At the same time, my world has opened up in a way I never expected. Within weeks and then months I've found myself making new allies, going up against bureaucratic thugs, and speaking out with a clarity & bravery that I didn't know I had in me. For every friend I've lost, it seems I gain another. For every disappointment, a sense of fearlessness. For every heartbreak, a feeling of love.
A powerful piece of literature I read says "It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us." And indeed every time I feel upset with the way our country continues to engage further and further into wars, it is me that is having the issue. That being said, I feel it is natural to feel hurt, anger, and utter astonishment at where things on our planet seem to be heading. So when I go beyond the hurt, I realize that my sitting around being upset doesn't do much. And that among some, whatever words I say, no matter how true and seemingly obvious to me, others may just not "get it." In a 12 step program I know of they often say you can't "cause it, control it or cure it." They should also add that you can't compete with it. Whether it's a family members addiction, or our nations addiction to war and oil, driving ourselves nuts from grief, fear, and rage, won't make the lives of our sisters and brothers among us and abroad any better.
I used to consider myself a liberal. Looking back I realize now that a great deal of what being a liberal was about for me, had to do with what I was against. I marched at age 15 for the US to get out of El Salvador. Many letters were written to leaders regarding the stopping of things. I was of course against republicans and Bush & his war machine. And when I was for something, man, what a feeling! Like many other good hearted liberals I donated money to causes, worked/volunteered in the community and even helped out at the campaign office when Senator Wellstone ran for a 2nd term. Even as a teen standing outside of a clinic so women could have access to abortions was a kind of rush. And talk about high of all highs...finally getting eight years of terrible leadership out of the White House and helping to vote in a man who not only spoke of change, hope and moving forward, but was the first president of color too boot. A man who actually looked like me a little and someone who I could point to should I ever have kids and say "hey you can be anything you want" and really mean it because of who America had elected.
I remember crying on the phone with a friend the day he was inaugurated feeling so proud. I had been a part of a new America and a better one at that by helping to cast my vote in the "right" direction. It was like finally being on the winning team and what was even better was this team stood for all the values I held dear. Values like ending wars, closing Guantanamo, helping all Americans and not just those lucky enough to be a part of the tenuous "greater good" to have healthcare, civil rights, and liberty.
But I was totally fucking wrong.
"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy,
which requires direct action by concerned citizens" - Howard Zinn
The site stpeteforpeace.org has a quick and dirty little list of some of what our current "change" president has done or enacted:
Signed the NDAA into law - making it legal to assassinate Americans w/o charge or trial.
Initiated, and personally oversees a 'Secret Kill List'.
Waged war on Libya without congressional approval.
Started a covert, drone war in Yemen.
Escalated the proxy war in Somalia.
Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan.
Maintained a presence in Iraq even after "ending" the war.
Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan.
Secretly deployed US special forces to 75 countries.
Sold $30 billion of weapons to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia.
Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia.
Opened a military base in Chile.
Touted nuclear power, even after the disaster in Japan.
Opened up deepwater oil drilling, even after the BP disaster.
Did a TV commercial promoting "clean coal".
Defended body scans and pat-downs at airports.
Signed the Patriot Act extension into law.
Deported a modern-record 1.5 million immigrants.
Continued Bush's rendition program.
All of these facts are easy to find when Googled. There are so many links to share but I believe if you are still reading these words you are capable of looking into each of the issues listed about and finding out for yourself.
About 2 years ago I began to really take to heart some questions I had been having regarding our ever increasing attacks on other countries. We were not just on the ground, but increasingly, we were engaging in drone strikes that I learned were killing innocent children. The "terror watch" list kept expanding at wack-a-mole proportions. I saw that tax cuts for the wealthy were being extended. And that citizens here in the US and abroad were starting to have their privacy disintegrate. Soon after the 2008 election I immediately wondered what I had done when I saw who was being picked for the current administration's staff. But I hung on to that hope not wanting to face that my so-called liberal conscious was spinning. Like many I was spoon fed the message of change during the campaign and ate it up like a kool-aid jello mold.
But like so many right now, my justification for not getting my panties in a bunch was that "he's not the other guy." "He's not Bush so it means the drone strikes must serve some better purpose?" I quietly began to ask. "The tax cuts for the wealthy would have been even worse under McCain right?" I reasoned to my wife. "But Romney is awful on social policies" I never said but know many of my friends did. Anyway it all finally came to a head one night after reading about drone strikes in...Somalia! I laid in my bed and had one of those -dark night of the soul- cries. My conscious could no longer find justifications, rationalizations, excuses or any other not-so-Jedi mind tricks to employ. I had voted for a killer, a war thug, an impostor, and someone who was not only doing the evil deeds of his predecessor, but was expanding on them. And my silence meant that I was helping contribute to the madness.
Around the time of the most recent election I finally began to grow a pair (of ovaries) and post articles on Facebook about who he was and what is going on in this administration (because after all the president is just a part of a greater worm hole of shittiness). There was mild disagreement when there was any. There were friends who definitely saw what I saw. But what was strange was that mostly, there was silence. People who regularly commented or "liked" political things I posted often, suddenly displayed no reaction to those new posts. And then an American tragedy came up and I took a bold step. The shooting in Sandy Hook devastated many, especially those who chose to watch the media coverage and have young kids. And when I watched our leader speak of the violence and -cry...I was horrified. The whole thing seemed wildly surreal & I had to watch the video of the press conference a few times to make sure I wasn't just seeing things. It appeared that his tears were not sincere. Even if they had been real, whatever that means for a man like him, he was denouncing violence while being a key architect in of the worst violence our country has ever inflicted on the rest of the world. And the crazy thing was people seemed utterly hypnotized by the charade. So I posted a picture saying basically that he's a fake crier and a liar and doesn't give a shit about any kids...
One friend told me I was insensitive and that he is not what I think he is. Though I didn't answer back, I wanted to ask if they had even read a single article on the drones strikes, NDAA, or the coal policies. Or that for the social progressive he is, I still can't get married in my own damn state, while another pastor who delivered an anti-gay sermon was invited to speak at his inauguration (again!). Another friend outright unfriended me saying:
I honestly thought he was kidding but the next day when I saw that he tried to refriend me, I realized he was serious. And the comment was actually kind of, well refreshing. It made me realize I no longer belong to the liberal gang. I didn't vote for the democrat for president this time, I speak out against the injustice any democrat is involved in, and heck, I don't even think all guns should be banned (but believe me there is no damn need to own any weapon capable of killing a crowd of people whether it be gun or drone, private citizen or government).
I used to think being liberal or progressive meant one was against war, for equal rights, defending privacy and liberty. Yet the very same people who abhorred all that Bush stood for, stand by and even support the very same things this administration is doing. If that is what liberal means...that as long as our guy is the war criminal then it's a-okay, then count me the fuck out. Perhaps right now we can escape the truth of what's happening "out there" but with the way this administration is going, one day my dear liberal friends may see these same tactics used on them too.
Much love to all who read this...even if you think I'm a wingnut. ;)