Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Your Version of the Movement vs My Version

My last blog post, in which I shared my thoughts on the hysteria of saving DACA, got more attention than I could have ever predicted. Keep in mind that when I share something in this space, I'm mostly doing it for myself. To think out loud. I've been doing it for so long that at this point it is just a natural instinct to write about what's on my mind. As you can see by this screen grab, that daca post became the most read blog post ever. And that's saying a lot considering that I posted it in September. 

After posting what I wrote on social media, I saw it get some traction here and there, nothing out of the ordinary. Just folks sharing their thoughts and me sharing mine. In-between all that though, I noticed that other people started commenting in other individuals post, mostly wondering why I'm such a salty hater and why I didn't provide more context in the post itself. First of all, I ain't writing no thesis, if you've read my stuff before or know me personally, nothing I write really needs explaining. Unless I'm being unusually cryptic and hungry for attention via social media. Second, it reminded me of how big the gaps are in how little others know about that undocumented youth movement, past, and present. And to an extent, the immigrant rights movement. Everyone is used to having everything handed to them or asked to react to something without real context or history. If it isn't a click-bait headline that further pushes a narrative of fear, good immigrants, and capitalism, then no one wants to hear it. Then I started reading comments in social media post after folks protested Nancy Pelosi at her press conference.

In-between all that noise, I remembered the opening of the PBS documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and the analogy shared at the start.The analogy of four blind men all describing an elephant from their point of view is one that is old and has taken on different forms as it's been retold, but the meaning hasn't changed at all. I looked up the clip on youtube and I said to myself, holy schnikes! There it is. All the years of arguing with who did what where and why things happened the way they did, it all makes sense now because I never considered others experiences, nor do I care to really. I checked out of that movement long ago and now I only pop my head in every once in a while to talk shit cause I'm petty like that.

None the less, that analogy about the blind men and the elephant helped me center myself and stand back for a moment. With all the hysteria going around, the fear created by uncertainty, and what the next few months will bring got everyone rattled in some shape or form. This kind of desperation is what is reflected in all those comments on social media. The fear that what little folks have been given will be taken away, yet the majority of those same folks don't know what it took to get there or the years of movement building behind it. Then those same voices are augmented by trash reporters looking to write stories that perpetuate the same fear narratives and do nothing to move things forward. It's a cycle and one I am extremely familiar with because I worked in the past. At this point, I'm done with it. It isn't my responsibility to hold peoples feet to the fire when it comes to history lessons or who gets to speak on television. All I have is my experience in the movement and my recollections of whose an ass hole and who isn't.

For now, things have calmed down for the better part. The October 5th deadline has passed and now everyone is holding their breath that something positive will happen come March. Then the cycle will start all over again and that's fine. Folks have every right to be scared and taken advantage of by non-profit organizations who also proliferate problematic narratives that center them over those directly impacted in the name of funding. The world will continue moving forward and the worst day of your life is going to be just another Tuesday for me.


Monday, September 04, 2017

The Hysteria Over Saving DACA

In times like these, I often question if there is something wrong with me. While the majority of folks are sharing vanity social media post about a decision that hasn't bee officially made or verified, I'm tuning out the world and going on about my day. I went through this once already through the build up the 2010 Federal Dream Act. Everyone making phone calls, having meetings, changing their social media profile pictures to be in support and news stories about what it would all mean if it passed and if it didn't. Back then, I was actively invested in the campaign. I was giving media interviews when I was asked, going to meetings, rallies, and generally helping get the word out. When the vote finally happened and everyone realized that the bill didn't get enough votes, everyone dealt with it and eventually regrouped to make DACA happen.

All these years later and now the day has come in which DACA "must be defended" because the program is going to be shut down by the current administration. Can't say that I didn't see this day coming, oh wait, yes I did. I watched the 90s X-Men animated cartoon on Saturday mornings. I saw the how the mutant registration program and Sentinals targeted mutants unjustly because they signed up for a program. I have analogies for days when it comes to making sense of what's going on, it's the reactions I've been seeing from those impacted, those in solidarity, and those who are new to this that has me doing double takes. Some of the rhetoric and narratives being used are by the books. Highlight that individuals with DACA are the best of the best, they contribute economically, are highly educated, they are Americans without papers. They deserve to keep their temporary work permits because the country would lose X amount of money. Oh and let's not forget that they're all innocent kids who were brought here as children and they themselves are still children. We have to think of the children.

No, much like other experiences, this has been one of the few times in which something old is new because of the way the internet and social media are used for and against it. It's like when Instagram first come out and old things became new and fun because you were reliving them through social media. These last few weeks have been the first time I've seen folks who I never imagined talking about saving daca, supporting those who have it, and saying how dump is a cruel person for doing it. Wanna be twitter celebrities who act the part and repeat the same talking points from media and non-profit organizations are getting play because we all live in bubbles and want to participate via Facebook activism. The nature of social media is to share something with out it being vetted, like a knee jerk reaction. All this does is cause panic through click-bait headlines that drive a narrative of fear and twitter threads of how bad things will be if daca is taken away from individuals. I can see the puppet strings, yet I can't do anything about it or rather, am I supposed to do something about it?

There is a tidal wave of misdirected support behind this current push to save daca that is lead by the usual suspects, immigration non-profits, local and national, who are taking credit for something they had nothing to do when it was barely getting off the ground but are now taking full ownership of it. A homie of mine broke that down in a Facebook post in response to everything that is happening and they're right. From daca being abused to exploit funding opportunities, branding, media exposure, and social media likes/followers, this has been nothing but a show on both sides of the fence. At the same time, whenever I see someone share their story or struggle, I wanna roll my eyes and tune out completely. It's nothing I haven't heard before and while I'm not the intended audience, I pause for a moment and tell myself that I shouldn't be dismissive of others fears and anguish. While I may have a different understanding and perspective of how things are playing out, that doesn't give me the right to dismiss others so easily. Getting sympathy from me is like getting ketchup out of a maple tree, so I just let the moment pass and do my best to respect others putting in work.    

And more or less, that's how I get by these days. Instead of getting angry and sharing that anger on social media, it still happens once in a while though, I just tune it out and focus on what I have on my plate. I haven't talked to any media, but they don't call me up anymore. Whether it's because they've used me one too many times or because they have someone else who can give them the soundbites or click-bait headlines they need, I've been hands off. There have been times in which I come across a social media post and I wanna chime in with a history lesson about the immigrant rights movement, why the term dreamers is used, how daca came about, and how it all plays together but that isn't my responsibility. If there is one thing I have learned from the immigrant rights movement is that they will toss your ass to the curb one day and then pick you up to toss you underneath a bus the next.

The current narrative to save daca doesn't allow for those who are older and have history to be at the front of this push. Folks me like won't stick to talking points and use fear to garner sympathy from media, politicians, funders, and facebook activist. Folks like me will tell you that those with daca are classist and too assimilated for their own good. That losing daca means going back to doing the kind of work these young folks look down on with their parents. That they can't fathom a world in which their upward mobility is taken away and they have to go back to eating top ramen three times a day. I'm too old to be manipulated like that and because of that, what I have to say doesn't matter anymore. I'm just a hater and they're right. I'm not willfully ignorant, thank jebus, I speak my mind, and find a way to hustle from one day to the next. Daca or not, I'll keep moving forward one way or another.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Gentefied Afterthoughts

This show has been on my radar ever since I first heard about it. Over the weekend, I was able to see the entire seven episodes of the series and listen to a Q and A discussion with America Ferrera and ‭Aaliyah Williams, who were executive producers, director/creator/co-writer ‭Marvin Lemus, co-writer Linda ‭Chavez, Josefina López of Real Women Have Curves and the homie Nancy Meza repping Defend Boyle Heights. The screening was the first time the entire seven episodes of the show were shown in public, with three previously being screened at Sundance. I myself didn't do any research about who was putting it on, the director, the writer, actors etc. because I wanted to go in there cold and just take it for what it's worth. When I initially bought the tickets to go see it, I was expecting it to be a traditional q/a shesh between those who worked on it, so it was a nice surprise to find out Nancy was going to be part of the discussion the day of. That being said before I start getting into the meat of things, take this as your semi-spoiler warning for the show. They themselves don't know when the full seven episodes will be shown publicly again or where, so if you want to see them without any of the contexts I'm going to get into and brief descriptions of the episodes, click here instead and read this after you've seen the show.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Born Day Reflections at 33

Nothing special this year. I realized that for the last five years, I was consistent about having a party at my house or at a friends house. Those parties have always been a blast and a great time to catch up with folks that I rarely get to see. Not to mention that alcohol and piñatas are always a guaranteed good time. I just wasn't feeling it this year, so I kept it low-key. It was just another Saturday to me. I went to work for the first half and then some shopping for back issues of some of my comic books. The special treat was being able to spend it with my girlfriend as well. All in all, I enjoyed being able to spend my time how I wanted. That's pretty much it. No existential pondering or questioning of things I'm currently going through or that are happening. Am I worried about losing my DACA work permit? Being deported? Losing everything I've worked for? Nah. I'm busy enough in my day to day routine and various responsibilities that I never give it much thought other than fully understanding that the end is important in all things. How and when is a different story for another blog post. For now, I'm grateful for everything I have going on and everything that is yet to come. This year has really been about putting in work on various levels, but at the same time, I feel stagnant as well.  

For so long, my livelihood has depended on both my digital organizing and story telling that I can't see myself doing any other kind of work. Now I'm getting to the point of not wanting to be in front of a computer screen because of eye strain and because so much has changed as well. I've been able to keep up and adapt to keep myself relevant to whatever is going on, but this year I started shifting and loosing up on a few things as well. For the longest time, I had my own unwritten rule book about how things should be posted, when, how they should look, ways to maximize engagement, impressions, views etc. It's something I developed from my days in college and being a journalism major. I treated social media as an extension of journalism, so there had to be some basic structures and guidelines to things, other wise it would all be unusable randomness that couldn't be tracked or quantified. Said unwritten rules have helped me other the last 10 years, but things have changed so much now that I want to continue experimenting with new and traditional ways of getting information and stories out there.

I have ideas, but not enough time or resources to pull it off on my own. At the same time, if I start something, how far will I see it through? Quality takes time and energy and some days, I could care less. As fulfilling as it is, I don't want it turning into another item on my to do list that I need to grind through. At the same time though, there are so many new voices out there today that it becomes overwhelming. I remember a time when content creators of color were a rare and you had to go out of your way to find them and support them because many didn't last that long. Now I have a smorgasbord of content to chose from at any given time, but again, it's just overwhelming. If I wanna listen/watch discussions about a show, I first have to be caught up w said show to avoid spoilers & to be engaged in the discussion. Not to mention the endless possibilities that are possible thanks to the intersectionalities of our lives and everything in-between.

I think about all that and kinda wonder where I would fall in, you know. What do I bring to the table that will be of interest to others but also be sustainable. Facebook and Twitter have become my go to outlets for speaking my mind and sharing what I'm into at the moment. Not too long ago, I had a few blogs in which I could share what was going with me or around me in a more communal form. now, except for this one, I don't really have those outlets anymore. Like I said, way more voices are in the mix now and some get more play than others for one reason or another, it's the way of the world. I think back on those times and I was having a blast in spite of everything that was going on. I made it work and it helped me get where I am today and where am I today? Being a curmudgeon who wants to avoid large public gatherings, over rated restaurants, annoy people, and other consumer related habits that take over your life if you aren't careful.

Repetition and routine are most definitely the themes of 2017 and it's a good mix up from previous years. While at times, it feels like in a rut, I realize that even that in itself is a kind of blessing, but one I don't want to bask in for too long, lest I become bitter and a complete ass hole. Right now I'm just semi-bitter and a partial ass hole. We'll see how the rest of the year plays out and what it brings.    


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Thi Bui's memoir hit close to home on many levels for me. Books like hers hold a special place for me for some obvious reasons, but the biggest is that it's a story of immigration told through a comic book. I constantly keep an eye out for books like these and immediately pick them one when I learn about them to read them for myself. At face value, Bui shares her families story of coming to the United States from Vietnam and that alone is an amazing story. She weaves historical moments in-between her families experiences growing up, having kids, trying to raise kids, and eventually having to leave their home country. I don't wanna get into details because I don't wanna spoil it for you when you read it, but what she shares reminded me of my own experiences of growing up as an immigrant but also the complex and toxic relationship I've had with my own parents. Her use of water colors and her personal style give a kind of painful beauty to some of the emotionally intense moments in her story. It can be a lot to take in at times, but it keeps you enthralled to continue reading and learning more about Bui's life and her family.

Once I finished reading her book, it took me a few days to process everything that was drudged up in relation to my own immigrant experience and the toxic relationship I have with my parents. Like Bui, I myself have gone down that path of trying to better understand my parents as individuals, as human beings. Through age, developing emotional maturity, and piecing together their lives like a scattered jigsaw puzzle, I came to a place of understanding, both of them and for me. I've spent years trying to better understand how things happened and why they happened when I was growing up. For the longest time, I just took it as face value because they could never explain the why of whatever was going on at the time. Instead, it came from a place of you're a kid, you don't understand anything because you waste your time watching cartoons and playing video games. Least that's how it came across for me back then. Again, time and maturity have helped me process and make sense of a lot of things with no real closure. The more I analyzed my parents and what they experienced growing up, it was clear that they themselves were denied emotional support from their families, so how could they convey something they never got to their kids?

Once I came to this understanding, my own relationship with them started falling into place. In the beginning, all I felt was frustration and extreme anger. I would get all existential to the point that I would question why they even had me in the first place and what cosmic joke was being played on me for having to experience this. I would reflect here and there on instances from my childhood and break down what happened to try to find a way to place all the blame on them so I could have myself a pity party. Over the years, I made it a point to distance myself from my family for a lot of different reasons, but at the core of that was trying to leave behind what I picked up from them. I looked to others for the support I longed for from my family and at times I also formed my own chosen family of friends. Through them, I learned to let go of a lot of things and continued to grow because of their support and understanding. Still, dealing with trauma is exhausting and the growth I make is in small steps, but steps that are moving me forward.

Through all this processing and understanding, I've created some peace for myself in order to continue growing as an individual. In choosing to stay away from my family, I've had to put up with societal norms that can be annoying as a mosquito bite or as painful as a burn. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a part of me that wants to talk to my parents and work everything out to a point of closure but the damage done is too deep for me to want to do that with them. Which is not to say that I don't care about them, come on, they're my parents. For all their toxicity and best intentions, I'm here doing work and thriving just like they wanted me to when they would tell me to do good in school so I wouldn't have to spend the rest of my life making a living like they did. For sure, these feelings are going to keep getting more complex as time passes and maybe I'll do something about them then, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Like Bui's parents, mine were just trying to do the best that they could.  


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I Didn't Think I'd Get This Far

When I graduated high school, I was depressed because I didn't see a future I liked. The reality of no longer being in school and having to figure out what I was going to do for the rest of my life was depressing because I wasn't able to see beyond being undocumented and all the hardships that come with it. In those years, I was doing manual labor and helping out in the family business, which varied on whatever get rich quick scheme my dad was trying to pull off at the time. Eventually, I enrolled in community college, found better employment opportunities, started becoming politically engaged, and I began walking down the road that I find myself on today. For everything I have built up and accomplished since then, the future isn't something I give much thought to. DACA has made it easier to take advantage of opportunities that would have been blocked off otherwise. Yet, I still don't really plan beyond the two years this work permit grants me. In the back of my mind, I contemplate on whether this will be the last time I get approved and what I would need to do if I don't get renewed.

As I've pointed out in previous blog post, I'm at that age in which transition is all around me and while I usually don't give it a second thought, it gets overwhelming at times thanks to being hyper-connected on social media. I smile and nod till the moment passes, but recently, there cracks in holding back my existential thoughts have been getting bigger. I spend a lot of energy holding back because my attention is needed elsewhere, but alas, I find myself at another existential crossroad in which uncertainty follows me at every turn.

This current lapse in self-confidence was brought on by something I wasn't expecting that related directly to my future employment options and what I wanted out of them. It was like something out of Office Space. I like my current employment situation, mostly because I'm employed. When it's slow, I'm working two part-time jobs and when I'm busy, that usually turns into three or four. I'm able to balance everything out on a regular basis, but there are times in which everything is happening at once and I go into overdrive mode. I just came off one of those this month and it gets harder and harder each time. It makes me question if it's worthwhile to continue taking on multiple gigs at once and the work that I do. It literally feels like withdrawals at times.

It's hard for me to think about the future because I never planned on being here in the first place. And by here, I mean that in both the literal and existential kind of ways. At best, I can keep my depression at bay by keeping myself busy with work, extra projects or just doing things I enjoy. At worst, it bogs me down to the point of me not being motivated to do anything and just wallow in pity while still going through my everyday motions. My current work in communications wasn't planned because it didn't exist. I grew along side it through some major growing pains and because of the journalism skills I picked up while in community college. That lead me to the immigrant rights movement and that lead me to bicycle advocacy. The mishmash of skills I've accumulated over the years have helped me get to where I am today, but now I question if I reached my limits or am I content with how things are. In the job of life, am I just working hard enough so as to not be fired?

More than anything, I feel like I'm stuck in a rut. For all the growth I've made in these last few years, both professionally and personally, I come up short when I being to think of where I want to go next. At the same time, I feel like I'm starting to get left behind because of my hybrid set of skills. I remember when no one really took digital organizing and communications seriously. Now everyone and their mom thinks they're an expert because they know how to use social media. It just makes it harder to stand out when there's so much static noise. It also makes me question whether I should finish college, but the thought of paying for something that I hate fills me with rage and disgust.

That being said, it keeps getting harder and harder to find the motivation to do what I do where I do it. There are days in which I wouldn't wanna be anywhere else and days in which I was anywhere else, but that can't be helped. Eventually, I'll get over this hump and find motivation to continue moving forward beyond the need to work for the sake of working. It's just extremely difficult to find that motivation when you can see the puppet strings but are helpless in being able to do anything about them.