therestlessnest

where life's not empty, it's restless.

Archive for the category “Occupy”

After 2017: Wound Care

IMG_0918One year ago—before the Inauguration, before the women’s marches, before everything else that has happened since—I attended a New Year’s Eve get-together at which everyone made a prediction for 2017.
Mine was that the next (“hopefully great”) Democratic presidential candidate, “someone we haven’t even thought of yet,” would emerge by the end of this year. Others predicted that Trump would be impeached. Or that his first Supreme Court nominee would somehow be blocked. Some guests offered more general forecasts: “the pendulum will swing;” “people will come to their senses.” My husband vowed that we would see the “total cratering” of the Republican Party. His prediction may have come closest to the mark.

And though my own hope was misplaced—I think we’re still not even close to identifying the next Democratic candidate for president—I do believe the pendulum is swinging, and many people are coming to their senses. They just may not be the same people we had hoped would come to their senses.

The people who are coming to their senses are not the people who voted for Trump. We now understand that most of them (a minority of Americans, let’s not forget) are very unlikely to change their minds. The people who are coming to their senses are us. By which I mean the whole big crazy quilt of the Left. Or “The Resistance,” as Trump now likes to call us, in air quotes, thinking that it’s a scathing put-down. To which I say: Congratulations, Everyone! We’ve made enough noise this year to get our own group nickname. Long live the Resistance!

doug-jones-alabama-victory-1513196170-article-headerWe now understand that that we will win elections by getting our own selves to the polls, including our oldsters who may need rides and our youngsters who may need to feel more firmly respected for their views. After Alabama, we now understand that we will win elections when all Democrats feel that their vote is urgently needed.

2017 has been, if anything, more dismaying than I had ever believed it would be. I’m an optimist at heart, and this has not been a great year for optimism. But now, at the end of the year, I see so many reasons to hope.

In my last post, I called Trump an infection that has put our democracy’s health at risk. I declared that we, individual citizens, are the hard-working antibiotics who will ultimately prevail. And I do believe we will. In fact I think we could see a dramatic return to health right around mid-term election time, which is not much more than ten months from now.

But, just as I learned a few things about infections this year following foot surgery, I am now learning about the next phase: wound care.

I now know that wound care is a specialty that requires unflinching precision, compassion and the ability to inspire optimism—there it is again, my favorite word!—all while gently but firmly instilling in the patient—in this case, me—the understanding that optimism must be earned, through compliance. Attention to detail.

Wounds heal. But they heal better with the right care. And so it will be for our democracy, and for us.

I would venture that even as we fight off the infection, IMG_2864we’re already starting to heal. Wanting to get better is an essential first step, and we can check that one off. The women’s marches, last January 20th? That was all of us saying: “We want to get better. We will not give in.” The fights in the courts over immigration, the push-back on the proposed repeal of Obamacare, the victories in this fall’s special elections? All are signs that we are determined to be well again, and to come back stronger than ever.  

mr-potterThis Christmas, we watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time in at least a few years. Wow, does it resonate in 2017. You have to wonder if Trump watches it for inspiration, trying to be more like greedy, rich Mr. Potter every day; learning to perfectly imitate Lionel Barrymore’s signature lip curl as Jimmy Stewart makes his passionate plea for the rights of working people to live in homes that they own, rather than rent hovels from a slumlord. It’s an optimist’s dream story its-a-wonderful-life-bailey-family-05line: people working together to help each other can make the world a better place. People working together can heal the wounds of depressions and wars and personal tragedies: anathema to Trump and his rogues’ gallery of hangers-on, which currently include nearly every member of the forever-tarnished Republican Party.

Infections can be swift and merciless. Wound care is nearly always painstakingly slow. And there will be scars.

On the morning of the shortest, darkest day of the year, I watched as the sun, low and crisp, lit up a long, taut length of spiderweb in the corner of our bedroom. The thread stretched all the way from the ceiling, down six feet or more, to the branch of a palm in a clay pot. I wondered why the spider had hurled out that line. I marveled that spiders can do such a thing: that they can create a new something, in an instant, where there had previously been nothing. But we do that too, when we heal; we manufacture brand-new tissue and bone and skin to fill gaps and fuse breaks and stitch cuts. We keep at it until the scars fade to pencil marks.imgres

And that is my hope for 2018. That we’ll work together. we’ll spin out lifelines; we’ll do whatever it takes to heal this democracy’s wounds.

Find your January 20th, 2018 march here.

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Goodbye, Oh-Twelve

DSC00865What if our New Year’s Resolutions looked like this? One: Be kind to yourself. Two: Be kind to others. The end. That’s it. Saved again, by the Golden Rule!

You could add a little fine print. For example, re being kind to yourself: you could vow to truly ban all trash talk, especially the real F-words: fat and failure.

Re being kind to others, that tends to be a whole lot easier once you’re being kind to yourself. Although I have often found this to work the other way round: doing something kind for someone else can be the quickest way to distract yourself from self-trashing.

Once you’ve enacted your Golden Rule two-resolution package, you’ll have so much more time to reflect on the ways in which 2013 is going to be way, way better than 2012. Not that Oh-Twelve didn’t have its high points. Election night, anyone? But with apologies to Republicans—especially those who might be feeling that their party has been hijacked by a loud and deluded minority—the biggest way in which 2013 is going to be dramatically different from 2012 is that there will be no election night hanging over our heads for ten out of the twelve months. I know, the Republican primaries had a certain amount of entertainment value, as did Clint Eastwood and the chair, but WOW: however you may have voted, aren’t you glad it’s all over?

I am. Especially after traveling to France and Finland last spring, a trip that was one of the highlights of my year. Granted, I visited but a small European subset of the world—but I felt first-hand the love and respect people in other countries feel for President Obama. I could see what a setback it would have been to lose all that good will, when we have so much work to do on so many fronts. Global warming being by far the most urgent front: and though I’m not happy with Obama’s lack of forceful leadership on climate change, I can’t imagine where we’d be if the candidate backed by the climate deniers had won.

In 2011, TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year was the Protester, a moving shout-out to the Occupy movement and to the Arab Spring. In oh-Twelve, TIME picked President Obama: for, as managing editor Richard Stengel wrote, “finding and forging a new majority, for turning weakness into opportunity and for seeking, amid great adversity, to create a more perfect union.” TIME makes a persuasive case for Obama, noting that “we are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes, and Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’m a great fan of our president. But if I got to choose, I would have declared 2012 the Year of the Voter. Or the year of the young voter, 60 percent of whom voted for Obama. And then there were the female, Asian, Hispanic, African-American and GLBT voters. The point is, Oh-Twelve was the year voters of every description decisively ended the white, straight, male chokehold on the American presidency. You might say: didn’t we do that in 2008? Yes, but. In 2012 we gave history the gift of ensuring that oh-eight could never be viewed as an aberrance, a fluke, a blip.

In 2012, voters said: Thank you, oh-‘leven Occupy protesters; thank you, Arab Spring, for reminding us that Every. Vote. Counts. Every voice counts. Every human counts. The Golden Rule counts.

Goodbye, Oh-Twelve. I’ll miss the election-year excitement, a little. But I won’t miss the nail-biting. And I’ll be grateful, as 2013 gets going, that 2012, the year of the Voter, paved the way.

Radio lovers: you can hear the Restless Nest commentaries every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., Thursdays at 4:54 p.m. and Fridays at 4:55 p.m. on KBCS, streaming online at kbcs.fm and on the air at 91.3 in the Seattle area.  Podcasts available.

Our films, The Church on Dauphine Street, 30 Frames a Second: The WTO in Seattle and Quick Brown Fox: an Alzheimer’s Story are now available on Hulu, Amazon and other digital sites.

Here’s nest artist Kim Groff-Harrington’s website.

 

May Day in Helsinki

“Demand less!” shouted a tall, stylish blond into a megaphone, right above my ear. “Love is free!” I spent this May Day in Finland, where there was no vandalism, no mayhem; just several thousand marchers strolling in the sunshine, waving signs and shouting the occasional non-threatening slogan. Occupy your mind. Demand life, not capitalism. Spring comes to everyone!

Spring is a big deal in a country that straddles the Arctic Circle. May Day is as much about celebrating snowmelt and sun as it is about politics. In Helsinki, May Day begins the night before, with a giant celebration of education in this country with one of the most acclaimed public school systems in the world. High school graduates—of all ages, not just this year’s grads—don their traditional white, nautical-style school caps and throng the center of the city. A cap is thrown on the head of everyone’s favorite mermaid statue, champagne bottles start popping, and spring, graduation and May Day are all officially welcomed.  The next morning, the party continues with the all-city May Day march, after which everyone adjourns to lavish picnics in the central Kaivopuisto Park.

I marched and picnicked with my sister, my niece and my Finnish friend Kirsi.  Kirsi and I met 25 years ago, when she was an exchange student in Seattle and an intern at the TV station where I worked. Now, she’s a producer of documentaries and TV programs in Helsinki. She credits that long-ago intern opportunity with launching her career. I credit her with giving me an experience of Finland I never could have had if I’d stumbled into Helsinki on May Day as just another unsuspecting tourist.  (I would also like to thank the inventors of the Internet for helping us keep in touch over the many years in which we both raised children and were busy building careers.)

Before we started marching, Kirsi took us to the tent headquarters of Helsinki’s Occupy movement, where we warmed our hands over a wood stove and talked for a few minutes with two young men who had been living there, off and on, for months.  We stopped into the nearby symphony hall to use the restroom (yes, it was open to marchers!) and ran into a TV director friend of Kirsi’s, who invited us up to his booth for a bird’s eye view of the stunning, brand-new venue, where the symphony would be playing a free Welcome Spring concert that afternoon.

It was all so congenial, so easy-going.  Not all of the protesters agreed with each other and there were bystanders and concert-goers who had no interest in marching at all. But everyone respected each other’s right to have an opinion and to express it out loud.

And yet there are Americans who think “European” is a bad word, as if it connotes—what, exactly?  A place where people spend too much time picnicking and protesting and not enough time working? A place where people are spoiled and pampered by big-government perks like basic health care and high-quality education?

This was my first trip to Europe in ten years. My first ever, to Finland. I am coming home inspired in ways that surprise me. There’s a love of community that I want to bring home to my neighborhood. There’s something to be said for sinking roots in a place about which you care deeply, as opposed to moving on when you get restless, an impulse far more common in newer countries like ours. And something to be said for folding new ideas like free speech into ancient rites like welcoming spring; celebrating in age-old ways, but with new faces in the crowd: immigrants and visitors from far-away places. And new slogans: “Demand Less!”

What an idea: we could make the world better by demanding less. Living in smaller spaces. Driving smaller cars.; walking, biking and using public transportation. Taking pleasure in simple things, like a picnic in the park.

I think there’s a place where that’s happening. It’s called Europe.

Radio lovers: you can hear the Restless Nest commentaries every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., Thursdays at 4:54 p.m. and Fridays at 4:55 p.m. on KBCS, streaming online at kbcs.fm and on the air at 91.3 in the Seattle area. Podcasts available.

Here’s nest artist Kim Groff-Harrington’s website.

Goodbye, Oh’leven

Hey 2011.  Can I call you Oh’leven? You have been quite a year.  The Year of the Protester, according to TIME Magazine.  I know: I mentioned this last week.  But I’m so not done dwelling on the significance of it.  Oh’leven will forever be the year millions of people—in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, New York, Oakland, Seattle—decided to stand up, move, do something.  Because sitting out the recession wasn’t working very well.  Neither was waiting for aging dictators to die, or democracy to just happen.

I regret I did not personally take part in the Occupy Movement, which was at its height during our family’s craziest time in 2011: the Big Move from the house we’d been in for 21 years to a smaller home two miles away.  Instead of taking to the streets, we were taking endless loads of stuff to Goodwill.  But our move felt, in its humble way, like part of this larger story.  When our house sold, we traded in a big mortgage with a big bank for a small mortgage with a small bank.  We traded in a big house that served us well while raising children for a townhome that will serve us perfectly in our Restless Nest years.   We occasionally sold but mostly gave away all kinds of things we no longer needed—basketball hoop, couch, futon, rowing machine, clothes, sheets, towels—to people who need them more.  We chose a neighborhood where we can walk and take light rail.  When we tell people about making these choices, they get it, because this is the year everybody came clean about being squarely in the ranks of the 99 percent.

It’s so ingrained in the American psyche to aspire to that top one percent that the widespread acknowledgement of actual economic reality—the reality that for most people, it is well-nigh impossible to ever get even near those highest heights—is a big, big collective gear shift.  For our daughter and her classmates, who graduated from college in 2011, this shifting of the gears has hit hard.  They feel lucky if they have jobs at all, let alone something in their fields of study.  They feel lucky if they can scrape together enough money to move out of their childhood bedrooms.  Their expectations have skidded from the high times of 2007, when they graduated high school, right into the steep muddy slope of a recession no one hinted to them was just around the corner.

Our move, our daughter’s transition from college to work and living on her own, how these personal events dovetailed with the Year of the Protester: I found plenty to write about and think about this year, as I began my own Oh’leven adventure as a KBCS radio commentator.  There have been weeks when it was hard to find the time and, even more, the focus to sit down and write a Restless Nest piece.  But I’m so glad I get to do this every week, because it is keeping me writing through a time in my life—in all our lives—of great upheaval.

Every time I sit down to write, I learn something.  I let go of something.  My lost passport, for example: a casualty of the move, which if I share with you, I have to admit what a small thing it is.  How easily it can be replaced.  Just as whenever I write about the Big Move, I have to acknowledge how lucky we are to have pulled it off.  We sold a house and bought another one in the middle of a recession.  We made it through the steeplechase of inspections and repairs and loan approvals and it all actually worked.

Oh’leven, I am grateful.  You have not been easy.  But no one would ever call you dull.

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