Thoughts on a post-election media detox

A cityscape of Marrakech from last week

A cityscape of Marrakech from last week

Outside my window, I see the Moroccan equivalent of a bodega overflowing with cobwebbed produce. Blue taxis creep by as pedestrians match their speed in the opposite direction.

Despite wearing woolen socks for eight days straight, my feet still cannot get warm on the cold vinyl flooring. Rabat is only 50 degrees Fahrenheit and rainy, but the buildings manage to feel colder than the outdoors. They await their usefulness in the blistering summer months ahead.

I will not be here much longer—less than a week before we depart for Greece on the second trip around the world with the Curriculum Development team.

Ramping up in Rabat

The school is coming back together after a three-week break over the holidays to the capital of Morocco and new host city of THINK Global School, at least for this term. We've been meeting for the last week to brainstorm potential modules of study for our upcoming scouting locations: Athens, Muscat, Shanghai, and Nosara.

This job continues to feel like the Creativity Olympics for the mind, though I find myself turning Buddhist the more I try to reason what students should study in high school. Like repeating a word so many times you forget what it means or how it's spelled.

I made it to the Saharan Desert!

Putting Grad School on Pause

I didn't make it to the sub-zero, snow-covered world of Goddard College this winter. With the guidance of the Program Director, I decided to take a leave of absence due to the difficulty of planning a teaching practicum with such an unpredictable schedule (and no access to students or a static location). But the plan is to continue writing at a similar pace.

Of course, the moment I sat down today to write the next chapter (one about Christmas in Fiji), I felt compelled to post a blog on this dusty ole website.

Logging Back On

This chilly city accompanies me as well on my trip back into the virtual land of social media. I pulled away from Facebook, from Twitter, from all news media, from sharing and hearing thoughts online after the election results became obvious.

I will forever associate the city of San Sebastián with that sinking feeling in the gut and tear-soaked walks on stormy afternoons. It felt a little too Charlie Brown to be a real moment in my life.

In shock that what transpired was even possible (and not that the alternative was much better), I recoiled from all commentary on world events until I turned my TV on in this frigid apartment. Al-Jazeera kept its content to historical documentaries, which felt like a smooth transition: firmly installed and well-oiled training wheels.

YouTubing Noam Chomsky was a little less soothing.

Two months have passed, and I still don't know how I feel about America's new leadership, about the media outlets that edit and influence, about all the subsequent rhetoric and activism, about what constitutes a responsible citizen or, better yet, a content human being.

No answers came to me in that hiatus from informative networks for how I care to deal with differences of opinion that assume the guise—and sometimes form—of an attack. Walking away from a piece of writing seems to provide clarity of thought upon one's return, so why not this? In fact, I feel I distanced myself from dialogue to the point where I've lost sight of my convictions, especially as they continue to face the steady deluge of challenges brought on by world travel, by trying to be open to new and sometimes contradicting perspectives.

"USA enters the era of populism"

"USA enters the era of populism"

I've momentarily forgotten the lines I've written for myself, those rooted in identity and values, and now I'm even questioning to what extent I was ever the original author.

It seemed like it would help to think of myself and my fellow citizens as the subjects within an ethnography; myself just an average example from a larger population, adhering to and adopting the social constructs of my culture. After all, when looking from the outside, traditions and beliefs and understandings and rituals and lifestyles can look like choices from a pool of options much wider than what is realistically ripe for the picking.

Obviously, taking a step outside myself hasn't providing the clarity or agency I crave. Nor has it curtailed the instant nausea I feel when I remember November 8th. And now Tastemade Discover is pairing the inauguration with an apocalypse theme. Real helpful. Cooking videos are my comfort blanket. Yes, that's a Linus van Pelt reference. What up, Charles Schulz!

And in writing this, I am trying to be both clear and obscure: clear in communicating my thoughts and obscure in defining my worldview and values as "just so." This is both a defense mechanism and an observation that everything is fluid. Who knows what future life experiences will sculpt us into? And who wants to claim sides in a hurtful battle that seems to affect everyone and everything, especially in a split household?

Processing the oligarchy

Pulling away from politics and matters presumably important to a "global citizen" allowed me to sit unruffled—though uneasy—and carry on never having to explain where I stand. An admiration set in for those committed exclusively to family, friends, and food. A deep skepticism of all cogs in the political system remains. The reality of cosmic insignificance was frequently entertained.

Now reequipped with the "Like" button, I've been sprinkling admiration for my friends online, for their courage in stating what they stand for and showing this in their actions. In theory, I am with them. I believe in reproductive rights for women, equal rights for all, and pro-just about every social issue that resonates with the left-leaning party; however, I don't want to be aligned with them. I don't want to align with either side. I see both power and the deterioration of original thought and personal value systems coming from the alignment.

Boy, do I wish I could trust one vocal person—one far more intelligent and informed than I could ever hope to be—to be my guide through the purposely-convoluted sphere of politics. Ever since he spoke to TGS in the spring of 2013, Noam has been about as close as it gets, though again I fear the deterioration of original thought and try to remain critical.

What women are marching for this weekend is not diametrically opposed to what Trump supporters want, is it? I'm more inclined to think that both sides (because we pretend we only have two sides in all this) think they are debating the same issues, in each of which there are two distinct and polarizing sides. Abortion: some say "absolutely" and some say "not a chance," nothing in between and nothing to qualify. This can't be the country's main issue. It can't be something that truly measures up to the rest.

Instead, it seems the issues are framed to create a clear moral high ground for one side, empowering that side to protect their opinion with all their time and energy, leaving them unclear and unaware of what's really transpiring, what's really at stake. Have we been the receptacles of rhetoric that give us harmless preoccupations? Harmless to the powers that be because we are, so-called, "put in our place?"

Many thanks to Jen Buchanan for sending me this quote

Many thanks to Jen Buchanan for sending me this quote

Noam Chomsky explains his ten principles of oligarchy in Requiem for an American Dream (on Netflix), which break down the ways leaders have historically managed the American public, such as: shaping ideology, manufacturing consent, attacking solidarity. After a day of trying to put my political frustrations in this blog post, I welcomed this documentary and its clear breakdown of what felt like the inaudible reality.

America is an oligarchy, not a democracy, and we're preoccupied fighting battles and following fluff that keep us distracted from this guise. At times I wonder if the Kardashian cultural obsession is fueled by the real political powerhouses, puppet masters who sit stroking their lap cats and muttering "excellent" with wicked eyes. Wouldn't that be a hoot...

I sift through quotes about activism, silence, and courage and find myself wondering whether these sentiments are uniquely American or universally human. 

I am a fallen baby. A soccer player violently shoved across the pitch. I have a choice of response: wail selfishly that I felt shoved to the brink of nihilism or get up and carry on. I'm starting to see that the latter is the only option and that carrying on with convictions on one's sleeve takes real courage.