Sunday, March 9, 2008

Audacity

Risky subject, but it gets on point eventually, really, so bear with me:

First, some background. I've been politically aware since roughly age 12, and politically involved shortly thereafter. In November, 6th grade, my teacher ran a "turkey" contest and my good friend Lola and I made a couple fabulous ones if I say so myself: we stuffed nylons, glued on feathers, and cut out and affixed the faces of Reagan and Bush. We won the prize for "Best Political Turkeys." This was also about the time I found out said 6th grade teacher, whom I adored, was voting for Reagan. I stayed after school one day to argue with him. I was eleven. Also about the time I announced to my mother and her friend, completely unprompted, that I would "only marry a democrat." (To date, still one of my mother's proudest moments, most likely topping my marathon run, and my PhD.) Four years later, Lola came to school dressed head to toe, veil included, in black to mourn the reelection.

I grew up in extremely conservative Arizona. "Conservative" probably does a disservice to conservatives, because "Wackjoblunatic" is probably closer to what the state put forth at that time. State representatives who asked that "Flat Earth" be taught in schools as a theory. Outright, virulent racism and sexism flowed from elected people's mouths and the newspaper. A governor who rescinded MLK Day with the most racist of rationales. I marched, I protested, I worked. On the exact day that I was old enough to do so, somewhere in the vicinity of my 18th birthday, I was sworn in as a deputy registrar so I could register my friends so they could sign the recall petition and vote in the special election to rid ourselves of our joke-of-a governor (which became unnecessary; the governor resigned in a flood of ethics allegations). (Aside: I needed a faculty sponsor to do this on school grounds, and my sponsor overheard the school librarians in the faculty lunchroom call my voter registration drive "anarchy.") The fall of my senior year, there was a vacancy due to the retirement of Sen. Barry Goldwater, and in my first campaign experience ever, I worked for the Democrat, a lovely man with a history of state experience. He lost to the guy with the (R) after his name, a forgone conclusion in AZ at the time. That guy's name was John McCain.

In sum, I grew up losing. Always losing. Always fighting. The roots of my cynicism lie here. Not just in politics mind you, but in a high school Chem teacher who told us on the first day of class he didn't understand why girls were made to take his class because it wasn't like we were going to need it anyway; a high school where religious seminary (of one particular religion only) counted as a class, toward your GPA; where I was called a slut (along with two other women who are now a lawyer and a biologist, respectively) by a teacher for dropping his lame-ass physics class so I could spend that time at the local university on an independent study with a professor investigating lupus.

My adult life has likewise been spent campaigning, phone calling, writing letters, ringing doorbells, attending rallies, marching, donating money. Bella was actually conceived not in our home state because Mr. ABF was working on a campaign elsewhere. I like to think I am about as plugged in and aware as an American citizen can get. If timing your reproductive cycles around the primary schedule doesn't spell commitment, I don't know what does.

So, you'd think with this background, and the previous eight years, that a person of my ilk would be rather overjoyed with the current embarrassment of riches on my plate. And I'm as cynical as ever.

I can't help but wonder if the loss of hope in my personal life is what makes my backhairs stand up like a cat when someone says, with complete earnestness and a wide smile, "HOPE!" May I just say, that the "Hope" hate runs deep and has a history dating back further than the present: the slogan of Children's Hospital, splashed on the very building and on the banners that pop up around my city in the most unexpected places like graffiti, is "Hope Lives Here." And once you start parsing those three words, in all of its combinations, you can see just how fucked up it is. Hope? Lives? HOPE LIVES?? Um, no. "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here" would be much more appropriate, but probably wouldn't raise them much money.

Where was I? The Nihilism of Hope. Then there's the other side, the people who smile, again with the earnestness of people who live in some abstract "nation" where bad things happen to people in the newspaper only ("people are dying!" they say with deep concern, jabbing at the paper, as if I have no idea how it must feel as a parent to be told that your child is dead), and tell me how wonderful it is that we're finally in a place where my daughter can truly grow up and become anything she wants. Can I tell you something? About a month ago, out of nowhere, I guess after studying family relationships in school, Bella came home and told me she wanted to be an aunt. THAT was a tricky conversation, and I tried to mollify her dejected expression by explaining that some of her "aunts" weren't really. I will take the sex talk any day and nine times on Sunday over the rerun of that conversation when she gets older.

I am burned out. I'm in a state whose primary has never meant boo, and suddenly, here we are, apparently "the new Iowa." And I could care less. I am actually jealous of my friends who can get behind one or the other of these groundbreaking candidates and say all the hopeful, can-ful, change-ful, joyous things. They can see ahead, and see the difference. They're optimistic. Passionate. Angry. Emboldened. They read the papers and the blogs which make my eyes roll so hard my head hurts.

I have spent a good deal of time wondering what the old Tash, the pre 2/12/07 Tash would've thought of this particular duel. Would she come down strongly on one side or the other? Would she have gone to the mat for one of these candidates? Would she be marching and campaigning, dragging her children along with her? Would she be gleefully looking forward and wearing buttons with big letters expressing "Change" and "Hope"?

I can't even remember hope. I can't even remember what it was like to envision something turning out the right way. Having the sunshiney daydreams of a healthy family and a democratic presidency. If it seemed at the time far fetched, or inevitable, or somewhere in between. I have no idea if my current cynicism is the result of decades worth of fighting and losing, or a year of losing a battle I didn't even know I was a participant in until it was over, and I had lost.

"Hope" requires that you have an object at the other end to hope for, and even finding objects to "hope" about has been an extremely delicate business for me this past year. I had "hoped" that I would've lost the pregnancy weight by now. And mind you, I did not loaf about on my couch eating imported chocolate bars while "hoping" my jeans would finally fit again: I ate right, I purposefully set aside time last fall to run, and tried my damnedest, and my foot crapped out and failed me. I am now "hoping" that I will run again this year, and not need surgery to correct my foot. I had "hoped" that we might have some direction to move regarding having another child, but we have none, and that is leading to some serious inertia problems on my part. But "hope" also requires "faith." Faith that you or someone else or the universe will act in a way that the hope will materialize as reality. And that I lack totally. I have lost faith in people, science, "proof," odds, logic, love, friends, and family. There are no givens, no guarantees, and I am not about to leap over the breach for anyone, or anything, ever again, thank you. I live precisely in my moment, relying not very firmly, on myself and my gut. Would I like "Change?" I suppose I would, in the abstract. But I sat around worrying about "change" in the abstract before Maddy was born: would Bella do ok with a sibling? Would I do ok without sleep? Would we be able to function as a family of four? And look where THAT got me. Have any of these people considered that the very Hope and Change they desire may not come to pass at all? That the discussion may shift entirely under their feet, for absolutely no reason, and when they least expect it?

I'm not sure where this leaves me other than bitter and "undecided." Believe me, when the time comes, I'll send in my money, and vote, because I know in the end either of these people are vastly better than what exists now, or, as I learned beginning my senior year of high school, what exists on the other side. Please don't fill my comment sections with position papers and links to blogs and op eds, because believe me, I'm aware of them, I just don't care. Not to mention I'm going to be inundated with all that over my phone and mailbox in the upcoming month. What you can tell me is how the aftermath of grief has spilled over into other areas of your life -- your politics, your religion, your work -- and whether the loss of life, hope, and joy bleeds into other areas that you used to get fired up about. Would this bitterness have come about anyway given my age? Maybe I've just been around too long? Possibly. Or maybe this is just another piece of the old Tash breaking off and drifting away with all the yard signs, pins, t-shirts, righteousness, and Hope.

21 comments:

Coggy said...

I'm hoping for a change over with you too. It's more than time. Not sure what difference it will make or what change will mean. I'm not convinced that in the west it is possible to make a radical change within a government. Labour over here slowly morphed into a kind of more stable conservative party. Small changes were made, but the big stuff, I think is driven along regardless. Anyway I know this isn't about politics.

I think I used to have the view, somewhere in the back of my head, that eventually things would work out OK. I'm a good person, that's what happens right? Now... I don't or can't believe that.
I work in the field I trained for nearly 9 years to do, it was starting to lose it's appeal before J, now it's crashed and burned. I used to be the person that would always speak up because I couldn't stand to see things done badly. Not any more. Why? Because at the end of the day it really isn't important and I don't really care.
I have lost complete faith in family and most friends. Their lack of support and blatant idiotic comments have left me wide-mouthed. Before all this I used to put myself out for friends and family, no matter what. I barely speak to them now.
I live day-to-day and sometimes week-to-week, any more and my head starts spinning; I actually start feeling physically panicked. I have no idea where this attitude is going to take me, or how lonely I will become as a result of it. It isn't fading, in fact it seems to be getting reinforced.

niobe said...

I think it's those who start out with the most hope who end up with the least.

Tash said...

Or as Mr. ABF says upon learning that someone's child has suddenly become politically involved this year, "That's just great! They deserve to have their hopes dashed just like the rest of us!"

CLC said...

Hope is somehwat meaningless to me now. I mean I hope to eventually be happy with my life at some point in the future, but my expectations are pretty low. This is not a place I like to be, and I have only been here for 3 months. And from what I have read in deadbabyland, things will probably get worse rather than better. I feel similarly to Coggy- I no longer care for my job, I don't care for most people I used to consider friends, and now even my family pisses me off for no reason (well there's a reason for some, but not for others). I think it's just that I am tired of pretending that I will be ok, when the fact is I can't imagine that I will ever be ok again. I think sometimes having another baby will make things better, but then it dawns on me, who am I kidding? I also find myself momentarily getting excited about being pregnant again, and then I have to remind myself that things didn't turn out so great last time, so what makes me think it will be any better the second time around? So hope escapes me. I see no day in the future where I will be excited about anything. As for politics, I wish I was a more informed citizen and actually care about this election given the potential candidates and history in the making, but right now, all I can think about is getting through the next minute, hour and day.

kalakly said...

I used to live with a sort of life philosophy that all things, no matter how bad they seem at the time, when looked at in retrospect, will have had a positive impact on my/or someones life somehow.

Now I think that's bullshit. I see that in retrospect I was a relatively optomistic person. Now I think bad shit happens, we have no control over it, it's just bad and the only way anything positive will ever come from it is if I make it happen somehow. That'd be great if I had the energy to turn a huge tragedy into a "growth opportunity" for me, my husband and our kids. As things are now, mustering up the strength to vaccum is just about all I can do befoe collapsing from exhaustion, so I don't hold out much "HOPE" that my heretofore mentioned optomisim and the mental, physical and emotional energy required to utilize it, will ever be a part of my life again.

STE said...

I spent my first semester in college poring over political analysis in the NY.T*mes about the Bush/Dukakis election, bonding with friends I still have in discussions about how much we hated one or the other. In the 90's I still followed it. Moved from Blue state to Blue state to Red state (for graduate school), still passionate, but resigned to being in the minority, and enjoying our small community of blue in a red state.

It took two years and three losses before the pregnancy that broke my heart. A number of events surrounding and following the loss of my twins has left me almost cringing at the prospect of leaving my house. Hope? Yeah, I think I remember what that felt like.

The PhD program in which I am enrolled is all about education and soci.al change, tran.sform.ative leade.rship. I was so excited and passionate a year ago. You couldn't shut me up about it. Now I wonder what the point of all of this is. Are we all just spouting theory and discourse and patting ourselves on the back for thinking virtuous thoughts? Can we change anything?

How can I worry about changing the world when my corner of it has fallen apart? It feels like it doesn't matter what I do, I can't change my life, I can't change the world, and politicians, while inspiring, seem to be just who they are: politicians with their own agenda.

I kind of miss being excited about world events, issues and ideas. I just don't really see the point anymore.

Amy said...

I think I still hope for better things. Nothing is going to bring William back to us. I guess, I now hope that it won't actually get any worse than it already has, although, I'm sure it will!

It seems this has spilled into my everyday life as I just don't care to do a damned thing anymore. I work on my faith and still not getting very far. The hope like you said comes with the faith, so maybe someday it'll come. Doesn't that sound hopefull?

Antigone said...

I come from solid Republican stock. I went door to door campaigning for the conservative candidate when I was 14. I started my first business that year selling 'Don't Blame Me...' bumper stickers. When I was 16, I campaigned for Ollie who was running for one of our state's senate seats. And don't get me started about Ayn Rand.

And then I grew up. My parents said things like, 'Why are you so anti-war?' and 'I heard you're now a member of PETA!'...

I knew life was nasty, brutish and short. But I believed in compassion.

And now? I believe that is your question. What about now? I don't give a d@mn. Suffering is inherent and compassion just delays the inevitable.

Beruriah said...

What everyone else said.

When I was in fifth grade, I was devastated when Reagan won our classroom election. By a landslide. I didn't know I knew any Republicans. Certainly not among my parents' friends. They'd moved us to a crappy fixer-upper in a super nice neighborhood and none of my school friend's parents wanted to socialize with my parents. I guess it was because my dad was president of a union that organized many strikes that inconvenienced some of the dads of my classmates. To their credit, parents were nice to me.

But hope. Well, for the longest time I really did believe you just had to work hard and do everything right and all would be right.

Ha.

Megan said...

My husband and I first met as babies at a church basement organizing meeting for our country's leftist party.
Now I keep thinking it's lucky our minority Conservative government is hanging onto Parliament by a thread (even though I hate them like poison) because I DON'T GIVE A SHIT.
I might not even vote if an election is called.
And if someone spouted about hope at my door?

Julia said...

Oh, how I agonized before Super Tuesday. It was, however, because I didn't like either of the remaining candidates. In the end, I just couldn't go for the hope guy. Mostly because, I believe, I grew up listening to slogans, and, having eventually figured out how propaganda works, have developed a nose for it and an allergy to it. So I can't say that my anti-hope in politics stand had developed post-loss, but I can't neglect the likelihood that it was aggravated.

I did, though, become much less politically active. I went to the first YK, for goodness sake. Stayed up till all kinds of hours, met all kinds of coolest people, was so freaking fired up. I was pissed off that I couldn't go campaign for Ned Lamont because I developed sciatica. So I took Monkey to a call center and she colored kicking donkeys while I made calls. And I told her all kinds of things about the political process, why it's important to vote, and how we make our decisions-- what government is for and which ideas we are willing to entertain. Things like that.

I didn't go to YK2. Couldn't face seeing all my friends from the year before. I sent them an email to tell them why, and they were pretty great about it. My roommate from YK1 keeps urging me to plug back in, and I keep giving her excuses. Last summer it was "by the fall." Now it's "after we have a nominee." Yeah, not so much with the caring these days. I am pretty sure I have to scrape it together by the fall, though. Because if there is one thing I know I am not going to enjoy it's the feeling you had after that AZ campaign-- loosing to John McCain. With the added benefit of much higher stakes this time.

meg said...

I've still got hope for old Tash and old Meg. They're in there, somewhere (please let that be true!) I feel the same way you do...and don't even get me started on the subject of hope. I don't think it really exists.

Bon said...

being an apathetic and polite Canadian, i am watching this season's American election with moderate interest and what could be more honestly called relief than hope...though i suppose that relief contains the hopeful assumption that the sheer ludicrous state of affairs we've all been dragged into these past eight years may be coming to an end.

ah, but you hit the crux of it...because while i am capable of mustering up that bit of hope, i have no faith whatsoever that it - or other good things that i wish for - will actually come to pass. like i said in my own discussion of faith & hope the other day, i cradle my vulnerable hope and try to pretend it's not there. but faith? i have nothing left in me to even aspire to faith in things working out in some grand scheme kinda way, some just way, some right way.

apparently grief does indeed speed many of us on our roads to cynicism.

A.M.S. said...

Has the aftermath of the grief spilled over into other aspects of my life? Yeah, you could say that. I don't know if it is a loss of hope or simply a new, more intense level of apathy though. I USED to care about things and people. Now, not so much. I mean, really, what's the point, right? The things I loved in December now are just painful reminders. The people around me don't know how to talk to me anymore, so they usually don't and I figure if I make them that uncomfortable perhaps its best if I just leave them alone. The walls grow taller and thicker every day. Soon there won't be any way out and I'm not sure how much I care.

Hope? She doesn't live here anymore and I don't know if she'll come back for a visit someday.

kate said...

Heck, i dunno. There's a hopeful comment.

I am a mighty political cynic and i don't really pay attention to world events. I live with my head in the sand and i have opinions about very few things. I was like this before Nicolas died, and then i was worse about it for awhile, then a little better. But i generally don't pay much attention. I am a registered Dem & i do go vote but that is about it.

Julia, my mother & all her Old Country friends feel exactly the same about Obama. Interesting, that.

I am such a cynic that i don't even believe the Dems can win this election. They just seem to screw up everything. I sure hope i am wrong.

Antigone said...

Go Hillary!

charmedgirl said...

living precisely in our own mooments; i think that's it. i think that's all i can do, and i even think, in the end, that's the answer...to everything.

these days, living in my moment also means forsaking everything and everyone i deem bullshit. not only that, but i also just don't care anymore, about the bullshit. somehow this whole dead baby situation is turning my life into water and oil...suddenly it's so much more clear which is which.

and yeah, screw hope. hope has a first name, it's bullshit. why in hell would i want to set myself up like that?

mj said...

Gosh, Tash! This thing called Hope... my rel'ship with it is kinda love/hate. I actually need it, like a drug addict. Even if deep down I know just wanting something to be a certain way, ie, hoping, is not enough. Alas. Lately I have been wondering if my lack of faith in Hope is due to my lack in a Faith. You know, Faith, like in religious faith. I have a religion, but the faith is very different. So, I'm messing things up here, but I cannot help but wonder, if I am Conservative... Republican, etc... would my grief have been different?
Janis

Lisa b said...

I don't know tash. I just don't know how you begin to hope again.
I just hope that one day you do.

CDE said...

The use of "hope" as a rhetorical linchpin doesn't bother me so much, even given my current situation. Mostly because I see it as a more effective tool than previous emphases on "reason" and "the issues." There's a time and place for policy talk, I think, and speeches and rallies aren't it. There's research which shows that people don't vote according to rational self-interest, but according to feelings and ideologies (The Political Brain by Drew Westen is a good place to start). And my current state of mind is one of ruthless pragmatism anyway. So it doesn't matter to me what I feel when I think about hope, as silly and futile as hope seems. It just matters to me whether or not it's going to work.

Aurelia said...

I had this clicked new to come back to...just because I want you to know that I NEVER believed in all the political BS about Hope etc....I run away from anyone as naive as that. Long before Dead Baby land, I avoided those candidates.

This line, just cracked me up though,"If timing your reproductive cycles around the primary schedule doesn't spell commitment, I don't know what does."

God, are we sisters?