I find myself even more self-conscious today than I did five years ago. I hear fellow Asian-Americans express similar sentiments, especially as the coronavirus crisis escalates. My friends and I haven’t experienced outright racism, but we’re on the lookout for it, as we see so many others deal with it every day. Call it hypersensitivity if you wish. But if you are white, please consider how your race provides you the unearned privilege of never (or at least seldom) having to question whether someone else’s negativity toward you is due to your skin color.
This election year, I’m deciding how I will be and how I will do. I play with boundaries around media exposure, social media engagement, and conversations on politics. I want to do it better than I did last time. Soon after I started my Facebook page c.2008, I intended it to be a monument to my most positive tendencies. That intention gave way to wrath and fury for much of 2016, ending regrettably in a couple of severed relationships. At some point I reviewed my posts and found an alarming ratio of negative posts, mostly written during fits of impulsive rage. That was a wake-up call.
By January 2017 I had recovered at least somewhat. February 2017 brought a series of “Rules of Engagement” queries on this blog, which I am gratified to reread tonight. These three years I have trained hard to approach all political conversations with more curiosity, generosity, and commitment to connection. Some people and topics are still too sensitive to broach, but progress continues. My training continues alongside my Better Angels tribe members.
I successfully moderated my media consumption these two weeks around impeachment. I read Lamar Alexander’s statement 3 days ago and considered its purported rationale. Part of it made sense to me, and still I’m unsatisfied with the whole situation, which I shared on Facebook. My friends and I exchanged opinions and ideas civilly and respectfully, which I appreciate.
In the end, I believe engagement will be the solution. In 2016 only 50% of eligible voters cast a ballot. Of those, a little over half chose Hillary Clinton. But it wasn’t enough for ‘my side.’ This year we must get the apathetic and disengaged back to the polls. We have nine months to rectify voter access, to connect with those on the fence and invite them down on the side of inclusion, equity, integrity, and respect for humanity. If our opponents fling excrement, we cannot follow suit. We must not become the shit-flinging adversaries we say we abhor—no matter which side we’re on. We must speak from our highest core values, rather than to their lowest words and behaviors. We must connect deeply with every person’s need to feel seen, heard, understood, accepted, and loved. I have THE. HARDEST. time considering 45’s innate humanity. But if I start there, I can handle any conversation with anyone else, and I show any ‘opponent’ why I am a worthy rival and not just an idiot enemy. And I bring out the worthy rival ahead of the idiot enemy in them.
Well, at least this is the goal, the guiding light I intend to follow this year. Surely I will fall under shadows sometimes. But the more I manage to stay in the light, the less I will suffer and the less suffering I will inflict on others. I intend to call forth my best self, for my sake the sake of all those around me.