Just returned from nine days in Iceland – two days of work and seven days of pure exploration. It was winter, so days were short, and it was gray/stormy the whole time, so no Northern Lights for me, but the trip still managed to blow my mind. Misc notes and photos below. For lots more photos, check out my
Iceland driving tip: While it might be tempting to tune in to the Icelandic death metal station while wending your way through miles of snow- and moss-covered lava rock, one notch up on the dial is the “public culture” station, where the only words you can decipher from the lilting Elvish language are “Yoko Ono,” “Steve Reich,” and “John Cage” (and then they play them).
That station works way better with the landscape. No sleep in 36 hours, but made it to the Blue Lagoon, where 464-degree superheated geothermal water from half a mile down in the earth brings up white silica powder which meets cold sea water, creating these gorgeous warm swimming holes; the color of sky refracts off the silica in the water, making it intensely blue in the right conditions (it was more greenish today). Allegedly great for psoriasis sufferers. Exhausted but blissed.
I just got called “a radical leftist” who is “angry because I’m not getting my way.” It occurred to me that that is probably how many Trump supporters see protestors against his regime – as radicals. So, I want to know: what “radical” ideas have any of us promoted in the past 18 months? Is it “radical” to not want the U.S. to torture? Is it “radical” not to want our government run by inexperienced bankers, bloggers, oil tycoons and reality TV hosts? Is it “radical” that we want to preserve crucial environmental regulations? Is it “radical” that we stand with and for America’s history as a refugee-friendly country, symbolized by our own Statue of Liberty? Is it “radical” that we believe in the 1st Amendment and recognize that a free press is fundamental to a functioning democracy? Is it “radical” that we want to turn to expert scientists who dedicate their careers to understanding and explaining the physical world to us? Nothing on this list is radical. No one on the left is even proposing change in this fight – we are just trying to protect our good bits. Meanwhile, we have a president who is throwing Molotov cocktails into the middle of…. pretty much everything, actively working to tear down as much of our government, our principles, our culture as he can. And we’re the radicals? Weird math.
My head hurts, literally and figuratively. Can’t glimpse media for 10 seconds without being overwhelmed and terrified by a torrent of news about the rise of authoritarianism in our own back yard. There is SO much of it, no one knows which story to focus on. It’s been like this since the beginning of the campaigns – a daily shit storm brilliantly engineered to keep our heads spinning. No one knows which end is up. For a year and a half, one man has completely dominated our social media, our conversations, our news, our nightmares. Friends are fighting with friends, family ties are strained by disagreement. Part of me wants to just check out and remember that there is more to life than this one man, that he can’t ruin everything. The other part of me feels like it would be irresponsible not to be vacuuming up every piece of news, not to be rising up. I want to re-share every damn thing, and I also want to post puppy pictures. I know I’m not alone. I see otherwise sane people claiming emotional fatigue and “checking out,” and part of me wants to join them. We’re torn between needing to carry on with life so Trump doesn’t “own” us and needing to stay awake. Meanwhile, who has the time to deal with all of this? We have jobs and families and stuff to do, and media was already a time suck even before Trump – now there’s no way to keep up. Did I mention my head hurts?
It’s overly simplistic to say that liberals believe in anthropogenic climate change while conservatives don’t. Not true! Large numbers of Republicans are fiscally or socially conservative, but are still willing to let scientists (who are THE experts and professionals in the field) do their jobs. Lately, those experts are ringing very loud alarms. With Democrats holding a House minority, the only hope we have of making critical climate progress over the next four years is in reaching across the aisle and aligning with climate-agreeable conservatives.
Toward that goal, I’ve signed on with Rodney Salvador Reyes to build the web component of Cross the Aisle for Climate, a non-partisan group working to identify climate-related issues that liberals and conservatives can agree on, and work toward bi-partisan decision-making in those areas.
We’ve just launched the first version of the site, which is mostly about outlining the vision – we’re just getting started. For now, please check out the site’s Be Heard tool, which lets users contact their reps via email based on zip code. Lots more to come.
With yesterday’s passing of Fidel Castro, I have to share my personal (and surreal) Castro story. In 1994, I spent 10 days in Cuba on a journalistic visa with my then-girlfriend, attending an International Film Festival. Unforgettable trip, and great films. On the last day, Fidel threw a party in his palace to entertain the international visitors (PR move?). I remember the palace being spacious and well-appointed, but not gaudy — green slate tiles on both the floor and the walls, brass sconces. Palace bartenders kept the mojitos flowing, and Castro himself was mingling with the guests. We joined a circle of people listening to him passionately answer questions about how hemp farming could benefit Cuban workers and the economy.
Then, suddenly, my friend leaned in and pointed coyly toward a wiry-haired old man with big bushy eyebrows standing near Castro and said “Do you recognize him? It’s Grandpa Munster!” Sure enough, it was Al Lewis himself, (much older than he had been on the TV show of course). And then the weirdness of the moment dawned on me: I’m standing in Castro’s palace, drinking mojitos with Grandpa Munster and Fidel Castro, talking about marijuana legalization at a time when our own country wouldn’t even contemplate it. Unforgettable.
I get the feeling that many on the right don’t understand why people are so upset, and why the upset does not seem to be subsiding. Last night I heard a report that Trump plans to sign a record-breaking 25 executive orders in his first few days in office, which together will amount to effectively erasing Obama’s legacy – essentially undoing his life’s work. This morning I woke up feeling like the same was happening to me, on a smaller scale. We (leftists) work every single day to teach our children inclusivity, and how to identify/address racism when we encounter it. We teach our kids to pick up trash if they find it in the woods, to take a bicycle rather than a car when feasible. Because every little bit helps, and the small sacrifices are so very much worth it. We donate to environmental and human rights causes, work to raise awareness about industrial practices that can hurt humanity or the earth, and so on.
So when you wake up one day and find that the new regime is installing one of the nation’s most prominent white nationalists in a top position, that a climate skeptic will head the EPA, that plans for mass deportations are under way…. all together it feels like your life’s work is being erased. And that, in turn makes us feel equal parts furious, helpless, and depressed. We are not protesting because we lost the election, and we’re not protesting because the conservatives are in. We are protesting because of extreme, sweeping changes that are about to happen that will collectively undermine our lifes’ work.
“Listen to me. I’m talking.”
“No, you listen to me.”
[1st person not listening to what 2nd person is saying]
[2nd person not listening to what 1st person is saying]
We all have something to say. But while we’re listening to the response, we’re too busy preparing the next thing we want to say to really hear what the 1st person is saying. Everyone is talking, no one is listening.
I see my direct and extended families being torn apart by political differences. We “can’t even imagine” what the other is thinking. And I know this is happening to so many.
Moved and troubled watching this 60 Minutes piece – very experienced moderator trying to get people with different perspectives in a room to hear each other, and it was almost impossible. The only thing they really agreed on was that vast majority voted against a candidate, rather than for. Beyond that, it was chaos. Moderator has been doing this for 20 years, says he’s never seen anything like it. People used to take turns listening and talking – now everyone talks at once, over and through each other.
The gut-level feeling I’ve experienced all day, and the one that I’m hearing so many people share, is PHYSICAL. I literally feel nauseous, like I could throw up, as if I just experienced a death in the family. It is not just the feeling of losing, and it is not just the feeling of losing to Republicans. It is the feeling of losing to Donald Trump.
In Trump we have not just a person we disagree with on some or most issues, but a walking embodiment of everything we work so hard each and every day to evolve beyond as a society and as a nation. By electing Trump, we give up any claim to moral high ground on any matter of importance, and any claim to being a nation that others can look up to. We become the laughing stock of the world, rather than a trusted ally. With Trump we doom the economy, the environment, the constitution, and human rights all in one go. It is the feeling that America has sunk to its lowest point in our lifetimes.
A relative told me today, “It’s not like it’s the end of the world or anything.” No, it’s true, earth didn’t just get hit by an asteroid. But at 52, I can say that there is not a single event in my lifetime that has filled me with more despair or fear for the future of my country (and my child’s future) than the election of this man. I have never felt more ashamed to be an American. And after all of the late nights discussing the 384 Reasons Why Donald Trump Must Never Be Allowed to Become President, it feels like all of that effort was wasted. Which, in turn, makes talking about anything that matters feel pointless.
Because this is not just about one man. It is about the fact that *millions* of people are A-OK with what this one man represents, and apparently have no understanding or appreciation for the threat(s) he represents to them. It is the sudden awareness of how profoundly broken we are as a society that we collectively decided “This is OK.” The PHYSICAL feeling of illness I am experiencing right now is a direct result of that despair. It is so tempting to throw in the towel and just stop trying. I see some of you coming around already to messages of hope, calls to keep fighting, etc. I’m sure I’ll get there. But right now I just want to hurl.