A Discourse on Bernie with my Brother

Wow…it’s been a while.

I have to say that I have missed blogging, but after the 9/11 anniversary event, the course of this blog seemed to change, and I with it. It was moving in a direction toward which I didn’t entirely know how to charter, and so I backed off.

Stories from the Heartland has gathered a lot of dust. It’s been more than three years since my last post–a missive about the Midwestern winters I suffered through each year, trying to tame my San Diego blood in sub-freezing temperatures.

But when my brother emailed me after Bernie’s primary loss in New York saying we should write a blog post about it, I perked up. I love sharing writing space with people, and he doesn’t have a blog. So I agreed.

And since his win in Indiana last night and his march toward our home state of California, it’s good to keep the conversation going.

Here’s what he wrote:

Optimism in the Afterglow

Post-New York primary, the delegate count is probably insurmountable for Bernie. But, wow, who would have thought someone with such uncompromising dedication to taking on the power structure of this country would come so far?! I am optimistic about the future.

Younger people broke heavily for Bernie and I’m not so sure this is because you become more “pragmatic” or conservative when you age. I think the most important factor driving the generational divide is the difference in where people get their information.

My mom and other good friends of her generation, who generally hold the same values and ideals as I do, were suspicious of Bernie because of things they had heard watching the news or listening to NPR. A limited set of sources. I get a lot of my news from Huffington Post or Common Dreams or my Facebook feed, all of which synthesize news from a broad array of sources. And those younger than me who spend more time on the internets have an even greater and more diverse set of sources from which to get their information and read opinion. Remember that poll showing that the word capitalism has stronger negative connotations than socialism for millennials?

So I’m optimistic that this movement will grow and that we will continue to fight for economic and social justice. For real equality of opportunity. I’m optimistic that the younger generation more clearly understands the degree to which large corporations control our economy and environment. And they’re looking for alternative models.

Bernie represents a manifestation of an alternative, and it has encouraged many. If Hillary indeed becomes the Democratic nominee, we must make sure she feels the pressure to fight against old friends. This article by Naomi Klein shows just how hard that might be.

But the Republican alternative at this point is either corporo-fascism (Trump) or theologo-fascism (Cruz). And I’m optimistic that not only will we reject those divisive alternatives in November, but we will continue to build on the progressive movement that Bernie, a socialist (well, democratic socialist) invigorated.

Thanks bro!

aaronHere’s a quick background on my brother. He’s always smiling, and he has a great smile. People are always commenting on his great smile. He’s optimistic and passionate about his beliefs, and he’s had some brushes with activism. But he also lives in San Diego, a hotbed of content, of sunshine and glistening ocean views. I’m not quite so optimistic.

Here’s my response:

I’ll Believe It When I See It

All the momentum and excitement Bernie has generated among the young people, the progressives, the decline-to-states and the I’ve-had-enough-of-the-status-quos is wonderful. But it’s no more wonderful than Occupy Wall Street, Save the CSU, Black Lives Matter and the 2000 Nader campaign.
All of those occurred in my conscious lifetime, and I have been marginally or deeply involved in them. They have all had great surges, and then the bottoms fell out and the momentum fell with it.
I’m not hopeful that once Clinton gets the nomination, much to my chagrin, that she will keep talking about the many points that Bernie raised—equal pay, universal health care, affordable/free college, a ban to fracking. These issues are not just pressing, they are dire.
We face a very real catastrophe on our hands in the form of climate change. Humans are quite adaptable for sure, but geez. What is the next 10, 20, 30 years going to look like? Bernie’s chutzpah to not take corporate money, to fund a national, high-profile campaign at a truly grassroots level, made me think that I could trust him to not kowtow to corporate interests when it came to the environment. Clinton? Is she going to say what needs to be said? Do what needs to be done?
That’s just one issue.
I’m glad he was able to direct the conversation toward progressive values, but that conversation has not been picked up by the mainstream media in any substantial form. Most voters don’t read alternative media like you, dear brother. Bernie doesn’t have the name recognition that Hillary has. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Bernie’s disdain for the establishment (media included) has been the major obstacle of this campaign. And it’s a main reason he hasn’t topped Hillary in the delegate count. People don’t know who he is, and the media’s not about to tell them.
So where do we go from here?
For real, on-the-ground change to actually happen there needs to be continuing agitation on very local levels that translates to elected leaders in city council, county seats and state government. Even school boards!!
This is what the Tea Party did, then they were able to get people into the House, into the Senate…and they have hijacked the GOP. This is what the Christian Coalition did before them, moving conservative social values into the GOP platform.
Progressives need to think in that broad, long-term vein, where we can steer the Democratic Party and force it to address some of these intensely needed and crucial policies Bernie has been relentlessly stumping. We need enough candidates running on all levels of government that it doesn’t seem so strange to have a true progressive on the ticket.
 Birdie
The optimist in me hopes that Bernie’s movement doesn’t wither away like the others I’ve witnessed. I hope he can continue to encourage his supporters to stay active in the political process, to get involved on their local levels. And I hope he doesn’t go away. I just put a “Birdie” bumper sticker on my Prius (ha ha, shut up), and I don’t wanna take it off.

And then my bro wrote back…

I do agree that the tea party movement was quite successful at creating a Republican party with strong and cohesive values. But remember how this originated – a consortium of big-money think tanks funded by the Koch brothers and their ilk.

Real Populist movements throughout our history have originated in the streets. We shouldn’t seek to emulate the tea party approach because we’ll never be, and never should be, top-down led. Top-down inspired, sure, as what Bernie has done. But remember, the reason Bernie has done so well is because of the aforementioned movements that have infiltrated our psyche.

Occupy and the 99% vs. 1%? That completely changed the dialogue. Black-lives Matter? That is not fizzling out any time soon, and will be here in one form or another until “the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes.”

The movement to stem Climate Change continues to strengthen. You’re right, not fast enough. But as Dad would say, that means we just have to push harder because the alternative is giving in. We change the conversation and the politicians will follow. Keep bringing it up at dinner parties, chatting with your friends and acquaintances. Keep posting on your blog.

Because the young people are reading this stuff…

 

 

Where to go next?

As my family and I have made our way eastward across the United States, curiously along Interstate 80 from San Francisco to Oakland to Des Moines, IA, to the Toledo, OH, area, we often joke that we’ll continue our eastbound route and end up in Pennsylvania or New York next.

But, neither my husband nor I want to settle farther east. We want to return to the West, possibly to California where we have spent most of our lives and where our families live, or possibly to a new state, like Idaho or Colorado. The problem is that now that we’ve left California and seen it from the outside—the high cost of living the damage a ruinous legislature and ineffective governor has had on state services like public education—it’s harder to return than anticipated.

We live now in a quiet suburban town outside of Toledo, which is a former industrial city famous for supporting Detroit’s nearby auto industry. But much of the manufacturing has left the area, as it has in so many cities across the country, and there are elements of despair and abandonment that hover over this place.

In our little neighborhood, people seem content and settled in their lives. They mow their lawns, wash their cars and walk their dogs with regular routine. They drive shiny cars and take their kids to baseball games. The schools are good, and one of the high school’s hockey team just won the state title. But this neighborhood is in a bubble. Life here is easy.

It’s nice not to have to listen to screaming firetruck sirens racing down your street at 2 a.m., and not to walk out the front door and find a homeless man has defecated on your front stoop. It’s nice to not battle flocks of dirty pigeons nesting on the porch or to weave between globs of phglem-tinged loogies and equally disgusting pigeon poop on the sidewalk. Of course I’m talking about the streets of San Francisco, but I still miss those streets.

So as we look to where we will land next, we have to take into account the benefits and detractors of every possible place. Surely most our decision will depend on where the best job offer comes from, but we do have more of a say in this move than in either of our two prior moves. Taking all this into account, it’s clear we’ve learned a thing or two in our years abroad (in the Midwest).

  • Cost of living is important. We would rather not have to shell out several hundred thousand dollars to buy a house just because it is in a prime location. We want to live comfortably, but not excessively. We don’t want to be in debt.
  • Prime public education. That is almost an oxymoron in itself. But there are places where a solid public school still exists. We live in such a place now, and we are hoping that we can find good schools in a Western state that hasn’t been desecrated by privatization and budget cuts.
  • Work/life balance. There’s nothing that can compare to life as a medical resident. It is a tough road. My husband has been sleep deprived since he started med school in 2006, and we’re very much looking forward to having a balanced life again. Here in the Midwest, people seem to achieve that more than life on the West Coast. People are less busy here. They don’t schedule events months on end. It’s a slower pace, and it seems more sustainable.
  • Proximity to family and friends. Relationships are key. And beyond our own nuclear family, we miss being around our extended family members and old friends. It’s been hard to miss births, deaths, anniversaries, retirements…all the life moments that are huge and small. We’ve been gone for so long. We’ve learned how to live without that support network, but it can get lonely, and I often feel disconnected. Getting back into the fold would be a great additive to our move.
  • Beautiful surroundings. Some argue that the Midwest is beautiful. I agree that there are some parts I consider to be nice. But nothing compares to the jagged cliffs of the Northern California coastline, or the soaring redwood trees. Overlooking the ocean from a cliff in San Diego, watching pelicans glide in the breeze and surfers wait for a set to roll in is truly beautiful. Enjoying the mountains, the rivers, the lakes and everything in between…we miss that.

It’s exciting to think about the next phase of our lives as a family, and where we will end up. But more than anything I am yearning to put down roots, to settle in a spot and stay put. In my twenties, roaming the world and having adventures sounded like the best idea. Now I just want to develop community. I want to get to know my neighbors and feel invested in a place and in people and friendships. I want to plant a garden, knowing I’ll be there the following year to tend to it.

Life can be fleeting, and while I struggle to stay in the moment and be grateful for what life presents me each day, I still can’t wait to move on to the next chapter. We’ve got a year and a half to figure out where that will be, and until then, I’ll be trying to figure out what makes the most sense for a long-term commitment to home.

The Ohio Experiment

Well, I think I’m still in the Heartland. Though I’m not really sure what Ohio is considered: Heartland, Midwest, Mideast? All of the above?

Anyway, we’re here now.

We keep moving further east. But I do believe eventually we will do a 180 and move in the other direction.

The reason for this move is my husband’s residency in emergency medicine at a Toledo hospital. It’s a three-year stint, and so we are making the most of it.

So far, my observations of Ohio as compared to Iowa as compared to California are few (I don’t get out much):

  • Same general summer weather pattern–hot and humid. Ohio is a little more tolerable, though, and the same mode for cooling off is the local swimming pool. Northwest Ohio, however, has more natural waterways in proximity that we intend to explore.
  • Same propensity toward neat, trim lawns. Our new neighborhood, though more affluent and newer than our old one in Des Moines, does have a number of houses who do not care if there are more weeds than grass. But, these lawns also have sprinkler systems, perhaps a reflection of the less total inches of rain that falls here in the summer.
  • The suburbs are more sprawling, older and have less character. This is not to say that West Des Moines has much character, but they are neater and not as laden with blight. Toledo metro is very spread out, littered with strip malls lining wide avenues and covered in concrete and asphalt. The age and faltering economy of the outlying areas has caused much blight to occur. There are a lot of vacant buildings and overgrown lots, and there’s little new construction.
  • More shopping options, but fewer Starbucks. Toledo has a Macy’s, an H&M and a natural foods co-op: three stores I appreciate having around that were nowhere near driving distance in Des Moines. But Des Moines had a Trader Joe’s. The nearest TJ’s around here is in Ann Arbor, 45 minutes north, where there is also a Cost Plus/World Market and a Whole Foods. There is an IKEA about an hour away, and a major metropolitan airport–Detroit–less than an hour away.
  • The people seem a little less overtly friendly than in Iowa, and there is a stronger accent here, which was a surprising find. It sounds like a mix of Chicago, East Coast and Wisconsin.
  • There are a lot of Semites here–Jews and Arabs, which is a welcome demographic for me, being a mixture of those two people. There’s a Muslim family across the street who live next to Jews and we live next door to another Jewish family. I’m interested to see what the winter holidays look like.
  • Downtown Toledo is not a place where you want to be. It is vacant. It even feels vacant during work hours on a weekday. There are a few tall buildings, but not a lot of revitalization or interesting things to see or do. Des Moines has been slowly attracting more restaurants, bars, stores and residents to its downtown, and while it’s by no means as bustling as San Francisco or San Diego, it is getting better.
  • Fewer outlets for yoga here. But there are a lot of Pilates studios, and it seems like people are really into triathlons.
  • It is very flat. Pancake flat. In the sense that you would just be able to go on forever in a straight line.

More observations to come as life here goes on…

Spring is sprung

It is April 18 in Iowa. Forcast brings rain. Three boys are sleeping upstairs. Phish is singing about being pulled down. I’m going to go running before the forcast becomes true.

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