Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Some Final Twittervism Before a Vacation Break

A year has passed since I ramped up production of blog entries with a break at the end of 2017. This weekend marks the anniversary of the Charlottesville atrocity, the murder of Heather Heyer, and the two police officers who died in a helicopter crash that was present because of the Far Right rally. Since then, I took part in the short gubernatorial campaign of Ameya Pawar, set up a ton of monthly donations to non-profits and political causes that are close to me, went to a few rallies/protests about immigration, attended an even about socialism movements in Honduras and the Phillipines, and an Indivisible where a liberal Congressman disappointed me with talk about process, access, influence, and money. It's been half a decade of a year!

I deserve a break from blogging for awhile! Unless I get whipped up into some passion, I expect to stay away for about two weeks.

Until then, though, enjoy some Twittervism!

If you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee!

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Don't You Want Your Uncanny TV? Help Fund the Uncanny Magazine Year 5 Kickstarter!

One of the most important stances that I take when it comes to social justice: true change won't come until we adopt empathy-centered social norms. A debate can occur between the dance of norms and laws/rules/regulations, especially in this day and age when we have elected officials and their followers stomping on norms and customs. Sadly, I believe the stamping elected officials just demonstrate that the social norms of pluralism and authentic empathy haven't spread far enough and convinced enough people to make justice permanent.

One front in the battle for social norms of pluralism and empathy has taken place for a little time in the Science Fiction & Fantasy industry/community. Uncanny Magazine entered the fray about four years ago by publishing fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, and other creative endeavors so that

Each issue contains intricate, experimental stories and poems with verve and imagination that elicit strong emotions and challenge beliefs, from writers of every conceivable background. Uncanny believes there’s still plenty of room in the genre for tales that make you feel.
I believe in the Uncanny mission so much that I've participated in it. For almost the last four years, I helped the magazine as one of the Submissions Editors.

A couple weeks ago, I resigned from that position. I've done some great learning and work with Uncanny and have met some great people, but my schedule has gotten really cramped, I have made some amazing advances on my bachelor project of 20+ years that needs more attention, and I have some other projects that need attention.

Nonetheless, I expect to have some continued future contact with Uncanny since Michi Trota is both their managing editor and also my wife. I plan to keep reading Uncanny as time permits.

Today, I also want to help promote the Uncanny Magazine Year Five kickstarter. They've already reached 110% funding, but Uncanny still has 19 days to raise more and reach stretch goals, such as the following:
  • $22,000 - Reprint cover art from John Picacio
  • $25,000 - Original cover art from TBD
  • $32,000 - Uncanny TV Pilot Produced
  • $42,000 - Half season (6 episodes) of Uncanny TV Produced
  • $50,000 - Full season (12 episodes) of Uncanny TV Produced
Some of the backer awards include:

  • An ebook copy of the "Disabled People Destroy Fantasy" special issue
  • An ebook copy of the first issue of Year 5
  • An electronic subscription to Year 5
  • A physical book copy of "Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction"
  • A custom Uncanny keychain
  • Autographed books
  • Uncanny "Pick-A-Brain" interview
  • A custom written poem or custom microfiction just for you
  • An art party
  • Manuscript critiques
  • And more!
Year 5 of Uncanny Magazine has gotten baseline funded, so you will have access to material they publish during the year at their website, which will help you feel and possibly even help expand your mind.

Maybe you can even point people to some stories, poems, or essays for them to experience the same. I know that I often link to Jim Hines's essay The Politics of Comfort whenever people say that want some form of entertainment or experience or whatever without the politics (which really just can't happen). You'll probably find plenty of material to point people toward to help get some perspective.

Funding Uncanny Magazine means that Uncanny can do more and put more material out into the world, including Uncanny TV:
Hosted and produced by Michi Trota and Matt Peters, Uncanny TV will be the launch of our community-based vid channel, featuring exclusive geeky content related to Uncanny and the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps community!

Matt Peters & Michi Trota will host a short (20-30 min) variety talk show, Uncanny Magazine-style: highlighting creators in SFF working in a variety of art forms and projects, focusing on people building and nurturing their communities, particularly highlighting marginalized creators. They'll talk about topics that can be serious, but the overall tone of the show will be to celebrate the things we enjoy and the people who make our communities good places to be in SFF.
I'll admit, I'm promoting a project of my wife's and a friend here in Uncanny TV. Even if she weren't my wife and Matt wasn't a friend, though, I still would think Uncanny TV has a lot to add to the world and the SFF community.

Even though Uncanny Magazine has met their initial goal for funding Year 5, everyone should head over to the Uncanny Magazine Year Five kickstarter. The staff there and the authors and artists that Uncanny publishes have a lot to add to the world, a lot to help readers feel, and a lot to help readers expand their minds and become better able to deal with novel situations.

Random Note: All blockquotes have been taken from the Uncanny Magazine website and the Uncanny Magazine Year Five kickstarter page.

If you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Yo, Establishment Democrats, It's About More Than Trump

Today I went to the monthly meeting of a small political group that borders between activism and advocacy. They had an Establishment Democratic member of the US House of Representatives there to provide an "update" and answer some questions that people might have. I choose not to identify the group or the Representative because at this point, they're the best opportunity in this area to keep things from getting worse and I don't want to discourage at least minimal support for the political defense of the United State's spirit and soul.

As much as I don't want to hurt the pragmatics of the current realpolitik, I feel the need to comment about the encounter I had with the Representative. No personal threat, altercation, or anything like that occurred. This story has nothing to do with harassment, violence, or anything like that. This purely an ideological and political encounter. I feel the need to make this kind of dislosure because I want to provide commentary that may sway some small segment of the population but to make clear no violation of anything occurred, just some disappointment and questioning of faith.

Many readers and those I interact with on social media know that I've stood up for the Democratic party and the importance of getting enough of them into office to stem the disintegration of United States political institutions and society. I have also tried encouraging as many people as possible to get out to their primaries and to the general election in November to vote Democrats into the US Senate, US House of Representatives, and into local and state positions.

Heck, even after today, I'm still helping put together some postcards to be mailed to registered Democrats in a specific district with a VERY conservative Democrat. These postcards have the aim to get out the vote. I'm participating in this venture because the Republican is THAT MUCH WORSE. . .and there's other important candidates on different levels to vote for.

I have even felt guilt and despair about not doing more politically to try stemming the tide of injustice in our governments, society, and culture. Last week, I had started the process of signing up for texting out the vote for Beto O'Rourke, US Senate candidate down in Texas, facing off against Ted Cruz (please people of Texas, get out the vote for Beto. . .but, heck, do your civic duty, either which way) and originally wanted to participate in the texting campaign today. This activist/advocacy had caught my attention, though, and I figured participating locally was important, and I wanted to get involved "in real life". The important part: I didn't feel like I had done enough, all the information had felt overwhelming, and I wanted more of a support network in these political endeavors.

Some social media encounters with friends have also done a fair job of getting me thinking deeply about politics, politicians, and the intermixture of them with everday, normal people. One friend and I agree on some general ideas of where we'd like to go, even though we have traveled different roads (he has come from a Republican background but has become something of a radical left populist while I've gone from Green that voted Nader in 2000 to trying to figure out where to fit on the Left). Another friend has challenged my activism from the standpoint of a moderate who's sick of the partisanship but loves how wonky I get. A third friend and I go back a LOONNNNGGG time (I'd pick him up on the way to high school, and he provided a tape or two for the car), and he has challenged me with disaffection, questioning my ardent activism with arguments about the country not having inspiring or motivating candidates, which motivated me to investigate and post essays and articles on social media with the following hashtags: #VoterFrustration #VoterApathy #TurnoutSuppression #VoterSuppression.

Listening to the In The Thick podcast episode "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Interview" probably keyed me up, too. They did a lovely candid interview with Ocasio-Cortez, including a line that I had to paraphase in a Tweet:

So now that I've built up my needs and desires for politics in the moment, I went to the advocacy/activism group meeting this afternoon. The presence of the US Representative came as a surprise, but it provided the prospect of getting some useful information. He explained the current state of the fight against Trump, praised Mueller all over the place, touted the importance of the people in the fight (he at least struck that correct note, actually reminding me fondly of the In The Thick episode from last night -- and his argument that there wasn't a Blue Wave out there, that Democratic voters had to get out there and cast their vote, they couldn't depend on others to vote Blue struck my as a good note, too), and how the Democrats had to get more seats in Congress. The fight against Trump wouldn't amount to much without more Democrats. Watergate took 28 months for Nixon to resign, and it couldn't have reached that point without a hostile Democratic Congress. . .and Watergate was child's play. Methinks this Representative has his opinion of someone's guilt. The Representative even made sure to say that the fight isn't over in the House of Representatives.

Everything sounded fine and good, maybe very process oriented and wonky, but sure, whatever. The Representative took some questions, pretty much some more process and wonky questions about gun control, the collusion investigation, and other questions on common issues today. His questions came all process oriented, wonky, and pressing the importance of people voting to get the Democratics in control of Congress.

Actually a couple things didn't sound so good:

  • The Representative said that he would love to legislate in a world like the '50s, when things were calm. Errmmmm. . .maybe for white straight men it was fine
  • Then he praised politics during the time Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his rescue program against the Great Depression. . .except for the Japanese that the government locked up and also the black service workers and agricultural workers who the government legislated out of getting benefits from the social programs. Once again, errmmmm. . .maybe for white straight men it was fine
Lately, I've gotten sick of all the wonk and process oriented discussion of government. I listen to a lot of political podcasts. I see all these posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other places getting all wonky, process oriented, and weighing down in facts. Frankly, I've stopped reading them in depth unless it's an article that I've actively found myself. Even then, I've started snoring or scanning to look for the main point. It just gets old after awhile. And if I'm thinking that way, someone who gets pretty wonky on his own (shut up, friends from high school), how do busy, workaday people react to it?

Throw in the latest discussions and good challenges I've gotten from friends, I felt the need to raise my hand. I would give the last question. I asked, "This will be more of a touchy feely question, but what can you provide us for hope to be realized?" I got emotional, so I got shaky (I actually felt a little desire to tear up, like I have a bit lately when I've been feeling things getting real, like on TV, in a book, or in an article/essay when I feel what characters or the author feels in that moment), the room got a little confusing, so I restated to the effect of: "What concrete hope do we have for the future, coming from you and other Democratic politicians?"

I can't remember the exact answers but it came down to pretty much gaining control of Congress and, this one really boggled my mind, the Democrats had gotten people together like this activist/advocate group together. That people coming together was enough of an accomplishment, a hope. He also went into some story of working on appropriating funds and rules for the Courts (actually interesting wonk there as I didn't realize that Congress had that kind of control over Courts) that eventually ended up with him having hot chocolate and cookies at some Justice's home. Well, that's cuddly, isn't it?

The part about the Democrats getting people together to be activist/advocates felt disingenuous to me. Calling people coming together disingenuous coming feels like a lot, especially coming from me. Three things, though:

  1. Arguably, the existential threat of Trump, the Freedom Caucus, and the enabling GOP has gotten people off their asses to become advocates and activists. You can easily find articles that state as much, and I've encountered plenty of people at political events and situations that state that it was this threat that caused them to get off their asses and find out how to fight it and make a difference

  2. This level of advocacy and activism should have been and should be the status quo. Frankly, the Democratic party has fallen flat for years, focusing on getting Federal political office instead of working on the State and local levels to motivate people into active participation and engagement with the civic and political order

  3. Our political and civic leaders need to do more to provide messaging, policy ideas, reasons, and causes to fight for rather than working to disrupt the enemy political party in power, to put their chosen party into power, and once the chosen party is in power to make coalitions to then figure out what to do with the government. How much is the Right arguing the Left isn't seeing sense and not willing to form coalitions to figure out the bipartisan way of figuring out the direction of the country?
Even though the Representative adorned the discussion with coalition building and bipartisanship, his language felt more like gaining access, influence, and process. I felt the same about the activist/advocacy group. Frankly, the weighing toward access, influence, and process is what led me to find the term advocacy group when I got home. The discussions about the processes of fighting for these Democratic causes, through the Representative in the halls of government and the rank and file of the group working on

  • Sending out postcards
  • Making phone calls
  • Getting people on the street registered to vote
  • Reaching out to their representatives
  • Even coming together to meetings like this
It felt like the causes didn't matter, that it was the processes that mattered. Did the process matter because it brought them together and gave them reason to interact and have common cause with other people, no matter the cause. I know the causes have a lowest common denominator, but by being so focused on the trees of access, influence, and process, it felt like the Representative and the group didn't want a forest of a message, an image for the future, of something to hope for.

The Representative and the group already had their concrete wonky processes to reach their particular causes. They had hope that just by following through these processes, they'll get their people into office. These people will execute their "common sense" legislation or will work to create bipartisan coalitions to figure out the "common sense" legislation after receiving input from their people.

The process orientation and discussion of building access and influence felt like that wonky talk that turns off independents who have little motivation to vote in the first place. The emphasis on building access and influence came off as too much, almost on the route to backroom deals with the possibility for corruption. That's how we ended up with Trump and the Freedom Caucus, the everyday Right had gotten sick of "business as usual." Spending all that time building access and influence by the politicians made the everyday people feel ignored and that their elected officials had gotten out of touch with their constituents.

Heck, I understand that process orientation, building access, and building influence is a part of government. I made arguments that Hillary Clinton would have proved more effective with policy and legislation than Obama because she could work the bars and rooms with other politicians while Obama wanted to just go home and spend time with his family (which, honestly, I find more endearing and what I would like to see in a leader). That legislative stuff, the process orientation, the access building, the influence building, though, especially when shared so bald facedly doesn't make for good leadership. Maybe I'm not cut out for these aspects of advocacy groups.

We need more leadership from our elected representatives. We need inspiring and motivating messaging and reasons for hope, not stories related about how their kicking ass at process, building access, and building influence. We don't need our elected officials to tell us that things suck and that only our votes can fix things. . .especially when the voters want motivating and inspiring leaders in office to get them off their butts and engaged. We shouldn't need an existential threat to get us

  • Engaged
  • To volunteer for service opportunities
  • To get us interacting with each and coming together to make our neighborhoods, our towns, our cities, our states, and our country a better place.
As a part of my searching for articles and essays about #VoterApathy #VoterFrustration #TurnoutSuppression and #VoterSuppression, I made the conclusion negative campaigning against an opponent has one main goal: getting the opposite party voters to self-suppress. It might bolster the negative campaigner's own party voters to vote, but not by much.

The biggest side effect of negative campaigning that hurts our country and possibly a candidates own chances to win, especially if both/all candidates negatively campaign, it encourages independent voters to self-suppress. Even today, I hear plenty of people say that they didn't like any of the candidates in 2016 enough to vote. Plenty of people say that

  • Both parties are just as bad as each other
  • Their vote doesn't matter
  • They aren't interested in politics
  • Politics doesn't affect them
  • That all politicians are bad and no matter who's in office, the life of that particular voter will suck (especially for marginalized people)
so they don't vote. I believe that after years and years of negative campaigning, a lot of people eligible to vote, especially independent voters, have given up and decide not to vote for any or all those reasons, all because of despairing, negative campaigning.

Us people are failing the country by letting people like Trump get into office. At the same time, though, the people who volunteer and put themselves forward to become our leaders fail us. They don't inspire us. They don't motivate us. They don't provide us messages that we can connect to. They don't provide us a future to live for and to build together.

I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it perfect in that "In the Thick" podcast. I'm not going to quote it word for word, but she pretty much said that she (and all of us, frankly) made the mistake of thinking we didn't have to do anything more after Obama got into office. Obama provided us hope we could believe in. Obama even dug into his community organizing roots and told us that if we didn't like what we saw, we had to get out there and stir things up. We, the People, need to stay active and civically engage with our country. We need to become activists, take to the streets, talk to people, engage with them, and work to make the world into a good place.

Maybe on some level, Obama failed us by not reminding us that we had to work to maintain that better world. I know I've run into plenty of young people on social media who argued that the momentum of history would take us to the more just world we have envisioned.

So today, this advocacy/activism group and this US Representative have disappointed me. They didn't provide me with inspiration, with hope, with a vision for the future to motivate me, to enervate me, and to give me support to keep going. I don't plan on giving up in despair, but this encounter has frustrated me.

I still plan on getting my vote out in November. As much as my Establishment Democratic candidates don't inspire me, they're still much better than the existential threat of Trump, the Freedom Caucus, and the GOP. Please, please, please, readers, for all that is

  • Good
  • Loving
  • Compassionate
  • Empathic
  • Just
  • Pluralistic
Please also get out there and vote, no matter who you vote for. I would hope it's Democratic because Trump feels like he's pushing for authoritaraniasm, but frankly, right now, I just want people to start getting involved, getting the hang of it, and realizing that We, the People, do have the power to make the world better. Maybe some of us just have to become leaders at some point (please don't make it me. . .I feel like if my essays get popular, I might end up there. . .but I really don't want to. . .someone else would definitely be better fit and a better vessel for justice).

For today, though, we need more leadership that provides concrete

  • Messaging
  • Motiviation
  • Inspiration
  • Images
  • And hope for a better future
For the future, us people have to get

  • Civically engaged
  • Involved in service
  • To support leaders that embody us and keep us doing more of what keeps this country going
And we can't quit. The new status quo has to be us coming together to work together to truly make a country of justice, hope, and authentic empathy.

It's about more than Trump. It's about the future. We need a hopeful and empathic vision to keep aiming for.

If you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee!