The Lonely Way (or Why I’m not on your side)

Wednesday morning I was listening to the 1A’s discussion on the book The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics when one of its authors made a comment about Trump supporters that stood out to me:

People wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves.

I’ve thought a lot on this “something bigger” idea over the years. I’ve always found it interesting that people become so absorbed with groups they’re part of. Just look at fans of sports teams, or proud university alumni, or my fellow Marylanders who wear socks, shorts, and even bikinis emblazoned with the Maryland flag. I guess it’s natural for people to want to feel like they’re part of a group, but sometimes I think that ‘belonging’ takes on an outsized importance.

We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Who knows – maybe it’s some sort of tribal instinct in us.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about this. We’re a social species; it’s natural for us to want to come together. But there’s nothing inherently good about it, either. Just as this longing to be part of a group can lead us to the good of forming, say, service-focused organizations, so can it lead to the ill of cliques and exclusion and even active hatred toward those who aren’t like us.

Sometimes we need to say no to the groups available to us. (Think of the KKK in its heyday in the 1920’s.) Sometimes we’re better off alone. Better to be by yourself, upright and ethical, than to be surrounded by company that leads you astray.

This kind of talk, of course, is more applicable to political groups than it is to people who wear Maryland bikinis. And it’s in this context that I’ve done most of my thinking on the subject.

I have this rose-tinged memory of my grandparents’ dining room when I was eight or nine years old: The grown-ups were talking politics and I was tossing little snippets into their conversation that made them chuckle. It was a wonderful feeling: a mixture of security and confidence and pride – a sense of belonging.

My family was politically engaged; my grandfather was a farmer and a county councilman, and through farming and/or politics, he knew many of the players in our small state. My aunts and uncles participated in his campaigns and others’. And we were stalwart Republicans, which put us in the minority in very liberal Maryland. We were used to feeling maligned or ignored.

I think that the two combined – the engagement and the knowledge that we were in the minority – produced a strong attachment to the Republican Party in my family. At least it did for me. And the attachment felt good. It feels good to belong. It feels good to be proud of those you’re politically affiliated with. It feels good to be planted firmly on the “right side” of something.

Only now, I find myself almost completely stripped of that attachment.

It’s not that my political views have changed so much (though some have) – it’s that the Republican Party has become something I hardly recognize. Where once I saw a party that prized hard work, fairness, opportunity, fiscal responsibility, and a robust role for America on the world stage, I now see a muddle of protectionism, isolationism, exclusion, and conspiracy-mongering.

The Republican Party I grew up with preached hope; today’s version peddles fear.

After the 2016 presidential election, I saw plenty of Democrats answer this degradation of Republican ideals with the demand that people “join the Resistance!” Meaning, essentially, the Democratic party. Or at least a wing of it. I guess it seemed only natural to Democrats that those disenchanted with the Republican Party would want to join theirs. Nevermind any serious policy disagreements. Nevermind moral judgments that stand in opposition to one another. The calculation was too simple: If Team Trump (or Team Republican) is bad, then you’d better join Team Democrat.

But of course, there’s no rule stating that only one side at a time can be bad. And there’s plenty for conservative-minded me to dislike about the Democratic Party.

And so I find myself alone.

For a while, I hoped for a third way. I looked for those independent-minded Republicans who spoke out against Trump. I looked for a leader, a movement that I could get behind. Man, it would feel good to be part of something again.

But I don’t see such a thing emerging anytime soon. And so I’ll take the lonely way – the way that refuses to choose sides when the sides aren’t worth choosing.

To be clear, I’m not really talking about party affiliation here. (I’m still a registered Republican because I don’t want to give up my right to vote in primaries.) I’m talking about something more important than that: the multitude of small, everyday decisions we make about where we’ll put our loyalty.

We can choose, as so many do today, to put our loyalty behind our party and its politicians. (Think of all the Trump voters who are deciding on candidates based on how willing they are to pledge their support to the President.) We can choose to believe the truth of news outlets that support our way of thinking and the lies of those that don’t. We can stick up for our side come hell or high water.

Or, we can choose to put our loyalty behind our values. We can detach ourselves from the pull of party, freeing us to consider each candidate, each question, each development as it comes.

That’s the lonely way. And my choice of it — that’s why I’m not on your side.

TW - The Lonely Way

To listen to an audio recording of this post (complete with baby noises and microwave beeps), click here:

Footnotes

On Tuesday I declared that I was diving back into blogging. And in the days since, a funny thing has happened: I haven’t regretted it.

Normally I approach writing (and life, really) with a sense of angst – inadequacy mixed with embarrassment, even hopelessness. So normally the days following a declaration like Tuesday’s would be full of self-doubt; I’d be sure I was about to fall flat on my face.

This time I haven’t really thought much about it. I’ve been a mellow kind of excited, if that makes any sense. I’m so tired of feeling helpless/guilty/unworthy/amateurish. I’m ready to move forward.

Okay, so there were several points I cut out of my last post and more I’ve thought about since then, and I want to get them up here on the blog before I move too far forward. They’re like footnotes to Tuesday’s post, I guess.

So here we go:

(1) At this point I don’t have much of a plan. I’m going to try to capitalize on the fact that, unlike my first years of blogging, I currently do have small children who will nap. I’m going to try to get a couple of posts up per week, but if life happens – then life happens. I hope to not let any little stumbles or delays keep me from bouncing back.

(2) I’m going to focus almost exclusively on politics – or rather, on my struggles with it. I’ll write up my thoughts on the issues of the day, my concern for the direction in which our country is heading, and my worries about what it might be doing to our moral development. I’ll write on the “walls within” I discussed in Tuesday’s post.

(3) At least for now, I think I’m done with the cute kid stories and musings on motherhood. I see lots of other women doing that well already. What I don’t see are many relatable writers who want to tackle the turmoil our society has stepped into, but not yell about it. Chew, not yell: That’s the place I aim to be.

(4) I’ll still be posting the cute kid pics and stories on Instagram. You’re welcome to follow me there!

(5) I’m going to re-work my website a bit. Five years of that set-up was enough; if I’m shifting my goals, I should probably shift how I present them.

(6) I think I’d also like to experiment with recording each of my posts so folks can listen to them if they want. Nothing fancy, and nothing so ambitious as a podcast (yet), but I know that I love to listen to other people’s thoughts as I go about my chores; maybe somebody out there might like to do the same with mine. If you’d like to listen to my stuff rather than read it, just look for the audio file at the end of my posts.

(7) One big challenge with trying to get going again: Facebook. You might be aware that Facebook has recently changed its algorithm. Ostensibly, this was to better connect people with their family and friends, but what it’s really meant is that they’re showing you fewer unpaid posts in the hopes that the businesses and blogs you follow will pay to get their posts into your newsfeeds. For every hundred followers a page has, Facebook might show twenty of them its posts. But as I don’t make any money from blogging, I’m not about to pay to boost my posts on Facebook. So! If you think you’d like to actually read what I’m writing, I highly encourage you to subscribe to my posts right here on my blog. (Look over there to the right: “Follow These Walls via Email.”) You submit your email address, WordPress will ensure that every blog post is delivered to your inbox. Easy.

(8) Speaking of the email thing, apparently the Europeans have gone and passed a privacy law that applies to pretty much anybody on the internet who has a European subscriber. And that includes me. So allow me to tell you now (and I’ll find a more permanent place on the blog to put this) that if you sign up to receive my blog posts via email, then… you’ll receive my blog posts via email. You’re welcome to unsubscribe whenever you like. And if you use your email address to comment, then… you’ll have used your email address to comment. In both cases I’ll be able to see your email address. But I’ll only ever use it for the reason you provided it: either to send you my blog posts or possibly answer a comment. That’s it! Simple!

(9) And speaking of commenting: For a long time I’ve held up this lofty goal of “encouraging discourse,” as I put it in my tagline. It’s a worthy thing, trying to get people to discuss their differences and come to some higher level of understanding. I commend anyone who attempts it. But you know what? I’m tired. I’m busy with five little kids under the age of eight and I simply don’t have the time or the emotional bandwidth to be monitoring other people’s political discussions. I’d rather focus on writing. So if you want to comment here or on my Facebook posts, feel free. But I reserve the right to preserve my time (and sanity?) by stepping away.

Ever since the 2016 presidential election, I have felt unequal to the moment. (Both for reasons related to the election and unrelated to it.) I have had too little energy and too little emotional space to engage on the issues of the day. And so I’ve waited. I’ve waited until I’ve felt better, until issues have been resolved. I’ve waited until I can do this perfectly.

Now, I’m tired of waiting. And I’m recognizing that perfection shouldn’t even be on the table. So I’ll see you next week, friends.

 

These Walls - Footnotes

The Walls Within

This month this little blog turns five. When I started it I had a two-year-old and a one-year-old and a new-to-us house that I hadn’t even finished unpacking. I was (am) highly distractible and my kids hardly napped at all, so I mostly wrote at night after everyone else had gone to bed.

Lots of nights I fell asleep at my laptop. Some days I drove myself batty trying to fit in blogging during TV time or “quiet” play. But I plodded along at a decently steady rate for a while, writing about motherhood and our home life and whatever political issue was bugging me at the moment.

Then I had another baby. And another. And another. And my kids got older and busier and I was spread even more thin than I had been at first. Before I knew it, I’d let a couple of years go by, hardly writing anything at all.

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2013

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2014

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2015

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2016

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2017

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2018

When I was tossing around ideas for this blog back in the spring of 2013 I landed on the title “These Walls” because I was looking for something that could work for both of the topic areas I wanted to write on: my home life and my politics. I didn’t love the title, but I thought that with my tagline (“Sharing stories from within the walls of my home; encouraging discourse on the wider world outside them”) it expressed my general goal decently well.

There was another, more fluid, line of thinking behind the title too. I mention it somewhere in my About Me (don’t go looking it up; that section is in desperate need of updating) or in one of my first blog posts: I liked the idea of discussing the figurative walls that people put up between each other when it comes to politics.

But these days there’s another kind of wall that most occupies my attention (and no, it’s not Mr. Trump’s). These days, in this age of political upheaval, of shifting loyalties, of upside-down values, I’ve come to focus on the walls within.

The walls within me. The ones I’ve hidden behind, the ones I’ve found refuge in, the ones I’ve broached, the ones I struggle to abandon.

I fancy myself a fair person. I like to think that I take in a decent representation of information and viewpoints, weigh them, critique them, and come to my conclusions based on impartial reason. I rail against those who would treat social and political issues like players on their favorite professional sports team. You know: if he’s my guy I love him, if he’s yours I hate him.

But the truth is, I’ve been struggling with my allegiances and my prejudices, my values and fears for a long time. On some issues, I’ve changed my mind. On some, I’ve become more resolved. On some, I wince and cling to my home team – not convicted, but not ready to let go either.

Which brings me back to the blog.

I’ve been struggling mightily over the thing. Not a day goes by that I don’t have a “walls within” kind of idea for These Walls and long to bring it to fruition. Not a single day.

But also – not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself how limited my time is, or how poorly I’ve been feeling, or how ill-equipped I am, personality-wise, to be a reliable presence on the internet.

Yet for months now (ironically, the same period of time in which I’ve been sick*), I have felt an almost constant pressure to get back to writing. The messages have come from many quarters, and they’ve been relentless. Whether it’s been from my spiritual reading or podcast listening or prayer life or social-media observing (or now Jennifer Fulwiler’s new book), I feel like I’ve been barraged by the following messages:

  1. You have a job to do.
  2. It’s going to require hard work.
  3. Stop getting in your own way.
  4. You don’t have to be perfect to do good.

So I think I’d better stop fighting it.

Maybe this post was starting to read as a good bye, but it’s actually far from that. It is, I pray, a hearty hello. I expect things to look different around here, content-wise, but I’m excited to be back.

I think I’d better get out of my own way and get busy doing the work I feel like I’m supposed to do. Even if I don’t feel well. Even if I have little time. Even if I have lots of little people underfoot.

Tomorrow I’m going to flesh out my plans for the blog; check back here to see where I hope to take it.

These Walls - The Walls Within

*Those of you who follow Jennifer Fulwiler on Instagram – did you see her IG Stories on Resistance yesterday? I couldn’t help but recognize it in my own life. Did you recognize it in yours?

Also (I’m experimenting with this), if you’d rather listen to this post than read it, click here. (But realize that you’ll be getting a low-quality recording with baby noises in the background!)

Politicians Are People Too: Why we should welcome the #bipartisanroadtrip

Other than the BBC Dad story (which makes me laugh to the point of tears pretty much every time I watch it), my favorite story of the week is of the #bipartisanroadtrip – a two-day drive undertaken by Texas Congressmen Will Hurd (a Republican) and Beto O’Rourke (a Democrat). The two men, who don’t seem to have had much of a relationship before the trip, decided to team up to get to Washington in time for some votes after their flights were canceled due to our winter storm.

During the trip, the congressmen talked policy, fielded some calls, uploaded videos to Facebook (of course) – and generally just got to know one another. And… whaddya know? It turns out that they kind of like each other. These two politicians from opposite sides of the aisle found some common ground; they built up some good will.

Moreover, because Hurd and O’Rourke broadcast their trip on social media, they were able to bring other Americans along with them on their journey. Not just their literal journey, their tens of hours together in a car – their journey toward a friendly, productive working relationship.

Man, do we need these kinds of stories right now, or what?

I’m a dreamer and an idealist, so it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in this sort of thing. Indeed, during the election I nursed this fantasy of a Congressional exchange program, wherein Congressmen from opposing parties would be paired with colleagues whose districts are dramatically different from their own. I love the idea of an urban Congressman sitting down to a backyard barbecue on some ranch in Montana, a western Congressman attending a church service in inner-city Baltimore, a wealthy suburbanite Congressman visiting a VFW in the rust belt, etc. (Let’s call this idea #347 for me to fund and promote when I win the lottery.)

But I can be practical too, and I know that with the way politics works these days, any politician who tries to reach out to the other side risks being swatted down by his own. These are divided, partisan times. And politicians can be victims of that paradigm just as they are perpetrators of it.

(Read the rest at the Catholic Review.)

The Space Between - Politicians Are People Too

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Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

Seven Posts I Haven’t Yet Told You About (7 Quick Takes, Vol. 43)

Hello there!

Gosh, it’s been forever again, hasn’t it? Especially since I keep forgetting to cross-post my Catholic Review blog posts here. Argh. All that time writing and I don’t even share it with you. (Unless you follow me on Facebook. Then maybe you’ve seen my posts.)

When I started that blog I was pretty good about sticking a new post here every time I had one there. But then I started forgetting, and once I started forgetting, I felt like I had to catch up before I could post anything new. (Weirdo-OCD-perfectionist Julie.)

Anyway — this is me catching up!

Here are seven posts (one in two parts) I haven’t yet told you about. And because I’ve (kind of) hit the lucky number seven here, I’m linking up with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes. (By the way, if you haven’t yet read her latest 7QT post — don’t miss it! It’s This Ain’t the Lyceum GOLD.)

—1—

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“Our system is better designed to stop than to do, and for one who fears the direction of a new government, that should be a comfort.

(Conservatives saw the value in that uncooperative-cog concept in the last administration; liberals will undoubtedly see it this time.)

So as worrisome as political developments may seem, I retain my basic trust in that spread-out, clunky system. I may disagree with the people who make it up, I may see few prospects for positive developments, but I trust that if things become truly dangerous, some sticky cog will get in the way.

God bless those sticky cogs.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—2—

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“Lately I feel like a failure at pretty much everything I try to do: mothering, managing my household, blogging, being a good friend and an involved member of my extended family. (I know I’m not actually a failure, but it sure feels like it at times, especially as the holidays multiply our obligations.)

I feel like I’m a failure at being an attentive and engaged citizen. My post-election sense of being overwhelmed has not gone away. I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the competing news stories and the competing narratives of single news stories. I haven’t weighed in on anything. I haven’t gotten my little “let’s get people of different political stripes together to talk” project off the ground. (Status: information gathered, dates not yet set.)

I feel kind of like I have writer’s block, except it has to do with the thinking of the whole thing, not the writing. As I become more consumed with events at home (some of them pretty stressful), I pay less attention to news from the outside. And as I pay less attention to the news, I feel increasingly less capable of any sort of mental and emotional wrangling with the world.

But I’ve been trying, when I think of it, to rely on a strategy from an earlier point in my life: putting aside my worries about what I’m not achieving and instead focusing on what I am doing in a particular moment. Usually (but not always), that “doing” is pretty constructive, even if it seems insignificant in the scheme of things.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—3—

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“Why must we choose a side and hold onto it so tightly?

During the campaign, of course, the “side” thing was taken to a frenzied, fevered pitch. Third-party voters like myself were told in one breath that we were essentially voting for Clinton and in the next that we were essentially voting for Trump. (The supposed beneficiaries of our votes aligning perfectly with our critics’ bogeymen.) Our votes – our actual votes – weren’t good enough. We either had to hate Trump enough to vote for Clinton or hate Clinton enough to vote for Trump. People seemed downright blinded by the binary.

But that was then, back when we were facing a black-and-white choice on a ballot. What about now?

No doubt, many will choose to continue carrying on this way. Some will think we owe allegiance to one side or the other. Some will think that any kindness or concession to the opposing side is a blow to their own. Some will think that their own side’s transgressions must be overlooked in the interest of some Important Ultimate Goal.

But I think this attachment to the binary is the absolute worst course we could take as Americans, as lovers of democracy and liberty and justice. No one wins in the downward spiral of suspicious, spiteful, partisan politics.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—4—

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“For all the focus on national-level politics, many (most?) of the programs and policy decisions that impact our everyday lives are formulated much closer to home than Washington, DC.

Schools, roads, assistance programs, the environment, hospitals and clinics, business incentives and regulations – the State of Maryland (and your state too, if you live elsewhere) has a hand in it all. And in turn, organizations that you and I care about – our faith communities, our schools, labor or business or other advocacy organizations – have a hand in the development of the laws, policies and regulations of the state . . .

Ninety days from now, the Senate will still be debating at least some of Trump’s appointments. We’ll still, I expect, be witnessing a tense back-and-forth between the president and the media. We’ll probably feel stuck on a whole range of issues and relationships.

But in that time, we’ll also have seen much movement at the state level. Maryland will have passed a budget and hundreds of other bills that will impact our lives for years to come. Let’s pay attention, because lot can happen in 90 days.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—5—

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“Today as we inaugurate a new American president, I sit at home nervous, waiting, wondering what will come of this all. I haven’t decided whether I’ll watch. I’m more likely to listen, the radio humming in the background as I busy myself with lunch and laundry and little ones.

But I’m sure to be praying.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—6—

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“It’s natural that we should vary in our attachment to various issues, so I don’t mean to tell one set of pro-lifers or another that they’re wrong in focusing their efforts on x,y,z. You do you: pray at an abortion clinic, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to Catholic Charities / Catholic Relief Services / National Right to Life. Do your part, whatever it is, to advance the dignity of human life.

But I do think that all pro-lifers should do a better job of talking about it all. Liberal pro-lifers should speak against abortion just as they speak against poverty and discrimination. Conservative pro-lifers should speak for the immigrant and the refugee just as they speak for the babies. Because this divide has become too divisive. There is too much resentment. There is too much misunderstanding. There is too much distrust. There is too much space for evil to sneak its way in.

And there are too many women who hear that pro-lifers “only care about babies until they’re born” and believe it.

The honest truth is, each side of this divide is incomplete without the other. If human life is to be respected, it’s to be respected at all stages. If human life is to be respected, it is to be respected in all forms. If we Catholic pro-lifers truly believe that each human being is created in the image and likeness of God, then we’d better talk like we do. We’d better dwell on that idea, chew on it, practice it by saying it aloud.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—7—

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“I’m trying to decide when to panic.

Standing where I am (somewhere in the middle, I suppose) I turn to face my friends on the left and panic is pretty much all I see. Well, panic and its more sober, productive, currently-popular relation: resistance. I see people who are more than just dismayed at the direction in which our government is heading; they fear that the system upon which we rely – a system of justice and due process and free speech and equal opportunity – is coming undone. They fear that we could be nearing the end of the American experiment.

Turning to face my friends on the right, I mostly see amusement or bemusement or even satisfaction at the Left’s distress. They think the panic is overblown. If they supported Trump’s “bull in a china shop” campaign persona, they’re thrilled to see it carried over to his presidency. If they weren’t crazy about that persona then, well, they’re mostly just relieved to see Trump heading in the right direction. Clumsy steps in the right direction are better than agile steps in the wrong one, they seem to say.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

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“I used to think of myself as the stubborn, brave, independent type – the type who spoke the truth and stuck up for the oppressed no matter the consequences. After all, I was a kid who stood up to bullies. I regularly stick up for myself. I used to make my living advocating for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger. I write on contentious issues – issues that wrangle with the concept of justice – all the time.

But the older, or the more self-aware, or the more flawed I become, the more I see how gutless I can be.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

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Thanks for indulging my little catch-up! I hope you’ll check out the posts and I hope to have more for you (both here and there) soon. Have a great week!

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Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

Don’t Turn Away: Attempt the Politics You Really Want

(Everyday Bravery, Day 12)

I understand why people want to be done with this thing.

I understand why I’m seeing person after person complain on-line and in-person that they wish people would just stop talking about it. They want their Facebook newsfeeds to return to kids and puppy dogs. They want politics to stop encroaching on their neighborly conversations.

I get it.

But honestly, I don’t think we deserve that. I think we deserve to feel uncomfortable right now.

I don’t mean that as some sort of a punishment, some sort of Catholic guilt thing. (And I should probably find a better word for what I mean than “deserve.”) I just think that we should be present. We should inhabit the time in which we live. We should be attuned to the reality of our day, and today’s reality is uncomfortable.

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.

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This post is the twelfth in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery

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Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

On My Mind (Vol. 7)

Over at my Catholic Review blog, this was a Clinton week for a change. I shared my thoughts on her flubs and my thoughts related to those thoughts. Like this one:

This whole “deplorable” thing has prompted me to think about my own feelings toward the segments of the voting population with whom I disagree. I’m not truly angry with them. Maybe I’m the kind of frustrated-angry where you want to grab someone by the shoulders and shake some sense into them, but I’m not the kind of shouty-angry where you fool yourself into thinking that those someones are bad guys out to wreck society.

Part of it is because I recognize the love and beauty in people I know and disagree with. In them, I note a position I disagree with or support for a candidate I can’t stand, but I mostly see their talents and kindnesses and humor and wit and hard work and loyalty. And I know that if this “there’s-more-to-a-person-than-his-politics” thing is true of the small slice of America I’m familiar with, it’s also true for the rest of it.

For more on this, and on Clinton, and on global security concerns too, head on over to The Space Between.

The Space Between - On My Mind

Let’s Not Tell Ourselves That None Of This Matters

Last week I saw a meme on Facebook that said something to the effect of: The day after the election, your kids will still be your kids, your home will still be your home, the sun will still shine, and butterflies will still flit about fancifully.

Or something like that. I don’t remember who posted it, so I can’t find it to validate the accuracy of my impression. In any case, the meme was telling us, “Don’t worry; none of this matters anyway.”

To which my inner lobbyist was shouting, “No! This does matter! Elections have consequences! Governments do real things! And you have more power over them than you realize!”

I understand where the meme’s creator and the multitudes who share it are coming from. This election has shaken people. Ideologies are in flux, loyalties are shifting, and opinions that were once shushed are now voiced aloud. Some find the situation thrilling. Many find it disturbing.

For the latter camp, it’s tempting to treat this campaign, and indeed politics overall, as a television show that can be turned off. It’s a topic to be weeded out of a newsfeed, a fad to be ignored, something as disconnected from our real lives as Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.

Except it’s not.

The Space Between -- Let's Not Tell Ourselves That None Of This Matters

Arguing Well on Facebook – Even About Politics

Well, friends, we are deep into that most wonderful of seasons, aren’t we? Election season. And we know what that means: half of our Facebook friends are volunteering their political opinions to the world while the other half are signing off until mid-November.

I kid a little, of course. It’s not as clear as all that. While some people are vociferous in their political opinions, others are completely mum on the subject. Some are cranky, some (few this year, it seems) are inspired, some (many?) are despondent. Some people seem to be unable to handle the heat and so have decided to get out of the kitchen. Some argue their points well; others have little to show for their efforts but annoyed or offended friends and family.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s okay for someone to be annoyed with me because they don’t like my politics. What’s not okay is for someone to be annoyed or offended or hurt by the way I’ve discussed my political opinions with them.

So I try really hard, especially during election season, to make sure I argue my points well. Here are thirteen (what a lucky number!) ways I do that:

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - Arguing Well on Facebook Even About Politics

The Better, Impractical Choice

I’m over at my (new) blog today, expressing some frustration about presidential politics and pledging to not be part of the problem. (That is, to not vote for either major candidate.) It’s a perky little piece, I’ll tell you that!

“If politicians are slippery, if they tell us only what we want to hear, if they refuse to offer real solutions, if they’re unwilling to work with those with whom they disagree – it’s because we have made them that way.

We reward negative campaigning. We punish compromise. We respond to sound bites. We expect ideological purity (i.e. You Must Think Exactly As I Do). We champion magic-wand political solutions. (How about I just say that I’ll “Make America Great Again” and wiggle my magic wand in the air, and it will be so! How about I make economic inequality just… disappear! How about I build a big wall at no cost and magically make it get rid of all the scary people? How about we pass a law that will – poof! – make people stop shooting each other?)

We have gotten ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have done this. We have made presidential campaigns into something that decent people cannot win.”

The Space Between - The Better Impractical Choice