August 2019

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What Do I Hold Onto Here, In All These Feelings?

Back in 2017, I woke up one night and wrote this on Facebook:

As I age, the daily routines and responsibilities become so efficient, they are basically automatic. Then at 2:30 in the morning, with my daughter sleeping across my lap, I wake up with such a flood of feelings, such intense awe and sadness, inspiration, and regret. And I realize again just how much “growing up and settling down” is really just selective numbing. After all, how can the tidy, reliable lives we build ever possibly have room for all of who we really are and all we really feel?

Well, I’ve been feeling exactly this again, but this time not just for a moment like in that Facebook post, but for a few days. Just in between chores, or after some banal comment by a family member, or even after a fun family activity, there comes a moment to be with my own thoughts, and I just feel so much. I just start weeping. It happened even just a few hours ago: I went into my dark bedroom closet, shut the door, splayed out on the ground face down like that old ‘planking’ fad, and just sobbed. And it’s happening again as I type. Like the emotions are too big for this body. Like the me I’ve made, the life that contains me is just not enough for all that wants to come out. There’s longing in there, so much longing and I don’t know for what. There’s humility in there, like I’m just so small in this universe, in geologic time, and it’s so beautiful how big everything really is. There is a happiness, an unspeakable appreciation for the gift of being alive. But there is also pain. And it’s just all so big.

I was going to go to Facebook and write something, or even re-post the original thing, and then I just thought, “What for?” and “How dare I?” In fact, after returning, in a limited fashion, to Facebook, I’m increasingly agitated by the algorithmic lottery of what seemingly random handful of acquaintances will see what, or show me what from their lives, and that very randomness of it–like, cool, that heart emoji is nice, but from someone I went to one conference with in 2010?–actually makes me feel more lonely, more misunderstood, and, yeah, more at sea with all of these feelings. Not even to get into how off it feels ever for me, in my demographic categories, to ever talk about anything resembling pain or hardship when I know how privileged my life is and has been.

So I write here, instead, but I don’t really know what to write about it. I don’t even know how to hold onto it…

But maybe I do, a little.

For example, I do know that when I grab onto the feelings that are closest to loneliness, that’s when I really start to feel it. That’s when I heave and really cry. It’s not a loneliness like wanting people around. It’s something so much more intangible, and thus more maddening, like something I’m chasing and can’t catch, or a hole I’m falling down and can’t find the bottom of.

I think it’s a loneliness of wanting to feel known…to be held as the whole me, by people who know the whole me.

But who would have the time for that, and who would I even let close enough to try?

And I think that’s where a sense of desperation or defeat mixes in. Like maybe I’ve organized my life in such an irreversible way that the daily to-do lists of family life and the daily polite “collaborations” of work life–maybe ‘spiced up’ with the daily random likes and comments from Facebook posts–may be all the depth of human connection that’s left for me. That maybe these vast, cacophonous chambers of myself that, when opened, just explode beyond any typical ways of relating are something I will now forever have to just deal with on my own.

I can’t possibly leave it there, or settle for that.

I explicitly became political as a teen because I felt such deep awe at the wonders of life–actually sparked by a book by Guy Murchie called “The Seven Mysteries of Life” as well as Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”–and at the same time I felt such sorrow that I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk about it with in high school. So I thought that if there were a revolution and global social equality, then the billions of people on Earth would be more free to feel the same sort of awe that privileged me felt. So I can’t just be okay with not being able to connect with people beyond the superficial–or really not, the superficial…but more like the substantial, the interesting, but still not really the point.

But, you know, dinner’s ready, and I’m being called. So I’ll wipe these tears up and get back to just…being around the house I guess.

Of pretty much all political perspectives, radical anti-authoritarianism is one of the most optimistic about humans’ individual and collective potential for self-government, and it sets some of the highest expectations and demands on individuals to make that self-government work. Anti-authoritarians really want a hell of a lot from people: cooperate to run your own workplaces, cooperate to run your own neighborhoods, and even cooperate to have a say about your whole region, continent, planet. It implies participating in meetings, closely following current events, staying up-to-date about nuanced policy debates–all while constantly avoiding being too much of an asshole. Now, the benefits that anti-authoritarians promise for this mass deliberation and collaboration is unprecedented freedom and equality, but the slope that humanity must climb to get there is kind of cartoonishly steep. That’s why so many people, though they might admire our ideals, dismiss our ideas so breezily.

A unique burden for anti-authoritarians, then, is to convince people not only that they, as individuals, are capable of this high-level democratic empowerment across pretty much all areas of their lives, but also that their neighbors, co-workers, and those other people across town or across the country are equally capable and deserving of that empowerment. In my experience, the first part can be tricky in spots, but it’s overall quite doable. It’s the second part, convincing people to trust in the empowerment and liberation of ‘the other,’ that’s really damn hard.

Today’s reality of informational war makes it so much harder.

If informational warfare were just about conflicting forces competing to overpower each others’ messages(“We’re right.” “No, we’re right!”), that would be difficult enough, and that would mesh with the reality of counter-revolutionary propaganda that anti-authoritarians have always had to contend with. But informational warfare–especially like Russia, the right wing trolls, and even COINTELPRO have fought it–isn’t about competing messages. It’s about pumping out so many contradictory, yet plausible enough, messages that targets become so confused and fatigued that they deactivate themselves altogether. In this form of informational warfare, repressive forces don’t need to convince people that the change we want is bad and that they are better; they just need to confuse, distract, and exhaust us enough that we don’t even really try. This was the Trump campaign’s explicit final round campaign strategy in the fall of 2016: voter depression. Get the other side so confused and demoralized that they just don’t vote. It happened again with the Mueller probe. The majority KNOWS that Trump committed real crimes, but people are too numb and tired to do anything. In our case, it’s about getting people so overwhelmed by the idea of controlling their own lives and having to share that control and those resources with others that they just don’t even consider that it’s worth the effort.

For the electoral left, the democrats and democratic socialists, the challenges of this informational warfare environment are very tough, but they can funnel their efforts into concrete, on-the-ground campaigns toward clear-cut voting choices. They can make it about clear, binary votes in established districts and zones of conflict. In the 2018 midterm elections, a simple focus on protecting health-care helped them make some gains. It’s hard for them, but they have possibilities to chalk up at least small victories within the spaces of the informational war. However, that clarity and simplicity would evaporate in any real policy push for something like Medicare for All or the Green New Deal. If the electoral left actually got to that place, we’d see informational warfare shock and awe like we’ve never seen before, and the ability to prevail would require unprecedented popular mobilization–basically you would need a political revolution, just as Bernie Sanders says. And, well…if it takes a full political revolution just get to medicare for all, why not just go for a full anti-capitalist, anti-oppression revolution while we’re at it?

For anti-authoritarians, we just don’t have any luxury of binary voting choices like the electoral left has. We actually have to cut through the noise of the information war in order to help people establish their full political agency and democratic faculties, so that they can grapple deeply with complex issues, tied to complex emotions, and then work together to move on those issues, often in novel and risky ways. This requires a form of political communication, mobilization, education that the more traditional left just doesn’t have much practice with–precisely because the traditional left has an instrumentalist view of people power and thus rarely has had a practical need for deeper development of their base. And it’s not something that anti-authoritarians ourselves invest in nearly enough, because we are too busy copy-catting other left tendencies without realizing that this is what makes us unique.

Being anti-authoritarian means helping people step into political wholeness and complexity. It’s about cultivating nuanced, deeply personal politics of practical solidarity and daily mutuality It’s not about ultra-left positions. It’s not about sub-cultural fringes. It’s about deep human development. All the other stuff is extra. This is the core.

The unique needs and positions of anti-authoritarians within an informational war, then means that we need unique strategies and methods. We need ways of talking and writing about our ideas that can break through, subvert, expose the tactics of informational war against us. For me, I think this means a political style that is patient, deliberate, thoughtful and thought-provoking. It means a style that is humble, considered, empathetic, personalized. It means a style that definitively breaks from the Leninist polemics and aggressiveness of the traditional left, as well as the flashy, self-righteous, and simplistic sloganeering of many of our own punk-rock or street activist (or social media!) roots. Within the storm of the informational war, when truth itself is meant to not be knowable or even much worth thinking about, anti-authoritarians should have unique reputations as honest and vulnerable, as asking more questions than giving answers, as people who will discuss all possible options, even if they make our own anti-authoritarian options feel less favorable sometimes. The local neighborhood anti-authoritarians really should have a certain community trust and gravity to them, to the way they treat people and talk about problems. This is how Communists have sometimes talked about cadre, but have often (but admittedly not always) failed to follow through–once again because of their instrumentalist tendencies.

I’m still trying to get my head around what this would actually mean practically. I mean, how would it actually look different in real political communication?

I want to try some things out. Specifically, I want to look at three interesting sets of ideas within the radical/anti-authoritarian milieu, and I want to try to explore those ideas with a style that feels different from the styles that I think are more typical of the left. I want to explore the ideas of Black Rose/Rosa Negra, Left Roots, and of Symbiosis. I’m curious what I’ll learn!

As I’m trying to get myself out of my depression and build new routines toward a balanced, healthy, productive, inspired, revolutionary life, I’m also trying to openly face the obstacles in my way, and especially the obstacles that come from my own unhealthy patterns. That’s a lot. 38 years into anyone’s life, one accumulates many unhealthy patterns. 38 years of white middle-class American masculinity? Oh so many unhealthy patterns!

One of the patterns that I think is particularly destructive in my life is how bad I am at nurturing and sustaining my friendships. I am, on the whole, a bad friend. I have always been a bad friend, since my first memories of having friends. I would bet money that anyone who has been my friend, or who has tried to build a friendship with me would agree–or they would at least agree with the underlying behaviors and patterns I’m about to describe. The worst part is that I’ve kind of known this all my life, but it’s never been a big priority for me to fix. Friendships, as even a concept in the cosmology of my life and identity, have always been kind of take-it-or-leave it, and I know there are definitely at least a handful of people across my 38 years who have regularly felt the pain of that distant attitude toward my friendships with them.

Overall, I’m not a bad friend because I’m mean, or bossy, or judgmental, or selfish, though of course I’ve probably been all of these things in places and times. I’m not two-faced, or a social climber, or gossipy, or condescending. I think I’m a pretty good listener, I try to balance out talking time, I try to accommodate friends’ schedules, tastes, desires for activities, or where we want to share a meal. I think I’m pretty safe to share vulnerabilities and secrets with, and I think I’m generally helpful for processing ideas, pain, dilemmas with–and feminism and anti-racism have overall made me better about all this over the last 10-15 years. Altogether, what I’m saying is that I think I’m actually a pretty good friend…in the moment. The problem is that no one in my life who isn’t family gets any stability or predictability about how many of those moments they will get with me or for how long. I’m flaky. I’m undependable. I can be totally present with you one or two times,and then never reach out to you again. I can be texting you for hours over the course of a week or month, and then one day you don’t get a reply from me…ever again. No explanation. No sorry. I just disappear. And if I move, like I did in 2016? Well then I really disappear.

My best friends over the years have known that the only way to sustain anything with me is to constantly harass me and nag me. The only way to get me on the phone is to call me regularly, because I won’t call them. My political comrade type friends know that I’m terrible over email, and only slightly better via text. And so the people who have sustained multi-year friendships with me are some of the most persistent, loving, patient people in my life (actually far MORE than my family members, because I don’t make my family members work for my attention)–and yet through my distance and lack of follow-through I just keep treating them terribly. Like, why would they even keep coming back?

So, why am I like this, and what do I do about it?

The why is pretty easy to diagnose, I think. I’m an introvert down to my deepest being. I’m a clear-cut, Myers-Briggs introvert. I derive my strength and worldly energy from being alone. All growing up, my best play was talking to myself. I had dozens of elaborate characters and identities, and I would just pace around the backyard (or around this one big cedar tree in elementary school) and play out my fantasy worlds. I remember in 2nd grade when my first real friend, Lauritz, followed me home from school in Oak Harbor, Washington, and it felt so strange to me. Like why was this kid talking to me and trying to get into my game when it was better with me just playing all the characters myself? I sent him home after a while because I wanted to do just that, and I remember setting up ground-rules for our friendship–in 2nd grade!–that there would always be a point where I’d want to send him home so I could just play by myself. Even into high school, I only had maybe 3 or 4 friends ever over to my house, and most of my free hours would be spent walking barefoot around the neighborhood bouncing a tennis ball with my hands, talking to myself. A KEY reason I became a revolutionary leftist was because in 7th grade I invented a fantasy island called Hylia where there was no money and everyone lived in tune with nature, and that vision was so compelling to me that in 9th grade, when I saw there were people who fought for worlds like that, I knew that had to be me. Even into my 20s–hell, even like a few days ago, actually!–I was still walking around talking to myself sometimes, playing out revolutionary scenarios with characters and fantasy uprisings and social movements.

I am my own best friend. I have been since I can remember. It breaks even my wife’s heart, when I pout off for alone time when she most wants time together–she is NOT an introvert, and dreads being alone, as she was literally never alone in her family of 14+ in Guatemala. But it’s the truth. I am my own best friend. I mean, even getting back to writing here on this site isn’t about an audience so much as it is about getting past the distractions that keep me from making quality time for myself–I missed my best friend.

And mostly I’m okay with this all this. Actually, I LOVE parts of this about myself. The problem is, I don’t know how to keep this in balance with my relationships with other people, I don’t know how to set boundaries and expectations and I don’t know how to consistently meet others’ boundaries and expectations. More importantly, I woefully undervalue those relationships, and I don’t nurture them to make them even more valuable, and I end up losing out personally while simultaneously hurting people who really care about me.

Here, if any friends are reading, I might end up sounding harsh or cold, but I’m trying to be real about myself and I mean it all self-critically. I think my problem is that while I usually do enjoy my time with friends, and the human connection that those friendships give me, I don’t actually feel those friendships as a need, and I don’t often feel their absence as a loss. Like, actually feeling an emotion of missing a friend, like actually longing to reconnect vs just kind of being, “oh, it would be nice to spend time with them again” is a very rare thing for me. Even worse, when I’m in pain, and when I really could use someone to help me step out of my patterns, or check my self-doubts with, friends are the last people I reach for. I don’t like to ask for help. I don’t like to share my pain with friends. And not because I’m embarrassed or ashamed or anything that might be more typical; it’s more like I don’t usually give my friends the credit that they’ll actually be able to help as much as being alone would. And this is a big problem because, 1) it hurtfully devalues important and beautiful people in my life into essentially accessories to a mostly 1-person life instead of the fuller, more intimate partners in life that they could be, and 2) I actually DO need help from the people in my life, who know me, who value me, who see things in me that I just can’t, who keep me accountable, who motivate and inspire me. Despite my long-time aversion to feeling like I need my friends, I do need them. I know because a life time of making friendships and then letting them go has done real damage.

Something that Robin DiAngelo is good at writing about regarding whiteness is the damage that comes from White people not even experiencing the lack of relationships with people of color as a loss. This is the same for patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, ablism, and class divides. A key piece of privilege is not feeling the lack of presence, dignity, connection to marginalized people as a loss. But it really is! My relationship with Glendi and her family have embedded that knowledge in me, despite so many of my ingrained patterns making me want to reverse myself and distance myself back to safe 80’s white boy nerd consumer privilege when things get hard. My alone place might be nice. It might be comfortable. It might always be my favorite place and that can be okay, but to only be there does maintain privilege, it does keep me from learning and growing, it does hurt me and others. It does damage.

The list of damages to myself that my neglect of friendships has caused is long, spanning from deep and hard-to-talk-about emotions all the way to even superficial daily things. I am a worse husband because I don’t have anyone to check in with outside my relationship about fights or resentments or power dynamics (especially given the race/class/gender differences in our relationship!). I am a worse parent because my kids don’t have strong relationships with any extended networks of fellow parents or friends; I don’t have playdate partners; I’m not building a multi-generational, multi-racial political community for my kids. I’m a worse, and less successful, writer because I don’t have friends to help edit, question, cheerlead, push me through my lows. I’m a worse organizer because…well…organizing IS relationships. I’m even a worse gamer because I don’t have even a single friend to play either board games or video games with. And critically, when my own supposed best friendship with myself gets toxic–or always has been toxic in some ways because of any of the myriad social messages that I’ve taken on over the years–I don’t have anyone stable there to check myself with and make my behaviors healthier. I can go years alone where I’m actually hurting myself worse, like I have been these last years.

And damage to my friends? Oh god, where do I begin? I mean, I could–maybe should–write multi-page letters about all the times and ways that I haven’t been there, haven’t been reliable to the people who really could have used me…and who have put in the TIME and the WORK to the point where they should have been able to count on me being there. And worse, the ways that I’ve allowed the intensity of my personal circumstances since marrying Glendi–crises in Guatemala, big family, new move, etc.–to basically act as free passes to maintain the same patterns that actually come from way before? Not cool, Jeremy!

But I’m not writing about any of this from a place of self-hatred or even negativity. I’m actually writing from a place of aspiration. I want to say out loud that I know that I’ve been this way, that I’ve been this kind of bad friend, and that I’m not okay anymore with just accepting this as a quirk of little old flaky, introverted, on-again off-again, Jeremy. I want to say out loud that these patterns have cost me potentially thousands of meaningful shared experiences with dear people, they have catastrophically impacted my ability to be an effective organizer, they have sent unintended but powerful messages to others that I don’t value them, and they have undercut my own ability to have a sustained, positive impact on others. I want new patterns. I want to be a better friend, and I want to do it in a way that is balanced with still letting myself be my own best friend, still letting my big family get the time they need with me (because time is a legitimate factor, not just an excuse, in a lot of this), and still negotiating those tricky dilemmas of who gets more time with me than who. And that last point brings up a whole other piece of this: my ability to be a good friend in the moment has sometimes created situations where a number of people want to be my friend and I just can’t sustain it all and I get really messy about it, and sometimes give the extra time to the loudest or the most needy or the people who make me feel most guilty, but not the people that actually give me the most back as friends…ooh, there’s so much more to explore in all this.

But the big point is that I want to be a better friend. Maybe that starts with responding to the neglected texts on my phone. Maybe it means reaching out, calling, seeing old friends and at least apologizing? Maybe it also means getting real and open with some folks about how much time I have and don’t have for friendships? I don’t know the specifics yet, but thankfully I already have a trip planned to Seattle to see old friends this week, so I want to at least run it by them. At the very least, I want to be present and less flaky, even set some more quantitative, verifiable goals for reaching out, replying, following-up, checking in.

At the very least, I want to find those key friends I’ve had and say out loud to them what I love about them, and thank them for all the goddamn work they’ve put into me.

Last April our twin boys had their asylum interviews scheduled and I took them to Wal-Mart to buy their dress clothes. It was the same Wal-Mart that I would go to 1, 2, 3 times a month to send money to Guatemala. Toward the back of the store we found some $12 black dress shoes, with plastic molds on the soles that looked like stitching. We found plastic wrapped packs of neatly folded dress shirts, complete with adorable, brightly colored clip-on ties. As we tried on the shoes and looked around for the right sizes of black slacks, we laughed and talked in Spanish, trying to distract ourselves from our fears for the next day. And around us, it was all Latinx families, mostly indigenous folks from Central America, looking for shoes and clothes for their kids.

Yesterday, a Saturday, in El Paso, Texas, a young White man entered a Wal-Mart with the express purpose of massacring Latinx “invaders.” He killed more than 20 people, and injured 40 more. He was arrested unharmed and without incident.* Prior to the massacre, he posted a 3 page statement on 8-Chan, a racist discussion site. I read it. It could pass as an op-ed for Breitbart, or something that you could expect in the comments of a Fox news article. Really it reads exactly like someone who regularly follows Tucker Carlson. That is, it’s heartbreakingly stupid, filled with contradictory declarations about corporations and automation, and a Democratic one-party dictatorship that’s fueled by open borders and free healthcare for undocumented people, as stated in the 1st Democratic primary debates (the murderer actually referenced the debates as a justification for this!). And at the center, the lone patriot who feels justified in defending his country, because he learned the lesson from the Native Americans of what will be lost if he doesn’t. People died for these ideas.

I take these two thoughts together, me and the boys in the back of the Wal-Mart, shopping anxiously to have just a slightly better chance for them to stay safely here, and the internal calculus of this killer as he terrorized people just like us. Individuals, families, friends on their Saturday. I take these thoughts together, and I want to recognize the panic and fear in the moment, but also the wrenching realization of the Latinx survivors afterwards: that all of this pain, blood, fear was a direct attack on their being. It was a targeted attack on them, it was genocidal in nature, and it’s evolution was absolutely traceable to the targeted attacks of public figures like Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Steven Miller, Jeff Sessions, Steve King, Donald Trump.

In other times, a massacre like this would be set for the history books. If it had happened to Irish to Slav immigrants in 1919–60 people shot by a nativist radical while shopping at a store–would it become a pivotal event, marked and highlighted on timelines? Yesterday’s massacre wasn’t even the headline for the whole night, as another mass killing happened in Ohio. What do we do with that? What do we do with the numbness and complacency that comes with the frequency of these murders? I feel like we are given so little time, space, context, or meaningful discourse in the current affairs cycle to really internalize what these killings mean. We don’t get or take enough opportunities to articulate how they are changing us and our world. In this and numerous other cases, the massacre was part of an established, articulated White supremacist movement strategy of “lone wolf” terrorism (William Luther Pierce), it was not just an isolated thing. And beyond that, almost all of these shootings are part of a larger pattern of modern masculine relationship to guns that feels like it’s just part of my generation and my demographic. I mean, the 80’s and 90’s action movie scenes of armed White men loading up clips and bandoleers, then methodically entering spaces and shooting with precision from room to room, were part of even my formation as a young man. The clicks and jangles of weapons and gear was viscerally satisfying, almost existentially fulfilling, to the preteen me. This is all big, and it’s significant, and I don’t know how to fully talk about it, especially politically, without it going to just the same surface conversations about gun control or mental illness.

So I try to write about this in order to keep from being numb to it all, but I just keep coming back to…for some reason…those clip-on ties in the Wal-Mart shopping cart. I keep imagining them falling to the floor and laying there. A stupid, cheap product, laying there on a dusty linoleum floor. And I think about the people who I love laying there, too. Their lives treated just as cheaply.

*When I think about this arrest of a White supremacist terrorist without incident, I remember in 2014, when John Crawford III, a Black man, was shot by police in a Wal-Mart because 911 was called for him carrying a BB gun that he had picked up off the Wal-Mart shelf in order to purchase it.

A constant self-doubt that I have is whether I have any business writing about political topics that I’m not engaging with as a day-to-day activist or organizer. Armchair radicalism. This self-doubt has only grown as I’ve gotten older and made life decisions that have increasingly distanced me from daily political organizing. These days, I find it harder than ever to rationalize why I should be anywhere near a pen or a keyboard, typing words like “revolution” or “movement building.”

After Trump won, and I dove into the reporting and literature about the informational landscape that created and continues to strengthen his victory–the state-sponsored disinformation campaigns; polarized cultural bubbles; the White supremacist->Fox News content ecosystem and the conflict-addicted cable news cycle; the barrages of shitty liberal/leftist hot takes that erode unity around any issue, coalition, possibility–I became even more sensitive about putting my own ideas into the world.

We are living in times of intensified, unprecedentedly accelerated informational warfare. We are under daily threat from a tsunami of untrue, semi-true, and true-but-superficially-analyzed presentations of reality. The threat comes from multiple forces, including whole nation states, corporations, frightening fascist coalitions, and a whole slew of unwitting ‘content creators’ from Instagram and Twitter, to YouTube and Twitch. In this kind of environment, just throwing around a bunch of ‘I mean, I guess, maybe I’m right?’ pontifications about topics as big as global oppression or systemic social transformation feels like it might not just be a waste of time, but actually irresponsible. Why does the world need more contributions to the noise, if those contributions have no empirical backing, no lived track record in actually forwarding social change or movement building?

The answer I came to was that the world doesn’t need more noise, and so I stopped my political writing (okay, ALL writing) until I could back that writing up with at least some real experiences. But as those experiences haven’t come–perhaps in part because writing actually is my way to work through anxiety in order to act in the world (a chicken/egg dilemma there!)–I just haven’t been writing, I haven’t been organizing. I haven’t been reading much either. I just haven’t been doing anything political all. Okay…I’ll admit that I have been listening to a bunch of liberal/progressive podcasts, but that shouldn’t count.

Since doing nothing really isn’t a helpful option, I have to do something different, and I think I want to start by thinking about my writing itself.

You see, a key, silly, mistake I’ve made is to think that political writing is only valuable if it’s connected to real, physical terrain–like, real campaigns in the real world. But in a context of informational warfare, ideas themselves, every patch of reality, of philosophy, of values, identity, culture, emotion, is all contested terrain, and anyone who self-silences out of self-doubt is not just making a personal, individual choice. We are making ourselves casualties of the information war. Instead, we must find a different position between ceding the terrain of ideas with silence, and accommodating the informational war with unhelpful noise. We must use our own ideas, learning skills, listening and reasoning skills, curiosity, humility to establish whatever small guerrilla base camps we can to process reality, to feel–individually, in pairs, in small groups, however possible–less crazy and less hopeless. We can offer ourselves as intellectual companions and accomplices to our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, saying, “I know everything is overwhelming and confusing and feels too far gone. But let’s sit with it together and figure some of this out.”

That’s the place I think I’ve found for my own political writing, back here at this blog, for now. It’s my one little guerrilla base camp in a very scary, very real war that not only targets our politics, but our complete understandings of reality. It’s not a place to make the noise worse with loud, unfounded, dogmatic proclamations or quick click-bait critiques of potential comrades. It’s a place for questions and doubts, for “does this make sense or doesn’t it?” and “what can we make of these contradictions?” Importantly, I hope it could become a place again to indeed reflect on the on-the-ground organizing that I still think is central to any lasting change, and that I still hope to get back to.

Coming Back Home…

I haven’t written here–or anywhere beyond my job–for years now. Maybe 5? In 2014, I wrote a big piece of writing that encapsulated my most urgent thinking. I tried to use it to springboard myself back into organizing. It was a start, and I was going for about a year and a half with a small group. I had a follow-up book forming, an exploration of the ‘dispositions of everyday revolutionaries’ (sort of a modern retort to The Revolutionary Catechism by Nechayev that Bakunin had been associated with). Then some big life changes: 4 new family members arriving from Guatemala (a total household of 8!), getting pushed out of Seattle because of housing prices, a new job and home in Bellingham, then a new baby (born prematurely, 7 weeks in neonatal intensive care), then a big family financial betrayal, then a mortgage, a mini-van and a dog…and all in the context of the regular shockwaves that have come with Trump–especially for a family like mine.

I would try to write, and I would find that I had nothing to say. I could only complain about myself, or rant about whatever personal/family struggle was highest priority. How could I write about revolution, or strategy, or winning when I felt so confused about the rise and the daily chaos of the Trump era, the alt-right, all of that? How could I write about organizing if I wasn’t doing any (and I basically ghosted my own groups in Seattle after my family arrived and we moved)? How could I write about the more personal stuff when I have felt like such a failure all the way down to my personal relationships?

And so for 3-4 years, I’ve stagnated and stewed. I stopped using social media. I built A LOT of Lego (apparently TRUE aficionados NEVER pluralize the word Lego). I played a lot of video games. I streamed lots of shows. I got way too into all the plots and subplots of the Mueller investigation. I did an embarrassing amount of internet window-shopping. I did a lot of work at my job, and even got a University side gig, but I’ve felt more and more disconnected from it all. I went to a bit of therapy, and played a lot with my kids–though not as much as I would have if I were less depressed. In all, I’ve spent 3-4 years drifting away from myself and towards a void.

I don’t like that void, and I’m worried that it will kill me.

So, with the benefit of summer break, a friend from Portland, and my family sitting me down to lovingly confront me, I remembered what has long helped me best when I get to that place: coming back here.

I’m back here, at least for a bit. I’m going to try writing again.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi