How I learned to Stop Worrying and Trust the Process
I was born in 1989. The first election I really remember is the 2000 Presidential. A hard one to ignore. I grew up in suburban New Jersey and had transplanted to suburban Montgomery County, Maryland in the summer of 1999. We lived in one of the only red towns in one of only two blue counties of a deep blue state. I remember being one of two Gore supporters in my sixth grade social studies class (three if you count the teacher). I remember watching CNN on the Supreme Court decision to end the recount in Florida, essentially handing George W. Bush the Presidency.
I had been learning about politics and government in my social studies class that year. I had learned about the three branches of government and how they each had checks and balances, that each might prevent another from becoming too powerful. In that election I saw, not that the branches of government were to keep each other in check, but to keep in check the people whom they claimed to serve. I remember crying that day. I was too young to understand the depth and complexity of the situation, but on a visceral level I was disappointed to the point of tears.
After that I stopped caring about POLITICS. I saw it as a game of the rich; mostly white, mostly men, but more important than that was being rich. In 2004 I had a brief resurgence of POLITICS, but was too young to vote. I supported Howard Dean early on, then saw him rapidly devolve into a meme. I laughed about it. I can’t vote. It doesn’t matter what I think. HEEEYAAAHHH!! He lost the primary and some other guy won, but I’m not sure what happened after that.
In 2008, once again, I had another brief flirtation with POLITICS. I supported Barack Obama, but not enough to volunteer, or even vote. I lived in a blue state, and MD was going to go blue with or without me, so what was the point anyway? And so I turned out to be right. MD went blue, without me, and Barack Obama won the presidency, without me. I didn’t have to feel bad because the right guy won regardless. I smoked a celebratory cigar that election night; it was a Game.
I barely even remember the 2012 election. Not because I was completely drunk all the time (well not ONLY because), but because that was the year in which I got married, and saw my first son born. I had a lot going on in 2012. Back up to 2011, if it does ya, when I graduated from The Pennsylvania State University. I spent most of my college career majoring in Depression and minoring in Drinking. I went to study film, and the time I spent on set and hanging out with other film folk were the best times I had in college. But outside of that I was highly depressed.
I skipped many classes that were not film related and was very involved with the Italian Student Society (by “very involved” I mean “drank a lot of wine at the mixers”) I had a passion of film and sought to turn that into a career. I got a job in a diner thanks to my good friend Alysa. I had never cooked professionally before and on the first day I embarrassingly did not know how to use the frier. That year I got very interested in philosophy and almost had a minor in it, if it weren’t for my incessant habit of skipping class.
I recall specifically a philosophy class I took in my junior year in which we read the Communist Manifesto. Now I didn’t give a shit about my non-film classes, and barely did the readings for those as it was, but in this class I read carefully. I remember reading about the alienation of labor and it was like a lightbulb going off in my head. I suddenly realized that what I was feeling was not due to some internal defect but was a symptom of a greater, far more broken system. I remember texting my friend Jack after reading it and saying something along the lines of, “soooo… I think I’m a communist now?”
I walked in 2011 even though I didn’t have enough credits to graduate. I walked on the good faith that I’d finish my remaining six credits the following summer. I walked across a stage of Joe Paterno die-hards and was handed my diploma my Graham Spanier. I walked through a sea of people in blue and white shouting hate at the protesters attempting to hold the university to account. I walked in front of a cheering crowd of rape-apologists.
I didn’t give a shit. I didn’t give a shit about most anything. I was subconsciously absorbed with my self-hatred, and on the surface, just absorbed with partying. The spring of 2011 I reconnected with an old flame from high school. By August we were dating and I had graduated (officially). I spent a few months trying to MAKE IT in the FILM INDUSTRY in NEW YORK CITY. Took a couple free lance gigs, but mostly just missed my girlfriend. She was living in Atlanta and working as a flight attendant. Through her work, I was able to fly for next-to-free, so most of that time I spent visiting her, her visiting me, etc, etc.
I needed money, so I got a job at a liquor store in Glen Rock New Jersey, where I was living with my Aunt & Uncle. I was taking the NJT in to the city to try and MAKE IT in the FILM INDUSTRY in NEW YORK CITY. This was early 2012, and sometime in March we found out that she was pregnant. We were 23, with little-to-no savings, I had no real job prospects, her job was incompatible with pregnancy, and we lived in separate states. We discussed all the options.
We decided we needed to be together. We found a sublet in Brooklyn long enough for her to find a job, I found once shortly thereafter. On my 23rd birthday we celebrated by going out to at at The Neptune 2 Diner before my first day of work as a falafel delivery cyclist. She worked at an upscale FAMILY LIFESTYLE CLUB in Soho and made good money. I made decent money doing deliveries and we searched for a more permanent residence.
We wound up in a late-stage hippie commune, where we rented a plywood board suspended from the ceiling of a room on the second floor of a former warehouse. We tried to save money. My drinking problem incubated itself. We needed a change in circumstance if we wanted any shot of raising our kid right. We decided, however little we both wanted to, to move back to our parents’ homes in suburban Maryland. We got married in a Rockville courthouse in front of 21 people. We were happy.
On October 22nd of 2012 my wife gave birth to our first son, Harrison Francis. He was born at 12:43 am weighing five pounds, 14 ounces and measuring 20 inches. I will always remember that moment. My world changed permanently. I had a frightening clarity of vision. Suddenly “nothing means anything anymore,” went to “everything is of ultimate importance.” I had a reason to want the world to be better. I wanted the world to be, when this little baby becomes aware, better than when I became aware.
I voted for the first time in the 2012 general election. I had changed, but was still too preoccupied with my own monumental life change to take a second glance at the greater world. I just new that Obama was better than Romney. And, truth be told, there were two questions on that ballot that want more to me that the president, and they were 1) to allow same-sex unions in Maryland and 2) to allow the sale of alcohol in Damascus. That’s Damascus, Maryland, not Syria, the last dry town in MD, at least it was, until 2012.
And once again my life was so busy I had no time for politics. I remember going on a camping trip with Jack in the spring of 2015 when the conversation turned to politics. I told him, in almost a sigh, that I’d probably wind up voting for Hillary only because I didn’t know who else there was. I still believed politics to be a rich man’s game at the expense of the poor, and felt that there was never going to be someone running for political office that would actually have my interests at heart. I felt I’d be choosing the lesser of two evils for the rest of my life. He said to me, “you don’t want to vote for Hillary, you want to vote for Bernie Sanders.” To which I replied, “who’s he?”
Suddenly I had something to hope for. There was someone in politics not beholden to the capitalist system which owns not only the three branches of government, but every aspect of our lives. Someone who was here, for the people, chosen from among the people, by the people. I volunteered in my precious free time. I was making 14 dollars and change and was the sole provider for my family. Rent ate up more than half my paycheck, at this point I had two kids and worked 50 hours a week. But in what little free time I had, I volunteered; I canvassed despite a crippling social anxiety that prevents me from talking to the best of my friends. I donated, over the course of his campaign, hundreds of dollars from our very meager checkbook.
I was devastated but not shocked at the outcome of the primary. This was, after all, a rich man’s game. Bernie, you did a great job getting people excited about the Democrats, but She’ll take it from here. And, by the way, if any of you BernieBros® don’t support Her, you are a misogynist and no better than Trump himself. I was depressed once again. Why even bother? They own the news, the politicians, the TVs you’re watching it on, the devices you’re tweeting on, why bother?
I was pissed, kept being pissed through the general, which no longer shocked my as I had once again been calloused over to all politics. But in this in between time, I started watching a show on Amazon Prime called Catastrophe. This show I found hilarious independent of the fact that I felt a lot of my adult-life story was evident in it. It led me to follow a large boy on Twitter called Robert Delaney, who in turn, lured me into the #ripped arms of feminist socialism.
I was turned onto the DSA, rekindling my love for Marxism which had lay pretty much dormant since that college philosophy class. Disgruntled by the election, I felt that I needed to do something with my frustration. Hesitantly, I went to my first DSA meeting. I discovered a warm group of like-minded folks who wanted, like me, to change the structure of our society to be more democratic. I discovered that politics is every single day and not once every four years. I discovered good people, good ideas, and good faith.
Being surrounded with people who are likewise motivated to make positive changes in our society has spurred me into actions I never would have even considered five years ago. But more importantly, it gave me something I have not felt in a long time: hope for our future. However terrible the world might be, I can tell my children that I did what I could, fought for what I believed to be right, and strived to make this country and this world a better place for them.