Thursday, November 1st, 2016.
Let's talk about what solidarity means.
I'm going to be blogging every day for the next seven days until this godforsaken bloated whale of an election finally explodes, covering the beach of Democracy with its stinking entrails until we the electorate decide how to best clean it up. That means that every post is going to be more topical than political and more scatterbrain that topical. I have not updated my bloggy-woggy as often as I had hoped, but if this past summer was any indication elections have a way of making me want to write. My girlfriend calls me "more of a newsletter guy" because I prefer long posts to short social media outbursts. I'll take it.
Speaking of short media outbursts, let's get back to solidarity. The past two days have seen Facebook do its Facebooky thing by taking over the hive-mind with a meme that leaves me more conflicted than it probably should. The long and short of it is that people have been checking in to the Standing Rock Reservation to ostensibly interfere with police targeting protesters there on social media. On its face, this is a wonderful show of solidarity with a group that is underrepresented at best and criminally ignored at worst by the MSM. Once you dig a little deeper, however... it's still a wonderful show of solidarity. There are no two ways about it. I'm usually a contrarian when it comes to social media, especially social media mixed with politics, but I do feel that this meme, if nothing else, raises awareness. Plus, representatives from the camp have given this meme their seal of approval, so really who am I to judge?
Who I am is someone keenly aware of the difference between telling and showing. I write plays, which are blog posts you shout at people in dark rooms. In plays, you would never have a character enter a room and say "I AM THIS WAY. BELIEVE ME." Instead, you would have that character walk into a room and act in that way, whatever that way may be. I think that checking into Standing Rock is a great way of entering a room and saying, "I stand with the protestors." Except you're not really taking a stand. More likely, you're sitting it out, cheering from the sidelines.
Of course, this is your right. Not everyone can donate to the Standing Rock Sioux, and fewer still can actually make their way to North Dakota to show their support. What concerns me is the way that so many of us conflate shows of solidarity with acts of solidarity, and this meme is effectively just a show. Flooding Facebook with false-positives will no more effect change than screaming at Donald Trump through your television screen. Announcing a position is not an act of solidarity, it is a show of it. Shows are important. Symbols are extremely important. Showing something is a way to address a need for change. But action - real, look-what-I-can-do action - is how we effect that change.
Checking in at Standing Rock is only one example of this dichotomy, but it has gotten me thinking a lot about what we talk about when we talk about politics. It also has me thinking about how in this election, that dichotomy might not be as clear cut as I think it is. When someone writes an angry status update about Trump or Clinton, isn't that as much of an action as anything? If our social media is an echo-chamber, then no. If we are actually reaching people of differing view points, then maybe. Voting blows this dichotomy out of the water because it is at once showing and telling your solidarity with a certain candidate; however, you only get to vote for President once every four years. What do you do with the rest of the time?
Here's what I do: on November 9th, I am showing where I stand by actively taking a stand. On November 9th, I am switching party affiliations. I do not believe that I am a Democrat anymore. I am a liberal, I am a progressive, but I am not a capital-D Democrat. I will vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8th, and starting no November 9th I will do everything in my power to show her that putting her into office is not the end of her campaign, but the beginning of it. I feel no solidarity with the Democratic Party, an organization as corrupt as it is opaque. Right now, I am effectively "updating my status" when it comes to the state of the two-party system. Once this election is finally, mercifully over, I'm putting that status into action.
In the meantime, I'll be here every day until November 8th. This is where I stand: someone conflicted, confused, and yet committed to seeing this week out. We'll see what happens after this week is through.