Friday, January 20, 2017

Let Today Be A Beginning

I am worn down. Weary. Wary.

For various reasons, I am not out in the streets as I would like to be.

I know that I am not alone in this. Whether for physical, mental, emotional, or economic health reasons, there are many of us not out there.

But there are things to do, still, from where we are.

Today, I am lessening my consumption of social media. My internet time has spiked in these last months, as I've sought for communication, information, comfort. Also, coping in the form of sob/laugh-inducing memes.

It is hard to ignore all of the input, all that is floating through the air, all the bytes and images and tweets and messages and articles. It is hard not to engage.

Social media has both enriched my ability to engage with the world, and stifled it. It has allowed me to stay in touch with friends across long and painful distances. It has allowed me to make new connections. And it has also invited trolls into my life (e.g., this exchange over Twitter, which is the perfect medium for non-communication and antipathy) about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

A few pieces of media that have provided me fortitude in these times:

13TH by Ava DuVernay. A documentary covering the history of the 13th Amendment and how it abolished slavery “except as punishment for a crime,” and how those words were a loophole through which the criminalization and mass incarceration of black and brown bodies were set into play. The same economic—that is, capitalist— imperative that created slavery is what has millions of people in prison today, where there is massive exploitation of inmates and their non-incarcerated loved ones. Watch this, and challenge socialized assumptions about crime, drugs policies, economics, and our punitive system.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am late to this one. Published in 2013, it is a beautifully written novel that observes race relations in America and England through the eyes of Nigerian immigrants Ifemulu and Obinze, respectively. It is a love story. It gives insight into the experience of the African diaspora, being undocumented in England, and describes an immigrant experience that resonated with me immensely as part of the Khmer diaspora. The most engrossing read I’ve had in a very long time.

An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis by James Baldwin. Written after Newseek published an issue with Angela Davis in chains on the cover. I was directed to this by a friend. Written in 1970, it is chilling (yet unsurprising) how relevant the letter remains today:
“The will of the people, in America, has always been at the mercy of an ignorance not merely phenomenal, but sacred, and sacredly cultivated: the better to be used by a carnivorous economy which democratically slaughters and victimizes whites and blacks alike. But most white Americans do not dare admit this (though they suspect it) and this fact contains mortal danger for the blacks and tragedy for the nation.”
Last night I came across the video below of Valarie Kaur at a Watch Night Service on New Year’s Eve. I watched it again this morning. It contains a story that needs to be known, a mourning for what is coming to pass, and a message of hope and strength for what's next.

At some point the feeling in my chest now will lessen from its pounding anxiety to a dull murmur.

I’ll be at home this weekend-- and I'll be making, writing, sharing.

I posted this status on election night: Tomorrow, let yourself make something. Beautiful or ugly, whatever. Remind yourself it's possible to change the world.

As difficult as these times are, the worst thing is the false belief that there is nothing we can do.
No matter what, we'll keep going.

I want today to be a beginning.

A day when I begin to focus more fiercely on loving acts for the people around me, the people within arms’ reach, the people who may not be physically near but are incredibly dear to my heart.

I have to start at this touchable scale, and to believe in my ability to grow from there.

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