Politics — From: Take Me Away! to Take Aways!

“We’re in trouble – BIG trouble. And we’re heading in the wrong direction,” my bestie, Lynne, said to me last Thursday while we were standing in a B&N signing line to have Barbara Kingsolver autograph copies of her new novel, Unsheltered, for us. The author’s reading and fact that she plans her books around themes – issues – had led us to political discussion. With the upcoming midterm elections, I’ve been pondering politics a lot lately.

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(Let me tell you a secret. I HATE politics!)

I remember being in high school and a friend exclaiming, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I hated the concept. When I think politics, I think nepotism, which is still an issue!

My first job outside of college was as a speech writer for the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. It infuriated me to learn that the ROC was stuck in a no man’s land between the People’s Republic of China and independence. Why does the situation have to be so complicated and unfair? I thought. Mainland China had threatened military action if the ROC declared itself an independent country, yet the Taiwanese couldn’t rejoin the mainland because they didn’t want to struggle under a communist regime. At the same time, many Taiwanese did not want to be separated from their Chinese roots, centuries of ancestry and tradition, either. It was heartbreaking.

I was also disgusted with my boss, who insult the USA to my face every chance he had, yet intended to live out his life in America, with full diplomatic immunity. It seemed hypocritical.

Consequently, when I quit that job to start grad school, outside of voting for president, which was the only political action that I ever witnessed my parents (one a Democrat, the other a Republican) take, I shoved politics far out of mind.

However, there’s no way to be a writer who believes in writing as an agent of social change and not become invested in politics. Working and earning an M.F.A. at an almost all black university made me invest. Attending Split This Rock Poetry Festival made me invest. Teaching at institutions with first-generation college students and high diversity rates made me invest. Becoming a mother only made me invest more. So, in more recent years, I became a protest poet and an activist, mostly armchair but also protests and vigils. I’ll never forget the sad evening of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C., when I heard Sarah Browning, director of Split This Rock, utter the words, “Poetry is not enough.”

“Poetry is not enough.”

It was then that I sensed a change from which there would be no turning back. A change for the country, a change for me.

In May, Highland politician Brandon Dothager, whom I’d met the previous month at a poetry slam, knocked on my door and asked me to become his Democratic vice precinct chairwoman. He was quite persuasive, and I accepted. Since then, I’ve attended Indiana’s Democratic convention, become a member of the not-for-profit, Rise NWI, and of a local chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), attended precinct meetings and a rally, and canvassed my and Brandon’s precinct with voter registration forms and a non-partisan petition.

My main take aways thus far are as follows:

  • Change is a very slow animal in part because a lot of difficult work goes on behind the scenes for local challengers to beat incumbents and for change to rise from local to regional to state to national levels. We need more individuals, people with fresh eyes, who are willing to roll up their sleeves and put in the time and energy to make change happen!
  • There exists a seriously problematic division between moderate and progressive Democrats. However, that should not deter anyone from focusing on the vital work that all Democrats should be able to agree upon and prioritize, such as helping to solve climate change, plastic pollution, mass shooting, and health care issues. We need a future. We need to be able to feel safe in public spaces, especially sacred ones such as schools and places of worship. We need for people to be able to afford life-saving physicians’ visits, surgeries, and medications. Planet and people. It’s that simple.
  • The most important step that we can take is getting out to the polls to vote on Tuesday, November 6th. Whether the blue wave becomes a small ripple or a tsunami is up to every single one of us age 18 and over and could mean the difference between continuing in the wrong direction by feet or traversing it for miles over the next two years. And we are in trouble – BIG trouble!

And by the way, if you live in Northwest Indiana and aren’t busy on Sunday, November 11th, from 12-1:30 PM, please join the PDA and Northwest Indiana Green Party for the
“Unite Against Hate! Time to Make a Change!” rally at Munster Town Hall. Please see: https://www.facebook.com/events/353432682058535/

(Have I mentioned that I HATE politics?) Hope to see you this coming Sunday!

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