In the face of despair

Mon­day morn­ing I woke up feel­ing the most despon­dent I have yet since elec­tion night. Well, since after elec­tion night. That night was pret­ty bad.

But I’ve had a sort of ener­gy since then, maybe a bit man­ic, that may have been prop­ping me up. Yes­ter­day, I woke up and read the news as I usu­al­ly do, and it hit me. We are in for four years of unmit­i­gat­ed crap. I don’t like this feel­ing, so I’m set­ting about to fig­ure out what I can do to, yes, make myself feel bet­ter. Here are the prob­lems I see, in big wide gen­er­al­iza­tions that sure­ly don’t address all of the impor­tant issues. And here is what I am doing about them, per­son­al­ly, local­ly, and nation­al­ly.

  • Trump’s cam­paign, whether inci­den­tal­ly, demon­stra­bly, or even inten­tion­al­ly, has made it okay to be a misog­y­nist, racist homo­phobe.

What am I doing about that? Per­son­al­ly, I’m wear­ing a safe­ty pin, both to pro­vide out­ward evi­dence that not every­one is an ass­hole, but also to remind myself to be more inten­tion­al in my inter­ac­tion with folks who might feel tar­get­ed. I live in Kansas, and I don’t run into many mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple, which makes it all the more shame­ful that I have not reached out.

There are any num­ber of good groups, local­ly, I am sure, to which I could give mon­ey, or ener­gy. There’s a Social Jus­tice com­mit­tee at my church, and I am hop­ing they will help me iden­ti­fy places I can give my time. Our church does a great job with hunger issues and Islam­ic out­reach. That’s a start.

Since the elec­tion, Tiffany and I have become month­ly givers to the South­ern Pover­ty Law Can­ter and Planned Par­ent­hood. SPLC coun­ters and pro­tects those who are sin­gled out and attacked in hate crimes. Planned Par­ent­hood pro­vides ongo­ing health ser­vices and sup­port for women and poor fam­i­lies through­out their lives.

  •  Trump’s Pres­i­den­cy will roll back much of the progress we achieved under Bill Clin­ton and Barack Oba­ma. The trend­ing of the nation’s vot­ing coun­ties towards the right will lead to more chal­lenges for real people’s lives. The econ­o­my will pro­vide less for more. The influ­ence of Trump’s white suprema­cist friends, his oli­garch cronies, and the oppor­tunis­tic extreme right will turn actu­al, real free­doms upside down.

In a nut­shell, he has the full pow­er of the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment, for at least two years, prob­a­bly four, to enact the agen­das of his friends and sup­port­ers.

What can I do about this? I can stay active in pol­i­tics. I work in state lev­el pol­i­tics in Kansas, where we actu­al­ly had a retreat from con­ser­v­a­tive posi­tions this elec­tion. We’ve seen the destruc­tive results of unfet­tered extrem­ist ide­ol­o­gy here, and Kansans have cho­sen change direc­tion. There’s much more work to be done, espe­cial­ly to make this a last­ing change, and I will keep work­ing at it.

We’ve also opened up our pock­et­book on this issue, becom­ing first-time month­ly sup­port­ers of the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union and the Nat­ur­al Resources Defense Coun­cil. The ACLU works to pro­tect civ­il lib­er­ties at the local lev­el with an eye towards nation­al influ­ence. The NRDC pro­tects the envi­ron­ment, among oth­er ways, by fight­ing laws and reg­u­la­tions that affect our future on the plan­et.

  • In two and four years, the coun­try will vote again. The chance that we could con­tin­ue down this path is fright­en­ing, and must be pre­vent­ed.

Per­son­al­ly, while I’m not cut out to actu­al­ly run for office, I have skills and expe­ri­ence that would be use­ful to those who are. I will con­tin­ue to be active in pol­i­tics, in get out the vote efforts, in sup­port­ing can­di­dates who will change this direc­tion. I’m well versed in local issues (and the max­im that all pol­i­tics is local is unques­tion­ably true) and yet I will work to explore issues I don’t know much about.

I plan to learn more about how the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty works nation­al­ly, what can be done to sup­port those local Repub­li­cans who are on the right side of the issues I care about (remem­ber, I live in Kansas), and how I can encour­age more peo­ple, espe­cial­ly women, to step up to pub­lic ser­vice. Is there any­thing more awe­some than Tam­my Duckworth’s smile?

I’m encour­aged by the num­ber of peo­ple who are look­ing to get involved, and the num­ber of groups step­ping up to offer them an avenue, from estab­lished groups to new ones.

This is how it starts. That’s how you defeat despair. You do some­thing.

How I’m doing: 2016 election edition

It’s been a hell of a week, I won’t kid you. I spent the entire elec­tion sea­son being pret­ty con­fi­dent in Hillary Clinton’s vic­to­ry. I guess, I fell into the trap of believ­ing my expe­ri­ence of the world was shared by every­one. Clear­ly, I was wrong. And intel­lec­tu­al­ly, it seems stu­pid of me now.

But I believed she’d win, she’d be the first female Pres­i­dent, and that much of the progress we’d made under Oba­ma would con­tin­ue. Because, you know, the alter­na­tive was too unbe­liev­able to imag­ine. But on elec­tion day, with no real rea­son, I began to get ner­vous. By evening, as the polls were clos­ing, I couldn’t stop think­ing about elec­tion night in 2000, when we were at a bar watch­ing the returns, and some­one looked up at the TV and asked, “Hey, where did Flori­da go?”

It seems a small mer­cy now that Tues­day night’s returns were con­sis­tent­ly dis­ap­point­ing, with a long slow slide into a Trump vic­to­ry, no false hope moments to raise us up before dash­ing us back onto the rocks. (The Neva­da win was too late in the evening, at least for me.) But I felt numb, and kind of… blank. I was up until 1 am, just after John Podes­ta announced that Hillary would not be speak­ing. I went to bed know­ing the out­come, but when I woke up at 4:30 am, I checked any­way.

I work in pol­i­tics, albeit at the state lev­el, and I live in Kansas, so I’m pre­dis­posed to crap­py polit­i­cal news. I have spent the last few days read­ing and read­ing and read­ing, and think­ing, and talk­ing and think­ing some more. I think this immer­sion in the reac­tions of oth­ers, like a sort of shock ther­a­py, has replaced my mourn­ing peri­od. I’m not much of a mourn­er any­way (I’ll call it “wal­low­ing” when I’m pis­sy), and I just didn’t want to dwell on it.

Now I find myself itch­ing to do some­thing. I’m work­ing on under­stand­ing, and under­stand­ing will reveal the things that need to be done, I know. But until I get there, I need some­thing tan­gi­ble, some action, some dif­fer­ence to make. I feel, ener­gized.

It may all come crash­ing down, I sup­pose. Some day I’ll break down in the mid­dle of walk­ing the dog, or at the bus stop wait­ing for my kid. But there’s just so much to unpack, I think I’ve got some time.

Don’t get me wrong, if I sound blasé. This out­come is hor­ri­fy­ing to me, in every way. If I stop to con­sid­er the real con­se­quences, to peo­ple, to our coun­try, and to the world, I can feel the gib­ber­ing pan­ic creep­ing in at the edges of my vision. But these last cou­ple of days, I feel great. Like I have pur­pose, like I’m coiled and ready to spring. It’s weird. It’s inter­est­ing. And I intend to take full advan­tage of it.

Where is this horse you speak of?

It has been a lit­tle over a month since I have writ­ten any fic­tion. Not a word. But I am get­ting back on that prover­bial horse.

A lit­tle over a month ago, I was offered a half time job by a friend, and I took it. Thus a third, part-time career was born. I am writ­ing words for a small, local, mod­er­ate polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion. It fits me polit­i­cal­ly pret­ty well (I’m an unabashed Lib­er­al, but a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can), and there is a des­per­ate need here in Kansas for any­one with a mod­icum of sense to speak out. I am encour­ag­ing peo­ple to be get­ting on that. I write for our social media prop­er­ties (see, jar­gon!) and also “craft” our mar­ket­ing mes­sage. And I’ll be blog­ging once we get our new web­site up.

So, you know, get­ting paid to write!

And even if it isn’t get­ting paid to write my fic­tion, I do get to put words togeth­er, and that part has been fun.


I’m here to do this. I quit my mod­est but bet­ter-than-this pay­ing job to write fic­tion. And this past month, I have not done that. It’s been the usu­al cock­tail of work I want to do, work I’m not sure I want to do, per­son­al moti­va­tion issues, Life Stuff To Do, and now Job that Must Be Done.


I am up, and I am at ‘em. And it is five in the freakin’ morn­ing.

And I am writ­ing.

Where are the protest songs?

We’re doing our morn­ing chores when Wash­ing­ton Bul­lets by The Clash comes on the iTunes mix, and after about half the song, my wife (who did not bring The Clash to our mar­riage) asks from the oth­er room, “Is this the Clash?”

Inim­itable. But it made me won­der, for the umpteenth time in the last four years, where are all the protest songs? What hap­pened to music as a polit­i­cal out­let? And don’t give me John May­er. That song could have been so much more than it was. Pok­ing sly fun at your own fan base is one thing, tes­ti­fy­ing against your irre­spon­si­ble gov­ern­ment is anoth­er. I want the lat­ter.

Maybe we just don’t hear it on today’s radio. Which is a whole ‘nother rant.