The Pragmatic Progressive

We talked with gubernatorial candidate Jared Schutz Polis about the challenges and opportunities of serving in public office.

Summary

How does one balance ones ideals against the need to move forward towards a better future? Politicians are people doing a job and yet the modern approach to politics creates 2 dimensional versions of these people.

Transcript here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vQpeJIpu4-B7es6ULSxImOHu1ntVH-Y_jTZh08JtX45UD6mv-eDIwpHPEDBC3_lXuXwAcl7TzuNnwOC/pub

Articles and items we referenced:

Polis for Colorado https://polisforcolorado.com/

Out Boulder outboulder.org

Register to Vote https://www.vote.org/register-to-vote/colorado/

Traffic congestion is making it harder for Denver’s paramedics to get around. Here’s how they are coping. – The Denver Post, Dec 1, 2017
https://www.denverpost.com/2017/12/01/denver-paramedics-traffic-congestion/

F.D.A. Targets Vaping, Alarmed by Teenage Use - The New York Times, Sep 12, 2018
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/health/juul-fda-vaping-ecigarettes.html

On Being Horrified

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I wrote a short Facebook post last week about being horrified at where we are and how we got here as a country. My partner told me I was a fool for posting anything vulnerable on Facebook. Given the result, I can’t say he is incorrect in his assertion. It won’t stop me from trying again, though. In that post, I referenced my father, someone with whom I am politically not in sync and also someone whom I love and respect. It resulted in a family member of mine (not my father) acting out in unexpected anger.

I have been reflecting on the post and the result for the past 48 hours. For me, the BiCurean approach is curiosity, compassion, and grace. Can I stand in the face of my own flaws and not blame others for my fears and insecurities? Can I acknowledge where I am ignorant? blaming? unkind? Will I take responsibility for my actions and words? Can I bear the pain of losing face to stand for the world I want to live in? Some days, yes. Other days, no. When I am in a “not there” day, will I acknowledge I am not living up to my own standards and recommit myself? Yes.

I truly am horrified by the polarization and division in our country. It is astonishing to me that a poorly worded statement on a social media platform could prompt a person I love and care for, a person that I know loves and cares for me, to be so inflamed and angry. It highlights for me how deeply into this story of us versus them we have allowed ourselves to sink.

The same day that my family member (not my father, someone else) was messaging me with anger, a friend of mine from college was reaching out. As a young, faithful Mormon I went to Brigham Young University. This friend is still very committed to the Mormon faith and also committed to our friendship. He and I were talking about how much we appreciate one another. We both believe we can work together, despite this current morass and our different views, to create communities in which we all would feel welcome. More than that even, we both believe it is the better path.

And so I am also emboldened to have hope. I am committed to a world in which our relationships can survive misunderstandings as well as real differences. I am committed to a world in which accountability for our actions and our harm to others is part of how we orient ourselves to where we want to go. I am committed to being the change I want to see in the world, even when I fall short.

Problematic Things

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I've been reading Amanda Lovelace and Ky Robinson in a slightly obsessive way this week. Even more oddly, I found the books at Costco. Wandering by the clothes and snacks, I got pulled in. The blank and empty covers intrigued me amidst the cacophony of politics and mystery novels. Poetry that is almost prose, the words leave enough out to inspire me. Sometimes it is in the negative space I find the most powerful inspiration. 

I'm prepping a reading for an upcoming open mic performance. Some new pieces and some older ones, mixed together. I love to share my writing in written form. It feels safer than reading it, out loud with my actual voice, in front of people. I want to touch someone, even just one someone, to connect across the loneliness and confusion that is life. Reading it in front of people feels like jumping into a pool without being sure I remember how to swim. 

I've heard the magic happens outside of our comfort zone. So, hopefully there will be magic. And I will remember how to swim. 

Why I Canvassed for Jared Polis

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I first met Jared while working for Out Boulder. His husband, Marlon, was on our board when I was first hired. Marlon was a hard working board member with a generous heart. I was raised lower class so my experience of wealthy people was limited and I definitely had pre- judgments. Meeting Marlon and getting to know him was my first indicator that my pre-conceived notions about wealthy people were unfounded and unfair. 

One of the things I learned to appreciate about Jared is his practicality. I believe we share similar values. And where we differ, I respect his willingness to listen. I respect that even when pushed hard, he won't commit to things he doesn't think are achievable or practical. I appreciate that he shows up at things like the Peach Festival in Lafayette, the Women's March, and Pride. 

I'm tired of what I am calling "social purity". This idea that a candidate has to be somehow super human. I was an Obama fan, like many of us progressives, and I don't kid myself that he was somehow a perfect human. I am sure the inevitable expose biography will be full of things we wish weren't true. And he did good work that did good things for a lot of people. He also did things I didn't love and with which I disagreed. 

Polis isn't perfect. We don't see eye-to-eye on all policies. And he is upfront about what he stands for. He is willing to face his failures head on and be accountable. He gives it his all when he cares. He will listen to people who disagree with him, respectfully. And he is human, so I am sure people have experienced him making errors in every category. I am not sure when good leader and no errors became synonymous. 

I will be back out there, knocking on doors, having conversations with people about why I support Jared. 

You've Got to Have Faith

The 2016 election cycle was a call to action for me. In a personal context, it challenged me to really look at the choices I've made over the past several years. And, in the same way that I believe we as an American people need to come together and embrace our whole communities, I have been challenging myself to do that internally. 

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At 25, I left the Mormon church. I had fallen in love with a woman and I realized that my experience of loving her was not sinful. It was, however, impossible for my faith community to accept and support me in that relationship. My close friends were actually quite loving and did their best to be supportive friends while also being true to the tenets of their faith. They showed a combination of compassion and integrity. These qualities originally drew towards them as friends. We drifted apart for many years, our lives being so different, and busy.  We had young children and were starting careers and finishing school. It was more sensible to retreat to yearly letters and, with the rise of the internet, the occasional facebook post

I became an activist and eventually worked as the director of two separate LGBT centers for a total of 12 years. And, until November 2016, I kept a wall in my heart between the faith of my youth and the world in which I live today. However, a facebook post full of rage and blame at conservative religious people, broke me open. I realized that by keeping the details of my path conveniently under-wraps, I was also failing to represent the power of openness and the ability of people to change and grow. 

I learned to be a social justice advocate. I was a Christian because I believed the message of Christian love and acceptance. And I was a Mormon because I strongly believed in the sacredness of personal choice. So the seeds of social justice activism were within my choice of faith communities. I still had to grow beyond my reflex judgments to find a truth that I could embrace. It is my former faith that made me a good director and activist. I learned to put my community first, to do my part without fanfare. I was able to trust that others would do their part and together we would make a difference for many. It is my former faith, my knowledge of my own confused and stumbling path, the reminder of compassion and the awareness that we are all unknowing in some way, that made me a good leader. 

I didn't talk about my prior faith as anything more than a party trick. I didn't highlight my conservative roots. Doing so also means, I left the power of the changes I made in the shadows. My growth into an advocate was a part of my conviction and my faith. I may no longer be Mormon. The life I live today would not be possibly if I hadn't been Mormon in my past. 

The More Star Systems Will Slip Through Your Fingers

The Last Jedi released in theaters this week and of course I attended the modern equivalent of a midnight screening. The question of chaos versus control, which I see as a cornerstone of the Jedi/Sith conflict, is one I face daily. I contemplate it from a philosophical perspective and I suffer it in action from a "my life is a constant struggle against entropy" perspective.  

I recently read an article on traffic anarchy  in Amsterdam. They found removing traffic lights created a more pleasant, safer, driving experience in one intersection. City officials spent about 8 months working with different departments and groups to pave the way for turning off the lights at this problematic intersection. Nervously, they flipped the switch. Interviews and reports show an increase in positive interactions between cyclists and drivers after the switch. 60% of the interviewed cyclists felt the traffic situation had improved with the lights off. 

I'm not a full on fan of anarchy. Inspired partially by self-interest, I expect a totally lawless society might not be one in which I would thrive. And yet, there is something to decreasing the amount of control we seek to exert on one another. The traffic experiment shows how following a process and thinking out of the box can improve what seems to be an impossible situation- without compromising either safety or efficiency. 

I won't spoil the Last Jedi for you, and it does continue to bring up this conversation of chaos versus control. The allure of control is undeniable. Control promises safety, efficiency, a better future, with no senseless loss of life or unnecessary pain, a clean house. And control's ability to deliver is limited to special circumstances. Ultimately I expect we need a Jedi/Sith mash-up to create a better world, rather than bouncing between extremes. 

Surprise Yourself

My friend bought me a Dream Journal for my birthday last year. I eagerly opened it and began the process of building my dream life. The first section walks through questions about what you want in your future.  I get that, if I want to work towards my dreams, I must identify them. I dutifully began to answer the questions in each section, mapping out my life and vision methodically through their process. Until, I got to a question I couldn't answer. I didn't have any idea. And it seemed counter productive to put something down simply to fill in the blank. Not how I want to live my life. Or dream my dreams.

At first, I accepted my inability to give an answer, "It will come to me." I decided, and put the journal down. A few days went by and I was no closer to an answer to the question. I began to feel stressed. How could I move forward without knowing where I wanted to go? I put the journal down again. A few days later, I had a therapy session scheduled. And I brought the journal. I work with an amazing person, Lisa Apel, who has guided me through the death of my ex-husband & moving my dementia afflicted mother across the country. Surely she could give me insight into the answer.

I showed her the journal and shared my challenge. I had begun to feel a sense of urgency around it. I wanted to start the work process. Still stuck in the planning portion of the journal was holding me back. As I explained the stumbling block and my lack of knowing the answer to one of the dream questions, she listened patiently. When I finished, she said, "Well you don't have to have every question answered to start moving forward in one area." 

What? *blink* I looked blankly at her as years of "be prepared" collided with her simple statement. "You mean, it's my life and my dreams. I can do what I know now. I don't have to know everything I will ever want to do or be in this moment to be able to start on my path?" Saying it out loud highlighted how ridiculous it was. I began to smile and I chuckled with the release of pressure and tension I had created around the act of creating my dreams. She smiled and nodded, "Yes. It is your life."

 

That Moment of Delight

Earlier this year I started acting on my dreams and goals in a more methodical fashion. I found a writing group and started attending with my son in May. I had put together a list of anthologies to start collecting rejection slips from, as all committed writers have a large rejection slip/email collection. I found this journal 6 days before the deadline and decided to dive in. Ali, my partner and amazing editor, committed her editing skills to the cause. When I saw the suggested edits tick over 100 for my 2 page essay, I knew she was taking my request very seriously. I pressed send on my submission an hour before the deadline. My first rejection slip request was complete.

Except ...

They accepted it. 2 am a slightly insomniac me casually flipped through her email and saw they had written. It was an amazing moment to have created something for a purpose and have it chosen for that purpose. A few weeks ago, I received the announcement the journal was in publication and would ship in mid-November

Paradoxically I feel unable to put words to this experience. It is an inspiring experience to work on something meaningful to me and see it bear fruit. As we close out 2017, I begin to ponder what I will invite into my world in 2018. 

Life's Side Mirrors

Cars have side mirrors because we evolved with eyes only going in one direction. Most of us who drive would agree our mirrors perform an important safety function. Life's side mirrors are a little more difficult to adjust. 

Life moves fast. I get overwhelmed by how much there is to know and learn. The gaps in what I know are evident. This doesn't even touch on the things I don't know that I don't know. As an educated and experienced person, I feel the pressure to "know" things or "do it right".  After close to 2 decades of social justice activism, I also know how unforgiving I have seen my communities be towards people who make errors. I watch in perplexed astonishment when folks rally to condemn imperfection.

In the world of social media and modern reflex reactions, it is hard to step forward and speak. Here are some guidelines I have in my own work to put myself out there. 

1. I promise to listen to people who have different experiences. 

2. I promise to grow and change. This means what I say or think today is limited by what I have experienced and know, right now. 

3. I don't promise to get it right. Or to agree with people based on generalized political ideology. Or to support you doing things I disagree with even if I agree with your politics.  

4. I will risk myself and my world in the service of my principles and values.

5. I will seek the wisdom and guidance of those who have gone before me.

6. I will seek out my own teaching on the lessons we are learning as a culture about race, ability, gender, economic justice, and more, and not ask people to explain their lives to me in addition to the work they are doing to live their lives.  

7. I promise to take responsibility for my words and actions. I expect I will sometimes be tired and do what it is easy. I might say something out of reflex.  I will make mistakes. I will address them honestly and directly. I will take responsiblity for my impact. I will work to do better. 

8. I won't waste my time in arguments with people that are going nowhere. I will leave those battles and conversations to people better equipped and focus myself on the work I can do.