Today, the United States government has entered a state of partial shut-down, and I anticipate that things will be at a standstill for some time before they begin to look up. I’m not intending to write about this very current issue, even though it is relevant to all of us. However, I did post a statement on my Facebook page explaining why I’d be keeping oddly silent through a period of controversy, something that is not like me at all. It reads as follows:

“I don’t comment on political things much. It isn’t because I don’t have opinions; on the contrary, I have very strong opinions. But I also have the irritating ability to see both sides of a situation and discuss a problem from that perspective, which seems to annoy both “sides” of any issue. I look for ways for people to compromise and work together whenever possible, and those who see things in black and white tend to get angry with me, because I rarely do. So, I will spend tomorrow avoiding all commentary on the current political issues or partisan “blaming” conversations. I will say, though, if there were more people like me on our Congress, we wouldn’t have an “us vs. them” mentality that eliminates the idea of compromise for the greater good, in favour of behaving like children playing a game where winning is the only thing that matters. That is all I have to say about that.”

So, yes. Although I do not work for the government, it feels a bit like it should be a holiday today. I mean, why I am I meant to sit around being productive today? Instead, I thought I’d head over here and say hello to you guys. I haven’t done as well with keeping up on my blogging projects as I should, and I’m appreciative of the regular readers who drop by to look for new stories, even when there are not any.

For those who missed it, my latest project has been an involvement with Nerdy Minds, an online magazine for all things geek-culture related. They were initially delighted to have me as a contributor, because they really didn’t have someone on staff who wasn’t your “typical geek” writing about the culture from somewhat of an outside perspective. My very first post,
The Myth Of The Geek Girl
, stirred up a good deal of controversy and debate on Facebook and amongst the geek community at large. In fact, the response (both of a positive and negative nature) was so immediate and inspired so many strong opinions, I was asked to write a follow-up piece.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: writing for an audience that is not yours and expressing opinions on the internet is a bit like wandering into a minefield. When you write on your own blog, you have a bit of a security net. When you write a book, you have a finished work or a character or something to hide behind. When you write an opinion piece based upon your own life and share it with the world, there is no hiding. People judge. The commentary can get personal. You need to be a thick-skinned person to put yourself and your opinions out there in an authentic, vulnerable fashion and not be affected by the backlash. I, admittedly, am sensitive to the point of being overly sensitive. I take things personally when they are not meant that way. You might imagine how I react to the things that are most certainly meant that way.

Yet, throughout my life and my writing career, I’ve had the following pointed out: “You know how to make friends. You know how to get people to like you. If you just employ those strategies and hold back on sharing so much of yourself, you’ll find it easier to ingratiate yourself with any group of people. You’re a charming person; does it matter so much to be authentic and to have your voice heard?”

The answer is yes, of course it does. I addressed this issue in a snarky piece about
Surviving The Social Scene In 2013
at the beginning of the year. If you are an artist in any way shape and form, you understand that none of the aforementioned suggestions apply to you. They simply cannot co-exist with your identity as an artist without one suffering greatly. As an artist, it isn’t your job to make people like you. It isn’t even your job to pay attention to what your readers say, what your critics say, what your friends and family say. It isn’t your job to explain yourself and become a more beloved person. The job of an artist is to get people to examine how they think, how they feel, and how that is reflective (or not) of society. The job of an artist is to evoke a response and initiate dialogue. If acceptance is always the ultimate goal, one must embrace conformity much more than I am willing to do. I like acceptance. I like to be liked. However, the comments that meant the most to me were hearing from women who’d encountered all sorts of experiences that made them uncomfortable, and thanked me for sharing mine. The comments that meant the most to me were from people who wanted to reference my pieces in their own work and discussions on the topic, the people who validated me as an artist with something to say, not as a likeable girl.

Perhaps I don’t need to be liked enough that I believe the only important thing I have to say is on the topic of “Why Yellow Is Out In 2014″. Yet, the truth is, I do care, and when people make personal comments or actively dislike me, I cry. It doesn’t matter if I do not know or will never meet that person. Judgement hurts. However, it doesn’t hurt enough to make me believe toning down my personality, expressing myself a little less strongly, or working to keep the peace and making certain everyone will like me is worth it. I dislike conflict, but I cannot mold myself to the expectations of others to avoid conflict and live a life where I am more “accepted” by all. I cannot refuse to stand out because it makes others uncomfortable.

A good friend told me yesterday that he was quite concerned about me, because he always sees me as a bright shining light in the middle of a world that isn’t equipped for such a thing. He is afraid that the people around me who are not as open and adventurous as I can be, the people both in my personal and professional life who’d like to see me knocked down a peg or two, the pressure to live in a society whose mantra seems to be “conformity and pleasing others is the ticket to success”, and the difficult situations in my life one might characterise as “The Challenging Process Of Growing Up” are all things that will ultimately dim that light. It was the right thing to say, because my reply was along the lines of, “Don’t underestimate me. I may not be too strong or too special, but I’m a fighter. You never have to worry. I will cry and feel bruised and battered, but I’ll always get back up. I have to. ”

I do not consider myself “provocative” or “ballsy” or even “confident”, but I thank those who give me credit for being such a strong type of person. I don’t think there is anything particularly special about me. I write about things that are relevant to me, and things I believe others might read and think, “I can relate to that.” I say the things I think people should be saying, even if not everyone wishes to hear them. And, however much it hurts, I can’t change that desire for authentic self-expression simply because someone doesn’t like me or judges me. After living my life online for 13 years, I’m quite familiar with what it’s like to be a polarising personality. I’m also quite familiar with how important it becomes when someone tells you that you’ve left a positive influence in that person’s life, simply by being yourself. If you have that gift, and most of us do, why should fear keep you from sharing it?

In fact, the experience has rekindled my passion for blogging, and reminded me to pay more attention to my own. In October, I will be bringing back the ever-popular “Literary Libations” segment, and will be creating a group on Goodreads to bring together authors, bloggers, and others who realise that building a brand, marketing a book, or getting traffic to a blog isn’t something that can be accomplished in a bubble.

I’ll also be attending the annual SIEGE Conference this Thursday through Sunday, where I’ll be helping to handle registration and bringing my own unique version of sunshine and rainbows (i.e., snark, vodka, and glitter) to a really diverse and fun crowd of people.

And did I mention it’s October? That, of course, means Halloween—more events, more costumes, and more zany adventures when possible. If you’re not yet my Facebook friend, I urge you to come on over and join me and my unique crew of peeps, and share in the adventures.

See you all soon!:)

I really had no intention of commenting on the recent tragic shooting in Arizona, because, quite frankly, all the anger surrounding political discussions in our country has me burnt out. I no longer care to engage anyone in discussions about politics, because in general, I think everyone is wrong. I blame everyone, from partisan politicians on both sides, to journalists and pundits that encourage the dissension because it keeps them in business, to the American people, who are so frustrated with the lack of answers that they’ve taken to the same hatred, name-calling, and blaming of people on “the other side” that once made ideas like the KKK and McCarthy hearings so popular.

There is no “other side”. There are different ways of looking at the world, but that’s healthy. The divisive way in which Americans are approaching the political system, the “us against them” mentality that was largely brought about by the media, and the existence of programs specifically designed to stir up hate and anger against “them”—well, none of this is healthy. We’re all on the same side. We may not agree, but that’s what compromise is for. The guy you so adamantly disagree with who exemplifies the basic philosophy of “them”, he may be way off base in his thinking about what’s wrong with our country, and how to fix our society. Then again, so might you be. But when you discuss ideas in a reasonable and mature way, you often learn you have more common ground than expected, and you share many of the same goals. This builds a foundation for discourse and compromise, ideas that have played a huge role in making our country a successful one, one that promotes personal freedom, democracy, equality, and prosperity.

Economically, socially, and in terms of what I perceive as the world I’d most like to be a part of, I’m the most liberal person out there. According to a recent political compass quiz I took, I’m slightly to the left of folks like the Dalai Lama and Gandhi. However, when it comes to how I view politics, and the role of the political system in a democratic country, I’m the most moderate voice I’ve heard in a long time…well, at least since the Rally To Restore Sanity.

It is OK to disagree with ideas that don’t align with yours. But, before you disagree, you must understand where the other person is coming from, discuss the idea intelligently, and debate the pros and cons of it. Simply shutting the idea out and calling the other person a Nazi, a Socialist, Ma-Obama, or Hitler doesn’t accomplish anything. Hate is always born out of anger, and usually stems from a combination of frustration, ignorance, and the need to blame someone. It’s convenient when your problems are because of the Jews, the blacks, the Muslims, the Communists, the President, the political party you don’t agree with and everyone that follows them. But the true answers to life’s problems are never the convenient ones, and hate is just a smoke screen that obscures both the real issues, and the possibility for solution.

When can we get back to rational, intelligent discourse about the problems we face, and the potential solutions? When can we stop making it about journalists, TV networks, and pundits on both sides, or politicians that are more interested in becoming celebrities and stirring up emotions, meant to detract from a more solution-oriented way of thinking? I think it can only happen when the American people decide they’re too intelligent to hate, and not naive enough to be distracted by the outside noise of the media, popular culture, and the undercurrent of anger and frustration running through our country.

Here’s what I posted on Facebook today, which kind of sums up my view on the whole deal:

“People don’t shoot people because they are conservative, liberal, or anarchist. They don’t shoot people because of irresponsible politicians who publish maps with target markings, or inflammatory pundits and journalists who see a tragedy as a way to boost ratings, or even because they were tired of hearing America blame one another for everything that sucks. Sometimes, people shoot other people just because they are unhappy, crazy, or disturbed. All the arguing, name-calling, accusations, and viciousness I see on FB regarding discussions of the AZ shooting and politics make me all of those thin…gs. (though I’m not going to shoot anyone because of it.) This is why so many Americans are apathetic and don’t want to participate in the political system. Call me when it’s time to stop blaming and name-calling, and time to actually start doing something to make the world a better place to be. ”

Something’s wrong with a world where I, one of the most overly emotional, impulsive people around, stand for the voice of reason. ;)

Earlier today, I was e-mailing The Guy I Am Currently Dating on the subject of politics. He’d sent me a link to an article that raised the valid point that Americans are living in one of the most politically divisive cultures in well over a century. The article pointed out that even the Conservative vs. Liberal divisiveness that characterised the Prohibition years and the civil rights/Vietnam era didn’t have the same polarizing effect on Congress that our present situation has, although the average American typically had a much stronger political stance.

I started writing a response on the subject via e-mail, but it grew long, and turned itself into a blog. :) So, here it is:

An interesting thing I’ve noticed about “the general public”, or at least those in the 25-45 age range: I suspect there’s actually less polarization now than there was 4, or even 8 years ago. The thing that has brought people (somewhat) together is the disenchantment of the average voter with the political process, and with politicians. That’s what’s making things like the Stewart/Colbert rally and the Tea Party (yes, I know they’re a legitimate political faction, but I can’t really take them any more seriously than the Jon Stewart rally.) so successful. People are actually getting more involved in the process because they’re more fed up with politics as usual. Whether they’re standing behind something ludicrous that you totally disagree with (i.e. Sarah Palin) or not, people are getting involved and want to make their voices heard in some way that goes beyond politics as usual and Democrat vs. Republican.

Four years ago, American seemed all about conservative vs. liberal. You either hated Bush or loved him. Then, you either loved Obama, or you backed McCain. Obama’s election sort of changed things. Moderates voted for him on both sides of the aisle, and lots of people in the middle switched parties. The polarization of Congress and the fact that fighting along party lines typically doesn’t work for the interests of the people became more obvious and more public. The “average American” has come together with his neighbor, disagreeing about how to run the country, but agreeing that both sides aren’t working for them. In some ways, Obama’s presidency has been a politically divisive one, but also a unifying and eye-opening one.

America isn’t (as) apathetic anymore, and that’s a good thing.

It’s maybe not such a good thing for Obama. The American people didn’t vote for Obama because he’s likeable, smart, or has a magic solution to the country’s problems—even though he is both likeable and smart, and intelligent enough to realise a magic solution doesn’t exist, except in the form of compromise and working together. People voted for Obama because of the idea he symbolised, change. Americans started to stand up and vote against the current political process, only to realise that, in the real world, whoever was elected would need to work within the system, rather than spend all his time trying to dismantle it. Disenchantment is a big problem for presidents; after all, Bush’s presidency became a joke when people saw they voted for an “average American guy with average American values”, and instead got a C-student from Yale who floated through life on his charm and family connections. Obama’s approval rating has fallen dramatically not because of anything he’s done, but because the people voted for a revolutionary, and instead got a diplomat.

It doesn’t matter that a revolutionary, regardless of his or her politics, isn’t likely to succeed in today’s political climate. Some of our strongest Presidents have been level-headed, diplomatic, and able to see the value in taking small steps now that may have a big payoff later. When you get elected by telling everyone you’re out to change the world, a spirit of level-headed compromise and an intelligent plan to work within the system doesn’t look diplomatic. It just looks like you’ve sold out.

The problem with politics is that it’s always big promises, and the spirit of “I think, feel, and live just the way that you do” that gets politicians elected. The reality of politics is that our system doesn’t allow for these huge dramatic changes to occur, and while a President may have big ideas, it requires a great deal of cooperation and compromise on the part of a great number of people to get anything done. So, every 2 or every 4 years, America sighs and says it is tired of not being heard, and of politicians not getting anything done—and the other party takes control. Yet, very little changes, and while some legislation gets passed, it’s typically moderate in nature. The system is not revolutionised, and both conservatives and liberals see the need to compromise.

It’s often been said that the definition of compromise is when neither side walks away happy, but each receives a small piece of what it wanted. The past two years have exemplified that, and while it may not be what America wanted, voters should take a cue from the wisdom in the lesson, rather than calling for dramatic change and big promises from the other side. Otherwise, we’re eternally trapped in a self-destructive, perpetuating cycle, becoming even more disenchanted as time goes by.