This is a post about politics. But I wanted it to be about Prince.

When Prince died on April 21 of this year I was devastated. I was totally unprepared for how deeply and personally I felt the loss. I did something akin to sitting Shivah for nearly a month – all I did was listen to his music and think and reminisce and wonder. I wanted to write about how meaningful or profound or important Prince was to me, but I couldn’t do it. What had been so easy to explain about Bowie was lost on me when it came to explaining my feelings about Prince. I just sat there with his music and thought about all the ways he touched my life. It was a loss that defied any explanation for me. I loved him and I feel like he personally spoke to and for me in spite of the fact that there were things about him that I did not understand (his faith) or made me uncomfortable (consistent vague misogyny) or simply did not jive with other beliefs (LGBTQ rights to name one) to which I fiercely adhere.

Then I realized: I did not have to explain this to anyone. These are my own sentiments and opinions. They are not a result of being brainwashed, or a acting as a lemming, but a response to my own experiences and understandings of the complex world in which I exist. I can love Prince for whatever reasons I want to.

And no one considered for even a moment that they needed to explain to me how what I felt and thought and believed was wrong, and that if I could just be effectively enlightened I would understand what I thought and felt was incorrect.

Because we are talking about music.


I used to have a very dear English friend who told exceptional jokes – most of the time. On the occasion that he told a joke that I did not think was very good, I would not laugh. And every time this happened he would say to me, “Oh, you didn’t get it…” and tell me the joke again. I would say to him, “No, I got it, I just didn’t think it was funny.” And we would go around and around.

I have another friend who used to wind herself up to the point of insanity when someone would do something that she saw to be so ridiculous, infantile, or plain stupid, she could barely stand it. She was convinced that if she could just explain to them their lack of understanding (or stupidity in simpler terms) that they would change their behavior: that they would “understand.” I spent years as her sounding board and reminding her that she was the one suffering… that her need to “help” them fell on deaf ears and made her feel like a crazy person, no matter how valid her logic.

My recent experience discussing politics falls somewhere amidst these vignettes.

Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

I am deeply conflicted about the state of American politics. While this is not new, it somehow seems more urgent. I wish, like many people, that there was a perfect candidate for president, but there is not. And frankly, what kind of person would want that job? Any examination of that question certainly makes me take a second look at anyone who’d strive for such a position. That being said someone’s got to step up and do it.

As a registered Democrat I will be voting in the Democratic primaries for the nominee to be the successor to the Obama administration. I am intentionally a member of a political party and as such voting in the primaries for my party is a privilege I rightly get for being in the party. Allowing non-party members to influence the outcome of our primary is inappropriate; if you want to vote in a primary, do so for your party, or join a party – or flip flop parties – I don’t care, just don’t bitch and moan about not being able to assert influence on a group you do not want to be a part of.

I’m under no illusion that any of my choices for the nomination are devoid of faults. But I also firmly believe that it is my fundamental right to choose who I want to vote for based on what matters most deeply, internally, and inexplicably to me without owing an explanation anyone, especially strangers on the Internet.

Since this campaign kicked off on the Democratic side, I’ve been really interested in who I consider to be the two viable candidates: Clinton and Sanders. And since the Sanders campaign has gotten some legs under it I have been on the receiving end of incessant and unsolicited, patronizing behavior from his supporters. This ridiculous over-explaining has largely come from young, white, men of privilege. Don’t misunderstand, I know lots of people of color, of all ages, and gender orientations who also support Sanders, but it has been the white privileged Sanders supporters who have come at me aggressively time and again to tell me that I am: ignorant, brainwashed, confused, hypocritical, not checking my privilege, emotional, small minded, uneducated, uninformed, etc., etc.

I appreciate many of Bernie Sanders’ policies. I’m not very impressed with his position on guns or immigration, I’m not entirely convinced about his economic policy, and I am wholly unconvinced in his ability to be effective and nuanced in foreign policy, which leaves me very uncomfortable as we move further into an era of intense global interconnectedness. But this doesn’t mean I can’t see the good ideas he has, and recognize core beliefs he holds that that I also hold. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a politician who also has ideas that I hold dear. She also has a record that I find impressive, and I believe she is a deep thinker who understands that it is actually a sign of intelligence to change one’s mind if new information informs the choice, knows how to get things accomplished, and sees the importance of compromise. These are all things that have become ever more important to me as I’ve gotten older.

Still, none of these circumstances prevent me from voting for any other candidate if I choose. One of the fundamental aspects of American culture is that I am allowed to vote for who I want to and I do not owe anyone any explanation about this beyond what I am comfortable with.

I find the constant attacks on Clinton’s policy changes as flip-flopping, or catering to victory, simpleminded and defensive. The idea that she is somehow a career politician while Bernie Sanders, who has been in the senate for nearly three decades is not, is laughable. And while Sanders has voted on many things I agree with, so has Clinton. And to be honest, Sanders is the ultimate flip-flopper: he has not even been able to commit to a political party. [Interestingly this could be his undoing because by encouraging people not to join a political party he is now crying that people can’t vote for him in a political party primary. Again, at what point does it seem reasonable that nonparty member should be allowed outcome influence the outcome of party politics? I understand there’s a lot of problems a party politics but this is what we’re working with.]

Further, the risible idea that somehow Sanders can create a political revolution is shortsighted, un-researched and shallow. The fact of the matter is Obama was supposed to inspire such a revolution. But the reality is he was not able to initiate even the seeds of a revolution for two very real reasons: 1) it wasn’t his agenda; and 2) none of the would-be-revolutionaries did the job of meeting their responsibility to vote in the midterms, and so he got screwed and was unable to push anything through the resulting obstructionist Congress.

What will be different about a Sanders administration (on the outside chance that he gets into the White House)? What on earth makes anybody think that a Republican Congress that was defiantly obstructionist to Barack Obama – middle of the road by anyone’s standards – is going to accept Bernie Sanders policies? Ultimately, it must be acknowledged that I do not trust that the Sanders revolutionaries have the fortitude to stick with it and vote in the more mundane midterm and elections that are necessary and will follow. These are things I think about, deeply and seriously. Which does not mean I am asking for you to tell me how I am wrong, just that I am considering all of it.

Perhaps I have a new or overreaching respect for Machiavelli, but I’m a firm believer that you cannot affect change if you can’t get a seat at the table.

Still, in the end – these are just my beliefs. I’m interested in why people think/feel/believe the way they do, especially when it is counter to my natural inclinations, but my interest is not an invitation for a semantic deluge extolling the rights and wrongs of bloody opinions.  I fundamentally believe people are entitled to their beliefs and it’s entirely possible I won’t always understand why they think the way they do… There is not one singular truth in this complex universe.

[And as a preemptive response to criticism about not sourcing or providing evidentiary material to this post, let me reiterate that I am speaking (venting) about my right to choose, not trying to provide rationale for my choice.]

Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.

That I disagree with you (or whoever) doesn’t make me uninformed or ignorant: I GET THE JOKE. It makes me a unique human being with my own ability to formulate rational thought- although being a woman I do keep hearing that I am not rational, I’m emotional and voting only for Clinton because of some apparent vagina coalition. STILL, FOR ALL OF OUR BENEFIT, YOU CAN STOP EXPLAINING THINGS TO ME.


Prince understood all this. He understood that he could be straight, gay, not a man, not a woman, something that you never understand, fundamentally faithful, viscerally sinful, that no one could tell him what was right or wrong, or what he should think, or believe, or act upon.

Maybe that is what I loved the most about him.

Prince would have voted for whoever the hell he wanted to and he would have waved away your patronizing, didactic, dogmatic insistence that you know better with a graceful wave of the hand and an incomparable smokin’ guitar solo.

 

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How I suck at “Social Media” and how this allows me to use it prolifically.

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Let’s start with full disclosure: I blog (which is a poncy way to say ‘I have a blog’), I have a Facebook (again, a ridiculous way to say ‘I use Facebook’), I have an Instagram (I actually think this is how everyone says this), I have two Twitters (one is for work; my students use Twitter for current events via KQED and it is a good format, and I have a personal account which is my only truly locked down and private outlet within the social media sphere), I used to have Myspace (two of those too – one for me and one I allowed students on – I do not do this with Facebook now, I just say no until students are out of school, then if they still care, I will accept their friend requests), and I have a Google+ but I have no idea what it is – although it seems public. Oh, I have a YouTube account too, but I think if you use gmail you have this because of the pervasive trend towards conglomeratization. I do not have a Linkedin – and I wish people would stop inviting me because it is a totally useless concept in my field. I do not have Flickr, DeviantArt, Tumblr (although I had a school one for a year), a Bebo (don’t even know what that is), and god help me I do.not.SnapChat.

Basically, I have a fairly visible digital footprint. Regardless of this, I still suck at social media. And I am totally fine with this because I think it is why I am able to use social media so prolifically without becoming angry and insane.

Here’s why: I do it wrong.

It turns out, I am just not really that “social”

I have always known this about blogging. I like to blog (look at me go!) but I don’t really read other blogs. I do occasionally come across blogs that I read because I am looking for something specific – like research for work or personal interests, and then I will read them, but in general, in the same way I look at my blog as a way to be hugely self-indulgent, I am not that interested in reading other people’s self indulgences. Unless they are about me or something uniquely related to me. The blogs I write that get attention get it from small niche populations. Thus it is no surprise that a blog I wrote about my cat remains to this day the blog that got the most hits out of anything I have ever done in any internet capacity. When I write about friends from home, my friends from home read it. When I write about being a teacher, my teacher friends read it. When I write about events and adventures, the people who shared the experiences read them. And there are a few exceptions here and there, a clever tag that gets others over to the page or something, but really the audience is terribly limited. And I am okay with that. I don’t interact with commenters (oh, I will get to them in a minute) and I don’t comment. I do very little to engender interaction or interest in my blog. I harbor no illusions that I am telling stories or illuminating ideas that no one has ever considered. In fact, mostly I feel like I am just adding validity to the reality that our shared human experience is far more similar than it is unique most of the time. And in its own way that is kind of cool.

I use Twitter for news. I love it and scroll through it regularly, occasionally retweet things, favorite things I want to come back to, and mostly leave it at that. I originally got it as a way to text for free from overseas, but now I use it primarily for information and as a way to measure the social temperature around said information. I like Twitter and it is very handy for my students to use as well.

I use Facebook (which I keep private, although I do not consider private in the way my personal Twitter is because there are people on my Facebook that I would not share certain things with because it would be weird and inappropriate) a lot. Although, it is getting harder to use it the way I would like. But again, it turns out I am not that “social” on FB. I post a lot of things. Things *I* think are interesting, important, funny, relevant, whatever. Again, I am under no illusion that these things are “interesting, important, funny, relevant, whatever” to other people. I am not posting for other people. I am posting for me. That is why I put the stuff on my Facebook page. If it is interesting to other people, that is cool – and I generally can predict with nearly perfect accuracy who will respond/comment/reply to the things I post. That is a benefit of having people who you actually know on your Facebook.

But I don’t get really interactive on other people’s Facebook pages. There are several reasons for this. First – Facebook is making this harder and harder as they only automatically show you the stuff posted by people you “interact” with regularly so it is easy to see how that circle gets inadvertantly smaller and smaller. Another reason I am not super active on Facebook is that there is a lot of stuff that people I really like post that I don’t wanna see. This does not mean I like them less, or do not want to be their friend in real life, or on the internets, it just means I am not into seeing stuff like that and so I don’t look at it. Going to the page of a person, like my friend D.M., a guy I have known since the first grade, and really like in a ton of ways, is not fun for me because we hold diametrically oppositional views on politics and a lot of social issues. Telling him how I disagree would be stupid – or having the audacity to tell him he is wrong or should not be posting something because it bothers me is just inappropriate. He is not posting that stuff for me – he is posting for him, so why do I want to go there and get all fired up – or worse, get involved in some comment battle where I am trying to convince someone that their opinion is “wrong”. Opinions – like feelings – cannot be wrong. They can be in disagreement with my opinions, and certainly wrong for me (or you), but telling someone their opinion is wrong is a waste of time, and really offensive. So instead I leave comments and “likes” on his Instagram where we have much more common ground.

I do believe there are times and places to help someone perhaps see that their opinion does not match data/history/science/facts or something, but I would suggest that would be like in a teaching situation, or as a parent, or an actual conversation among friends. Not really apropos for “social media.” I mean, it’s like the rules that govern polite conversation at dinner parties. People used to say ‘do not talk about politics and religion in mixed company.’ And this was not because people didn’t think about that stuff, or should not hold different opinions – it was because it was a “social” situation and being a dick by telling someone that their opinion is wrong is not very social. Remember when we were taught that if you didn’t have anything nice to say to not say anything at all? If social media is as it claims to be [social] – maybe that is a good rule…. I mean treat other people’s pages as their dinner party and use your own home(page) to say what you have to say. If people don’t want to hear your opinion they don’t have to come to your dinner party.

Facebook in all its deficiencies does allow for a couple great ways to deal with this. First, you can straight hide someone’s posts from your news feed (either by unfollowing them or selecting certain posts.) I have done this. A lot. If someone whose posts you enjoy following generally posts something you cannot deal with, you can had that specific post. A friend in HK who is super active in animal rights posted a super awful photo of an elephant, which I assume was attached to a story about how disgusting people are to elephants, and I could’t take it so I hid it, but not her. I hide all the silly fantasy sports stuff one of my former students posts – it is clutter and useless, but I love hearing about him and his family. I posted a misogynist rant that came out around the Isla Vista shooting on my page and one of my really good friends in HK who I discuss almost everything with, was like, ‘I can’t take this, I’m hiding it from my feed.’ And I totally get that. She didn’t feel the need to tell me how my posting it was wrong or that it was somehow not appropriate – she just said, I don’t want to look. That is what I would call solid use of the comments section.

Which brings me to the commenters. OH.MY.GOD. There is a seemingly growing population of people on the planet that have infinite amounts of time to dedicate to some sort of personal calling to comment on internet activity. These are trolls. I have had a few trolls. I know who one of them was, and I think I have finally blocked him enough that he cannot comment on my blog and Instagram (my only public pages) and his deal was just that he was (is?) a weird little man who thought I rebuffed him inappropriately. But it was still really annoying to get shitty comments from him. Another one I had was a former coworker who was convinced I was subliminally writing about him in my blog, which I was not, but his misunderstanding was illuminating. I am always surprised at how bad the (poor grammar and spelling aside) words of a total stranger or someone I could really not give two shits about can make me feel when it shows up on my stuff. Do the trolls have their own pages? Agendas? I have no idea, but they freaking should because that would be the right place to vent. Venting on the pages/posts/comments of total strangers just to spread vitriol is so bizarre. And it is like they get a certain kind of joy from just being awful.

Says a lot about society.

While I cannot even begin to grok why you would spend this sort of energy being a dick (and far worse) to total strangers, I am even more mystified by people who would do this to people they know – unless they just don’t want to be friends anymore, which is fine, but “breaking up” on Facebook/Instagram/blog seems pretty lame.

I am grateful for the ability to see what my friends – from near and far – are up to in their lives. It is really fun to see who has gone somewhere amazing, had a new baby, got a new job, and be able to be a spectator. I realize email could do the same thing, but that is a much different interface. Do I want a whole email every time for all these events? I think I prefer being able to look through the “news” feed. It works for me. I also have a growing appreciation for the vastly divergent attitudes and opinions my friends hold around religion, politics, social issues, and life in general. That I am friends with such a diverse group I think says a lot about me and my friends. I don’t need them to change for me, that they are who they are is what I love about them. And I do like having conversations with my friends about our thoughts, feelings, and opinions, but this does not happen in the comments. This happens in a pub in Hong Kong, at a secret diner party in SF, poolside in Vegas, on a phone call from Paris, or in email exchanges from Dubai.

In the end “social” suggests being with people and so while social media does endeavor to so this – it is not them same.

And I am okay with this.

The way I choose to use social media works for me. And if it doesn’t work for you, then there are lots of ways to handle that…. (like why are you reading this?) But whatever you do, if you want to remain hopeful for humanity and maintain your sanity… trust me on this: NEVER READ THE COMMENTS.

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[First image from HuffPo, cartoon from unknown source.]