The Paradox of Winter

Today, I thought I might take a break from the nightmare diarrhea hellfire updates and write a bit about my favorite season. I mean, yes, Rep. Devin Nunez seems weirdly reluctant to answer a simple question about whether or not he’s been doing the things that he is accusing others of, but hey- we all need to take breaks. 

Although I do enjoy spending time with my family, I’d rather be honest and not sugar-coat native genocide by fully embracing the Thanksgiving mythos. I like to think that a day where entering a food coma with loved ones and then crashing at 8pm can be separated from its origin as a propaganda device, but it is still important to correct misinformation.  

Potentially uncomfortable truths aside, December is coming. This time of year means many different things to different people, but there are usually parties and gifts involved.  

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we don’t often get snow. As a child, the dissonance between the beautiful illustrations on Christmas cards and the leafmush-crusted reality of PNW Winter used to bother me.

Today, however, I have a deep appreciation for the sight of rain-misted pines in the distance. When I drink my tea and contemplate the sight, I like to pretend I’m in some kind of epic fantasy novel. 

And instead of making a series of terrible decisions that lead to some kind of heart-breaking (yet exceedingly dramatic) conclusion at the end, I just look at some pretty trees that don’t die in the Winter and think about their significance. 

The significance of the evergreen can be easy to miss in our present way of life. For those who didn’t spend all of middle school and high school reading up on ancient religious systems/mythology/folk magic, the basic idea is that trees that don’t go bare in the Winter were often thought to be special or sacred in some way.

And that makes sense. If your literal survival through the winter depended on how just how long you could make those shriveled turnips last, a tree that didn’t go bare would be exciting as hell. 

Today, one can simply go to the store and purchase turnips if they have the funds. Or carrots. Or Shitakke mushrooms. Or donuts. Or whatever unholy combination of sugar and artificial dye is being passed off as the latest oreo cookie flavor.

But as wonderful as these conveniences are, they can conceal the very real hardships of Winter. And those hardships can accumulate until, like those little plastic take out-forks that you’ve hoarded, they jam up your silverware drawer of life.

For most of us, the days become shorter and there is less sunlight. This is actually a pretty big problem in the PNW, as we aren’t the sunniest of regions even in the warmer months. Our bodies don’t always get enough vitamin D as it is (insert preferred dirty joke here) and so in the Winter time we become human equivalents of that plant you had in freshman year of college- technically alive, but not exactly thriving. 

Flu season is unpleasant, and can even be dangerous for those with weaker immune systems. And for those living without shelter, even a simple cold can be a serious hazard. 

Then there’s the curious dissonance between almost all of the life around us going into hibernation, and our own unchanged work schedules. This dissonance can range from annoying to completely and utterly soul crushing.

I can honestly say that if I had a choice between reliving a Saturday night shift at a retail chain during the Holiday season, or reliving a round or two of chemo from my cancer treatment a couple years back, I would take the chemo without hesitation. Hard work is one thing, but listening to a series of elderly customers tear your head off for saying Happy Holidays while a couple has sex in the fitting rooms just doesn’t exactly put one in the Holiday spirit. At least in the infusion suite at the cancer treatment center, they might give you hot chocolate if you ask them nicely. 

And then there’s Holiday shopping- an activity that can be genuinely fun, OR, more stressful than a no-context “we need to talk” text. 

Fear not, I’m not about to give you the “all shopping is EVIL how DARE you get excited about getting something nice that you couldn’t normally afford” lecture. Whether it’s Black Friday, or Small Business Saturday, or Medium-Large Business Sunday, or Cyber Monday, or just-fucking-take-these-toasters-the-manufacturer-went-under-we-have-no-place-to-put-them-Tuesday, the Holidays can be a fun time for shopping if one has the means and the time. 

The thing is, a lot of people DON’T have the means and the time. But our economy needs those consumer dollars (or so we’re told) and thus we are conditioned through advertising to seek gratification through physical means, even in scenarios where it might not actually make us feel better.

Buying something “fun” to cheer oneself up can be a good partial or temporary solution to the Winter Blues, but if there are underlying problems (such as a crappy job, stress about money, physical or mental health issues ect.) then that purchase can only go so far.

Those catalogs that Amazon sent out might look charming, but I’m guessing that safer working conditions for those who work in those warehouses would probably bring more genuine Holiday cheer than yet another set of matching Holiday PJs for 40% off. Seriously, Bezos, if you’re reading this, you can go ahead and charge me an extra few bucks for my stuff if employees can report a gas leak without fear.

Time with family can also be a mixed blessing. I’m lucky enough to have a functional and loving family, but I know that isn’t the case for everyone. Time with abusive family members can be very damaging.

The paradox of Winter is that when we badly need rest, we are discouraged or even prevented from getting that rest. To fully “participate” in the Holidays (as defined by advertisers and pop culture) is to rebel against our own nature.  

So there you have it- The Holidays can be terrible. But they can also be awesome, so I’m going to spend the rest of this post talking about that.

Whether you’re religious or not, the month of December offers an opportunity to celebrate the fact that yes, things will eventually get warm again and no, we won’t all die because the turnips ran out. 

Soon, the snow will melt. Soon, the winter-leafmush will disintegrate and be replaced with spring-leafmush (slightly prettier!). Soon, the depressing display of unwanted Holiday merchandise will go away and be replaced with just normal depressing and unwanted merchandise. Need any cheap hair dye with damaged packaging? Now is your CHANCE.

Because Spring will come. And life will go on.

But until then, take care of yourselves. Get healthy amounts of sleep when you can. Stay hydrated. If a cold glass of tap water doesn’t sound appealing while it’s hailing outside, then make some nice herbal tea, or heat up some cider.  

Go Holiday shopping. Or don’t. Spend time with family. Or don’t. Pray for good fortune in the new year, or don’t. Binge-watch delightfully cheesy Holiday movies. Or don’t.

The important thing is to embrace your own vision of this time of the year. Don’t long for the sugarcoated winter-ish scene on a Hallmark card while there are pines in the distance that give their own promise of new life. The true “meaning” of this season is what you make of it.

So make it meaningful for you. How will you do that this year?

The Elephant Not In The Room (Some thoughts on the Impeachment Inquiries)

I have to warn you that this post may be a bit jumbled to read, as I’ve revised it many times. In all honesty it’s probably small chunks of several different posts smashed together.

But I think I ought to at least try to get something down. After all, if Rep. Jim Jordan talks any faster, he might explode. And then it might be considered distasteful to remind you that Jordan may have enabled disgraced Dr. Strauss to sexually abuse students at Ohio State University. Think about that the next time he turns up on TV pretending to be Mr. Law and Order.

I keep trying to get this post “right,” but I’ve realized that’s pointless. Yes, other weird shit will have happened by the time I have it up, but these inquiries represent some particularly important weird shit.

And I’m guessing that not all of you have an extra 25 hours or so to watch or listen to them in their entirety, so I ought to give a little insight just in case. 

And to be clear, the absolute last thing I want is for you to beat on yourself if you haven’t “kept up” with the news. It is literally impossible to keep up with all news that is published, even when it doesn’t relate to a President who lies about everything from crowd sizes to policy. 

You might not even realize it, but you’re kind of exhausted, aren’t you? I know I am.

Consuming news, even at the best of times, can be very tiring. It is essential (not optional!) to take breaks, and practice basic self care. For me, it’s a hot cup of green tea and a book. Or maybe a walk, or some video games. Or consuming media that has little or nothing to do with current events. What is it for you? Don’t tell me, just make sure you’re doing it when you need to. 

So on to the “meat” of this post, and the one particular exchange I’d like to mention. It’s already been highlighted by better writers than I, but I don’t want the significance to slip anyone’s attention. I am referring to an exchange between Rep. Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Jordan (R-OH). Watch it now, if you haven’t already.

In his lament about the absence of the original Whistleblower, Rep. Jordan neglects to mention the death threats against this individual and their lawyer. Instead, he characterizes the Whistleblower at the one who “started” it all. Rep. Welch calmly reminds Rep. Jordan that the one who “started it all” is President Trump. He continued on to say that “President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.” And he gestured to where the witnesses had been testifying.

This was a brilliant reply. Not just because it got a laugh (and was therefore more memorable and memeable) but because it cleanly cut through the gas lighting that has been clouding this whole thing.

Trump DID start all of this. He COULD testify and speed things up. But just as with the Mueller investigation, he is hiding behind his lawyers and his cult.

Probably because he has no other option at this point. 

The elephant in the room (or NOT in the room, see what I did there??) Is that Donald Trump refuses to testify. His refusal is the very reason that we are hearing from “secondhand” witnesses. When his fan club asks us to disregard this, they are asking us to ignore the most basic evidence of our eyes and ears. 

Of course, the fact that Trump fans have difficulty accepting reality isn’t exactly groundbreaking blogging on my part, so what now?

Now comes the part where I give you, dear reader, a couple of pointers on what you might do about this. That’s right, HOMEWORK. 

Here at Sing Into The Void, I don’t just describe the toxic diarrhea hellfire nightmare that is this administration- I also like to remind my readers that there are things we can do to help our political systems function more fairly, as well as things we can do outside of established political systems to help our communities. 

Resist Apathy

There are no shortage of people who will tell you that it’s all a sham- that elections are all rigged and politicians are all bought and paid for, and that people who vote are suckers.

This view is attractive because it has a few kernels of truth to it. Yes, bribery is common. Gerrymandering is a thing. There’s all kinds of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that we might never hear about.

However, this view is ALSO attractive because it absolves we citizens of any real responsibility. If everything is rigged, why vote? Or read up on current events?

Or really do anything at all? Just sling some memes about how all politicians are corrupt, and then pat yourself on the back for being so enlightened.

I voted for Clinton in 2016. I lived in Georgia at the time, and had to use one of those sketchy ass voting machines. In spite of my observing all local laws and changing my voter registration, I later learned from a non profit that my vote was not counted. There could be in innocent reason, but in light of Georgia having not the greatest track record with election security, there is a very real possibility that my vote was illegally purged. 

Does that mean I’m never going to vote again? Absolutely fucking not.

Because if there is even a possibility that my vote will help, I have an obligation. All of us do. If our votes are gonna get tampered with, let’s at least make it hard for em, yeah?

Make a habit of calling your reps

And no, emailing isn’t the same thing. An email can be pretty easily ignored, but a call has to be answered. There are numerous sites where you can look up the numbers for your reps if you’re not sure. Common Cause is an organization that has a pretty handy tool for this, as well as some useful information for those who are unfamiliar with politics. 

So get the numbers. Put them in your phone. If you have severe anxiety, call after hours and leave a message. Or write a physical letter to the office. 

If your reps have been supportive of the inquiry, then thank them. Chances are they’ve received at least a handful of callers accusing them of being part of the “deep state,” or lizard people pedophiles, or robots, or whatever.

If your reps have been defending Trump, CALL THEM ANYWAY. Even the greediest, most unscrupulous politicians will sometimes change their mind about something if they think they might not get re-elected. After all, they gotta get that cash (and that sweet government healthcare!) 

So call. And tell your friends to do it too.

Consider making a good old fashioned sign, and putting it on your lawn or in your window

Depending on where you live, you may have even seen a few people doing this already. It’s simple, yet weirdly effective. Seeing a “meme” in the real world can grab our attention, and as long as you can safely do so, it’s a cheap and easy tactic. 

You can simply write “Impeach” in large letters, or get creative and do something more with it. Just make sure the message is clear.

I do want you to be safe. You might not want to do this if any klan, proud boys, or other collective man-baby tantrum groups have been active in your area. But it can be a fun activity if it’s right for you. 

Donate if you have the means

Yes, money in politics is gross. Unfortunately, campaigns with no funding at all tend to sink pretty quickly, as Americans are accustomed to spectacle.

If you make decent money and are comfortable donating to a candidate who is running against Trump or one of his enablers in the house or senate, this is a good thing to do on behalf of those that can’t.

If you’d like to donate, but don’t have a lot of money, consider donating to a smaller, more specific regional branch of a given campaign. This way your money goes further. 

If you have little or no money (or don’t feel comfortable donating to politicians or their campaigns) you might consider volunteering. 

Participate in protests when possible

It’s become fashionable to lament that Americans are too lazy to protest the Trump administration, but this isn’t quite true. The Kremlin Annex, for example, has been going on in DC ever since the Helsinki summit.  

The topic of the protest deserves a post of its own, but I’ve gone on too long already so I’m going to compromise and give you a few pointers if you are participating in a march or protest:

  • Stay on Message (do not be the dude at a Black Lives Matter Protest with a sign about how much you love weed).
  • Be careful about how you talk to media, or just avoid them altogether (Media coverage of protests can be wildly unpredictable, and sometimes flat out dishonest- don’t give them anything that can be used against you or the cause).
  • Dress comfortably for walking (or running).
  • If you’re going to protest without a permit, be prepared to be fined or arrested. Do not expect the police to be kind. 
  • If you’re going to use social media, be sure to make it about the cause and not about you.

I could go on (and some day I probably will) but I hope that gives you an idea.

Be a good citizen (even not during election season)

While it’s safe to say that Trump is a symptom rather than the disease itself, this administration has nonetheless been disorienting and sickening for many Americans. But we don’t need to wait until after impeachment/ 2020 elections/ violent retail worker uprising to remind ourselves of what’s important.

We can still pick up trash in parks. We can still donate (with money or volunteer time) to local food pantries and animal shelters. We can still purchase local street papers and read them. We can still plant gardens and trees.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew, of course. If you’re having trouble narrowing it down, maybe pick one or two areas that are important to you. And don’t forget that self care, either.

Because while resisting Trump is a fine goal, let’s not forget why we’re doing it. 

I’m doing it because I want real action on climate change, as well as a better quality of life for everyone (in a nutshell, anyway). 

What kind of world do you want?

Don’t tell me. Just think about it. And then help make it happen.

Hey look I finally did that thing I’ve been talking about for roughly three years!

Hello!

If you’re reading this, it means I have successfully navigated Wordpress and have managed to launch a blog. Yes, I am aware that it is 2019 and not 2004. Yes, I realize that launching a blog at this time is a bit like buying a VHS player. Mostly harmless, but why bother?

For starters, whenever I take a break from my obsessive lurking on social media and actually bother to write something, it actually reads a lot like a blog post. That’s because as much as I enjoy endless streams of memes and Hot Takes of ten words or less, I ALSO enjoy losing myself in various deep dives across the web. Inevitably, when I go to post, I often attempt to create something similar.

As the dominant forms of social media have become less and less practical for this particular style of writing, I’ve finally decided to just say “fuck it” and create my own platform. This way I don’t have to subject you to ads or algorithms that slowly erode your ability to think critically as the only content they permit you to see is either exactly in line with your worldview or so comically opposed to it that you feel compelled to engage even if you don’t want to.

Also, none of your friends from high school will message you and try to sell you stuff. Not on this page anyway. 

So what will I do here? Assuming I don’t get distracted and forget this blog exists, I intend to write about culture and politics.

To be clear, I’m no trained journalist and it’s not my intent to present myself as such. However, if NYT Columnist Bret Stephens can sow doubt about the human causes of climate change and still be taken seriously, I can probably remind you all that The Mueller Report does NOT AT ALL exonerate Trump and actually makes him look really bad. That seems fair.

Basically, it’s my hope to provide just a little extra nuance and complexity to your intwerweb wanderings. Also opera jokes, and maybe some cute pictures of animals. An old internet tradition, sure, but a very good one.

One thing I am not providing right now, however, is a comments section. I might turn them on in the future depending on how much or how little traction this blog gets, but for now they’re off. Here are my reasons for that policy.

For starters, comments sections are reeeeeeeeeeally hit and miss when it comes to meaningful discourse. Certainly, I have witnessed fascinating instances where proponents of completely different views argued, learned about each other, and came to some interesting conclusions. 

I’ve also witnessed death threats, doxing, childishness, poor reasoning, seemingly endless bad faith arguments, and insults so mediocre that my vision blurred while reading them due to excessive eye rolling on my part. I wish I was joking about that last part, but I’m not. 

Additionally, I don’t recall my mind ever having been changed by a comment, unless it was especially lengthy. When I’ve encountered information on the internet that made me question my own views, it was usually in the form of a full length article or blog post. Oh sure, I sometimes gaze upon comment tire fires for fun, but very rarely do I find anything there that actually challenges me. And thus, I’m skeptical that inviting critique from total strangers is really going to help my writing all that much. 

Furthermore, if someone wants to praise me OR drag me, they’re still welcome to do so on just about any platform they choose. Just mention it on FB/Twitter/Reddit/whatever the fuck and BOOM- instant comments section!

One can easily link to this blog from just about anywhere, or reference the title to avoid giving me the clicks. I’m certainly not silencing anyone by not having comments posted here.

I’m just forcing would-be commentators to actually think about what they want to say instead of word-vomiting into the closest reply box. I actually take a lot of time with my writing, and there’s no reason why anyone who reacts to it can’t do the same. 

The psychology of comments sections (or lack thereof) is actually a very interesting topic that I could go on about. And I might at some future date! But I’ve already dedicated too much of this post to something this site doesn’t presently have, so I’ll go ahead and circle back to what it does have.

At the start of this piece, I compared starting a blog in 2019 to purchasing a VHS player. That’s because both of these things feel somewhat dated and almost pointless. But just as a VHS player can allow you to watch the original Star Wars trilogy in one of the formats closest to the theatrical release, a blog can provide an experience that scrolling through social media can’t.

Because I don’t really want your “likes,” or your outrage. Yes, I have a donate button for anyone who gets a kick out of my stuff and has the means to give, but that’s really not the point of this space.

What I want is to share my writing and ideas with you, and on my own terms. If you don’t like them, you’re welcome to type another destination into that magical box in your browser and go somewhere else.

Go read some poetry, or find some new music, or read up on current events, or play a game. Because whether you continue to read this or not, I want you to think- To think about what you’re doing right now, and why. 

No, not every interweb excursion needs to be a Shakespeare-reading marathon or a calculus lesson. The human mind needs rest and play as well. But as we all deal with the fallout of the 2016 Presidential election of the United States, it seems as good a time as any to evaluate how we’re using the internet.  

And I’ve decided to do what I did all those years ago, on my first computer that weighed about as much as a small automobile and didn’t even have internet yet- write. Put my ideas, dumb jokes, and sincere observations onto a page. And if they’re any good, polish them and share them here.

(Only this time, I think I’ll skip the Lost fan fiction. You don’t need to see that. Nobody needs to see that)

And if you’re still reading this, then you have the internet too. What will you do with it today?