Politics

I don’t usually write about politics on this blog. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion; I actually have a lot of opinions. But I find political discussions quickly dovetail into easy jabs at someone you don’t like or disrespectful exchanges between parties who are convinced they are in the right.

However, I’ve found myself in a few situations the past few months feeling the need to defend myself as an American when I’m in certain circles. There have been a number of events (the situation in Ferguson probably being the most prominent) where I’ve very much felt not proud of my country.

I realize that I am not an ambassador or diplomat. I am, however, some people’s view into America and what it’s like. I feel a sense of responsibility to portray America in a truthful manner but also to be critical of areas where the U.S. government is not doing a very good job.

The State of the Union Address highlighted several places where the US government is failing. President Obama has made a lot of promises in recent months and taken actions that some could be considered unconstitutional. He has delivered on very few of his promises and when he has it has been at the expense of either the people or the fiscal welfare of the nation.

I am also aware I am not a politician and as much as I try to stay informed about what is going on, I don’t have all the facts. Even if I did, I wouldn’t be in a position to make policy changes.

What I do have is the rights of a citizen. I have the right to vote in order to make my voice heard. But I also believe that my right to vote comes with a responsibility to research and try to understand what is going on in America. If you want to be part of the democratic process, you have to be informed and think critically.

I don’t think I’m going to start writing a lot of political pieces. But I do think I’ve come to a place as a writer where I don’t feel I have to censor my opinions for fear of offending people or giving the wrong impression.

I’m a writer and I write what I want to write.

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Sidewalk Prisoners

We buzz through streets and trains and tunnels and hallways and roads like mad flocks of bees and wasps. We never stop except to drink or eat or pick up more cash or have sex or get drunk.

We read the government propaganda and believe it is there to help us but all it does is suck the life and soul out of our already skin dry bones.

We work long hours—midnights at frazzled desktops, fingers hammering madly at keys and calculators. We let our phones ring for just another minute and hours later we are screaming at our partners and spouses and children and friends. “Where were you?” “This was important.” “You promised.”

“You said things were going to change.”

We make more promises, resolutions—words that we want to believe we will follow through on. But our souls know the words will slip through our grasps like melting candle wax and we will waste away more hours working at that which is sucking us dry.

Sometimes it looks like changes will be made—Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali. We spend precious hours with friends and good company holding chopsticks and plates and champagne glasses and bottles of beer. We take nice family photos and everyone smiles—but the smiles are like masks and underneath we whisper, “Go. Go. Go. Work. Work. Work.”

We wonder how we can manage another long weekend at the office or late night meeting or last minute business trip. We wonder if we are wearing ourselves too thin.

But it stops at the wondering because we are too busy with the doing.

So we keep our heads down and stare at our tiny screens. We don’t see the chain that locks us to our phone or the shackles scarping across the sidewalk as we trudge through the days and nights.

We are sidewalk prisoners.

Sunrise over Taipei

Sunrise over Taipei. Haze and columns of steam blur the otherwise clear view of the city. The sun shines full and strong. A frame of incoming clouds dance lightly around the golden drops illuminating the baby blue of the sky.

Airport ground crews load luggage, food carts, and fuel. It is a well-oiled machine. Ever present invisible hands moving like workshop elves so passengers can board their planes. We fly homeward, forward, backward–the plane takes us to place but it is the passengers who determine the destination; not just the place we will land but the people we will be when we arrive.

The plane is merely a vessel which carries our memories of holiday cheer, moments of grief or a raised voice we would like to forget, and a place of time suspended to reflect on what we are. Seconds blur into minutes blur into hours of waking or sleeping or eating or pondering or forgetting or regretting–or just being.

We have a place where we will arrive but in many ways, we are going nowhere.

So we fly, listening to the constant roar of engines and the quick tapped steps of flight attendants. We stare out our windows or glance at our clocks and wonder if the plane we sit on can change time–give us back something we have lost.

But in the end, all we can do is breath and be and become.

Paradox

Three minutes till the stroke of midnight and I am sitting alone at Sea-Tac International Airport.

But I am not alone. I am one of many waiting to a board a plane toward something, someone, or somewhere new or–like myself–returning home back to a place I am familiar with.

I think many at gate S15 would rather be athome with friends watching a New Year’s show on TV or at a bar with friends.

It doesn’t matter where we would like to be. We are here.

New Year’s always brings up talk of resolutions and I’ve come to realize that I really don’t like the term mostly because of the baggage that is attached to it. Resolution suggests some massive change or great revelation or new choice to be something better, do more adventurous things, or just “be a better version of yourself!”.

But the truth is New Year’s is just another night. Midnight passes, a new day begins. Yes, it’s a new year and not just another month or work week or weekend, but it is just the passing of time.

I find a great deal of comfort and confusion in this paradox. I have hopes and things I want to accomplish this year but they have not changed because I’m posting this in 2015 instead of 2014. My thought processes are mostly the same, my emotions are what they usually are–every changing and constant like the flow of a river.

I’m not trying to be a party pooper. I’ve just started to understand that life is full of paradoxes that make sense and paradoxes that are monumentally confusing. Beauty is found in the deepest valleys of pain. Sorrow produces the greatest of arts. A moment that seemed so simple and mundane when it was happening looks different when viewed through the lens of maturity and time.

I believe life is about finding a balance in the midst of paradox. I could spend all my time reading about the philosophical implications of paradox, watching a lot of movies that have paradoxical themes, or having discussions with my peers about the mysterious and strange nature of life.

But if I don’t find a balance in the midst of the swirling storm of ideas and thoughts and emotions, I will live my life confused and unanchored.

So today, I will continue to do what I was doing last year–look at the paradoxes of life and pay attention to the moment’s of beauty and perfection and love.

And I will try to remember that life is good and I am glad to be living it.