Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Diminishing Empathy

Having empathy for others has always been an issue with me for a bunch of different reasons. When I started going down this train of self-analyzing, it was because I found myself becoming numb to the news of what is essentially a constant state of fear and hyper panic by immigrants. For the last few months, all you read in the news is this person is being deported, that person is being deported, this family is being torn apart, that family is being torn apart. I'm at a point of major disconnect and I don't like it. I wasn't like that before either. It's cliche to write this, but earlier in life, I was more optimistic about life, my immigration status, and what the future could hold.

That optimism and hope were fueled by the people I was surrounding myself at the time. It kept me going through some hard times despite being an immature knucklehead who didn't deserve the kind of help and support I was getting. Of course, as I got older and I lived through shit storm after shit storm, I found maturity in spades and began being more selective about where and who I invested my time in. Nowadays though, I can't help but notice how much more isolated I've become from others and the world in general.

The obvious and easiest response to that is that I've been caught up with the multiple jobs that I hold down and other responsibilities. At the end of an average week, all I wanna do is catch up on domestic matters at home, watch some guilt-free television, and not have to worry about everything else that's going on till I have to go back to the grind the following Monday. Sometimes I stop and think if any of the work important at all in the long run of things or am I just going through the motions of life as a working adult? By the time the end of the week rolls around, I'm too exhausted to give a rats ass about anyone else's problems, truth be told.

That's the easy answer. The real answer is a lot more convoluted and harder to articulate because it's coming from so many different angles. At the end of the day though, despite the kaleidoscope of excuses I muster, I'm making an active choice to disengage from feeling empathy for others who aren't in my immediate circles and brushing off everything else in the world. I don't like that. It's turning me into a sour and bitter person that no one wants to be around in any capacity. Hence why I've isolated myself as of late.

At the same time though, I realized that in my current age and stage in life, I'm naturally being ghosted by life moving forward. So many of the people I use to hang out with in years past are getting married, having kids, and settling down in general. Yeah, I'm isolating myself but at the same time, the number of folks I can reach out to for a spontaneous activity is dwindling faster than I realized and when I did, it bummed me out. Nowadays, everything has to be scheduled in and coordinated because our time isn't our own anymore. From responsibilities are our jobs to responsibilities with their partners and families, every second of time is being pulled in multiple directions.

It's a bit surreal to come to this conclusion as I'm writing all this down, but I severely underestimated how much influence others have and have had in the development of my mental, emotional, and societal growth. Left to my own devices, I've turned into a grumpy man who waves his fist at clouds. As I start to think back to all the times when friends have helped me attain a grasp on ideas and concepts by talking to them and listening to their point of views, I realize that my initial issue with my empathy diminishing is directly tied to who I surround myself with.

This is going to take some finagling and time for me to process, but as always, mentally vomiting my thoughts into words always helps facilitate my movement forward. I went into this thinking one thing and I came out the other end realizing something else. I'll have to dig deep for this one, but I'm lucky to be able to reach out to others if need be.        


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Immigration Déjà vu

Sometimes, I tell myself that I'm putting too much into nothing. That the connections I see are ones I'm making up and that things aren't they way I'm perceiving them to be. As of late, though, those connections I that I see are no longer just me thinking to myself, but the way things are being played out in the real world and it trips me the fuck out. The past is repeating itself and no one has really made that point or connection to the current context of current events dealing with immigration. I'm 32 and while I haven't been around the block as much as others, I'm also not one to forget the past to the extent of being petty about it. I even went on a twitter rant about it.

Every other day and week, I read news stories on immigration via social media. Dreamers this, immigrants that, Trump this, federal court that, ice raid this, stop posting ice raids that. I  have reached my media consumption threshold and as much as I wish I could just unplug from everything, my paying work involves being on social media and monitoring what is going on for a variety of reasons. Unplugging over the weekends feels like taking a breath of fresh air after holding your breath for an extended amount of time. It's all static noise that only further numbs me from the realities people are actually facing.

The current events unfolding because of this new president is nothing new for immigrants. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Operation Wet Back, all the rhetoric about safety, American values, jobs etc. is just trifle ass bull shit meant to justify policies, laws, and the horrid treatment of individuals. What is going on right now is just the current iteration of a flawed system designed to only prosper at the expense of others. Like in the Matrix movies.

There is a sick circle that is repeating itself and from what I can tell, the majority of people are in it and don't even know. You start with the 24-hour news cycle and the vast arrays in which information is disseminated, which is mostly through social media. Click-bait like headlines and buzzwords start to dominate the content of reputable media sources because of the need to make money. After all, the news is just another business struggling to change with the times. From presidential announcements to arrest of individuals, you are bombarded by articles from different media outlets all telling the same story in their own way by your well-intentioned friends who see what is going on, are mad, and wanna chime in with their two-cents. The tweets and facebook post are published like clockwork.

After the information is processed by individuals, they then seek out help from within their networks to get confirmation and reassurance about what they just read. Eventually, everyone turns to non-profit organizations who are fighting back, but all they find is flowery words that eventually ask them to donate, sign up to a database, become a member, or share their social media content. Facebook activism 101. You feel like you did something when all you really did was spread more misinformation and cause further panic/hysteria. You realize what you did only after the damage has been done and that's the point.

This country goes after immigrants every other administration and while progress has been made, it keeps getting worse for those that aren't able to make progress within the current systems. The many are thrown under the bus for the few. *cough *cough DACA *cough *cough. From the Mexican Repatriation act during the great depression, proposition 187 here in California in the early 90s, to the 2006 immigration bill HR4437, this shit ain't nothing new. There has and always will be an anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. There will always be people, communities, and organizations to fight against them. And that's the point. On an existential cosmic level, my personal beliefs and views of the world are validated without a doubt, but at the same time, I know I'm not the only who should be able to see the connections between the past and the present. Especially those who are physically older than me and were actually there for some of the shit that has already gone down. It's in that line of thinking that I question what is going on now in the fight for immigrants.

Other movements learn from the past and are active in not replicating past mistakes again, even though it's unavoidable at times, but non-profits and similar institutions seem to double down on replicating all the same problems over and over again. As if there is money to be made in the suffering of others and being seen as the only resource that should be trusted to lead the fight. I feel like this current moment is a nexus point in which history is overlapping itself, but there are enough variations to merit this new existence as well. After all, life moves in cycles and that's why all this feels like Déjà vu. A glitch in the Matrix.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Hyper Panic

For what seems my entire life, the Simpsons have always provided me with the context to be able to bridge and understand the complexities of real life events. To be honest, this goes beyond the Simpsons and spans almost every form of pop-culture and entertainment I have consumed in my life, even to this day. So, given how things are going and fires are being lit left and right, causing all this disarray, I got to thinking about which Simpsons episode best sums up what's going on right now. "Much Apu About Nothing" is the 23rd episode of the 7th season, back when the show was still golden. It's the one about immigration. The episode still holds up and the fact that I'm older only helps me pick up on things I missed previously, like how the episode was inspired by the fallout of Prop 187. Everything comes around in circles.

I mention this episode because I dug the analogy Lisa used when explaining the faulty logic behind the line of thinking that how believing in one thing will/won't necessarily have an effect on something else. You know, like building a wall to keep immigrants out or banning people from coming to the US from specific countries. To the same effect, everything that pendejo has done up to this point has had the same result on those who would be impacted and those in solidarity. What has been tripping me out over these last few days as I've been chewing on the fat, is that while all these different situations seem to be repeating themselves more or less, I can see everything playing out, more or less.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

2016 Was A Good Year

It sucked for society all around, but personally, it was one of my best years of my life. *knocks on wood* Most of my end of year reflecting has been on the traveling I got to do this year and my continual growth as an individual in all the different spaces/identities I hold down. The year flew by because I was always doing something, whether it was working or volunteering, there were times in which my day was spent being in meetings or on conference calls planning more meetings/calls before the actual event that was being planned took place. At one point, I had to literally stop everything I was trying to do all at once and refocus my priorities on what needed to be done in order to continue being employed. I didn't like that feeling, not just because it was exhausting, but because I got caught up in the moment, thinking I could take on anything and everything. An experience that looks different for everyone, but the lesson is universal, we can only do so much before it all becomes too much and everything breaks down.

Since my time was devoted to other responsibilities, it meant that I wrote less here as well. I started the year by reflecting on the last 10 years of keeping up this block and then shifted my focus because no one wants to hear me whine and pine about being in meetings and planning. I still wrote here and there, but for sure this has been the first time in a good while that I haven't kept posting regularly. I reflected on that in a post and that's just where I'm at in life now. Thank baby Jesus I'm a lot more mature than I use to be and still have much growing to do, but at least I'm not where I use to be. I also haven't had the existential crisis' I had when I was younger, nor drama, which meant less writing it's in writing that I work out the wrinkles in whatever I'm chewing on.

Hell, even the personal relationships I've had with individuals have changed drastically this last year for a multitude of reasons. For one, this last year was filled with announcements of babies, buying houses, marriages, and folks settling down into adulthood in general, myself included. It's not like it use to be, in which I could put a call out to friends and go on a midnight bike ride to the beach with no regard to having to work the next day or having to catch up on rest from working so much. As much as things pick up in other aspects of life, others slow to a crawl or just completely stop altogether. Some for the better and others not. I chewed on that line of thought throughout 2016 and at one point, thanks to an older than me homie who shared life wisdom, I realized he had a point. Nothing was new or exciting anymore or rather like it use to be. Which again, another universal experience that comes with growth and older age, that you don't go out to get fucked up drinking. Sure, they'll be exceptions here and there, but I'm not about that life. Nor am I about the life in which I go to events and see the same people I see all the time. Not to say that there's anything wrong with that, but it gets to the point where I know what'll happen and in my decision-making in contemplating on whether I should go out or not, I decide not and caught up on movies/tv/reading/video games/getting lifted. I became a homebody is what I'm trying to say and putting on clean clothes in order to go out in public became a chore. Yeah, gross, I know.

Overall, 2016 was a good year for me. I still had a few downs here and there, but damn was it a fun ride. 2017 is looking to pick up where things left off and taking a dive into a dumpster fire. That's cool, I've weathered worse with less than what I have now and I survived. I'm blessed to have an amazing support network and blessed to be gainfully employed. I have no plans on changing that anytime soon, so it's just a matter of taking things as they come and continuing to move forward. I won't get into dribble on what I hope this new year will bring or the fights that are coming because I'll just keep doing more of what I've been doing. Growing on the positive and leaving behind the toxic the best I can. It isn't revolutionary or life changing, but its been working thus far.  


Monday, December 05, 2016

More of the Same

Much like everyone else after the elections were said and done, I followed through and processed what I needed to process in my own way. Part of that processing relit old fires given my involvement in the immigrant youth movement of the early 2000's. I asked the same of those who I'm still friends on Facebook with and folks felt the same way. For a second there, it felt like the band was getting back together. Every comment was one of inspiration, optimism, folks opening up their space to organize, and questions about next steps. Well, here in Los Angeles, a community meeting was put together last minute by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and CARECEN to provide a place for those looking for answers about what's going to happen or a space to connect with others.

I went into that meeting and space ready to see familiar faces and to listen, stand back, and see what folks had to share given the fears of uncertainty hanging in the air. A lot of that was shared at this meeting, especially from those who have family that would be directly impacted, those working with kids and youth, and allies ready to put in work. From there, words of inspiration were spoken, groups were made to identify different problems and how to go about dealing with them. Hell, even I got asked to talk about the work I did during the Dream Act campaigns and how it lead to DACA. From there, I left the meeting realizing that wasn't a space for me in the sense that I've been down this road before. I can put in work and have been for the last few years outside the immigrant rights movement. I've grown and part of me wants to put those new skills to work, but I don't know where to plug in and more importantly, should I plug back in.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016


 I gotta admit, the few times I genuinely feel good are the times when everyone else is suffering. Taking any kind of pleasure from someone else's misery is never ok in any kind of situation, but it's a raw feeling most of us have experienced. It's with age, wisdom, and maturity that we learn that it's not ok and that instead of laughing at someone, you help them. I have no doubt that this habit is rooted in some dysfunctionality that is tied to my own traumas, so I stop to reflect on it here and there. I've been going back and forth emotionally for the better part of the day because of what happened and what it means. From what I can see, the majority of folks in my circles are stunned and shocked that he won. They can't comprehend that a vile person would be this popular or that a chunk of people not only identified with him but also embraced him.

I know we live in a bubble here in California, but come on, I'm more shocked at the fact that y'all are shocked. I know we all tend to stay in our lane when it comes to the kind of folks we surround ourselves with but come on now, don't be so gullible. I'm not gonna say that I predicted he'd win, but I also didn't take him for a complete joke either. There is genuine hatred and fear by a lot of folks in this country when they think about folks like me coming up and taking their share.

Growing up undocumented forces you to see things differently, but it wasn't that experience that helped me process what happened and why it happened. No, like a lot of things in my life, it was pop-culture that helped me make the connections and see what was really going on and how we all got here, which is why I'm not surprised or devastated like most folks. And it goes without saying that while I may be an immigrant and Latino, I'm still a man and that makes things a lot easier for me because of the way society works. I'll get by one way or another. It also doesn't mean I don't feel some kind of way about it either.

Like a lotta other folk out there who are Dacamented, my first thoughts were of my work permit and what is going to happen. Is he going to end the DACA program? If he does, what's going to happen to everyone who is on the government's radar? Are we going to be wrangled up and deported because we were part of a work program? Will we get to keep our current status or better yet, transition into something more permanent? The obvious answers that yeah, chances are DACA is going to get cut off and that we'll be exposed to our worst fears.

The reactions I'm seeing from those in the same boat as me doesn't instill any kind of hope, with the exception of those who organize and are active in social justice spaces. I saw messages from reporters over social media asking those who have DACA for interviews. I did one of those interviews while I was lifted, so while I can't say that it'll make it on air, it did help me process a bit. I reflected on the last time I felt this kind of uncertainty back in 2010 when the Federal Dream Act didn't pass. It's a sickening feeling that can easily overwhelm you if you are not in the right frame of mind or lack support networks. It also goes without saying that in the last six years, I've made strides and matured to a point where I'm able to deal with feelings and situations like these in a healthy and positive way.

It's a battle to stay in that kind of mindset when depression is comforting, especially when others are depending on you. So like everyone else, I'll do me and process this new reality. I'll binge eat, read some comics, go on a bike ride, and play some video games. I'll do those things knowing that I'll be preparing for the fights that are coming and to support those who'll need it. This is not my country nor do I have any delusions about being accepted and assimilated. I've invested the better part of my life in this country and for me to leave, by choice, would be letting down everyone else who needs support and calls this country home.

Tomorrow is another day and when you are ready to fight, hit me up and I'll be there to support.