Oh, lordy: a small imposition on my friends and family

November 11th, 2016 by Phil Leave a reply »

I’d like to beg a favor. Beings how it’s my birthday, I hope y’all can put up with this tiny imposition.

Yes, the election is over, and yes, a great many people are hurting, still shocked, and many very much afraid for their futures and especially the futures of their children. I’m not going to tell anyone to get over it. I’m not going to diminish what people are feeling. So please don’t think I’m trying to do that.

That said: Where I’m going with this is to a place of OPTIMISM. It’s not an easy path to get there, I admit. But that’s where I’m headed, and I hope you can come along.

I had intended to write something like this for a little while, before knowing how Election Day would turn out. In the aftermath of Election Day, what I think and how I feel has changed – but not all that much. See, the prospect of turning 40 has led me down a deep path of contemplation – deeper than usual, and many of you know how deep that can get. Now that prospect has become a reality, and it’s far from the scariest reality to be confronted this week. But that scarier reality doesn’t much change my thought process. If anything, it bolsters it.

(A quick work about privilege. It is a lot easier for me, a 40-year-old straight white man, to speak about optimism, to speak about looking forward. I’m not ducking that. I’m owning up to that privilege, as best as I can.)

There are three key places where I’m coming from:

First, we’ve got a three year old who’s going to grow up in a turbulent world. My thinking is largely focused on his future.

Second, reasonably or not, I see 40 as an effective midpoint in my life. Anything I’m serious about doing with the rest of my life, I have to *really* be serious about doing, and have to not jack around with shrugs and what-ifs. And anything I’m serious about in terms of making a difference for our son but also for the world as a whole around us, I have to *really* get serious about, and not jack around with shrugs and what-ifs.

Third, no matter how bleak things might look on any number of fronts, optimism simply isn’t optional. If I’m going to focus on our son’s future, and I’m going to dedicate myself to the betterment of his life but also human life generally, then it can’t be done from a place of pessimism or fear. That doesn’t mean that at times people can’t be pessimistic, fearful, depressed, etc. But it does mean that on the whole, we’ve got to be optimistic about the future of humanity. We have to be the change we want to see, and we have to start by saying, yes, we are going to change the world for the better, no matter what forces seem to be stacked against us.

Now, change the world for the better – what does that mean? In short, it means a world where, increasingly, people can lead meaningful, fulfilling lives, free from mistreatment based on identity, and free from mistreatment by the wealthy. Even shorter: I’m talking about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The word “increasingly” is important there. Our aim is not global perfection. Our aim is constant global improvement. There is no magic way to strip away poverty and prejudice all at once. But we must also never accept that _on the whole_ whatever is happening around us is “good enough”. Put another way: there is no such thing as the perfect me. But there can be the constantly improving me. Aiming for perfection is nonsensical. Aiming to constantly improve is not.

Neither the perfect nor the good can be allowed to be the enemy of the better.

To that end, I am resolving to do some things, and making some decisions to facilitate those resolutions:

* I will recommit to achieving fluency in Spanish.

* I will do more to be around people, because you can’t hear and understand people when you’re not around them.

* I will find new ways to enhance my overall education.

* I will maintain an even stronger focus on my personal health and that of those around me.

* I will continue to speak out about injustice around me. I will give my voice to the people who are most the targets of hatred right now.

* I will find and work with groups and people who will elect better progressive officials.

And I am asking all of you to join me in the above. We all need to go out and be around people. We all need to keep learning, to focus on our health. We all need to speak out on injustice. We all need to commit to changing our political system.

To these ends and more, I am, effective today, declaring myself to be an Independent. I won’t dwell on this decision much here, except to say that it is made in light of my resolutions above. It’s not a decision I make lightly, though of course it’s been a long time in coming. But it’s time to move on.

I could write a lot more. But I’ve already imposed enough. And it’s my birthday, so I do need to get on with some other things.

I just ask again that you all join me in the above. This is an easy throwaway sentence, but let’s not make it so:

Let’s be the change we want to see. For us, for our kids, for the planet, for all humankind.

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