Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Talking Politics with Dad


I spoke to my father today. Self-described as socially liberal, fiscally conservative. Living in Houston/San Antonio, Texas. I asked him about his thoughts on the current political climate and about his interaction with people around him. Some of what he said made me want to contradict, while other times I felt like cheering him on. The bold sentences are things that he contributed, those not in bold are my thoughts, some of which I said in conversation, some of which I thought about later. The object of this and other discussions like it are primarily for my own growth, though I hope that perhaps they may find their way into helping others.

Don't let what you cannot change consume you. I think we can all agree that this advice is necessary for all of us. If we cared too deeply about everything that was out of our control, we would be a mess. I think it's important not to take this too far by assuming that everything is out of our own control. We each have power to create change. So, yes, don't let the negative forces that be suffocate you, but don't be neutral, either. 

Don't interact with people whose minds are made up. While my first reaction to my dad's advice is to say, "no!", I think he has a point. He told anecdotes of very stubborn people spouting their opinion, to which he disengaged from the conversation (probably what people do to me regularly). Putting energy into these people will only drain you when you could be using that energy to create a more meaningful impact. 

Use logic when you think that someone's mind is open to change. My dad is a very logical thinker. This bit of advice sounds simple at first, but it can be challenging--especially when some people seem devoid of logic in their arguments. I think this can tie in to asking questions. Use logic, and ask specific questions related to that logic and challenge people to react. Basically, I need to get better at building my arguments. 

Republicans won't just let Trump do what he wants. Right, I agree, but I'm also concerned that human rights will not be their primary concern, either. 

His twitter is entertaining. Except when you realize that he has the nuclear football and power to do many other scary things. 

You can be a good person and change what you can. Very true. But we have the power to change so much, or at least push hard for that change. Sometimes balancing goals with reality can be challenging, and I often question myself--am I doing enough? 

The two-party system pits us in a corner. We have an old constitution, and the world has changed since then. It probably won't change in either of our lifetimes. True that, Dad. 

Don't obsess over Facebook or Sunday news stations. No Facebook for me! I've been balancing between hiding under the covers to avoid hearing the news to consuming it more rapidly and deeply than ever before. It's all about productivity. I'm learning, but when does my learning become saturated and take away time from actually doing?

20th Century Women (2016) - Why I Turned It Off After 15 Minutes

What hype this movie has! So much enthusiasm and appreciation surrounds it that I have to ask--are people lying or are they dull?

I turned this film off after five minutes because as far as I could tell, nothing about it was worth my time. Items of note that struck me as a waste  of my time follow: 

  • Set in the 70's. Can the nostalgia thing please loosen up a little? We get it, the past is magical, and we can explore so many layers when looking backwards. But come on. It's a cheap way to paint a picture with broad strokes and get away with not telling a good story. Stories can be set in the past, but the past cannot be the main character. 
  • Aesthetics. Many a brilliant filmmaker have used aesthetic elements in film to communicate tones and ideas (Hitchcock, notably). Yet with their success and talent come he dimwits who decide to use aesthetics to take over the movie, stripping them of their subtlety and use and cramming them down the viewer's throat. This movie writes the word as such: ~aesthetics~
  • Still imagery. COME ON. This is awful. Some of these run-throughs of still imagery remind me of such films as Amelie. I don't remember if Amelie ever uses still imagery...or even stock imagery, honestly, but the intention of 20th Century Women is similar to the intention behind the clips unrelated to the film's story in Amelie--it's a quirky way to make a story part of the larger world, reminding the audience that they have experienced these things, that they interact in the same world as these characters. But this film is lazy in its usage, on top of it being passé. The images are not carefully selected, and they are jarringly different from each other and the film. 
  • Voiceovers. The mother and son talking about the other with voiceovers, speaking slowly and deliberately. Again, lazy and silly and uncreative. 
  • The characters. The mother figure is the only one who struck me as "real" in that first 15 minutes. The photographer felt so out of place, and the son felt very detached from the reality of being a teenage boy. And that line that Elle Fanning's character says, about things being harder with him being horny? Ugh, please. 

This film is way overrated and I feel perfectly comfortable with only watching 15 minutes of it. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Resolution - Listen More & Argue Better

Note: The initial draft of this was written the week following Donald Trump's inauguration.  

I am not alone when I say that since Donald Trump was elected President, my mind has been running circles. This is even more true in the last week, since his presidency has been made a harsh reality.

The United States has historically treated its people very differently, depending on identity and income level. The unequal levels of opportunity and protection that this country holds for its citizens are far from new, and the inequality is not new to my own range of knowledge.Yet, I have not been as active or proactive in combating inequality as I have the ability to be.

I hold an identity that often benefits me. I get the long end of the stick in many cases. I am white, cis-gendered, upper-middle class, able-bodied, for all intensive purposes straight, and college-educated, to begin. My identity is something I think about often. How do I contribute to a more equal world when who I am protects me against the negatives of this inequality? In fact, I am not only protected from many negatives, but I benefit from others experiencing them.

Listening is key, being open to criticism is key, and taking a step back from my narrow view of the world to absorb that of others is key. Yet all of these positive steps are in vain unless I consider them in my actions. This step can oftentimes be confusing and challenging.

Not only do I need to push myself to go through this process, but it is very important to me that I use my time and energy to encourage others to do the same. The problem is, I can be stubborn and passionate--personality traits that can be very useful when used correctly, but detrimental to a cause when used incorrectly. My emotions have often gotten in the way of arguments, and my stubbornness has made me seem unapproachable. Even if I am making a strong logical argument, the emotional exertion I exude is enough to turn people off. It makes sense; I wouldn't react well to that type of treatment either.

I have realized how important it is for me to take the fire I feel about social injustices and put it towards a product, as well as keep my emotions tame when discussing these issues with others. I have learned that asking questions can be the most productive way of challenging the opinions.

In the face of this election, I am making an effort to listen more, ask questions more, and stop going on tirades about the issues I care about. I must learn to communicate effectively, not just passionately.

My plan is to reach out to loved ones who have differing views than I, or more interaction with people who do, and ask them for their advice and their perspective. My immediate circle does not support the Trump agenda--be they republican, democrat, independent, libertarian. They do have different perspectives on why his agenda is harmful to our whole. I need to hear what they have to say, and shut up for a minute.