2016

I'm angry about how 2016 turned out, and that's okay. 

That doesn't mean I think it was all bad, or that some amazing things haven't happened. There are so many truly inspiring articles being shared this week about the scientific breakthroughs of 2016, the ways in which people's lives are better all around the world, and individual celebrations taking place over health, engagements, and children. All of these deserve to be celebrated as we close out 2016, certainly! I myself took my first extended trip to Disney World this year (an obvious win if you know us), and we got engaged as we traveled on my first trip to Mexico! I voted for a woman for president for the first time, an experience I won't soon forget. I traveled through work or pleasure to New York City 3 times, Chicago, Atlanta, DC, Boston, Orlando, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo, and Las Vegas. (phew) I ran my first half marathon a whole 15 seconds under my goal time, and my sister moved in with us. It has been a year that truly is full of personal moments I will cherish forever. I'm not trying to take away from any of these things.

Truly, however, I'm leaving this year exhausted for our world. I was listening recently to someone on the radio explaining that his theory of 2016's surprising political reactions is simply that the world is reacting to the 'globalization of people.' (I made the mistake of not immediately writing down the speaker, but after some googling I'm pretty confident it was this author.) Simply put, peoples fears of other types of people have won in 2016, and even I have fallen subject to this years intense divisiveness. I too, have had a hard time loving the people who voted for our new President-Elect. It's caused a great rift in our family, and in the people I used to consider best friends. 

I'm angry that the new version of far right conservatism is finding roots across the world. The rise of Le Pen in France, Brexit and Theresa May in Britain, and of course our homegrown Trump has left the social progress I have quite literally grown up knowing feeling completely thrown out. I was too young to vote for Obama in his first election, but I was paying attention. I watched as Obama's inclusiveness and kind but stern nature were thrown out by Washington conservatives, as they obstructed everything socially 'progressive' he promised in his campaign. I watched with respect as Obama remained a leader of strength, calm, and intelligence, and learned from his leadership. For the last eight years (more or less as long as I have been politically motivated) I have watched social progress on the front lines. I was able to 'slack off' in some ways, because I knew that by and large I agreed with how Obama would react to whatever showed up on his desk. In many ways, embarrassingly, I knew that someone else out there was fighting the good fight for me. 2016 showed me that I never had that safety to begin with. 2016's end has been a personal reflection on how much Obama has influenced me and the world I live in. 

So yes, watching as 2016 unfolded has been increasingly painful. It hurts when Justin comes home heartbroken over his students crying over fear of deportation from the only country they've ever known. It hurts as I hear of two mom or two dad families rushing to finish up their adoption paperwork, in fear that the atmosphere will change to a point where the child they love will not be theirs legally come January. It hurts watching these marginalized people that I love fear that the progress that has been made over the last decade will be lost. It hurt watching friends become more and more normalized by Trump, and move from a respectful conservatism where we can debate over tax plans and immigration policies, to a democratic bashing, divisive, hateful leader of a new brand of politics that doesn't match what I respected in them at all. That was the most painful. 

I don't mean to sound so negative on the last day of the year, but reflecting on this year has been more difficult than most years. I hurt for our world and the hatred and anger and fear that has led us to this point. How did we become so afraid of one another? How did other languages become aggression instead of wonder? When did learning about other religions in school become political instead of important to create a worldly mind? It hurts watching people I love intentionally close themselves off from people who are different than them, on a macro and a micro scale.

So, in 2017, I'm resolving to do something about it. I've registered to volunteer with the ACLU locally, who amazingly are too full for new volunteers at the time. I've subscribed to several legitimate news outlets and have set up the renewing donations I had going to Clinton's campaign to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. I clearly do not back away from my liberal standpoint, but instead of just chatting about it, I now feel incredible pressure to do something about it. To act way, way more. I'm considering what a career in public service would mean, and where to start. I'm sorting out my mediocre grades from my undergrad and pursuing a graduate degree. I'm not aiming low, I'm aiming high. I know that I can be someone who is writing public policy, instead of just reacting to it. I will turn the disappointment and heartbreak and anger over this year into action. This world cannot go on this way. We are better together than we are apart. No human being is scary just because they are different. I will use that mantra to create a better community.  

I am not naïve. I understand that tomorrow the world will be the same as it is today. But I find no shame in celebrating 2016 taking its final bow. I find no guilt in resolving to be a better version of my self than I am now. I love fresh starts, and I am not ashamed to say that even though I only ‘accomplished’ a few of the goals I set for myself this time last year, I am still glad I set yearly goals out for myself. I will celebrate when the clock hits midnight, and I will work my ass off for a better 2017, for all of us. 

The Future is on Hope's Side

You guys, I have had an incredible amount of people reach out to me in the last 8 days. From people that I haven't talked to literally in years, to my very best friends. The texts and messages began rolling in as I was outside the Javits center in NYC, while we all watched in shock as Trump won state after state after state. The messages varied from "WTF" to "I feel sick" to "Kaitlin I know this must be hard for you are you ok?" and let me tell you, every single message meant the world to me. 

I actually got one that said "DO SOMETHING!!" and in that moment I felt so absolutely helpless that I wasn't sure how to even text her back, but since then, I've found inspiration in a few things that are helping me get ready to do that something.

1. People are Getting Involved

While this certainly includes the protestors, that's not all I mean. I have seen more people calling, writing to, and meeting with their reps and senators in the last week than when #Kony2012 was my entire life. (If you know, you know.) Your local government and federal representatives have a lot of power over your community and your day to day life. In fact, one of the messages I received in the aftermath of the election said "Luckily we both live in a state that truly appreciates diversity and different points of view. This makes a big difference in our daily lives." While this is true, I'm incredibly hopeful that because of the vast increase in tangible political activism I've seen and felt in my personal network, we can maintain a level of safety for those most threatened by the goals of this administration, even outside of a progressive or diverse community.

My hope in political involvement is emboldened by my friends across the world doubling down to help refugees in their own communities, based on the US election, my own Fiancee and I getting serious about volunteering more of our time, and this amazing statement made by California legislators. I am proud that they represent my great chosen home.

2. This Message

 

While this message still stings and I strongly believe we ran more than just a 'good campaign,' context is important here. This particular Facebook friend and I agree on virtually nothing politically. We have engaged in discussion and debate over gun control, healthcare, refugee relocation, ISIS, Clinton's emails, I mean seriously. This person strongly supported Trump. It took me a day and a half to even reply to the message because of my intense sadness over Clinton's loss. But now that I'm working on coming to grips with Trump's win, and realizing that I don't have time to be sad, that my activism has to start NOW, this message gives me hope that some Trump voters do want to hear our voices too, and are willing to engage with us politically. It would be in their interest to tell me that I lost and to not engage in politics anymore because my voice was clearly and decisively wrong, but they didn't. And this message gave me a little spark under me to get active, and fast.  

3. The Tricky Popular Vote (and the fact that almost 50% of the electorate didn't vote.)

While obviously this is incredibly disheartening from a political perspective, and I'll write plenty more on that later, from a humanist perspective, it gives me a little relief. I woke up last Wednesday in a country I didn't recognize, that had seemingly chosen a future of racial and religious monotony, of environmental ignorance, and of incredible inequality. I couldn't understand how the country that I have so much pride in could choose such a leader. This is still something I am having a hard time with, to be honest, but knowing that so few Americans (somewhere around 27%) actively chose Trump as their leader makes me feel slightly more at ease with the fellow citizens helping me build this country. I am not the minority.

In the end, I believe that we'll be okay. I know that my community will boldly and loudly stand up against hatred, racism, and a reversal of rights hard fought. Justin and I have talked about how easy it would be for us to make the decision to stand in the way of a border wall, if construction of one were to appear. I will continue to call my elected officials and will fly to DC to march without a doubt if LGBT rights are threatened, or my right to reproductive decisions are called into question, or muslims are blamed for terrorism and banned from our country. There are millions of us in America that will not let our country reverse course without a fight, and THAT gives me hope. 

I also know that it is easier for me to say that, as a white, straight, middle class woman living in California. I know my hope may come sooner than yours. But I have got to get to WORK. It's the only thing I know how to do. If you feel threatened by this administration, please write to me and tell me how I can be a better ally for you.

If you are trying to figure out what to do, Huffington Post has a good list here, and this post being shared has a lot of GREAT information on how to call your reps, and what exactly to say when you get them on the phone. Let me just tell you, my calls with my reps are never more than about 30 seconds. It's like leaving a voicemail. The staffers answer, you say what you've called to say, the staffer says thanks and maybe asks your name and zip code, and you hang up and go on with your day. DO IT. It will make a difference. And what we really need right now are those who are willing to go out of their way to make a difference. <3 

Why I'm Starting Now

I've always flirted with the idea of running a blog. I even "have" a film photography blog that became too expensive and difficult to maintain. 

But in the last 18 months, as this country spun even deeper into an election like no other, my passion for human rights and politics began to gain momentum. It's easy to get caught up in it all when one candidate is daily insulting a new group of people, presenting a tax plan that even conservatives can't get behind, or consistently suggesting he is (literally) the greatest at everything. And while it is no secret who I support, I don't want to give off the false impression that I don't empathize with Trump voters.

My feed, you see, is full of conservative friends and family members. When I lived in Albuquerque, I was very involved in a church and volunteered up to 30-40 hours a week there at times. Those friends and I have now taken a fork in the road ideologically, but I still respect and love many of those friends and have watched them struggle with Trump's candidacy. I understand that the heart of their world view is very different from mine, and I understand that it must be very difficult to strongly identify with a world view and a set of conservative ideologies that are essentially not being represented in this election.

As such, I've found myself in a wide variety of conversations online in the last year and a half. I've watched every single debate (red and blue),, and while my decision was made up early in the race  I have had conversations that have changed my opinion on certain issues. Because of this, I am not afraid to engage in debate online, and simply throw it out because "no one changes their mind on Facebook." 

I've engaged with high school friends, church friends, friends who are even more left-leaning than myself, and even my mother (who also, as far as I can tell, is voting for Trump.) These conversations have strengthened and reinforced my opinions on many social issues, while critiquing and dissolving some opinions I used to believe were bullet proof. Over the last several months, I have received more than just a few Facebook messages that encouraged the little seed of writing inside of me, and let me know that even if people were publicly debating me on every issue, my thoughts were echoed by many in my personal network. People have shared my posts and encouraged me to write more.

So here we are! 

I hope to continue writing opinion on politics, current events, and human rights, while concurrently sharing lifestyle and fashion photos and topics as well. If you see something you think I should read, would agree with, or should share, please share it with me! For the foreseeable future, I will be keeping all my comment sections open to the public, because debate and conversation is the only way I've learned anything about opposing mind views thus far, and hope to continue this past this election season and into a more 'normal' day to day life (dear god please let political life get more normal soon).