I started blogging seriously a little over two years ago. I was living at home in the small town in which I grew up, a recent college graduate looking for an outlet. I was coming out of a period of intense intellectual and political growth, and I didn’t want it to stop just because I was no longer in school. I was passionate about public education, racial and economic justice, queer power, and wanted others to feel the same passion. I started this blog, hoping it would help me sharpen my ideas, share my thoughts, and connect with likeminded people.
This fall, a nationwide Teachers Strike in Mexico shut down the national capital, and blocked the roads to Benito Juarez International Airport. Teachers clashed with police, and tore up the offices of politicians that threatened the wellbeing of labor and education. It was violent, it was insistent, and a hundred times more militant than the strike in which I had been involved in Chicago. U.S. mainstream media were virtually silent on the tumultuous happenings, despite close contact between members of the Obama administration and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto during the events.
As stories and images came in, I wanted to write about them—especially given the fact that the U.S. remained essentially unaware of their existence. Yet, again and again, when I tried to write, I couldn’t. My own teacher education program was undergoing major cuts, Chicago public schools continued to hemorrhage jobs and money, and certainly demoralization was one reason for my block. Yet the more I thought about why I was reluctant to write, the more I realized the real reason was because I didn’t think my writing was actually what anyone needed.
For the first time since I started blogging, I began asking myself: What did I really think would result from me writing down my ideas and posting them on the internet? I didn’t really think I would change the world. I didn’t really think I would start a movement. I did think I would feel politically engaged. I did think I would be making a contribution. I wondered why I wasn’t feeling like a contributor, a participant. I wondered, as I often had before, if my academic training had done less to awaken my political energy, and more to teach me that writing was all I had to give to a movement. I began to question: Who is asking me to write? Who has taught me it is the best outlet? Who is actually listening when I do? While I am not naïve enough to expect immediate results, what results do I imagine coming from my blogging?
A few weeks ago, trans and gender-non-conforming students at my alma mater were fined thousands of dollars for defacing bathroom signs. The ensuing case brought the hypocrisy and decided rightward shift of the school’s administration under national scrutiny. That Wesleyan University—like many others we could name—has been shaping its student body and shifting its priorities for profit is a claim radical faculty and, more often, students have been making convincingly for many years. What did it take for these claims to be taken seriously? To be heard and comprehended?
I deeply admire these students, and others in the world taking action, making risky choices, putting their comfort and reputations on the line, and facing real and serious consequences. Recognizing that the conditions of their working lives, their communities, their neighborhoods, their relationships, are bad enough. That they have the right to be angry. That tact and politeness are not getting results. That “things could be worse” is a call for complacency, coming from the camps with the most privilege, the most power, the most resources. That waiting for the pendulum to swing is irresponsible. That the pendulum cannot swing without them.
This year, Chicago said goodbye to the Young Women’s Empowerment Project, one of the major sex positive, queer- and youth-oriented feminist organizations in the city. The Broadway Youth Center, a rare resource for homeless, trans, Black, Brown, and queer youth is under threat. New York City is now preparing to say goodbye to Queers for Economic Justice. These are red flags. These are emergencies. These are indictments of the non-proffit sector, and of privatization. These are crucial lessons about the kinds of next steps we need to take to advocate for ourselves and future generations.
In 2014, I don’t want to read any more really great, really brilliant, really well written articles. I don’t want critical dialogues, if the dialogue is not action oriented. I don’t want formal apologies that mask a resignation to the status quo. I don’t want the political theater of the two party system. I don’t want the distractions of media inundation. I don’t want feminist critiques of pop stars. I don’t want arguments and counter arguments that don’t get me any closer to justice for myself or my people.
I don’t want us to fill up each other’s news feeds. I want us to fill the streets. I fear we are losing our planet, our voices, our cities, and our lives if we don’t.
In the meantime, I will keep writing. I will do so not because I believe it is an end, an accomplishment, or even a step in the right direction. I do not believe it is any of these things. I do believe it is practice. I do believe my writing is the place where I begin to imagine what the world I am fighting for can look like, and I hope this imagining can be useful to others. But I can no longer confuse this imagining with action. As the new year approaches, I must remember that every second I put into blogging is one I could be spending engaged in whole other forms of political struggle. If I wait for my words to spark action in someone else, I may be waiting for a long time.
I don’t plan to be.