left wing

In 1999, I voted for the Green Party in the Governor’s race. I was young and idealistic. I voted for a candidate who really fit with my values. After Jesse Ventura was elected Governor, a lot of people told me it was because of people like me not sticking with the Democrats. Back then —whether the corporate world had already purchased our government or not, I don’t know (I was young and idealistic, remember)— I believed everyone’s vote made a difference, so I believed my vote had ultimately been a bad decision.
Here we are again, but the stakes are much higher. The idea of voting for a candidate who truly represents my values is terrifying. The consequences could be deadly, without any exaggeration (a President Trump would lead to many deaths around the world, I have no doubt).
At this point, I have no allegiance to any party or any candidate. People who know me are surprised to find I’m not an avid supporter of Bernie Sanders. It’s not that I think he’s not an amazing politician; I just don’t think he’s radical enough to change our broken system. I’ve given no energy in the time of primaries as the Democrats have selected their candidate. If I’m going to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” I’m simply going to vote Not Trump.
As I stay in my place of indecision with my mind as open as it can be, I do wonder if perhaps the time is right for real change? What if everyone who loves Bernie Sanders for all of his progressive and practical values really looked at Jill Stein as a candidate? What if the major media outlets all included Jill Stein in their reporting? What if…?
A lot of people hate Hillary Clinton. I don’t. I think she’s about the same as President Obama. Both are owned by Wall Street but both care deeply about trying to do the right thing with the cards they feel they were dealt.
What if everyone who recognizes Donald Trump for what he is — a very, very dangerous man — took some time to look at Jill Stein’s plan? What if there was an actual revolution in our political process? What if we tell the corporations we’re sick of them making all of our decisions, that we want to create a government by the people, of the people, and for the people in ways it never has been before?

I don’t usually focus on the fact that race is a social construct, because I think it can detract from the reality of our institutionalized racism. That said, I think if we white people read things like this and talk about the ideas, we could start some important internal and personal changes that might add to a foundation we need to help make structural changes in our institutions.
If you look at the #blackoutday tag on twitter it becomes really clear how race is a social construct. There’s no real way to “look black.” From the article:

Eliminating the binary definition of whiteness — the toggle between nothingness and awfulness — is essential for a new racial vision that ethical people can share across the color line. Just as race has been reinvented over the centuries, let’s repurpose the term “abolitionist” as more than just a hashtag. The “abolition” of white privilege can be an additional component of identity (not a replacement for it), one that embeds social justice in its meaning. Even more, it unifies people of many races.

Reading bits and pieces of the liberal reaction to the conservative story of the “Obamaphone,” I am once again disappointed in my fellow progressives. The radical right’s communication machine was dragging us and now walks peacefully with Americans as we destroy our constitutional freedoms. They keep getting better at it and we keep helping them.
The radical right (or conservatives, the Republican Party, the Tea Party) understand how our minds work. People understand everything through metaphors. We feel our reality. They use majestic broad strokes, realizing it’s the whole painting that matters. We will feel what they want us to feel (fear, in particular) when we are exposed to powerful metaphors that reach all of our senses. It’s a story of a Black woman getting a phone from a Black man. It’s the Black man giving our money to greedy (lazy), ignorant Black people. We feel it without any facts.
Then, there is the typical weak and disorganized progressive (or liberal, Democratic Party) response. First, it’s not much. Second, it’s peck-peck-pecking away at facts-facts-facts. No broader picture with metaphors we can feel and understand. We’re so distracted by the blatant inaccuracies/lies put out by the radical right’s communication machine, we miss the whole point. And, we have no communications machine. We have no way to keep our messages consistent — using the same metaphors across the liberal/progressive media to make clear how much we value freedom, caring, and responsibility. We peck-peck-peck. No shared concept of the larger picture we ought to be painting.
Until they click on the image to see the larger picture, rare is the person who would have a clue about the complete painting created with the help of this tiny pointillistic image.

We need our own metaphors. We need clear and direct communications among all our factions to determine our own larger pictures. Consistency. No individual responses, peck-peck-pecking at tiny images that don’t even come close to communicating—through feelings—our important message of valuing freedom, caring, and responsibility.

When I started crying, it wasn’t to try and get out of the ticket. When I couldn’t keep the sobbing inside, I tried to quiet myself with tissues and breathing before the cop got back to my window.
“I’m gonna let you go with a warning,” he said. I think he said something about $150 and points (expired registration since March, not inspected). I’m not sure what else, though, because I didn’t hear anything after “warning;” my tears and laughter of relief were too loud. “I’m sure you can’t afford it,” he said. “No, I can’t,” I said, not trying to hide my crying anymore, “Thank you.”
That was Saturday. Today is Monday.
Today, I canceled plans with a friend who is here from out of state. This is our only afternoon to meet up and I haven’t yet explained why I decided I can’t go.
Being “newly poor” is teaching me more than I ever imagined. As a politically and socially progressive person, I’ve always understood poverty to be a challenging way of life. I’ve never believed that breaking free of the cycle of poverty is just a case of a great big tug on the ol’ bootstraps. I understood, intellectually, that trying to make ends meet with the regular expenses of living—let alone health care or transportation or childcare costs—would be a serious strain on anyone’s mental health and that it must feel hopeless at times.
Writing about being actually and truly poor leads me to want to be clear: my former husband is generous and supportive. He provides more than the minimum required to care for his children, and, because he believes my financial stability impacts the lives of our daughters, he supports me as well. It’s important to mention this because despite his generosity, I am living without enough money.
The other issue I feel compelled to mention at any time that I discuss living in “poverty” is that it’s nearly impossible to be open about how bad it is without feeling like I am, a) asking for someone to bail me out, or, b) making irresponsible and ridiculous choices that are putting me in this awful situation. Both “a” and “b” are not true.
Growing up, I thought we didn’t have much. My parents never showed what our financial status was in the same ways my peers’ families did. We didn’t have a housekeeper or housecleaners that kept things clean. We always had a many-years-old car (and, just one). My mother took us to (the horror!) second hand clothing stores. My friends had the hottest new clothes (Izod then Benetton, for example, at the time it started mattering to me), more than one car, and people came in to clean their homes.
Looking into the fridge now I always think, “What will our protein be for the next few days?” Protein and fresh vegetables are my top priorities for food. We’ve been without milk for several days because I haven’t had money for gas and I knew we could make do without milk for a little while so I didn’t want to “waste” the gas on a trip to the market.
On Friday, a friend and I were going to get together. I said Starbucks was my only option because I had money left on my Starbucks card. I said she’d have to pick me up (the car was on “E” and I had no cash at all and literally nothing available in the bank). She wasn’t into getting coffee, so she offered to pay my way. This is what it comes down to when finances are so tight: tell the truth (not enough money to go out) and friends offer to pay.
I get a sick feeling deep in my gut. I want to vomit or cry or lie and pretend I can do whatever I want. The option of telling the truth always leads to offers of paying my way. That isn’t what I want. That is what I don’t want. Lying, however, is worse.
Sometimes, I’ll take my friend up on the offer. I let my friend pay for our appetizers and drinks on Friday and I found loose singles in my desk and bedside table and purse so I chipped in $4 for the tip. I should have saved that $4 for gas.
How can I (a competent, intelligent, well-educated, talented woman) be in such a desperate situation? This is the question I assume people will ask, or, worse, I assume they will think it.
In an effort to help my friends who have no experience living in real poverty—several pages of thoughts about defining “real poverty” must be omitted here to stay focused—understand, let me explain.
There’s rent, childcare, phone, an Internet connection, food (I receive $380 in foodstamps each month which, of course, doesn’t cover all the food I need for me and my two daughters), car insurance, gas, some clothes (my daughter who is nine hasn’t grown a lot, thankfully), library fees (an example of where I hear voices protesting, “don’t be late and you won’t have the fee!”), postage, birthday gifts, electricity, coffee (a luxury I choose to continue to allow myself), sunblock, city-issued trash bags, prescription medications, bug spray, kitty litter, cat food, diapers, dishwasher and laundry soap, shampoo, tampons, highway tolls, business expenses (PO Box, paper, printer ink, web space), oil for the car, coolant for the car, washer fluid for the car, vacuum cleaner belts, Tylenol, parking, car inspection, car registration. This list is not exhaustive.
In addition to support from my former husband, I receive the foodstamps money, and I own my own business. I have only two active clients and sporadicly other clients with small jobs who, when I am busy and they pay quickly, make it possible for me to just make it each month.
This month, two checks I was expecting from my work didn’t arrive as quickly as I expected. There were a variety of other reasons for the temporary crisis, but, when the rent came due on the first, I found myself with around $700 in the bank (rent is $950). Thankfully, my landlord doesn’t deposit my check immediately (as of this writing, he still hasn’t) and I was able to deposit a check that came in so the rent check will clear. I have $957.12 in my personal bank account. Remember, rent is $950.
I have $57 left on my foodstamps card, so I’ll get milk and a few other items. I’ll be at my parents’ summer place where the garden is (finally!) exploding into usable food, so we’ll be able to eat well this week. My new foodstamps money comes in on the 10th.
I borrowed $50 from my former husband to get gas (so I can get up to be with my daughters at my parents’ summer place and get us back home again) and so I can get kitty litter. I was going to put off the kitty litter again, but on this last scooping it became clear we’ll all be happier if I just get some.
Last week was my birthday. I returned art supplies (that I probably shouldn’t’ve bought in the first place) so I could go out for brunch with my daughters. I got a gift card for my birthday so I bought back the supplies, but, it didn’t cover everything so I effectively paid for brunch plus some art supplies. Brunch and art supplies are two things that I can’t afford but I chose to spend money on anyway. I sometimes make mistakes like this. It’s very, very difficult to get into the proper mindset where I am fully connected with the reality that I simply can not afford these things.
Right now, there are two checks from grantwinners.net in my business account that should clear soon. Foodstamps comes in on the 10th. I was just told someone wants to buy one of my paintings. My daughters have clothing, childcare, good and healthy food, and are living happy and contented lives. I’m using the limits of not having acces to “just the right materials” as an artistic challenge again, where I’m painting based on what I have rather than on what I’d like to paint.
If my car doesn’t break down, if my temporary crown (the one that broke last week) holds a while longer (the tooth is shattered so the crown must stay put), if we have no unexpected emergencies, and if I get even more realistic about what I can’t do socially (gas and parking alone are expenses I need to cut back on) and artistically, we will be okay.
All of this was written because I needed to cancel plans to meet up with my old friend and I couldn’t find the words to explain why. I knew if I said “I can’t afford it” she would have said they’d pay. I knew we could’ve done something that “costed nothing” but parking costs and gas costs and it’s silly to think that we wouldn’t find ourselves wanting to stop “just for a cup of coffee” or something like that. I didn’t want anyone to pay my way. I try really hard to let people do that, but it’s one of the most horrible feelings in the world to me. It’s almost worse than the shame I feel when I realize I might not have money for food.
After the cop let me go, I drove just a bit until I came to a rest stop. I couldn’t keep driving because I was crying too hard. Most of the time, I know everything is going to be okay. Most of the time, I know that things are just as they are. I do my billable work. I find time for myself (painting and friends). I use most of my energy being with and caring for my daughters. I save wherever I can. I’ve learned pretty well the answer to the question, “Do I really need this?” is almost always “no.” I can’t let the knowledge of how close to the edge of financial devastation we are destroy my life today. I can’t pretend I can afford things, but I also need to live my life right now rather than in a frenzy of fear.
Writing about this, knowing I am about to hit “publish” and share the link with Facebook and friends has a loud chorus of voices demanding I explain how it could be so bad. Surely I’m doing something wrong, making bad choices. Surely there’s something I’m not doing that would make my situation more secure. Writing this and sharing it is my way of saying, “This is how it is. I won’t defend every bit of it against attacks. I’m not perfect, but I’m kicking a lot of ass and it’s pretty humiliating at times. I need to recognize that I am okay, my children are okay, and we are doing the best we can with the very little we have.” Thank all things holy, we have more than so many people when it comes to the intangibles. We have love and peace and joy in our lives and those things don’t cost us a single penny.
(We caught the moment when a caterpillar shed its skin for the last time, becoming a chrysalis:)

(Edited to add: this article does a more clear and thorough job than I’ve done describing these issues.)
Liberals/progressives/moderates are all in a tizzy because the Republican candidates are comically awful in so may respects. It’s infuriating to see the feeding frenzy as photos of a wildly laughing Obama or the shamed Newt gifs fly all around cyberspace. It’s infuriating because while all the people who think Sarah Palin was an idiot, a fluke, a media spectacle and not much more, are going to be laughing and pointing over here —> the radical right will take their candidate of choice (whether it’s Gingrich or anyone else they select) right into the Oval Office.
The radical right loves a redemption story. Entire industries are built on it. The machinery in place that speaks to most Americans (most Americans, not just a few lunatic Tea Party-esque misspelling freaks), the one that has co-opted the language of freedom, rights, independence, and patriotism, just needs the perfect candidate and they will win. We liberals (progressives) will be so stunned that this group could select such a screwed up candidate that we’ll miss the point.
The point is, they want someone who has screwed up a lot. They want someone who has made serious errors. They want someone who will feed into their values: people screw up and they learn their lessons through hard knocks and make things right and we must forgive them (if they are one of our own). (Especially if they are leaders in our hierarchy.)
It’s even worse than when the liberals/progressives who I have considered like-minded people until the last few years glommed on to calling the Tea Party the “tea baggers.” Talk about feeding the fire that the liberal elite are laughing at the rest of us.
We’ll all be laughing our heads off (well, I won’t be) because the candidates are farcical and we won’t take them seriously (Obama’s got it in the bag!). Or, we’ll be terrified about the prospect that they might win so we’ll focus on their weak qualities in an effort to appeal to voters’ logic and reason. We’ll write editorials and op-eds and talk on Sunday morning news shows about how this candidate is weak in x, y, z areas and how they aren’t holding positions in the best interest of their constituents instead of speaking about our progressive values and… we will lose.
I’m tempted to say it won’t make that much of a difference if they win because obviously Obama’s no radical progressive. But, it will make a difference. The radical right, the fundamentalist extremists, the “Left Behind”-led core leadership that counseled and guided George W. Bush. These are the people who will have the power. Last year some significant polls found that 41% of Americans believe Jesus will be returning (before 2050). This is not a small number of people who believe in this, it is not something to take lightly or laugh off as ludicrous.
It’s deeply disturbing to see all of the energy being poured into mocking the Republican candidates when so few people seem to understand how people make choices because of their values, not because of “their best interest.” Visit Focus on the Family’s website. Check out the related industries cited in Ehrenreich’s Bright Sided. Talk to someone who gets glassy-eyed when they discuss “The Gift” with you. Recognize that the machine that started with Reagan, the framing, the understanding that people vote with their values not in “their best interest.” We left/liberal/progressive and even the moderates (those “social liberal/fiscal conservatives” in particular) are still stuck in the Enlightenment view of the mind. We are stuck looking at facts and figures thinking that is what matters. What matters to voters is their values. The radical right fundamentalist extremists are the only ones who understand this (save a small handful of academics like Drew Westen and George Lakoff). They are going to win because of it.