Monday, September 25, 2017

A Dispatch from Interesting Times

I went to the U2 concert on Friday. It was fun, I'm glad I went, and I'll be very surprised if I ever go to a stadium concert again. It took us an hour to get from our seats onto a trolley! I'm too old for this.

But... my sister, who convinced me to go, was right that there was something sort of magical about hearing the songs we heard on the original Joshua Tree tour live one more time. They opened with Sunday Bloody Sunday and I was hooked.

As much as I enjoyed the music and the visuals of the show, the thing I'll probably remember most was Bono's monologue, which he gave in a couple parts during the second half of the concert. I expect some politics at a U2 concert: the first U2 concert I saw was in Arizona right after our newly elected governor canceled the paid Martin Luther King day holiday his predecessor had put in place. U2 opened their show with Pride (In the Name of Love) and we all knew that wasn't just by chance. I saw them on the Elevation tour, and remember a bit of a speech about the One initiative then.

But this monologue was different. The best way I can describe it is as a pep talk for America. They played clips from the JFK's "City on a Hill" speech and Ronald Reagan's later speech using the same parable. And then Bono talked about how America is a country, a great country, but it is also an idea, "maybe the best idea ever" (or something to that effect).  Bono talked about what this country has meant to U2, and to the Irish. To be honest, Bono seemed a bit lost, like he couldn't quite believe what had happened to the country I suspect he felt he knew. His speech sounded like he was trying to rally us to return to our better selves.

Of course, the country he thought he knew didn't really exist, and our worst instincts have always been here, not at all hidden if you knew where to look. But we project this image of ourselves as being all about democracy and freedom and equality, and even when people know that we often fall short of our ideals, it is no doubt jarring to watch us seem to just abandon those ideals.

Anyhow, I appreciated what Bono was trying to say. We could use a pep talk these days, a reminder that we have ideals and better selves to try to return to.

Not everyone appreciated it though, because after the show, while we were waiting in the line for the trolley, some dude was walking around ranting about how Trump was our President and we should respect him even if we didn't agree with him. Everyone ignored him, so he yelled louder for a minute and then wandered off. I think these guys really did believe that if they won the election we'd all magically validate their opinions and they'd get the respect they think they deserve and the rest of us aren't giving to them. Or something like that. I do not understand how they could have watched how the Fox News crowd—and Trump himself!— treated President Obama and expect that, but that is the best explanation I can come up with for why the Trump supporters I come across are always so damn angry even though they won.

Maybe I should take some comfort in how thoroughly that guy was ignored. No one argued with him... but no one shouted out in support, either. I confess that sometimes I treat Trump himself that way: just turn away and try to pretend he isn't there. But of course, we can't just ignore him. He's doing real harm.

I'm horrified by our slow response to the devastation in Puerto Rico. I remember being on a business trip a few days after Katrina hit New Orleans, and seeing a news report on the TV while I ate my free breakfast bar breakfast. All these years later, I can remember the intense feeling of shame I had watching that coverage. How were we allowing this to happen on US soil? And here we are, doing it again. Shame on us.

And while that's going on, our Senate is trying to repeal the ACA and replace it with a poorly thought out mess that not a single healthcare expert supports, using a process so rushed that we have no time to really understand what it would do. Once again, Americans are calling their Senators and beg them not to take away healthcare they depend on. It looks like this attempt will go down to defeat like the others, but I am so tired of the uncertainty about my healthcare. And I am well and truly tired of watching Republican congresspeople tell lies about what the bills they are supporting will do. If they'd at least have the courage of their convictions to come out and argue for their vision for healthcare in America, I could respect them. As it is, I am left assuming that they have no coherent vision and I find myself unable to dismiss the reports that indicate they are refusing to give up on repeal despite polls showing it is hugely unpopular because it is popular with one key constituency: their donors.

Meanwhile, our President is picking fights with athletes about peaceful protests. I am glad to see more and more people speaking up for the right of those athletes to protest. Now, let's get more people speaking up on the issue that sparked the protest: police killing unarmed Black people with impunity.

And mostly lost among all this news is the reprise of the travel ban, this time with a few extra countries thrown in to make it look like it isn't targeting Muslims.

Oh, and our President is threatening to start a war with North Korea on Twitter.

I can't keep up, and feel overwhelmed by the awfulness of it all. Maybe I need to stop trying for the next little bit. Petunia's birthday is coming up, and I have a party to plan. I've called my reps about healthcare (they aren't voting for it and never were) and I'll call about Puerto Rico. But then maybe I need to take some time to enjoy her birthday.

There is actually very little I can do right now. That may be the thing that makes this entire situation so hard to take: I want to try to help fix this mess, but I don't see how to do it. My reps don't generally need pressing to do what I want them to do. As I look at the mess we're in, I think that it really is going to come down to the next couple of elections and (1) what moderate Republican voters do in them, and (2) how effectively we can counter voter suppression efforts. I've yet to see evidence that the moderate elected Republicans are fighting back. Frankly, they mostly seem to be retiring. But what will those voters do? I don't know. People are mobilizing to fight voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering. Is it too late? I don't think so, but it would definitely have been better to start on this sooner.

So maybe I will take a breather from being so engaged in these interesting times, and hope to come back to it in a few weeks with some new ideas for how to make a difference.


  1. I think it is important not to take breaks from action or to encourage people to take breaks. Even for those who want to take a break from calling/faxing, there's still lots of work to be done. Donations to PR. Voter registration. Local elections are coming up and voter registration deadlines are coming along with them.

    I do something every week, even though I never want to. It's a habit. If I let them wear me down that means I've let them wear down everyone who is like me.

    It is true that the news is overwhelming. I don't need to keep up with the news in order to act because there are groups that will do it for me and digest it into actions I can take. (We have links on our activism tab. 5calls is one.)

  2. I need breaks but I take them day by day. One day on, one day off. That gives me a breather but isn't so long that I miss out on anything horribly pressing or critical.

    I wish there was more obvious work that we could do to avert the harm, but it feels like an acid is etching away at our country, more than ever.


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