Confessions of an Armchair Activist

After the election of T, I felt shock and disgust.

It didn’t take long for me to turn the shock and disgust on myself.

What did I know–or take the time to find out–about the people who voted for T? In a richly diverse society, I was guilty of believing an binary narrative. And in the face of a binary political system–not to mention the internet algorithms that influence my biases–my views had also become black and white.

What had I done in the previous 8 years of the Obama administration? Contributing to NPR and volunteering once a week at an organization for community meals seemed noble in the face my responsibilities to my grad-student wife. But my actions now seem merely to mask an ignorance of my white, male privilege.

In spite of my training (literature, rhetoric, & education) and influences (a liberal brother, a liberal education, exposure to diversity), the concept of privilege was still a vague notion. Even after traveling through some of the most impoverished regions in southeast and central Asia (insofar as a tourist is allowed to do so) in 2011, I rebuked myself in the years following for complaining about the lack of internet connection with one pithy, if oversimplified, phrase: “First-world problems.”

Since the election, I have been to exactly two events that I believe make a difference in my immediate community. Two.

Granted, life has to proceed. Responsibilities to family take precedence: career, food, shelter.

The trouble is finding balance between my family and my fellow human. I try to seek wide opinions, and try to make the time to read widely. Sam Harris Dave Rubin Gad Saad Matt Taibbi . I even downloaded the Fox News app. What others are there? I seek suggestions.

The trouble is finding a conservative with whom to reason, as the polarizing tone has been perpetuated in the days following the inauguration.

capitol buildingphoto credit

Disunity aside, the real trouble–both for those who did and those who did not vote for T–is seeking one or two workable, pluralistic solutions in the face the daunting problems which face America. Women’s rights. Race. Gender identity. Environment. Education. Immigration. Income inequality. Health care. Veterans Affairs. Homelessness. Public broadcasting. Free association. Free press.

I look to people I know (or knew at one point) for inspiration. I think of people like Zoe Dolan, who has made it her life’s work to stand up for those marginalized by the legal system. I think of my cousin, Alex D’Anna, who contributes money, if not his voice, to organizations like the ACLU and No Dakota Pipeline. I think of my wife and her cohort, who have gone through six years of rigorous training to help those in psychological distress.

And I am inspired to work for harmony.

One thought on “Confessions of an Armchair Activist

  1. Thanks for the shout Nick! Taking action no matter how small makes a difference! I donate monthly to the ACLU, I subscribe to the New York Times and I subscribe to Mother Jones. As to the folks that I like to read, in my spare time – which isn’t much – David Corn, Exec Editor of Mother Jones, Chris Sacca who is an investor, Elon Musk who has progress and technology, and I enjoy the humor of Andy Borowitz. Also Dan Rather does this nice vehicle for news he created called News and Guts. I follow all of those folks on twitter as well, which is the easiest way to keep up and curate my own info. As to curation of right win media, I think watching Fox News, I think David Brooks at NYT, Bill Kristol at the standard are good places to go.

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