that generates creativity and community than as a super-man judging us from some heavenly skybox. Such a Love contrasts with everything that reserves power, dignity, wealth, or the status of full humanity for some while denying these things to others. My commitment to Love requires me to challenge the increasing consolidation of all these good things in the hands of a few, and to collaborate for the creation of something that Love would recognize as kin.
Read the whole thing here.

ETA: I'm not commenting here so much on the specifics of the Seattle event that the YES contributor referred to. Christine, in the comments, makes some good points about that. I'm speaking rather of the overarching spiritual and political point of view from which the writer comes, and to which he speaks.

Now, where this leads me day to day remains, for now, unclear.

I don't think it leads me out of either of my spiritual homes. It does sharpen my longing to live in both of them, together, more fully.

I don't know what it might imply for my professional life of 30-plus years or for the direction it might take going forward. That's a particular challenge because, given my very real life circumstances and responsibilities, I don't see the sort of freedom that might allow me to simply abandon my livelihood as it is now.

I almost didn't bother to write this post. As I said, I've been trying to put into words, for a very long time now, a collection of experiences, feelings, beliefs, yearnings, resolutions that are still too inarticulate for me to be able to put down on paper or keyboard. I'm not there yet, so what's the point in writing anything?

But I guess I have to start somewhere. So let it be here.

Oh yes, and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and a Happy 2012 to all.


  1. I think the best reason to write is to figure out what you want to say. That's often the most interesting writing, too: didactic usually sucks.

    As far as feeling frustrated about being inarticulate, yeah, I'm there, too.

  2. I agree with Will. I often figure out my ideas as I write them. I think it's also the riskiest writing because it exposes you the most though.

    File me under inarticulate as well. I also feel like there is something I'm seeking to say, but I cannot find it.

  3. Oh shucks, I just realized that the article was about the protests in Seattle. I agree with everything the pastor says about our political system, and the way he was treated is very appalling.

    The good news is that the federal department of justice has come down hard on the Seattle Police department for excessive use of force, so hopefully that will change. They started investigating after a cop shot an unarmed, inebriated, homeless Native American man wearing headphones.

    There's a bit more to the story of that protest that complicates things. The occupy protests in Seattle don't have the support of people who otherwise support Occupy Wall Street. The police don't have the people's support either. The port protest happened after they were evicted from a community college - two and a half blocks from my apartment, incidentally - a space they "occupied" not because of a political purpose. The way Washington laws are written, they wouldn't be kicked out until the Washington State University system instituted an "emergency rule" to bar camping. The state university system is kind of broke right now, so their presence strained already difficult financial problems.

    Essentially Occupy Seattle was doing what the 1% does - impose their self on people powerless to resist. The next places they occupied was a vacant warehouse about to become an apartment complex and a vacant house in the Central District (poor neighborhood). These were targets of convenience. They make no sense politically.

    Some of the occupiers were tagging local business (99%ers) and the camp took what was dispersed open drug use and concentrated it in that area. The people at the site generally seemed to be on drugs and it just wasn't a great thing for the credibility of a movement. They seemed to assert their "right" to be there... except the people they were hurting, were the CC students by diverting resources. If it was education they were trying to make a statement on, they should have occupied either UW (elite public university) or one of the private schools. They didn't stay at the park because they'd get arrested. OK, so you guys don't actually want to take part in civil disobedience. You just want a place to sleep. Then rework your message to be about homelessness, and that would have made sense. They didn't. It was never clear why they were doing anything.

    There is pre-existing suspicion of extreme lefty protests in Seattle because the Puget Sound Anarchist group, which tags onto other protests, is responsible for violence and vandalism, especially in my neighborhood. They target local shops, cars parked in the road, police officers, the Chase bank, and whatever else they feel like. It hasn't happened in awhile, but they do not have good will from people here.

    So the port protest was happening in the context of a city that was pretty sick of them, and as far as I am aware the city of Seattle had accommodated and supported the occupiers more than any other city had. City council gave them formal support, they had permission to camp at city hall, etc. Most of the city of Seattle is very liberal and progressive, and social justice things are much more openly pursued than any other place I'd been.

    I haven't talked about that much on my blog because it's very in vogue to support everything Occupy [places] are doing, almost to an extent that's uncritical, and I wasn't certain that my words would really be read, or understood by non-Seattleites. I also wasn't certain if it would be seen as fair for me to expect the group to have some logic and coherent message. Considering how disruptive this group was, I feel like the message was really needed. I agree with Occupy Wall Street, and the right to the commons, but the group in Seattle pretty much inconvenienced the 99%, out of sight of the city's wealth.

  4. Yes; I have done one or two political blogs this year, but mostly little notes on Facebook, which I decided to occupy in October, because that audience seemed to be the one I had the most hope of reaching, and the one in need of what I had to say. (Although I discovered many who already got it, that I wouldn't have suspected, which was cheering.)

    Marry in Massachusetts said today:

    "Now I'm left remembering that Lightnin' Hopkins saying, "I don't understand why people don't understand the way I do."

    I have spent a good part of the year trying to understand other people's understandings, and it has left me so far unable to articulate much of my own understanding in ways that relate to those who don't share it already.

  5. Christine:

    On the specifics of the Seattle situation I'll defer to you. Of interest, Mike Elk at In These Times (@MikeElk) had interesting observations about the failure of the Seattle Occupy folks to respect the leadership/membership of the ILWU there, and he made points that jibe with yours.

    So the ambiguity and imperfection of even the putative good guys doesn't help the paralysis any! :-)

    My real thrust is the bigger picture called out in the quote I pulled.

    And thanks for the comment! (you, too, Will and Lisa!)

  6. Thanks for the Mike Elk reference. I was not aware of him until now :)

    I do get focused on smaller, specific things too much sometimes. The big picture comment is certainly extremely relevant and in my opinion, quite valid.


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