Sunday, February 04, 2018

Scared Into Complacency

In all my years of being out and loud about being undocumented, I never got much pushback from xenophobes or haters online til as of late. As you can see from the screen grabs up top, they all somehow started coming across my twitter account. Regardless of the how or why they're all emboldened to try and step up to me by tagging the ICE twitter account. I myself ponder on that because I know other folks who are magnets for hater social media accounts, granted they have higher public profiles than I do. I mean, I don't doubt I would get the same kind of attention if I was a guest commentator on CNN or something along the lines of that. But even then, if I did, I'm so beyond it that it would be more of an annoyance than anything else. It would dampen my use of social media because I would have to filter through all the trash to get to what I want to see in my feed and mentions.

Funny thing about all this is that this has been my bio on the location app Swarm/FourSquare since I got it in 2012. The irony of being extra public about my location through social media didn't escape me, so I ran with it and turned it into a joke. I go in waves of when using the app because it's annoying to pull out my phone and tell everyone what I'm doing and where I'm doing it multiple times a day. Especially since not a lot of folks are active on it, so it turns into a bubble. But I brought it back since all these randos started coming to me just to fuck with them.

Still, in chewing on the fat of the situation and knowing that they were trying to scare and intimidate me because of my status, I was reminded that this is the norm on social media now. Last year, people got all freaked out because haters on 4chan were looking for folks through the hashtag undocumented and unafraid and report them to ICE one way or another. It was hot for a minute but then it all died down and it seems like most folks forgot it even happened. To me, that was a wasted opportunity for education and engagement on being secure about your digital habits. It's no different than being on the bus and not busting out your laptop or leaving things in plain sight in your car. Digital security is an afterthought for the majority of folks because every once in a while, I'll get a spam email from an old account that got hacked. It's not till something dramatic happens that folks become aware of the issue of security.

I myself have stepped up my habits and measures over the years. Nothing dramatic, but just like you wouldn't use expensive tech on the bus carelessly, I apply that same logic to my digital life. It's not going to stop someone if their sole intention is to dox me, but at least I know there are some extra steps they'll have to go through before getting full access. Steps that would hopefully tip me off in time to fight back. But the thing about me is that I'm in this field of work, most folks aren't and depending on where you live, there might not be any support networks available to you. That plays into the digital and real life intimidation that has increased since shit hole got into office.

If you live in a major city, you obviously have more resources and can get some help, but if you're out in the boonies of the mid-west or a rural community, the threats become that much more real for everyone. Even access to basic services is an issue for most folks in those situations so I can understand how online security can be on the bottom of their list, but it's not like they're out there on an island, closed off. Being able to look for resources and guides online from trusted sources can put them in the right direction. Being informed and understanding your rights can make a world of difference. It won't stop direct abuse from authorities looking to fuck with you, but you won't make it easy on them either, thereby creating a window of time in which something can hopefully be done to alleviate the situation.     

Having said all this, the best thing I can do is list a bunch of resources for folks to go through and hopefully take away some practices they can incorporate into their digital life, but meh. I'll let folks learn in their own time at their own expense.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Burnt Out

If I'm honest with myself, I've been feeling like this way longer than I realize. The ebb and flow of everyday life, along with in-between surprises, keep me from dwelling too long on that feeling. Thus, I carry on. THere are days in which I feel utterly defeated and others in which I question my motivation to continue doing what I do. Now more than ever, I have never felt stuck in an endless routine that did nothing to nurture my growth as an individual. My actions having no meaning other than just helping pass the time till the next day came. This has also lead to me being in the worst shape and health of my adult life. Realizing how far I have let myself go was hard to swallow, but it also pointed to my lifeless routine the last couple of months. Drive to work. Sit at the computer. Drive home. Sit at the computer at home. Go to sleep. Repeat. It's so easy to fall into this rut that I feel helpless at times to do anything about it because I know I will eventually fall back into it. It's easy, it's comforting, and sometimes it's the only way I'll get any sleep.

The shit going on that I have no control over also has a role in all this. Everything from what will be the final decision on DACA and how that'll impact the future one way or another and what I'll have to do in response to that. Police violence, gentrification, the skewing of laws and policies that will criminalize the poor and lock them out of basic services like affordable internet service to long-term impacts all this will have after the current muther fucker in the white house is gone. It also doesn't help when those who are fighting back against these changes use a star wars reference as the name of their movement either, but whatever. I've been around social justice movements long enough now to know who to trust and who to work with in making thing happen.

At the end of the day though, I don't know where I'm going anymore. Changing things up in terms of employment and where I want to go has been on my mind for more than a year now and while there have been opportunities, things just didn't fall into place. So I stay where I'm at and continue to put in work because even though I've grown as much as I've can where I'm at, I still believe in the work and those I do it with. Which then leads me to ponder on the future of my work and how I do it, through media and social networks. Thus far, I've been able to adapt as needed and grow alongside how stories are told in our society today. I may not be the best at it or doing it for the biggest organization, but I do it with more integrity than others. While the way in which information is exchanged keeps changing, the foundation I have built for myself still holds up to this day. This usually means learning new tricks here and there, honing them in with practice and the support of friends. Still, at the end of the day, all you are doing is telling a story, something I will never tire of doing.

Another side to all this is age and time. Most folks I know are stuck in a bubble of accomplishing social norms and personal goals that I have distanced myself from them for one reason or another. Other than ensuring that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my stomach I have no real pressures from said social norms or any kind of personal goals to speak of. That is to say that I wouldn't want to have permanent stability in life that would give me the freedom to set some and go after them, but I fail to see the point. Sure, I have aspirations of traveling to different countries and cities, buying a house and stuff like that, but longing for such things has mostly lead to me being resentful, frustrated, and angry about things in which I have no control over but somehow they have control over me. At this point in my life, there is very little that I want or long for. For better or for worse, learning to detach myself from those kinds of ambitions, has led me to find comfort and peace in simplicity.

What's most frustrating of all is knowing that I don't have the leeway to shift things around myself. This may be self-imposed or something else that goes unnamed, but priority one has and will be ensuring I can take care of myself. I've slept on too many floors and crashed too many couches to lose everything I have built up to this point. That fear is what pretty much keeps me going 80 percent of the time now. It usually leaves me feeling empty inside until I can somewhat recharge my batteries by doing something I wholeheartedly enjoy. Then the cycle repeats itself. I won't last much longer if I keep going like this, but at the same time I have no definitive answer or alternative to work toward that will help me change things. It's easy to be complacent until I'm forced to change things one way or another. Last time that happened, I got hella lucky and managed to bounce back after spending two weeks in complete fear of losing everything I worked for.

I dunno what I'm going to do with my life, but I'll do enough so as to not get fired.



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.