In Coalition

I am not Canadian and this isn’t really applicable to the Canadian election held this week, but those non-majority government results did get me thinking about something interesting about parliamentary-style systems: coalition governments. That is, where multiple parties work together to establish the government, fill posts, and direct policy.

First of all, you should know that I am not into political parties (and neither, if you were wondering, was George Washington). I understand why they happen but I still hate them. All political parties. Partisanship is trash. I have dreams of non-partisan election/campaign formats (which may be more or less thought-through) but anyway.

Coalition governments are interesting in a number of ways but I’d like to highlight a couple of things and then see how I can contort them to my own ends. First, a benefit (as I see it) and second, a danger (likewise).

Forcing people to work together is great. During my admittedly brief time as a teacher, I did delight in, whenever possible, sticking students into groups that they would never have chosen had it been up to them. My “random” groups for projects were a ray of sunshine in a job that I didn’t generally enjoy all that much.

In coalition governments, of course, the partners tend not to be overly distant from one another, otherwise they wouldn’t have agreed to be partners. But even so, they may have wildly divergent policy ideas. Having them work together to create, ideally, a cohesive government is, I think, one of the primary triumphs of modern government. Not that other times didn’t have divergent groups that they needed to cooperate, but that having the source of law-making be entirely centered on parties that deliberately claim a distinct identity is a wonder.

One thing that can be worrisome, however, is the power of the junior partner(s). When a small party wields power way out of proportion to their share of seats in a body, things can get dicey. Sometimes, of course, it works out in favor of a side that I prefer, but just because I approve of some outcomes doesn’t mean that it isn’t a major flaw.

I can think of a few different scenarios in very contemporary world politics where a fairly small group can play the role of ‘kingmaker’ in forcing a major party to accede to their demands in order to have a functioning government. (If you’re curious, my top two recent choices involve the DUP in the UK and Yisrael Beiteinu in Israel). When only a relatively few seats make a difference between being able to form a government or pass any kind of legislation, it subverts the intent of democratic governance.

I’m not really a political scholar but there are a few cursory political thoughts for you today. But now, what does that mean for our lives, seeing as none of us (I assume) are MPs or TDs or whatever equivalent you like.

Actually, I lied. Now, cats. Then our lives.

So what I’m thinking about in response to our little government lesson (government scholars, don’t come at me) is how people can succeed or fail to work with one another. How to balance pleasing others with sticking to your principles and, conversely, to balance the integrity of your beliefs with actually getting something done. Huge questions that I have no intention of solving for you today.

But I offer to you this: living in coalition with one another. It is impossible that we should ever have a society where everyone agrees with one another on everything. Impossible and, I would add, undesirable. As I’ve said before, people are different and being different is okay.

I don’t want to exhort people to never play the role of the stick-in-the-mud/minor-party/kingmaker because sometimes values should be adhered to no matter the cost. But I also would advise extreme caution whenever you find yourself in that position because a) going mad with power isn’t a good look on anybody, much less someone without much to back it up and b) going through life expecting to leverage minor but important status into getting what you want is a sure way to set yourself up for disappointment.

If you find yourself in the role of largest party but with only a plurality of seats, I would ask that you consider the situation. You are important but you are not everyone. Listen to others because you will not find success if you don’t have people voting with you.

And last, a few words for you if ever you are in an absolute majority. First, be glad. Most people are with you, in one way or another. You are neither persecuted nor ignored, you are the one who decides things for other people. And second, on that note, consider with profound seriousness the responsibility you bear toward those other people. You are in power but that does not mean that you are right. Deal gently with those minorities under you lest democracy simply become the dictatorship of the masses.

In life, we inhabit a constantly shifting parliament in which our party may be larger or smaller in any given situation. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that we are always in coalition with one another. We live here together so let’s act like it.

Good Laws under a Free Government

This week, I’m just going to do a reading and explication for you, everyone’s favorite pastime! The text is George Washington’s farewell address, when he declined to put himself forward for a third term as president. It is quite lengthy, and written in the high formal style of it’s time. Today, I will quote it liberally and offer my humble thoughts and layman’s translation of sorts. I’ve never tried anything like this, and it’s a weird turn of events for this blog but hey. I will be using the copy of the text from the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale, since they have it online and it was a top Google result. Bear in mind that this truly is very long; I preserve a great deal of block quotes because I love the language, it’s so beautiful.

The first president of this country was a man of his time. There are plenty of things about him that I’m not wild about, to say the least. He is problematic, as is idolization of all founding fathers. However.

He had some excellent ideas which he believed, as far as I can tell, with deep fervor and expressed with timeless eloquence. He sums up what he thinks about the country he helped birth and gives some warnings that everyone promptly ignored. But, as he himself says, they are warnings worth reviewing periodically across the span of history. Here is my attempt to highlight a few of his points.


  • He begins by saying that he’s really pumped to retire and almost did before his second term, but decided that things were in such a delicate state that, when they asked him to stay, he thought he ought. But wow, he’s excited to get out of town.
  • He then proceeds (as, in fact, he does throughout the speech) to indicate that he knows how flawed and imperfect he is saying, “I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable.”
  • He thanks the country for all that it has given him and hopes that whatever good has come out of his presidency, it will be helpful for all future Americans

If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected.

  • When things get tricky, and people aren’t thinking clearly because everyone’s so worked up, the support of the people made sure we came out okay

…that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

  • He hopes things go well for the country and that it inspires great things in all countries around the world–to support freedom, wisdom, and happiness
  • He decides to give some advice and hopes people will listen since, as he’s retiring, he doesn’t really have a stake in things
  • He says that unity of government is absolutely essential, and he knows that internal and external forces will work to attack that unity for unsavory reasons. Therefore, we need to keep an eye out and always return to unity as our foundation

watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

  • Citizens, “by birth or choice,” must identify as American over regional identities
    • The North, South, Atlantic, and West are all bound together for each others’ good, don’t let politicians exacerbate/exaggerate/make up regional differences for political gain. National unity is in everyone’s interest
  • The Constitution is great and should reflect, at any given time, the people. The people can and should change it when necessary.

The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.

  • Obey laws. Parties are a “fatal tendency” and obstruct law. Party interests are not the people’s interests. And when parties change power, they disrupt the orderly function of the government.

[parties and factions] put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

    • They may be popular for a moment, but they are never good in the long run

…cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion

  • Be careful about changing the Constitution, but also make sure that the government doesn’t become weak. Liberty requires a government strong enough to make sure that it can protect rights, maintain law, and combat factionalism

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.

  • Parties are bad and, in the end, lead to dictators, basically, because people get tired of the back and forth and grow distrustful of the mechanisms of government
  • Parties might be kind of helpful in monarchies, as people can express themselves, but are entirely bad in democracies
  • People in power need to respect that power and make sure not to expand their spheres beyond their constitutionally designated areas (checks and balances)
  • Government requires morality and morality requires religion
    • This isn’t really a thing but whatever
  • The “general diffusion of knowledge” is absolutely essential. People need to know things to participate in government.
  • Public credit is precious. Use it, but use it wisely

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.

  • He’s really big into neutrality, other than time-limited alliances as necessary.
    • Don’t have countries you hate, don’t have countries you love. Both will make you do stupid stuff. Just be nice to everyone.
  • Be super wary of foreign influence
  • Don’t get involved in foreign wars
    • I’m neither here nor there on this

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.

  • I’m going to retire and it’s going to be great

Bringing up Trump and Congressional Republicans at this point seems a little on the nose. And besides, pretty much our entire governmental system would probably be pretty disappointing to President Washington. Like I said, I’m not 100% behind all of his thoughts and everything, but I like much the above. I guess we can only shrug and, to paraphrase another president I like (Teddy Roosevelt), do what we can with what we’ve got where we are.

ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ

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Ottawa Airbnb cat. So affectionate.

Lest ye imagine that my trip to Canada in late March was a vernal dream and that I walked about with perambulatory ease, allow me to set you aright. I woke up my last morning in Ottawa to snow, still descending, which decayed into freezing rain as I drove to Montréal. Upon reaching that municipality, rain and ice unabated, I proceeded to wander a while upon Mont Royal, the landmark which furnished the city with its name, and cover myself in ice while seeing only fog-obscured views and getting a little lost along poorly labeled paths. My last morning in Montreal preceded in line with that, a dusting of snow once more. And, about an hour out from home, more snow. And waking up the next morning, first morning back in Glen Arbor, just a teensy bit more.

So you know, spring.

People have talked about the great variability of spring in this region but I have not seen it. I have seen only more winter with slightly warmer temperatures. As my dear Edna St Vincent Millay put it, “Time does not bring relief; you all have lied”.

Anyway. I thought instead of a play-by-play of the rest of my trip, I would offer just a few summarized points and then move on. I had a lovely time, truly, but I have to say that I wasn’t overly impressed on the whole. In Canada, as in the US, it seems the west coast really is the best coast. But it was not all in vain.

[As a general aside, I’m confident that all this was very colored by my experience of the weather. If I were to visit for the first time maybe in May or something, my review might have sounded quite different. I tried to enjoy regardless, and mostly succeeded, but snow in April simply isn’t my scene.]

Ottawa was kind of an odd city. I told a friend it gave me a feeling that somehow combined Dublin, IE and Anchorage, AK and Burlington, VT. None of those are ringing endorsements (though I do love Burlington). I really appreciated the way indigenous art was presented, included, and described (in indigenous languages) in the National Gallery of Canada. And the buildings of Parliament Hill (and a few others) were absolutely exceptional, loved them a lot.

My experience of Montréal was, I think, the most hampered by inclement weather. I just didn’t want to go see much. I did hit my few highlights, so that was nice. I appreciated some nice architecture, and was pleased to walk through the Gay Village which was right near by Airbnb. But it was the end of my trip, it was cold, it was rainy, I stayed inside and read a good deal. The book wasn’t even that great so.

Finally, I arrived in Rochester, NY, for a visit with an old friend and her fiancé. It was very rejuvenating, just chatting and catching up and hanging out. Relaxing with someone who knows me well. Saw a bit of the city, which seemed nice enough, but mostly enjoyed a quiet finale to the journey.


My host in Montréal, interestingly, was French. From Brittany, which proved especially interesting when I learned (and told him, because he hadn’t known) that the much-celebrated Jacques Cartier, essentially the European who first got what became Canada going, was also born in Brittany. In fact, he was not even born in France. The Duchy of Brittany formally became part of France by an edict in (its status was super complicated so assigning a single year is iffy but) 1532 when the explorer was middle-aged.

I do not know a whole lot of Jacques’s biography other than a perusal of his Wikipedia page. I do not know his native tongue. But I do know that Wikipedia lists his name first as Jacques Cartier and second, suggestively, as Jakez Karter. Did he speak Breton?

I noted this to my host, and rather ham-handedly compared it to Québec in terms of linguistic imperialism. He replied that that was of an earlier age, that it was the time of colonization, whereas Québec was not. We moved the conversation on from there and it was all good but I have to tell you, I disagree strongly.

First, let it be said that a) yes, the whole Québec thing is an entirely different question than Brittany, that wasn’t really a good comparison, and b) I love minority languages and cultures and all that, preserve preserve preserve! But. You’re white Canadians mad about people barging into where your ancestors lived and foisting their culture and language on you? Tell me more.

I don’t want to get super political on a topic about which I am very poorly informed. So I will only say this: the people with the best claim to Québec–and all of Canada and really the Americas– speak, historically, neither French nor English.

Like I said, I really know nothing about this. But it seems to me that Canada seems to be trying, for French-speakers and indigenous peoples alike. Not doing super well all the time, but trying. And that’s more than I can say for my current country of residence. My two cents, at least.

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Again. And Again. And Again.

This is a very depressing post. It is, in basically every way, inadequate to the task it undertakes. It is not an exhaustive treatise either on my thoughts and knowledge or the subject area at large. It is a plaintive cry into the internet, where such cries are about as useful as they are satisfying. Nevertheless, I can only hope and pray that speaking is better than silence. And hope and pray for a better world

In the season following Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to say a few words. Not directly about that holiday–the misrepresentations and illegitimacy of which is discussed here, among a number of other places. While the spirit of the holiday seems innocuous enough to me, a white American, and I think the concept of thanks-giving is worth celebrating, the day is plagued by a kind of rose-colored and deliberate ignorance. It’s not exactly what I’m here to talk about but it’s relevant and I encourage you to educate yourself.

The summer after my senior year of high school, I spent two weeks on a mission trip in Kigali, Rwanda. My senior capstone course for undergrad was called “Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing.” For graduate school, I completed a program in Race, Ethnicity, and Conflict. All this to say that the definition of genocide is one of those things that I have memorized because of course.

…intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such…

Sometimes people are like, “That’s genocide” and I’m like, probably not, actually. Other times, people are like, “That’s a bad thing” and I’m like it’s genocide. You get into things like “acts of genocide” and ethnic cleansing. There’s a lot to unpack and this is not really the place. All the same, I just want to say something about it because it has been weighing on me.

Something you hear a lot, usually in reference to the Holocaust, is “never again.” Something you see a lot if you spend any amount of time looking at the world around you is again. And again. And again. Historically, whether you look at native peoples in the Americas, the Herero in German Southwest Africa, Armenia around the First World War, or the Nazis and Japanese in the Second. Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Myanmar right now. Certainly acts of the Islamic State. Possibly the Uighur detentions in China and the war in Yemen. So many places, so many people.

I don’t know, exactly, what can be done. Would I support committing money and lives to a military intervention? I don’t know, possibly. Do I feel powerless? Yes. Do I think that anything I might do would have negligible effect, if any? Probably. Should something be done even so? Yes.

And so here we are. This may not be a particularly Christmasy topic but I’ve felt for a while that I ought to say something. These words probably don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. My readers, I don’t imagine, walk international halls of power with authority to respond to anything I say. I don’t know that I really expect you to do anything about it, other than perhaps read world news a little more often.

I guess in all my learning in the subject area, I have two general knowledge take-aways for you. First, do not think that the Holocaust is somehow unique in the story of human history. While it has many unique aspects, it follows naturally from a long chain of events. Second, do not think that it could not happen again. Do not think that it could not happen here. Do not think that ‘never again’ was a promise the world ever expected to keep.

And, because I firmly believe in hope: let us all work toward a world in which such crimes never happen again.

Cessation of Hostilities is Not Peace

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, one hundred years ago, something ended and something began.

The peace after the first World War was hard-won but it was also half-hearted. Fighting stopped but many issues remained either unresolved or resolved poorly. It could have been a time of great hope and instead proved to be the intermezzo between two conflagrations.

In my studies of international relations, the term negative peace is generally used to refer to the absence of war, while positive peace indicates the presence of just, peaceful, and equitable systems. Clearly, the latter is as elusive as unicorns in Sunday bonnets because I’m going to go out on a limb and say that positive peace has never been a reality on this good earth.

I don’t really know what else to say about this upcoming anniversary. In my experience, the topic of the war and ensuing events tends to get short shrift in the US. During my time at Exeter, I took a class on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and the first-hand readings for that class repeatedly made me weep. The first day of the Somme– 1 July, 1916–was and remains the bloodiest day in British military history.

And, in my current context, that makes me think of the US. The day when the most Americans died in war was the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Americans fighting Americans.

I will tell you, I am not happy with the results of the US election this week. My fears were not realized but my hopes were disappointed. It could have been worse but it could have been so much better. In Washington, they supported some gun and public safety measures but rejected the carbon fee. In Michigan, I supported all three initiatives and all three passed, but my district’s Republican Congressional representative was reelected. Political mixed bags are rather par for the course but still.

Lots of exciting ground was broken nationally–for LGBTQ+ candidates, women, people of color. Lots of things happening and there are good things among them, so there’s that, at least.

I was going to write this whole post about the anniversary of the armistice, but here we are. In many ways, though, it’s a similar kind of feeling. No war ended, of course. But there was an opportunity for some structural change and I feel like most of that opportunity was squandered.

This is all just kind of processing. These are just my initial thoughts and feelings. I don’t really consider myself a huge politico or policy wonk (or whatever bizarre term you prefer) but over the past few years I’ve gotten a great deal more into it. Simply put, I’ve recognized that all of these things effect me. They impact me.

On Facebook, I’ve seen a little saying going around. “You can’t say you love someone and then vote for people who will hurt them.” And I don’t have much else to say at this juncture.

Quiet

Surprise, I have not been up to much of anything this week. We had our first solid rain yesterday and I was pleased. It felt good, even if it didn’t really seem to influence the city-ness of the air. And my walk to work is only like five minutes, so I wasn’t even that wet. Back in Dublin, it was tough when it started raining part way through my forty minute walk and there were no buses on their way. Anyway.

On Wednesday, I had a small addition to my routine. Normally, I go into work to putz around, plan, and grade or whatever miscellaneous work needs to be done before phone sessions. This week, I was in charge of a review session for the first part of the day. Basically, we looked at answers the kids all had already, chatted about topics they only vaguely remembered, and played games. But it wasn’t so bad.

I don’t really have anything else to report. Sometimes I appall myself with how truly and utterly I fill my time with nothing. I don’t even watch that much Netflix. I have no idea what happens to the time, though I know even if I had more I lack the willpower to do anything much with it. I have a few theories about this particular iteration of nothingness here in Seoul, maybe I’ll share them at a later date.

For now, I’d like to give you a bit of insight at how my BA in international studies continues to actually mean something in my life, even if it’s not directly related to my job.

I recently subscribed to the blog Political Violence at a Glance, which issues both a weekly compilation of important news articles and longer topic pieces on relevant issues. This is the latest of three similar updates I follow to keep track of international events. I claim this neither as many nor few, but I encourage everyone to take some time regularly to look at what’s going on from sources that don’t only care about things in other countries when our country is involved or there’s a horrendous disaster.

This week’s discussion was on the fighting, both militarily and socially, the violent extremist groups in the Sahel and Maghreb (if you’re interested, you can read it here). Importantly, as the piece notes, counterinsurgency is not just about wresting control of territory from violent groups, it is also about the classic winning of hearts and minds. This has long been the dilemma of people involved in counterinsurgency efforts. The author drew a comparison between contemporary states’ attempts in the region and colonial French policies and I think it’s an important one.

The writer talks about the ways in which groups are defined by the state as constitutively violent change depending on who’s in power (because generally religion doesn’t advocate a whole lot of violence). The problem they describe, therefore, is not one of message but of identity. The solution, it follows, is then not about amending your ways but of amending yourself. It’s “be a member of this sect” instead of simply “don’t preach violence.” This isn’t entirely unhelpful but it will not bring a durable peace.

In my studies, I have encountered a wide variety of ways to talk about peace but this brief article provided a new one for me, and one which I immediately took to heart in times like these. Defining the problem in the terms outlined above does not actually distinguish between violent and peaceful groups. They certainly are violent but the response to them comes from a redefinition by the group in power. The line drawn is between revisionist and politically quietist.

I may have run across the term “politically quietist” before but it didn’t seem to make much of an impact. Here though, and now, I find it resonating deeply. And the term is easily transferable. Protesters: Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, Women’s March ect. Viewpoints: political correctness, legal discrimination, minimum wage ect.

Is it peace or is it status quo? Do you want what’s right or what’s easy? What’s true or what’s convenient? Political quietism is just a fancy way of saying the people with the power want to protect and (pre)serve power. Keeping things the same is a heavy and powerful idea.

And do we see people as essentialized, petrified bastions of oversimplified beliefs or human beings who can make mistakes and learn from them? Who are deserving of mercy and grace? Who can be forgiven even if they do not seek forgiveness?

Using another term, I want to seek positive peace–not the absence of war but the presence of justice. I want unity in diversity. If that makes me a troublemaker, so be it.

I reject quiet. I pursue peace.

Hoquiam, Uzbekistan, and Doing

So you’ll recall that I recently went to Ocean Shores. If you’ve ever driven there from the area I live in, you’ll have driven through the booming metropolis of Hoquiam, Washington. If you’re reading this and you currently or have ever lived in Hoquiam, firstly I’m so, so sorry. Secondly, I apologize for the caricature I’m about to make of it.

Driving through Hoquiam with a car full of high schoolers, the characterization that immediately sprang to mind was in the form of a catchy moniker: Hoquiam, graveyard of dreams. And that pretty much sums it up. Most of the region, really. Generally depressed (and depressing), much rainier than our Harbor, the kind of place that seems hard to leave and even harder to stay in. Hoquiam epitomizes this, as it can’t even summon up enough spirit to be quite as nice (in relative terms) as neighboring Aberdeen.

Hoquiam. Oh Hoquiam.

That part of Washington has held onto its logging identity longer than the more urbanized Puget Sound and it looks it. It can be a gorgeous area crisscrossed by scars of clear-cuts and muddy makeshift roads. I’m torn between thinking that it’d be an interesting and cool place to live (for a little while) and thinking that it’s a miracle people still do at all. Anyway, I don’t write this to be offensive but to give my honest, if superficial, assessment of the place. Less than ideal at the very least. Graveyard of dreams, perhaps.

Anyway. This week has had me a bit down in the dumps, to be real with you, and it’s no secret why. This country scares me. I give my fear three categories of reasons: I feel personally victimized, I empathize with others who are being targeted, and I worry about the implications for our country and world as a whole. I don’t want the world to be like Hoquiam and, if I’m being my best self, I don’t want Hoquiam to be like Hoquiam either. As an aside, Grays Harbor County voted for Trump by approximately the same margin as my home Pierce County went for Clinton.

What kind of system are we supporting? Those of you who know me well know that I have never been a fan of capitalism and every day I continue to exist in world only reaffirms this for me. And this week, I just seem to be surrounded by the worst. Political, economic, social…

Last night, I was really trying hard to think of something to write this post about and not having much luck. All I really wanted to do was complain about the eight million things that have happened that left me open-mouthed and shocked. The things that made me angry and humiliated and disgusted. Then, miracle of miracles, Facebook presented me with an article of real, active news that actually lifted my spirits. It’s just a simple human interest story, but I’d like to share it with you because it was so much what I needed.

This article from NPR (possibly facing defunding) gave me a bit of a pat on the heart and got me turned around in just the right way.

If you don’t feel like clicking the link and reading for yourself, it’s just a quick tale of the recently-recalled Golden Door beside which a certain lady in green lifts her lamp of hope. A family from Uzbekistan (a Hoquiam of countries if ever there was one) finally receives American citizenship. Acquainted with the tyranny of governments dictating where people may live, the family seems hopeful that the America they now participate in (they immediately registered to vote) is worth loving. That’s a belief that I share in my good moments and scarcely can imagine in my bad.

Also yesterday, I called one of my US Senators. I feel very strongly about pretty much everything in this administration thus far but I could not stand by the nomination for Education. Hearing that this senator of mine was perhaps uncertain of how to vote, I called and registered my opposition to her confirmation. It took, in grand total, one minute and forty-one seconds. For a second contact with the government in this way (after the letters I wrote about a couple months ago), not too shabby, I thought. And though it took kind of a lot for me to actually call, once I did I realized that this is real. I’m not a hypocrite on this issue, I want change and I do something. I may not do much, but liking things on Facebook has informed real action. I am politically active, even if in the barest sense, and I will not be looking back thank you very much. Too much is at stake.

So here’s my thing. There are so many real and metaphorical Hoquiams and Uzbekistans all around and within us. But that is not the way it was meant to be.

I believe that everyone has something or someone they care enough about to act on. So may we all overcome our fears and do. Go to a march, sign a petition, call an important somebody. Talk passionately to everyone who will listen– listen to them, too, and keep pursuing the facts and the right wherever they may lead you.

Like I’ve heard it said, compassion is to care enough to do something to help. If we’re not doing, we’re not loving. Not really.

Goons and How Not to Be Them

I listen to Christmas music any time and every time, but in my book it becomes socially acceptable on Thanksgiving while cooking, though Black Friday is I guess the first real day of the season. So I hope yours is off to a lovely start. We’ve gotten and decorated trees at both houses and I’m ever so glad because yay Christmas trees. Also just yay Christmas in general.

Last year around this time, in the midst of my eight million Christmas song quotations (which I will not apologize for), I mentioned that great line from Muppet Christmas Carol that says, “It is the season of the spirit; the message, if we hear it, is make it last all year.” Aside from Muppet Christmas Carol being fabulous in a general way, this line is a key one. Allow me to take a moment to expound.

With everything that has gone on in the past few weeks (and eighteen months or whatever, you know of whom I speak), it seems a little trickier than usual to feel Christmasy. Everything that Christmas stands for (which is to say, everything that Jesus stands for) has been challenged. Not by a ‘war on Christmas,’ an silly idea with which I choose not engage at this present time, but by a war on common decency and human kindness that apparently has millions of ostensibly very religious supporters. Let’s not get started on that statement because  yes, other things and stuff and reasons; I get it, let’s just take it at face value for a second and move on.

So. Goons. I looked it up, because I try to be accurate when I write on here, and goon has two meanings, basically: a silly person and a thug. I would suggest a third meaning to apply in Bunny Foofoo’s case, referring to a squidgy monster of no consequence or something of that sort. But that’s beside the point. The point is this: don’t scoop up field mice and bop them on the head. If you’ve been systemically ignored and suppressed by the Good Fairy, that’s a shame. If the Good Fairy has lied to, offended, and ridiculed you, I’m sorry. But nothing about that justifies inflicting pain on the least of these. Indeed, imagine being one of the field mice whose entire existence seems to consist of being bopped on the head.

Wow, okay. Looking back at what I’ve written, it’s just really not what I wanted to write this week. It’s not a great December opener and, frankly, the Bunny Foofoo stuff is pretty out there even for me. I clearly don’t have myself together enough to say quite the right things yet. But at the same time, I don’t want to not say them because it’s difficult. I’m confident that at least one person will get what I mean (over what I say) and that’s enough for me. In fact, I know what I mean over what I say so I don’t really care if you do (though I do very much hope you do). Anyway. I’ll leave you with a final thought which is much more coherent and generally just better in every way. Plus, it has a call to action so my AP Lang teacher would be pleased. Okay. Here you go.

The other day, I did something I had never done before–at least not that I could call to mind. I hand-wrote letters to my three congresspeople (and was reminded that both of Washington’s senators are women, yay Washington). 10/10 can recommend writing, respectfully, to your representatives at any and all levels–plus you know how much I like telling you to write letters.

Now, I have a generally positive opinion of my three Congresspeople and their records so the letters were mostly thanking them and highlighting some issues that are important to me (environmental protection/renewable energy, education, and marriage equality/LGBT non-discrimination). The gist was basically aiming to encourage them in what will almost certainly be a very difficult four years to be in Congress. I concluded each letter with a particular sentence and I would like to conclude this post with it too, not because we’re perfect but because we can aspire to form a more perfect union, whether in government or otherwise.

Please continue to be tireless in your defense of the defenseless, neither relinquishing your values nor fearing compromise.