Believing That We Will Win

My brother and I were waiting to catch the light rail after watching the US men’s soccer team win their sixth Gold Cup. Soccer is one of the things that brings us together as siblings—along with being lifelong Democrats. While the former made for a great day out, the latter ruined the patriotic buzz I had going on. “Time to go home, go to bed, and see what fresh hell Trump has visited upon us tomorrow morning,” he said.

Continue reading

52 in 52: Nineteen Eighty-Four

First, Some Excuses

Yep, I’m definitely behind on this. One of these days I’m either going to stop overcommitting myself (unlikely), learn to set more realistic goals (somewhat less unlikely), or just accept that I may not meet every goal I set (most likely).

This actually started out as an experiment I started back in January when I still had an hour and a half commute to and from my internship. I was messing around on my phone instead of reading like I had planned to do, so I told myself, “Maybe reading on your phone will work!” I have iBooks and Kindle on my iPhone and iPad, the two biggest culprits behind my lack of reading time, so it seemed like a good idea.

Continue reading

The Darkest Timeline: Day 71

I lost what little belief I had in time traveling heroes today. If they were real, they would have done something about the Darkest Timeline by now.

It’s been a while since I’ve revisited the Darkest Timeline here on my blog. The big picture got too overwhelming to turn into >1000 words every few days. I’ve been trying to focus on my small life with its small victories instead.

My internship and my website helped me land a full-time writing job that I’ll be starting on February 1st. (a decent salary! benefits! vacation time!) I’m moving into my new apartment with Jim (relationship milestone! adulting!) on January 31st. I’m finally playing quidditch inside Spartan Stadium on February 4th. (It’s gonna be a busy week.) I’m blogging at least twice a week and my 52 in 52 challenge is coming along well. I got my first pitch accepted and I hope to see it in print soon.

In any other timeline, these would be thrilling developments. Considering how down I was only a few months ago about the trajectory of my life and career, I should be over the moon over how much things have changed for the better.

I did a good job of ignoring things for a while. This week came around put that to an end by battering down the fortress of small accomplishments I was trying to build around myself.

The funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities is on the chopping block. That’s .002 percent of the national budget, so it’s less a cost cutting move and more of a plot by a strongman to silence the dissenting voices of artists. He wants to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Or, y’know, make Big Bird and friends turn a profit to earn their keep. Between Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, that’s how I learned English. Then I grew up to get a degree in it, not exactly the most profit making enterprise. Oops?

Speaking of learning, I doubt the Betsy DeVos hearings will stop her from being approved by a Congress eager to rubber-stamp whoever whatever President Trump (ugh, that’s the first time I’ve ever had to type that) puts before them. There goes any hope I had for going back into a career in education for the next few years. (I’m really starting to like this whole “getting paid to write stuff” thing better, anyway.) What the hell kind of schools are my nieces going to enter when the time comes?

Then today happened. Donald Trump is now the President of the United States. I didn’t watch, but not watching doesn’t make Trump not-President. I did read Vox’s annotated version, though. It was same Trump, different day. Divisive rhetoric, a dystopian vision of an America that was actually improving. The Big Lie that a large-enough-for-the-Electoral-College minority of Americans bought.

The past eight years made me believe in MLK’s conviction that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. How could I not? I voted for the first black president after voting for the first woman nominated by a major party. We made a huge step forward in making sure all Americans have access to healthcare. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a stopgap measure at best, was finally repealed. Any two consenting adults can be married. A woman won the popular vote in a presidential election. There was a lot left undone, but the slow progress we made was still progress.

I am still desperately clinging to that conviction. I have to believe that this step back we’ve taken—no, this catastrophic fall—is the last, desperate gasp of a dying idea of America. Most of us don’t believe in that, if the popular vote counts for anything.

I still reject the idea of making America great again. Our greatness is in progress, in what’s ahead of us, not in the whitewashed past. This isn’t his America or your America or their America, this is our America. No one man alone can fix it.

But can we do it together? Yes we can.

I’m waking up at the start of the end of the world,
But its feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it’s gone,
The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour
And I started staring at the passengers who’re waving goodbye
Can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

The Electoral College votes today. The last chance for a time traveller to come along and save us from Trump and the Darkest Timeline. I have my hopes… but they’re far outweighed by my doubts.

Holidays coming. Job interview today. Side hustles going strong. Trying to be optimistic about my smaller picture, even if the big picture looks bleak. 2017 could easily be my year.

What’s that? A Russian ambassador was shot in Turkey?

Time to blast apocalyptic pop music. Comment/tweet/holler at me with your suggestions for a #DarkestTimeline soundtrack.

The Darkest Timeline: Day 30

It’s been a month since Election Day. A month since we broke away from sanity and branched off into the Darkest Timeline.

Yep, I’ll let that sink in for a moment. You good? No? Don’t worry, I’m not, either.

Trying to keep up with every off-the-cuff tweet, international dustup, and terrifying cabinet appointment is beyond the scope of my blog. Consider this my post-apocalyptic log instead.

I’m still bouncing between the anger and depression stages of grief. There’s no ability to engage in denial because I work in the media. It’s not like I can bury my sorrows in my work because Trump is a big part of my job. My second-most popular article is about Ben Carson selling his house; you don’t think people would care about a soporifically-voiced surgeon turned failed presidential candidate if Hillary won, do you?

While the Electoral College has yet to convene, hoping that enough electors revolt and elect Clinton is delusion on the level of Sanders supporters spending the summer saying that superdelegates don’t vote until July 25th. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean that it’s probable or even likely.

Here’s what I think will happen, in order of how likely it’ll come to pass.

  • Within the first year of his administration, Trump steps down much as Sarah Palin did when she resigned as Governor of Alaska. He’ll say he can serve the country out of office better than by being constrained by the office, but really it will be him being unable to handle the intense scrutiny of being president.
  • Within the first year of his administration, Trump will be impeached, probably because the conflict of interest will be TOO DAMN HIGH.
  • Trump somehow manages to last all four years.

I’m not making these audacious predictions from a place of hope. If this clusterfuck of a month has taught us anything, it’s that the President-Elect had no idea how much work goes into being President before stumbling into office. He’s used to being the kind of executive that rules unquestioned with a big mouth and an iron first. Being chief executive of the United States comes with far more restrictions than he realized, and already he’s chafing at it.

He has no real interest in separating himself from the gilded brand he’s built, either. He’s gotten so used to running his empire through his children that he’s somehow managed to have them run his business and have them on his transition committee. Because that’s not a conflict of interest at all. But it’s the little things, too, like the Secret Service being used to help sell condos in Trump Tower.

One day before the Darkest Timeline, I refused to accept the idea that I’d live in President Trump’s America. One month later, I’m writing what will be, at best, an “I told you so!” blog post.

I guess I’ve reached the acceptance stage of grief. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to blindly accept whatever happens; it just means that I’ve finally accepted that a Bad Thing happened. If my grief is behind me, then I have to figure out how to fight and push forward.

Fantastic Beasts and How to Escape with Them

I’m on the older edge of the Harry Potter generation. I didn’t pick up the series until the spring of 2000. I was in my freshman year of high school, Goblet of Fire was going to come out that summer, and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. By Christmas, I owned the entire series as far as it existed at that point. I’d made my way through the series by checking it out from the library, but seeing those gorgeous hardbacks on my shelf and knowing I could go back to them whenever I wanted was comforting. I loved escaping to Hogwarts. It wasn’t a perfect fantasy land, but you knew everything was going to be okay. The costs might be high, but Harry was the Chosen One and he was going to defeat Voldemort.

So while I missed out on the feeling of growing up with Harry, Fantastic Beasts offered me a glimpse of what it must have felt like to see my peers navigate a magical world. Newt Scamander comes from the magical world we know, but stumbles into a new world that is both terrible and wonderful. We learn about magical America along with him—though some of us may have devoured the supplemental material on Pottermore, first.

If you’re looking for a Harry Potter movie, you may not like Fantastic Beasts. This is a grownup adventure, not a schoolboy romp.

However, if you’re looking for some realistic escapism now that we’re more than a week into the Darkest Timeline, maybe this is the movie you need. Magical America in the 1920s is painfully familiar. Draconian laws are enforced in the name of security. Zealots are out to destroy a misunderstood minority. A charismatic leader with ideas of racial supremacy rises in Europe and threatens America. But at least it was nice seeing an alternate America led by a woman (and a woman of color, too!) ninety years ago? J.K. Rowling couldn’t have possibly known who would have won the election when she was writing this screenplay, but it seems incredibly prescient now.

Newt Scamander stumbles into all this. He’s not the Chosen One like Harry. He’s a magizoologist, an environmentalist crossed with Dr. Doolittle that doesn’t go full PETA. (Y’know, living the #millennial dream of having a steady job that you find rewarding.) He starts the movie being dragged around by MACUSA, mostly in the person of Tina Goldstein, but by the end his magical creatures and his Hufflepuff empathy for others saves the day. Gryffindor bravery is important, I’m a proud bundle of Ravenclaw and Slytherin traits, but what the world needed then as it does now is the unflinching kindness and loyalty of Hufflepuffs.

I really want to talk about Jacob Kowalski, the No-Maj who unwittingly becomes one of the heroes, but it’s hard to do it without spoiling the movie. (But if you want to talk about him after you see the movie, hit me up. He’s my fave.) If Newt is the audience surrogate for Harry Potter fans, then Jacob is the surrogate for our friends that get dragged into the movie with us. We get to watch him discover the wizarding world as an adult, and his awe shows us that this world isn’t just for kids. After being exposed to the wonders that Newt keeps in his case, he and Newt have this exchange:

Jacob Kowalski: I don’t think I’m dreaming.
Newt Scamander: What gave it away?
Jacob Kowalski: I ain’t got the brains to make this up.

Neither do I, Jacob. But I am so glad that JK Rowling does. I am so ready for the next movie, even knowing now that the Fantastic Beasts series will show the rise of Grindelwald. It was a dark time, but my time feels pretty dark, too.

These days, the escapism I need is a world that looks like mine but still has joy and awe and wonder. Those things have escaped me, and I am just as invested in finding them again as any fantastic beast.

The Darkest Timeline: Day 7

At this time a week ago, I still thought Hillary Clinton was going to be president. I told my students as much, because while everyone else was watching the trainwreck was last week’s election results, I was trying to teach my students Portuguese adjectives have to be pluralized alongside their verb.

I say trying, because this is what really happened:

Unholy Terrors.jpg

As much as my kids needed to be doing more writing, that’s not the way I wanted it to do it. It was a punishment. Learning should never be a punishment. I put work into making my lessons interesting. I loved Portuguese school and I want my students to, too. (Or if they don’t love it, at least they don’t hate it and can say a few words to their grandparents.)

The one good thing about throwing out my lesson plan last week is that I can use it today. That’s not to say that I’m not doing any planning for today. If anything, this has been the hardest time I’ve ever had preparing for a class. Breaking down grammar is easy; breaking down what happened last week is harder.

Luckily for me, I’ve been watching, listening to, and reading about how other teachers, parents, and Responsible Adults™ have tried to explain what happened last week to the children they’re responsible for. (Reza Aslan and Jessica Jackley’s op-ed is the best of the bunch.) Another thing I lucked out on is that these kids have teachers, parents, and Responsible Adults™ they see more than just once a week that have already helped them cope with this world we didn’t realize we were living in.

They’re going to ask about it, though. These are kids that talked about moving to Portugal if Trump won, not realizing what that meant. (I’m going to make an appointment to get my Portuguese passport, so I can’t say that I blame them.) They didn’t understand how he had gotten this far. He was mean. He said nasty things. Depending on who you ask, the things he said about Hispanics and Latinos were pointed at us as Portuguese people. It was scary that it was close but they all wanted Hillary to win.

I hate to say it, but I think my job today is to address that a bad thing happened, that it’s up to all of us to be better that the man who won the Electoral College, and then to move on to pluralizing adjectives.

I only have an hour a week with them. There’s only so much I can do.