The Riots 4 – street debate.

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/104262483761573888

“I’m not young, yeah. I’m 43 years old and I don’t vote.”, said the man as we talked.

Somehow or another, these people (those who believe either one, a few, most or all conspiracy theories) find me. All I wanted to do was take a few photos & (maybe) video, go to the grocery store quick, and come back to the office. But it doesn’t work that way, it’s never that simple.
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It was Friday afternoon, a few days after the riots began. Things calmed down a bit, so I decided to venture out of the office to get milk for my tea. On the way to the grocery store, I stopped at the place where the “love wall” now stands, the place where I took most photos over the past week (exhibits one & two & three). Since I’m documenting this for proof of history, I took more photos & video at the wall. The “love wall” has become a new community meeting spot of sorts; people gather to post messages of support, dialogue & debate with each other.

Part of the "love wall".
Part of the "love wall".

There were 2 men posting messages on the wall – a community leader in a black suit and a younger man in a t-shirt & jeans helping him. As people came by to watch, some would ask the 2 men different questions about the purpose of the wall. As I took photos & videos, I decided to ask one or two myself. I normally don’t approach people, but since the younger man was next to me, it was a bit easier for me to speak without being noticed.

When he finished speaking with an elderly woman, I asked him:

So what’s next? We have people posting messages here, we have people saying that things need to change. That’s all well & good, but what’s gonna happen in terms of follow-up, action? Are there any community meetings planned? How about a forum? No real change will happen if all we do is talk.

He sighed and said that he didn’t know, but has aspirations to go into politics and works at a local college for now. We talked for a bit about possible changes, community organizing & how to avoid riots of this size in the future, and the topic of voting as a tool for change came up. While we were talking about voting, unbeknownst to us, a few people were listening to us. A man approached us and said

I’m not young, yeah. I’m 43 years old & I don’t vote.

Huh? What? There are people in Europe who don’t believe in voting? It’s not just an American phenomenon?

Sigh. Here we go.

It quickly became a lighthearted debate about the pros & cons of voting: me & Aspiring Politician vs. Proud Non-Voter. Proud Non-Voter used the typical reasons (excuses?) that I’ve heard in the past (and present):

– all political parties are the same
– the bourgeois determines election results before other classes vote and, therefore, it’s pointless
– only the bourgeois class have the real power to decide their interests while the proletariat‘s interests are never acknowledged
– “the man” is keeping people down
– the government is keeping people down
– “the system” was never meant to work in our favor
– voters are too idealistic
– things will not change

I canvassed for voter registration in some rough parts of my hometown some years ago, so I’ve heard the above reasons for people not wanting to vote. In addition to those reasons, being an ex-felon is another reason (depending on which state one resides in) that people give for not voting. I’ll leave that reason (excuse?) alone for now because many states still don’t allow ex-felons to vote, so that’s a genuine reason. But the other reasons, to me, reek of reading from the same handbook. Again. At the end of the day, the reasons (excuses?) go back to 2 common fall-backs: laziness & impatience.

We live in a microwave society – people want things done in 90 seconds or less. Whether it’s voting or any other necessary changes….. If things take too long in the microwave, they’re taken out of that microwave & placed in one that gives quicker results – maybe 60 seconds vs. the longer 90 seconds. As an example, people in Western society have gone from having photos developed over a few days to having them developed in as fast as 30 minutes. (And even then, some people don’t think that that’s fast enough.) I don’t know about anyone else, but the photos of old have a special quality to them; they may not be the quality that we’re used to in this new digital world, but it’s quality nonetheless.

The same can be said for societal change. Unless I’m forgetting something from history classes, macro-level change does not happen as quickly as a microwave society wants it to. There are too many examples to post here, but 2 good examples from the past are the Black American civil rights movement in the United States and the Indian independence movement in India. (A very recent example is the Wisconsin recall vote efforts, which won’t stop anytime soon.) Are things perfect in any of these cases? Of course not. India still deals with (overt or covert) caste systems & remnants of colonialism, and Black Americans still have challenges due to institutional racism. But to look back at either of these movements & deny that any change took place is incorrect at best and disrespectful to one’s ancestors at worst.

In other words, why not vote? Why not do what it takes to foster change? Our ancestors did these things with way fewer resources; what’s our/your excuse?

I believe that change can occur even though it takes time. I hope that the dialogues & debates at the “love wall” spread beyond the neighborhood, inspiring collective follow-up, action, and change. We the people.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, I’m voting in all elections next year & I’ll keep doing so as long as I’m out of the United States. Whenever I can vote here also, I’ll do so. While I understand being impatient & getting lazy, I can’t look back at the energy & blood-sweat-and-tears that my ancestors spent to gain rights for everyone and just give up due to laziness & impatience & conspiracy theories. Theories are just that – theories – and it’s a shame that so many people spit on our ancestors’ hard work.

Nomad.

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/100622867535896576

Although I’m agnostic, I believe in souls, spirits, intuition and energies. As I get older, I’m learning to pay more attention to each of those things (if there’s a difference) because when it comes down to it, I know what’s best for me and need to learn to trust that. So it kinda jolted me into reality when on the way to work a few days ago, a realization hit me like a ton of bricks:

My soul/spirit has been at dis-ease lately. It hit me that a small reason is because I no longer want to go back home.

I never thought that those words would cross my mind. The United States isn’t perfect. I have a love-hate relationship with my country. But I didn’t think that I’d never want to return there.

And it’s hard to grapple with for so many reasons, a few that I’ll mention here.

1. I don’t have any real or potential suitors back home. (I don’t even have any here. Or anywhere else for that matter.) Love definitely isn’t waiting at home (or anywhere else).

2. I don’t have any children or other dependents. This isn’t hard to grapple with, as I’m child-free; it’s just another thing that doesn’t tie me down. I’ve got nephews & godsons whom I love beyond anything that they could ever imagine. But they’ve always been far away from me, so this amount of distance from their aunt & godmother won’t matter much. Hopefully they’ll visit me.

3. For reasons that I’d rather not get into now, I don’t really have any family save for a few family members. If those family members miss me, they can always visit (but they won’t).

4. Friends….. such an overused word, one of the most overused on this planet. Also for reasons that I’d rather not get into now, since I moved here I’ve seen their true colors. Sadly, I’ve had to let some go for good. It’s always been hard for me to make friends and it’s not much different here either, so maybe it’s best to cultivate a few friendships anywhere other than home and leave that behind.

5. Observing home from here has disheartened me, even scared me at times. I’ve stated that no country is perfect (not even Norway, sadly), but from an outsider now looking in, home isn’t giving me warm fuzzy feelings anymore. The political & economic climates, the outright hostility, the stripping away of civil rights/freedoms, the blatant disrespect on so many levels….. home isn’t exactly screaming “Come back! Welcome home!” lately.

It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’ve always dreamed of traveling the world & living abroad. Ever since I was a child, having school pen pals worldwide & owning my 1st atlas, wanderlust has always been part of my life. I’d look at the atlas for hours, imagining the mountains & villages & towns & coastlines that I’d see one day. And while I’ve not seen every place that I want to see yet, I’ve been lucky enough to see a few. But however, it’s sad to look at my short list above & acknowledge that there’s nothing for me at home. A tree gets nourishment through its roots. I don’t have any roots to plant at home.

I don’t know if I’ll plant my roots in the United Kingdom. Only time will tell. I may even change my mind about home & return there after all, who knows. I know this for sure at this moment though: I don’t wanna go home & I’ll likely wander the world for the rest of my life. I’m used to doing it all solo, and that’s alright. It just so happens that along with the benefits, it comes at an unexpected price.