Electoral Remorse

After watching elections for 30+ years, and participating in elections for 16 years, I’ve learned that electoral remorse is one of the biggest barriers to political participation. When people feel like their politicians have failed them, they stop participating in the process. I read and hear a lot of people complaining that all politicians are crooks and liars, “both sides” are [evil/bad/dumb/criminal/etc.], and government fails the American people. But what I don’t hear are people saying, “I called my Congressmember to complain that he was doing a shitty job.” People have kind of given up on the political process in America (and our lousy voter turnout is evidence of that).

Since Super Tuesday, I’ve been engaged in several discussions recently on Facebook surrounding the election. Many are with people who believe that Trump was elected and therefore he is our leader and can do whatever he wants, while others rail against this asshole who is “Not [their] president,” others want to wait and see and hope everything blows over, and still others warn against Neo-Nazi’s, White Nationalists, and other problematic persons being packed into the White House and Cabinet who will put all the gays, Muslims, feminists, and immigrants into death camps. At the very core of it, most of the people I talk to have some level of “buyer’s remorse” with the election (or electoral remorse, I suppose), though the staunch conservatives I know have jumped on the Trump Train and can’t wait for January 20 so they can “Make America Great Again” (or take back their country, whatever their current slogan is).

Here’s my take: people were frustrated with their lack of progress over the past 8 years, they felt left behind by both parties, and rather than seeing Trump as someone who would burn it all down so they could start over, they saw him as someone coming in from the outside to bring needed change. Now that he’s been elected, I’m seeing more of the same: Cabinet picks are made from people who supported Trump either during the election or in his business ventures, billionaires and lobbyists and Washington insiders. All this after running on a campaign of “draining the swamp” and changing Washington politics. While I will grudgingly agree with some of his policies, I’m still confused at how his transition is at all draining the swamp or bringing in outsiders or, well, doing anything other than politics as usual. But then, I’m not easily excited by politicians. In my lifetime, I’ve watched promise after promise be broken, changed, or “renegotiated” to fit a re-election agenda, leading to voter frustration and resentment.

The main problem with Trump’s cabinet picks, as with most presidents’, is that they’re made of friends and allies, yes-men who will support everything the president wants to do. What the president needs is a team of advisors who will challenge him when he proposes a terrible idea, give honest feedback (including criticism where warranted), and help him manage expectations. Trump ran on a campaign of big promises (“I alone…”), and in the days since the election has either overtly or implicitly indicated that he won’t follow up on several of them, or at the very least will only enact a small portion of the promise (the border wall may just end up being a fence, and he may not actually start deporting people, and maybe yes or no to Obamacare, but the Republican-led Congress definitely wants to kill it).

It’s true that time will tell what Trump actually manages to accomplish during his term, but what we don’t have to do is “wait and see” what his plans are because he is already telling us what he wants to do with his cabinet picks. I mean, I assume he is, because his indecipherable twitter ranting, combined with various contradictory interviews, isn’t exactly helping clarify his positions on his campaign promises or hot-button issues.

I’m not in the Camp of Doom And Gloom about the future, but neither am I in the Camp of Oh Well Guess It’s Over or Camp Let’s Wait And See And Hope It Blows Over. Elections aren’t a one-and-done deal; if you’re waiting until the next election to complain to your elected officials about the job they’re doing (or aren’t doing), you’re waiting too long. Call your Congress person, the mayor, your State rep, city council member – if they walked back a promise or decided they only cared about re-election instead of actually working on difficult issues, call and talk to their office directly. And if Trump is falling down on the job (which I suspect he will, much to the detriment of our country), call HIS office and complain. If he isn’t at his Penn. Ave. address, call Trump Tower. He might be there.

Don’t let electoral remorse kill your participation – our elected officials are all grown-ups who can and should be held accountable if they start fucking things up.

Thanks and Giving

The Thanksgiving holiday was this past week, and for me it means multiple dinners with in-laws, my family, friends, and cooking. Lots and lots of cooking. This year, for health reasons, I had to experiment with vegan cooking. (Part of the joys of living with an auto-iummune disorder that affects your digestive system.) I still had a taste of the turkey (delicious, and a terrible idea), and even a tiny slice of cheesecake (tastiest bad idea ever), but I did manage to make some actual tasty vegan food. Most of it was cobbling together ingredients and substitutions based on recipes I’d already tried that were non-vegan. So I ended up with a tasty pumpkin pie (needs work to get it to solidify better), veggie stuffing, a vegan pot-pie (needs work so it won’t look like puke in a crust), vegan banana bread (A+ perfect would try again, even though I accidentally put too much baking soda in the mix), and a not-vegan cornbread casserole (too tired for egg replacer, so I just used egg). I also made my usual cranberry sauce, which is amazing. I mean, just look at all this delicious food!

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So let’s talk about Thanksgiving and what it means. I come from a mixed family – dad is from Egypt, mom is from Mississippi – and I have friends from all over the country and the world. To me, Thanksgiving wasn’t about celebrating the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock and making nice with the Indians (apparently they taught the Indians how to be civilized humans or something? Oh wait….) or a Civil War-era plea for thankfulness. For me Thanksgiving was actually a holiday about being thankful for what you have and celebrating being together as a family. Also roast waterfowl (because dad always liked duck more than turkey).

The American myth about Thanksgiving is particularly ironic this year, given the spectacle of Indian Tribes protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline right now. American / Indian relationships in this country have historically been troubled at best, violent at worst. It’s easy to forget things like the Trail of Tears and Wounded Knee as some remote event in history that doesn’t even matter anymore. I have my own personal connection to the legacy of Native American struggles – my great-grandmother was Cherokee, from the Shreveport, LA area, and the only things I remember about her were her long, dark, steel-grey hair that was always braided, and her mumblings from deep in her dementia, “I ain’t no Injun.” But I am also disconnected because I was raised in a household with a white mother and an Egyptian father, so my take on Thanksgiving is partly as that of a child of immigrants, and partly as a child of a Southern white family.

I had the privilege of approaching Thanksgiving detached from the legacy of Native America, even as I had my own direct connections to it. It makes for a more thoughtful time for me, as I consider my own place in this country. Even the “traditional” Thanksgiving meals we had at my house weren’t all that traditional – roast duck, Basmati rice cooked with the fried vermicelli, Moulokhya, pita or French bread, and salad. For my family, Thanksgiving was more like a fancy dinner, than a traditional turkey spread.  As an adult, the thankfulness of the holiday carries with it an undercurrent of pensiveness, and I wonder if I’m the only one who sees it this way.

I have friends who play along with the American mythic pageantry of Thanksgiving, and I have friends who reject is outright as “Take The Land Without Asking Day.” I’m probably somewhere in the middle – the holiday is a time for me to reflect on what I’m thankful for and how I can turn that into helping others, but also to reflect on what the history of the holiday means in the greater scheme of our American society. This year, I took that reflection a step further and donated to the Native American Rights Fund, and also to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as part of my holiday donations.

I’m still conflicted about the DAPL – on the one hand, our pipeline infrastructure, much like the rest of our infrastructure, is badly in need of replacement and modernization. On the other hand, this situation looks like another instance of companies trying to bulldoze their way through the communities of people they don’t care about, who they see as being lesser than their corporate interests. I work as an O&G auditor for a living, so DAPL would benefit my industry as a whole, but the appearance of the situation is so bad that I just don’t see how I can support it as-is.

So there it is. During a season where most of my friends are still reeling from a depressing election result, I came up with more things to be depressed about. You’re welcome, everyone.

Welcome Back

You may be wondering why I decided to restart my blog after a hiatus of nearly 6 years. I’m asking myself that as well, but some of you may have (correctly) guessed that the election had something to do with it. It did. The need to process my own thoughts and interact with people about ideas in a way that I don’t think is possible in the fleeting 140-character-limit format of Twitter, or the constantly-streaming format of Facebook. I’d been blogging since about 2000 before I gave it up because I was busy and it’s hard to be political when you’re a CPA and your entire job is all about being impartial and not offending clients by being too political. Or something like that. The epic buzzkill of trying to pass the CPA exam didn’t help either.

So here we are again, with a new blog, and a complete reset of my old domain. What happens next? Not with the blog – I mean with the country. The world. All that kind of stuff. Well, to put it bluntly, who the hell knows? But I want to document it and investigate it and understand it. I want to memorialize what I’m living through using more than just my private journal (speaking of which, y’all tried Morning Pages? It’s amazing.), or tracking my daily life and goals in a bullet journal (also totally recommend that). Journaling is fine, but it doesn’t talk back or help you work through to a better idea. So it’s back to blogging and politics and riling up both sides of the aisle.

What else can we do about the election results? Get involved. I don’t mean sharing memes on Facebook or tweeting at your Congressmember. Even sending a letter isn’t all that effective. What does work is calling your elected officials. Telling them directly what’s going on and what’s impacting you and what you want them to do about it. Democracy by representation in a republic like ours ONLY works if we hold our elected officials responsible. Show up at your local city council sessions – find out when they are and sit through them. All of them. Ask questions. Bring your neighbors, your kids, your friends. Did your council member run on a platform of building more parks? Ask them where the damn parks are. Hold them accountable for what they promised, and work through the issues with them.

When elections come around, vote. Campaign for your candidate. Knock on doors, make phone calls, hang banners, volunteer. That’s how we get our voices heard.