Chronicle Politics

I Need To Start Preparing

I’ve managed to make it a full week of writing something long form everyday. And this off the cuff stuff is becoming routine but also I need to start preparing topics and having a thesis or two. Because I’m just winging it. With a violent insurrection in the capital smack dab in the middle no less. As I doomscroll Twitter this Friday night I’m barely able to pull myself away from “The Purge” to think about a topic for a few sustained minutes. How could I ever consider “thought leadering” up some content in the middle of all this!

I feel like I should be doing better. Being more productive about this creative exercise. With as much effort as I’m putting in to parenting my inner child and taking responsibility for my emotions you’d think I’d be coping with the insanity of the week better. And writing better essays. Because when you take responsibility for your own actions you can survive anything right? Well maybe for a couple minutes at a time. And then you add them up and it becomes hours and days and I think I’m just reciting AA program jargon at this point. One day at a time don’t “should” on yourself and such.

Truth is I am struggling mightily. While doing the laundry I tripped and smashed my foot into a cabinet so hard I split my big toe’s nail. I spent a good 15 minutes on the floor crying over the pain and unfairness. Like the 5 year old that lives inside me. Because I just feel that fragile and distracted. To do lists are piling up. Obligations aren’t being met. And here I am crying over an ouchie. But then if you told me that you were doing just great and has never more been more officer I honestly might not believe you.

Today’s consumption was all over the place.

Food: Picked up the raw milk from the diary cooperative Light Root Farm. Then stopped to get empanadas for lunch on the way back. I also got ahead of things by securing and preparing for my spot in a biodynamic CSA farm share for spring. Fun fact about this farm? It’s my first YIMBY effort! In 5th grade I testified before Boulder City Council asking to get permits to farm the land my school had purchased. They said no. I was crushed. Twenty five years later the farm exists (no clue how the permits worked out) and now this spring I’ll finally get to eat the fruits of my labor. You do reap what you sow. It just might take a few decades.

Media: Nothing has made a serious impression on me today. I put on NPR with breakfast. I read the various New York Times round ups. I got annoyed at the latest Olivia Nuzzi talks to anonymous political toady piece. Mostly I read up on various cultures for cheese and prepared to make ricotta and yogurt tomorrow.

Chronicle Politics

Shock and Horror

I’ve spent most of the day watching cable news and doomscrolling. I tweeted a lot. I cried. I watched my heart rate hover above 120 as I sat on the couch. Alternating between numb shock and furious anger.

I’m quite honestly a mess and I have no idea how I’ll say anything of substance given the trauma of the day. And I knew it was coming, not that that helped soften the blow.

To paraphrase Republican Liz Cheney, a violent mob assaulted the American capital as Congress did their constitutional duty. The President formed the mob, he incited the mob and he lit the flame.

I’ve been concerned that we would have violence in the streets around the election outcome for sometime. I have done my damndest to disavow Trump from the start, while holding fast to my libertarian, small government principles. Incitement has been a real concern since before Trump was even the nominee, but even with the warnings of people from across the spectrum of ideologies, it is still genuinely surreal to see it come to pass. Because deep down I really believed it can’t happen here, in America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. A great and free democracy that the world has looked to for inspiration for centuries.

Sure I was early in stating it was a possibility that Trump would bring our institutions to our knees. If I were writing this with citations I’d break out the time stamps. But I’m writing this in my bed, under the covers, and with a box of tissues next to me. Knowing and living it are very different experience.

We had a mob of raving mad insurrectionists storm a constitutionally mandated certification process. Even if you think irregularities happened (which I’ve seen no evidence of and remain convinced is largely a conspiracy theory and not the fun kind from Art Bell at 2am), taking the Capitol isn’t the path.

We have a legal system. We have representatives. We do not have any need to engage in violence. Americans have fought and died so we could have free fair elections without fear of violence. Seeing a mob of terrorists stop our election process was chilling. Literally. I’m fucking freezing as I tremble from dismay.

Obviously none of this is incisive political commentary. It’s barely coherent. It’s the emotional rambling of a woman who was born into a stable functioning democracy who believed it would be there for her entire life. Our system of government was a given for me. I believed in the American dream.

I’ve slowly watched that dream unravel for a pack of power obsessed grifters who only wish to self enrich.

I’ve watched as people equivocated and waffled over the dangers to our institutions.

I’ve listened to arguments on how it’s all worth it for the Supreme Court seats or the tax cuts.

And now all we’ve done is debase ourselves. It has come to this horrible moment. Where democracy was overrun in the heart of America.

I’m watching Mitch McConnel reconvene the Senate now. His speech is actually pretty good. I feel somewhat soothed. Except that he’s enabled the path that has led us here. He’s just as responsible as any. But I am comforted that there was a line.

But I don’t know at what cost. What cracks in the foundations may widen in future shocks. I’m too sad. Too angry. Perhaps even too afraid to calculate out future horrible possibilities. I’m sure many of you are feeling the same mix of emotions. To say that today was traumatic is an understatement. .

Take care of yourselves. Be with your loved ones. Be resilient. But remember it’s ok to be hurt.


On Being Extremely Online

Many folks find social media to be overwhelming. It’s a constant barrage of sensory inputs. It’s not necessarily the most pleasant unless, like me, you live for large information loads. It provides me an emotional comfort get data points. One of the few things I could do when sick was scroll Twitter and read news (longer form not so much) so I have become as they say “extremely online”

I follow shifts in opinion like a rancher can sense a change in the winds. Being extremely online skews your politics in some ways. I can recite minutia in history and policy. Which makes it harder to form firm opinions. It’s all simply too nuanced to be partisan. Then I speak to family members who are dead sure of their position who can’t answer a basic question about how they decided to hold the opinion. It’s not so much that they are low information voters so much as I’m a saturated voter. If a pollster tried to talk to me they couldn’t place me. Which is how I ended up being the token white conservative that voted for Clinton that Frank Luntz brought to Oprah. So being a saturated voter does have its perks.

This saturation effect isn’t just true for politics. I swim in economic data. I follow petty feuds and undercurrents in venture capital. I have entire magazine mastheads committed to memory. I know what stories writers wrote a decade ago. I probably know CV of some editors better they they know themselves.

This also makes it relatively easy for me to move between different types of communities. Code switching isn’t just for race. Online it can be the difference between getting ratio’d or being promoted. And thanks to the constant scrolling and consumption I can talk just as easily to size proud chronic disease communities as I can the swol bros who insist being jacked is a moral authority. Which I find to be genuinely additive to my life. Diversity of opinion makes you smarter. It makes you kinder.

And holy shit does being in the information flow of diverse communities give you an edge. My favorite thing to do on Twitter is to ask someone to explain a controversy or event and nine times out of ten I get a nuanced thoughtful answer…from the source. Just this week I was feeling overwhelmed trying to parse the Bret Weinstein controversy at Evergreen college. It’s one of the original culture war battles on campus but I’ve never understood it. Media was intense and wedded to their priors. I couldn’t make heads or trails of it. So I asked. And within hours Bret himself took the time to point me towards sources so I could become informed. I still don’t know exactly how I feel about it but I do know if you seek in good faith the internet will provide. If you can find a way to intake more media and don’t let it overwhelm you being extremely online will make your life significantly better. Or it will melt your brain. No guarantees.

Media: In which the venerable conservative George Will loses his shit on the venal craven fuck nuts that are senators Hawley and Cruz. I also reread the interview I mentioned above with Oprah and I have to say I was spot on in my predictions.

Julie Fredrickson being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in 2016 about the election of Trump.

Food: I was out of pour over coffee so I acquired a latte from Spruce Confections. Ok I’ll also admit I got a ham and cheese croissant too. We then made a trip to Costco and acquired quite a bit of meat and vegetables so I don’t repeat that nonsense too often.


Time Rich But Energy Poor

I’ve got nothing but time. It’s been two years since I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that took my ability to walk and work. Thankfully only for a time. I’m on other side mostly which has afforded me a chance at introspection on the experience of living with all the time in the world but none of the energy to live it. When you are busy you have fantasies about time. The freedom it will afford you. What you will do with it. Canceling a plan is a delicious pleasure. You crave free time. Which is a misnomer really. Nothing about time is ever free. It’s the most expensive commodity we have. And you can’t really buy more.

So it’s an an odd sensation going from being busy to have total control over your time. It’s being wealthy in the truest sense. I’m a time billionaire. I have most of my life ahead of me and no real claims on my time. But when I was working on recovery I found that despite having no schedule or obligation I couldn’t make any use of my time. I was like the bibliophile Henry Bemis in Twilight Zone who is stranded in a library after a nuclear apocalypse but breaks his glasses before he can even crack a book. He had all the time in the world but no way to spend it. It’s a heartbreaking realization.

For the first time in my life I answered to no one. I spent my day in bed. But not because I wanted to. Because I couldn’t get myself out of bed. People would ask me well how do you spend your time? “If I were you I’d binge watch television or catch up on all the great works of literature.” I’d try to be polite about it but I was too tired to hold my head up on a pillow and follow a plot. My mind was too foggy and slow to take in insights. I lay in bed in a perpetual twilight. Barely cogent. Like Henry Bemis just as I thought I would have all the time in the world human frailty intervened. Without his glasses he couldn’t read. Without my health I couldn’t think. And like Henry my greatest pleasure was ripped away.

Unlike Henry Bemis I got better. We will never know if he found another pair of reading glasses in his bombed out world. I like to think he did. Maybe he wandered stumbling for miles and found an optometrist store with just the right prescription.

A new section I’ll add to each day with some media and consumables I found interesting.

Cosmetics: I’ve recently become diligent about applying vitamin C as a skin serum and my face has never looked better. I use this Superdose from Beauty Pie.

Media: New York Magazine is laundering the ZeroHedge conspiracy that the virus is escaped from a lab. So that’s fun to see come full circle to media legitimacy. Zero Hedge walked so NY Mag could run?

Food: I ate pulled pork from West End Tavern in Boulder.

Clothing: For my own amusement I wore a pair of pink sweatpants while taking my daily hike.


The Sickness Unto Wokeness

Everyone has their own cross to bear. You never know what suffering someone is carrying inside. Platitudes designed to increase empathy towards the other are a common linguistic trope. Humans need reminding of our essential condition to keep us from holding others to higher standards than we hold for ourselves.

I think about empathy a lot and the way we often struggle to extend it towards others, as I live with a chronic disease. When pain is a constant companion it’s easy to demand that others see our full humanity. Even when at the bottom of our own well of suffering, we struggle to extend the same kindness. If anything it is because we often live without the light of an easy existence we are willing to do more to accommodate another human soul. Because the thing about regular reminders of human frailty? It works. Slowly those with challenges do become more attuned to the struggles of their fellow man. Their heart softens when reminded that others suffer as they do.

Because the true blessing of disease in all its forms is the persistent reminder it provides to cut your fellow man some fucking slack. Someone blocks you online? They must be fighting their own hardest battle. A stranger is an asshole to you for no reason? You don’t know what is going on in their heart. Those of us that live with chronic diseases and disability have a special superpower that short circuits the tendency towards cynicism. Having uncharitable thoughts towards a friend who is chronically late or unreliable is almost impossible when you too fight for the normalcy of consistency and timeliness, as a disease flare can occur at random. We aren’t saints but we know human frailty is no sin.

I’ve long thought that anyone with significant disadvantages in life, like a chronic disease, is more likely to be sympathetic to a gentler, kinder set of societal conditions. We aren’t all leftist or committed to equity work. Hell I’m a libertarian. But the chronic disease community has more than its fair share of people who believe in social safety nets and the role of government in protecting its citizens. And the tendency to police for ableism can be sharp. Screeds toward self reliance or even off hand jokes about the morality of sickness just don’t land for chronic disease patients. And why wouldn’t it? Asking for the golden rule seems reasonable. It’s a bare minimum.

All this is to say I’m more likely to empathize with the social justice warrior set than those who are convinced it will be the downfall of civilization. Is it irritating to always be reminded of the multitudes of the human conditions and the identities that are built from suffering? Sure. Do people abuse the hierarchy of perceived victimhood for personal gain? That is as American as apple pie. But we are engaged in a constant existential battle to get ourselves out from the bottom of the hierarchy heap. The churning inhumanity of systems beyond our control makes us more attuned to hypocrisy. It makes us less rigid about opportunity, access and outcomes. We can see someone suffering and realize “there but for the Grace of God go I.” I’ll not defend the byproducts of a polarized society. I’ll will defend extending an extra beat of human kindness in your journey.

So the next time you find yourself tempted to be snide about an activist and the language they use remember me before you let less complaints about the softness or stupidity of woke society. Because what most of us are asking for is a reasonable accommodation of our humanity. You know me to be a good faith person. I’m asking that you approach me with the empathy and kindness that comes from being genuinely caring about the plight of someone you know. That’s what being woke is; empathy. And if someone you respect asks for it you grant it.


The First Hurdle

Tossing one offs is much easier for me. Editing is a misery. I constantly second guess my wording and narrative when I am building on a thesis. But letting lose a good pun of stream of consciousness rebuilds my willpower. I find it easy and restorative. I suspect pith and story telling are the equivalent of introversion vs extroversion. You can develop the skills for either but you’ve got an innate preference for one or the other. In my case I crush a cocktail party and can write terrific essays but I’d prefer to be in the company of a few close friends and keep my writing away from the red pen.

I’m unclear if this is a function of insecurity. I never worry about holding my own in a conversation even with the most qualified and demonstrably brilliant. Sometimes to my detriment as I’ll make a ridiculous joke that undermines someone’s authority or credentials but once it’s out the door I don’t dwell on it. I move on and find I’m generally forgiven. But if I’m given the chance to refine and revise I’ll dwell on it endlessly. I’m constantly finding poor phrasing and agonizing that I could have found a clearer way to make my point.

This is all a long winded way of saying that on my second day of writing long form content in 2021 I’m already struggling. I’ve got dozens of topics I’d like to delve into but I spent the entire day being so worked up about making a coherent point that I ended up not writing anything. But I did write a half dozen good tweets. Let’s hope by exercising the muscle of putting this into long form that tomorrow I’ll actually make a decent point.