A Former Liberal’s Manifesto: An Analysis of the Consequences of the Current State of Liberalism, and an Appeal for a Mature, Understanding Left

Source: New York Times

Introduction

I’ve been the spitting, angry liberal. I’ve been the person skimming headlines and making concrete opinions, criticizing those who disagree with me. I’ve been a silencer. I’ve been the college-educated urbanite who looked down upon the rural redneck. I’ve held ignorantly nebulous views due to my own lack of discernment. I’ve been a hypocrite. I’ve been intolerant while simultaneously demanding tolerance. I’ve been hateful, distempered, and unable to regulate my emotions. I’ve wanted to hurt people. I’ve looked at people who disagree with me as less-than-human.

Sometimes, I’m still these things. I’m trying not to be, however, and this is the reason for this so-called “manifesto”.

Now, I’d like you to change some words around in that first paragraph. Flip me to the right. How do you like me now? Do you still have patience for me? Do you still think I’m coming from the right place?

I feel unaligned and alienated from the current extremes of politics, and I feel like there isn’t a place for me on the left or the right anymore. I also know that I am far from alone in feeling this way.

Something that has been rattling my brain for a while now has to come out — a question of culpability, responsibility, and unintended consequences.

Did the left push the right into this extreme of Trumpism?

I’ll start by telling you about myself.

I’ve spent the summer driving around the country in my old Chevy G20 making a documentary with my partner, learning everything on our own, funding it all by ourselves — compelled by intense curiosity and a belief that we have something important to say about the state of the civilization. (The project is called “Death in The Garden.”) Through our journey, I’ve died and been born hundreds of times in a fluxing state of hubris, naivety, and growth. Our project began as a documentary about regenerative agriculture, but immediately we were enchanted by the overarching tenets of holistic management, a concept created by Allan Savory. Holism and the acknowledgement of complex systems are the key truths in this framework — meaning, we are complex living systems (wholes) and part of many other complex systems (greater wholes). The world exploded into a million different prisms of light, and I was reminded of something I’ve always deeply believed to be true, but have been often criticized for believing: that there is no objective reality or moral pathway in the world. We’re all subject to our culture, environment, parents, peers, personalities, nationality, and the values that stem from those institutions — those greater wholes within wholes. This concept of holism complexified my worldview into a dizzying and magnificent anthropological gaze, wherein I can really practice this knowing I’ve always had — that everyone’s experience of the world is subjective, and unique to them, for better or worse.

I’ve always been curious and interested in subjects like psychology, anthropology, and sociology. The way that world works and how people function within it has always been something I’ve been keen to understand. I have a distinct memory of the first time I realized that everyone around me was an individual, with different thoughts, families, perspectives, and ideas than me. I was a child, maybe 6 or 7, coming in from recess and the theory of mind struck me like a bus, completely shattering my previous worldview. I didn’t have the language for it then, but I experienced a critical stage of human development — a shift toward self-awareness.

In high school, I was fascinated by criminals, murderers, and cultists because I knew there was something about them that was so different from me, and I desperately wanted to know what/how/why. How can the same world create someone like me and someone like Jefferey Dahmer? It confounded me, and my peers thought I was kind of a creep for this morbid curiosity. Simultaneously, I was in my early years of social activism, arguing with teachers about their inappropriate right-wing rhetoric in the classroom and being incredibly opinionated and outspoken about gay rights and women’s rights. I was very different in my own heteronormative way, and I wanted to be part of a world that welcomed other types of difference, too.

Before Trump, when I existed in a blind state of Obama-induced calmness, I would often engage in political arguments with the adults in my family, and try to be incredibly respectful and understanding. Often, I was lambasted for being young and idealistic, but I tried to stand firm to my opinions, however half-baked they, in actuality, were. I remember one conversation in particular, where I tried to explain white privilege to my father; a very intelligent, understanding man. We briefly argued about it — me trying to tell him it wasn’t an indictment of either of us to acknowledge that we are privileged for the color of our skin. But something was stirring in him, something that I struggled to understand at the time. What I didn’t have the language for then, but do now, is that shame, regardless of how well intentioned it is, is not a good proxy for change. What I was saying to my father was making him feel shameful for something he couldn’t control — the color of his skin, the family he was born into, the country he was raised in. For me, a young liberal anti-patriot, I couldn’t understand why this knowledge would be hurtful to my dad, but I do now.

Trump’s winning in 2016 catalyzed me into a slurry of rage and apathy I had never experienced before. I tossed away the subjective knowing I had when I was younger for a rage-fueled dogma. I forgot the theory of mind. I couldn’t believe that people didn’t see the world from my perspective. How could they vote for this man: a lying demagogue, pretend billionaire, fraudulent con-man? I settled on this myopia: Trump supporters are morons. What’s more, they’re racists. They’re misogynists. They’re homophobes. They’re xenophobes. They must be destroyed.

My hackles would rise if I heard someone defend a Trump supporter in any capacity, even to simply say that they were people, too. It was “controversial” to me to suggest that a Trump supporter had a right to their opinions. I would immediately be on the attack: “but, but, but they don’t get to have an opinion. They’re white, they’re uneducated, they just don’t understand how the world works, why should we even have to humor their racist opinions?” I would consider moderates closet republicans, or just think they were idiots.

In that same period of time, I would talk about the hatred I felt toward myself as a white person, and demand that others acknowledge their complicitness. Positing myself as victim of sexual assault, I would shut down conversations that demanded nuance regarding masculinity, the Me Too movement, and silence men for having opinions about things I viewed to be feminist issues. I took pleasure in “schooling” people who disagreed with me by essentially disregarding their opinions based on features they couldn’t control about themselves, feeling undeniably superior in my beliefs. When Trump won and I was outraged, my brother expressed to me that I was silencing him and I told him he couldn’t be silenced as a white, straight man. I was triggered often. My fury was largely untested, and my perspective absolute.

After a while, though, like many of us, my outrage turned to apathy in a depressing fugue state that was fed occasionally by assaults of the Trump administration, and my chaotic passion would rise up again to gobble it up. This worldview was satiating for a while as I put my head down to finish college, but the hunger pangs of discontentment could only be stifled by rage for so long.

Now, I’m not an expert of anything — literally nothing at all. I’m informed by my formal and informal education in psychology, anthropology, ecology, and writing. I’m informed by my experience in many years of therapy. I’m informed by tons of documentaries. I’m informed by the expansive nature of the past year of my life, where I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the smartest people in the country and talk about these issues. I’m informed by my principles. I’m informed by incredible books. I’m informed by podcasts done by incredibly thoughtful, intelligent people. But most of all, I’m informed by my visceral, intentional, consciously lived experience of the world. So, listen to me or don’t. You can reduce me to being a white, college-educated, straight woman, or you can view me as the complex living creature that I am. It’s up to you. This is taboo and terrifying for me to write — and I don’t do so lightly. I’d be grateful if you heard me out.

Anyway. Here it is: my self-described “manifesto” because I imagine that it’s likely to be reduced to that. So, I thought it apt to just beat everyone to the punch. Here, I am going to air my own dirty laundry, my criticisms of the rhetoric and conduct of the left (the ideology from which I am part) and the right, attempt to explain the phenomena that I am witnessing, and hopefully provide an alternative course of action through these incredibly turbulent and divided times.

I fully expect people to be very angry and triggered about what I have to say here. I fully expect for people to try to reduce me to something that I am not in the name of identity politics and my challenging of the common narratives. Giving me a chance, and the right to an honest opinion, however, is a step toward a future where all of our voices can at once be tempered and heard.

Also, I want to extend my deepest truth: you are welcome here regardless of whether you agree with me or not. I am open to being very wrong about my opinions, even though I have thought these things through deeply. It is not my intention to harm anyone or indict anyone, and I hope that people don’t try to harm or indict me for what I am trying to convey. Rather, if you relate to what I am saying, know that I’m not here to shame you. I don’t believe I have a right to that power over you, or anyone. I’m writing this as a means to hold a mirror, not shackle anyone to condemnation. In fact, I hope you see this as something of a liberation.

The Myopia of Identity Politics

“Fuck the police means we don’t act like cops to each other.” — Clementine Morrigan

I feel that the left is turning inward, as well as outward, to its own members and attacking their ability to express differences of opinion as a means of unity, creating a dishonest experience of belonging based in fear. Obviously, this terminology doesn’t extend to everyone at all times, but there is an impetus on the left, which I have witnessed and experienced, that there must be an unquestioning loyalty to its ideals and institutions and that if you disagree with aspects of the way things are operating, you are essentially a traitor. You must abide by the dogma that the left is superior, or else. Many of these ideologies that you must remain loyal to are riddled with logical fallacies, but you can’t question them. I’m not even supposed to be talking about this, which is why doing so is a taboo act of defiance to the status-quo. I’m not being hyperbolic about this authoritarian nature: I’ve been reprimanded heartily this year for holding nuanced perspectives. I’ve been accused of spreading misinformation for being outspokenly critical of the Democratic Party’s many unconscionable actions. And I’m planning on being canceled and harassed for expressing the opinions here that I am.

The podcast “Fucking Cancelled” by Clementine Morrigan and Jay (I think he is intentionally anonymous) is an attempt to offer an alternative approach to heal the dysfunction on the left, and expose what they believe to be the phenomena that is happening within the liberal/leftist ideology: “the nexus”. The nexus is the three-fold combination of social media, “cancel culture”, and identity politics. The nexus actually has good intentions, but its execution is that of an abusive, controlling relationship. Basically, it is a system of maintaining submission to the ideology’s most righteous beliefs through condemnation and “cancelation” for moral or intellectual disagreement: thoughtcrimes.

The creators of “Fucking Cancelled” describe the podcast as for “anyone who feels stifled or trapped by the authoritarian, punishing culture that dominates the left.” The podcast brilliantly combines the tenets of AA and the Twelve Steps to identify a productive way forward, through healing, retribution, and responsibility. AA provides a path of ownership and reconciliation for misdeeds, rather than perpetual condemnation. This, I believe, is a much more mature and functional way forward.

Here’s the deal. I know so many people who will try to tell me “there’s no comparison because people on the right are xenophobic, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic planet destroyers who are hell-bent on converting everyone to their brand of evangelicalism.” Herein begins the first fundamental problem we have in this country: punitive categorization. And this happens on both sides to both sides.

What do I mean by “punitive categorization”? It’s a phenomena (that I just named) that I’m seeing that goes a little something like this: Joe Rogan says something that someone perceives as transphobic. Said person declares that he is transphobic rather than he has said something that may or may not be problematic towards trans people. A campaign against Joe Rogan is conceived, articles are written, online hatred is expressed, headlines of Rogan’s transphobia abound — Joe Rogan is transphobic now. Charged, tried, convicted. (I am not commenting on whether or not I believe Joe Rogan to have said things that are transphobic or that he is transphobic, I am merely using this as an example.)

It’s in the name of justice that we categorize people like this, cancel them, perform call-outs. It’s honestly meant to be well-intentioned. He must be held “accountable” for the harm he has committed, right? It’s punitive. He now gets this label in perpetuity as punishment for his misdeeds, and is forever categorized as a transphobe, never to be trusted, never to be listened to again. Is he really transphobic, or are we looking for ways to discredit and indict him for questioning the liberal narrative?

Now, Joe Rogan is very much a leftist, but that doesn’t spare him or anyone else from the crosshairs of the nexus because what he says, who he allows on his podcast, and his cultural attributes do not align perfectly with the tidy narrative of the left. It extends beyond him, too. If you are a leftist who listens to The Joe Rogan Experience, you’re probably a closet republican or at the very least an idiot conspiracy theorist. He, like everyone caught in the crosshairs of this phenomena, is reduced to a tweet, a conversation taken out of context, a politically incorrect joke, or a sensationalized quote.

To reiterate, what I’m saying might seem hyperbolic, but these are things that I have witnessed and researched for myself. I’ve also made claims like this against people in the past. While certain individuals on the left might not be perpetuating this behavior, there are enough of them that are that it’s problematic and needs to be addressed. It has become cultural rather than anecdotal.

The reason why it’s so important to bring this concept up is that it is rapidly disintegrating our ability to perceive people as complex beings. When we reduce and demonize an entire human being to the verbiage of a conversation, we slowly but surely narrow our worldview in potentially dangerous ways. When we wield these punitive tools at one another, we shut down critical thinking. We shut down intellectual disagreement. We destroy the possibility of a complex worldview, and instead are reduced to one that is fine-tuned, dishonest, and narrow. We dehumanize each other — and all of these things are happening through the best of intentions. I know there has to be an alternative to this carceral form of “accountability”.

Of course, this is not limited to within the left. We do this to Trump supporters all the time. Whether it’s a function of our desire to find patterns and sort people in certain ways, we associate these labels with Trump and then project them onto his supporters with little-to-no substantial evidence much of the time. All the evidence that is needed to indict them exists in their vote. We’ve categorized them and alienated them so far from our scope of understanding that we mistakenly believe we have nothing at all in common with them. In our dehumanization, we perpetuate these divisions we see today.

People are often offended by my supposed lack of moral objectivity — on the contrary. I have my own individual moral objectivity, principles by which I navigate the world and discern my worldview. I just lean in with curiosity to those that I don’t understand, and may even be fearful of so that I might find a way of articulating how both of our worldview’s can exist in the same space. Just because I’m more interested in understanding why someone is racist rather than immediately condemning them doesn’t make me not “anti-racist” — again, on the contrary. Bear with me.

As much as I also want to condemn racists, xenophobes, misogynists, homophobes, transphobes, and all other assaults against the marginalized, I also think it’s necessary for us to acknowledge that this tactic isn’t working the way we want. Condemnation and other forms of punishment (i.e. call-outs, cancel culture, shaming, violence) are rarely a path to redemption because the reconciliation is solely based on the condemner’s terms. It does not ask anything of the person to be condemned, only that they suffer. If we lived in hunter-gatherer societies where our survival was based on our status within the group, these tactics would actually work. Shame can be used to keep order in egalitarian societies. We are (obviously) no longer in a society like this, however, and we have to adapt to the environment we are in. 100,000 years ago the asshole in the group would be ostracized and left to die — now that person has a group to recede into and become even more radicalized.

Conversely, the pursuit of redemption considers the person’s worldview, however flawed it may seem, as a real expression of relationship to one’s environment, culture, and community, and attempts to shine light on a healthier alternative. Redemption acknowledges trauma, values individuality, and helps a person see that they matter enough to change. We can live in a prison, where we “other” each other and put each other in cages, too dangerous to the other to interact, or we can rehabilitate. A redemption modality of justice is not a concession to white supremacy or a means of upholding the institutions of white supremacy, rather it’s a holistic frame of reference as to why racism persists, what is at the root of it, and how we may move forward with all of these variables in mind. This method might be more suitable for modernity.

Additionally, these lazy forms of condemnation, such as ending relationships with Trump supporters, blocking them, telling them to unfollow you, provide no path forward. It alienates both parties into the tenuous nebula of an extremist, absolutist worldview. The deeper work — the more impactful work — is to engage with these people and struggle through the discomfort of humanizing them. Awkwardly find yourself in these people that you so desperately disagree with. These uncomfortable interactions are the scaffolding of the change we need to be promoting.

Here’s the thing about privilege: we can’t give it away — we can only use it. At times we wield it well, and other times we might wield it inappropriately. One example is access to education. There is a great deal of cruelty aimed at Trump supporters due to their lack of higher education, and I will not deny my culpability in perpetuating this cruelty in the past. Being able to go to college, as every liberal in this country should easily know, is a privilege, not a right. Many liberals aim to make it a right, yet in the same breath demonize those who haven’t had access to it. If we, the college-educated, wield our privilege to go to college in this way, we ought to realign ourselves with our principles. We make concessions for other members of our community and their lack of access to education. We should be willing to extend that understanding to a Trump supporter.

Another example that comes to mind is mental health. Again, I have been careless with my words in the past, replying to trollish comments online with, “You really need to go to therapy.” What an absolutely inappropriate, privileged thing for me to say. As someone who’s parents helped me go to therapy for years and years, what right do I have to say something so superior to someone who likely doesn’t have the same access as I do? It’s just unkind, and I didn’t even realize the cruelty of it until someone said it to me on Instagram. “You really need to go to therapy.” I was like, wow. I’ve said that. And now I know how that comes across to other people — a flaming abuse of privilege, a complete lack of empathy for other’s access to mental health resources, and an overall expression of elitist meanness.

Access to travel, particularly international travel, is another privilege that is often wielded improperly. Most people don’t have access to travel and to experience other cultures: to get out of the environmental and social feedback loop they live in. If we criticize Trump supporters for their lack of worldliness, we have to consider that perhaps our best utilization of our own access to worldliness is to acknowledge that it’s a privilege reserved to the few, and use that privilege well. See the world, immerse yourself in cultures that are different from yours, find commonalities in the strangest of places, learn about the world from the outside looking in. From that, we may find an opportunity (or obligation) for education rather than disparagement.

Shaming people in this way, using our privilege as a weapon, is a form of cultural supremacy. We don’t want to admit this on the left, that we are acting from a place of supremacy, but when we don’t attempt to see the world from others’ point of view, particularly those who did not have the same opportunities as us or were brought up in a cultures/environments we can’t relate to, that’s exactly what we are doing.

Many of us on the left have had access to life-saving mental health services. Many of us come from families and communities that are accepting and do not stigmatize mental health issues. Many of us have a lot of support: financial, emotional, and otherwise. College was the easy, obvious path for many of us. Many of us have access to a whole world of adventure and learning if we so choose. These are privileges that a lot of us have, and they are tools that we can transform into outer goodness and gentleness.

The Problem of Our Severed Roots: Finding Belonging

“Most of us have been orphaned from our ancestral land, and with it, our people’s history, including the songs, teachings, stories and wisdom of our lineage.” — Toko-pa Turner, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home

We were all immigrants to this land in the United States, at one point or another. Some of our ancestors were here long before the others came, having crossed the Bering Strait some 15,000 years before the ships from the East docked on the shores of Turtle Island. Some of our ancestors were stolen from the other side of the ocean, ripped from their ancestral lands to be bought and sold on this soil like cattle. Some of our ancestors did the buying and selling. Some of our ancestors came here for religious freedom, others came to proselytize, often brutishly. Some of our ancestors killed, raped, and assimilated those who were already here. Some came pretty recently, in the hopes of finding a new opportunity in the United States.

We all know this. This isn’t new information. What I have come to realize, however, is hardly talked about, and I think it’s time I said something. It’s time this wound was exposed.

I believe that we all, all of us, carry a deep wound from the colonization of North America, regardless of the color of our skin. Today, in 2020, most of us don’t have any relationship to our ancestral lands or the early spirituality/mythology of our original peoples. One way or another, this connection to land and culture was lost to colonialism. Instead of having these cultural rites, we live in the giant, sterilized strip mall of globalization and capitalism. This harms us all, and for many of us, it’s an egregious act of adding insult to injury. Broadly, we have lost touch with Nature, ritual, ceremony, and our ecological position on Earth. Civilization dismembered our tribal units into the nuclear family, isolated from broader communities. We’ve lost touch with our non-human brothers and sisters. We’ve lost touch with so much of the mystery that invented modern religions, another sterilized, neutered facsimile of what we once knew. Our vibrant cultures of origin were abandoned or stolen for this one.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve felt a deep uneasiness your entire life. Something just hasn’t felt right or natural about the way this society is set up, and instead of understanding this as an outward projection into an environment that evolutionarily disagrees with you, you may have turned it inward to yourself — hating yourself for not feeling okay here. You may have spent years and years feeling like something must be wrong with you for feeling off, taking on all the blame. But it’s not you. It’s never been you. It’s being born to a land that your body doesn’t remember.

I believe BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Americans know this to be true better than white Americans do. They have faced the question of if they belong here from the moment they came into the world, being subjected to racism and prejudice simply for how they look. The knowing is embedded in their DNA. They bear the wounds of hundreds of years of unspeakable violence and persecution. They know their ancestors were either forcibly removed, or forcibly colonized.

Regardless of your ancestral past, the grief that comes with this wound must be experienced to heal. I believe that white people have a lot of work to do in regards to grieving their loss of culture, as well. Whiteness, broadly, is a sort of belonging that some people may cling to in the absence of real relationship to one’s culture or to the land. At the core of it is a wound that is festering. We’re living on stolen land — land stolen generations before we were born, but now it’s our burden to carry the guilt of that crime.

I’ve always found guilt to be useful as a gateway, but an incredibly unproductive place to live in. Is the answer to make all white people feel guilty for being here, for being born to the race that has so violently harmed the people of the world and exploited Nature? Or is there a pathway of healing for white people that doesn’t involve subjecting us to a state of perpetual shame? Can we take accountability for the actions of our ancestors without punishing or admonishing ourselves for having been born the way we were?

Poking at this wound of unbelonging has consequences, especially when there isn’t space held for the experience of this wound. I generally see people either conceding to shame, or responding with defensiveness. Like I said before, whiteness can be a sort of belonging that people lean into: to injurious lengths. This, I fear, is why so many white people have receded into the deepening extremes of Trumpism. They have been told that they don’t belong here and that their heritage, of which they cannot control, is the reason. We can argue that they have spat that same vitriol at BIPOC, and this is merely a taste of their own medicine. We have to be willing to ask ourselves: when the result is further radicalization, is that the medicine we should be giving them?

Many people on the right have been disenfranchised by the claims that they are privileged due to their whiteness. We can argue for days about whether this is a valid thing for white people to be defensive about — but it doesn’t change the fact that they don’t believe this to be true. Instead of opening up the dialogue with them, the left has become an incredibly hostile place and made it clear that their opinions of protest do not belong. Again, we can argue about the validity of their feelings, or we can be curious about them. We talk about validating the feelings of our comrades and those who we are in solidarity with. Why is it so impossible to attempt to validate the feelings of those we don’t understand?

“If you look at sort of how politics has divided itself here in this country, the big divide right now is between urban areas, which have become increasingly Democratic, and rural or exurban areas that feel as if they’re being ignored.”- Barack Obama

The problem is that many white people (particularly rural white people) are incredibly disempowered and do not relate to the concepts of their “privilege”. Often, this is because their own lives are incredibly difficult. While they may be helped by the invisible hand of their skin color, clearly they don’t see that. Why is that?

If you drive around the country as I have this past summer, you see a clear divide in the political demographic. Biden/Harris signs quickly become Trump/Pence signs as you get farther away from the urban areas. You know what you also see? Poverty. Oil fields. Gigantic energy plants. Dusty air. Dead soil and decrepit townships. Not every rural town looks like this, but there’s enough that I began developing a profound empathy for conservatives that I hadn’t experienced before.

If you take a step back and consider the reality of what it might be like to live in these windblown areas, it might make more sense to you that many of these people voted for Trump. The rural American feels left behind and forgotten. As urbanites eat the food that the ruralite toiled to provide to them, the urbanite perpetuates hatred and vitriol toward him, calling him uneducated, a waste, a loser. Generally, urbanites don’t attempt to relate to ruralites, assuming they’re hicks, or a republican rednecks. Don’t deny it — I’m sorry to admit that I’ve been this way, too.

Again, we must consider the theory of mind. We must consider their perspective in the world, and not reduce human beings to stereotypes. We must be willing to ask, are their needs being met? Are they as well off as generalized “white privilege” might presume? Or are they struggling just to survive in this capitalist wasteland just like everyone else? Again, I’m not debating the existence of white privilege — I merely think it’s important to consider these things from their point of view as a means of reaching deeper understanding. Capitalism wants to turn us all into sub-human commodities, and the left is letting it.

Something has become clear to me in the past few days, particularly with regards to trying to understand why people vote for Trump: Trump, and his base, provide a semblance of belonging for white people who do not feel (whether they consciously identify it as such, or not) that they belong here and feel that their way of life is under attack. They feel ignored, left behind by the political system, many in abject poverty, without access to education, and now they’re being told that they hold too much power and need to give it up. Again, arguing about the validity of their reaction is futile — Trumpism is the reaction, so we need to work under that reality.

If we on the left can’t take accountability for our role in this disenfranchisement, I fear we won’t be able to move forward. Life is not zero-sum. We all have a role to play here. Taking ownership in our part of the problem is a healthy, mature way forward. It’s not accepting all of the blame, or denying that we have any. Acknowledging our role in pushing people farther to the right is an incredibly important part of our collective healing. Acknowledging how we have acted out of unkindness and prejudice can expose to us that we’ve really been acting out of fear — just like the people we criticize on the right.

How to Move Forward: No More Fighting Fire With Fire

“If you want to make small changes, change the way you do things. If you want to make major changes, change the way you see things.” — Don Campbell

Here are some truths:

  • We all want to feel that we belong here.
  • We want community, safety, and love.
  • The right is disenfranchised from the left.
  • Many leftists, including myself, are disenfranchised from the left.

There is an impetus on the left to fight fire with fire. We want to destroy the patriarchy, so women abandon their femininity for masculinity. We want to destroy authoritarianism, so we use social punishment against insubordination of thought. We want to abolish the police, so we act like cops to one another and perform call-outs and cancelations. We want to exsanguinate racism, so we segregate allies. We demand tolerance, so we are intolerant to those who are different from us. We want universal belonging, so we decide who gets to belong and who doesn’t. We want to be heard, so we silence everyone else. We want to move forward with love, so we use our voices for hate.

Do you see how the left and right don’t really seem so different when you distill it like this?

I won’t compromise my humanity to fight inhumanity. If we want unity, we can’t keep demonizing each other. If we want peace, we can’t keep hating each other. If we want real justice, we need to strive for redemption. If we want real reconciliation, we must hold space for healing. If we want our voices to matter, we have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to work toward something deeper, something less motivated by fear. We have to acknowledge our role in this mess we’re in, whether we want to admit it or not. The braver thing is to lean into the discomfort, and be the people who do the work because we have the tools.

I believe we are a traumatized nation, all carrying different variations of the wounds of colonialism and modernity. We need to grieve, have grace, and hold space for a collective healing. If we don’t act with a deep intention to heal, we’ll all just keep perpetuating the same harm again and again.

Let’s make a pact to define our principles and stick to them. When you are about to make a decision or action, consider — does this align with my principles or not?

Again, I want to give credit to “Fucking Cancelled” by Clementine Morrigan and Jay. Their first podcast is about the principles through which they want to create a new culture on the left. Here are some of mine.

  • Curiosity: leading my interactions with openness and a desire to understand.
  • Holism: understanding the world as complex, living systems in relationship and not attempting to assign mechanical, narrowing definitions to human beings.
  • Empathy: being receptive and validating to the lived experience of all people.
  • Equanimity: practicing mindfulness in my interactions so as to not have knee-jerk reactions to people’s perspectives.
  • Humility: acknowledging that I do not know most things and I only truly know my lived experience of the world; a willingness to expand the quality of my ignorance.
  • Gentleness: knowing what trauma feels like and being unwilling to inflict it upon other people.
  • Intentionality: being considerate of my actions and inactions, and being thoughtful of what consequences may come from my choices.
  • Gratitude: being grateful for my opportunities, privileges, and worldview so that I may utilize them to the best of my ability.
  • Integrity: being resolute in my convictions and uncompromising in my principles.

Maybe, we can create a new left that is open, that people have an easier time relating to. Maybe, we can work toward collectively being better people. Maybe, we can start seeing each other as humans again, not commodities. Maybe, we can really heal the divide. But we also have to heal ourselves in the process.

I’d like to conclude this essay with a dream I had the other night.

I was with my brothers and sisters. We were inside a fluorescent lit mall. It was chaos all around, people attacking each other, people screaming, people with weapons. I had a big black rifle to protect my family, given to me by my father. At one point, a woman pulled a pistol up to my older brother’s forehead. I aimed the rifle at her and screamed at her that I would kill her if she didn’t put the gun away. She looked confused, and told me that I was overreacting. Then she ran away into the masses of people.

We got to the revolving doors of the mall, and my sister-in-law said we had to hide in the sections of the door. She said they were going to throw gas bombs. We all separated in the sections of the door, but I was with my little sister, who is still very much a child. In my panic, I kept accidentally aiming the rifle at her, and to my horror, when I checked the chamber, it was loaded and the safety was off. I opened the action and just laid it on the ground, afraid to keep touching it. The gas bombs came and went. I looked over to see that my sister had stuffed a big green grape in the action, never having seen a gun before and not knowing what it was. I was very upset but I gently tried to tell her, “this isn’t a toy”. But the grape was lodged deep and I had to get it out.

Outside of the mall, it was peaceful. There was no fighting outside. I looked all around for a safe place for me to lay the gun down, but at every angle, there was a person in the line of the muzzle. I was incredibly nervous, and the rifle seemed so dangerous. It started feeling like a bony snake in my hands, with dozens of joints and flopping around as I walked, making it impossible for me to hold it safely.

Finally, I found a place overlooking a lake to lay it down. When I opened the chamber it was completely foreign to me, filled with hundreds of little pieces, and somehow I knew that the only way I could make the weapon safe was to remove every last piece. The more pieces I removed, the more bullets I found, hidden deep within the machinery. My anxiety made my hands shake.

Eventually I looked to my sister, threw the rifle in the lake, and walked away.

In the mall, a symbol of the ambiguous, colorless culture we largely live in in this country, the people fighting represent not one side fighting the other, but both in a state of chaotic anger that is being wielded in all directions. It’s pandemonium; disordered and hideous. There is an overwhelming lack of discernment as we cast stones at each other in this contentious time.

The rifle is Rage, and Rage is an unruly thing. It is useful as a defense, but only to a point. At a certain point, rage is a liability. At a certain point, it’s more dangerous than anything. We don’t get to decide the fallout of our actions, or the radicalization we may inadvertently instill. We don’t control who it impacts. It might hit innocents, allies, and comrades. It might have effects that we don’t understand right away. Energetically, anger dissipates through our collective consciousness in harmful ways, and only deepens the wounds that divide us.

This anger doesn’t serve me, or anyone. The chaotic state of revenge, punishment, and throwing blame around doesn’t have the future in mind as much as we may think it does. Our outrage isn’t manifesting in progress. It is manifesting in a scary, unsafe world and an uncertain future for all of us, especially the most innocent among us — children. It does not represent a way forward, even though it might seem like it will at first. Our connection to Nature, and to each other, and to the beating heart of our collective being is what propels us forward.

It’s time for us to do a lot of work. We must be willing to acknowledge our role in our current polarization. We must lean into the discomfort of disagreement and reconciliation. We must lean in with responsibility, and hold our government and ourselves accountable. Anyone who has healed from trauma knows the path of true healing is not easy. It’s a confrontation that deepens our relationship to sorrow and pain, yet from it we arise anew — healthier and more mature than before. We must be steadfast in our commitment to our principles. We must use this small victory as a gateway to healing — for everyone.

* * * * *

While I appreciate all of the comments posted on my stories, I will not be responding to any (more) comments as I do not believe the comment section to be a productive platform for further dialogue (I responded to a few at the beginning). Thank you to everyone who has posted words of encouragement: it is much appreciated. For those who disagree, I must confess that I do not have time to debate on this platform and I am trying to limit my time spent engaging in this way on social media platforms because it is so difficult to convey the necessary nuance of these big topics in the span of a comment. I view this more as a place for me to put my opinions into the world to hopefully get people thinking. I do not have the bandwidth, or desire, to defend my position on the comment section of Medium. I wrote what I wrote, and I stand by it.

I am incredibly open to being wrong about my beliefs, however, and having a civil discussion with people, so do not confuse this with me being afraid to be wrong.

If you would like to have a real dialogue with me, please message me on Instagram. If we can have a kind, open, reciprocal conversation, I will share my personal email with you to further the dialogue.

I hope you understand my sincere desire to not contribute to this culture of comment battles between strangers.

Thank you for reading, and take care.

-Maren

On a pursuit of curiosity and asking hard questions. Check out deathinthegarden.org for more information about my current project. instagram.com/onyxmoonlight/

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