A Lament for America

It may seem like I'm preaching to the choir since the demographics of those who read this blog skew towards mine and I'm pretty sure most voted for the same Democratic platform. I'm writing today about things you may already know and fear but this election has had a profound effect on me. I'm numbed by disgust and paralyzed by despair and hopelessness. Everything I had ever espoused about governmental regulations and the environment, about growing political dissonance and world disorder seems to have come to fruition; it's terrifying because at the back of my mind I always had a small flicker of hope that America would come through, that we as a nation would sober up and realize the cost of our political and life choices. This election has extinguished that last remaining spark.

Hillary Clinton, in her concession speech, said we owed Trump an open mind and a chance to lead. The world gave him a chance to display a fraction of sensibility when the Republicans nominated him to represent them on the national stage. He has so far failed to prove that he would be in any way an effective leader. He has neither the skills nor the temperament; this nation is hinging its bets on his unpredictability, that perhaps his ghastly behavior thus far was merely pandering to his base. It's terrifying that the most powerful man in America, and quite possibly the world, is prone to fits of fancy. This is a man who has no qualms about dropping bombs all over the world, treating women and minorities with disrespect and literally lying his way to the White House. How did we go from disseminating democratic ideals around the world to electing someone who has said that he admires Vladimir Putin and quotes Mussolini?

I came to this country ten years ago after working hard to gain admittance to graduate school. It was my only way of leaving a country ravaged by years of cronyism and corruption, a country that was slowly pushing aside secularism for Islamic fundamentalism and where affirmative action existed only for the majority. In America I thought I would have a secure future, that people were more tolerant, that I wouldn't feel uneasy for being different. If I worked hard and pulled up my bootstraps I could achieve the American dream; I would be able to find a skilled job and contribute to society. I would be able to have my children grow up in a democracy where their rights as human beings in a civilized nation would be recognized. It feels like I have left one nightmare only to wake up at the beginning of another.

In ten years, I have seen the rise of the first African-American president who may go down in history as one of the greatest American leaders. But I have also seen the bigotry and racism that thwarted President Obama every step of the way. I have seen how an increasingly hostile and xenophobic Congress blame, lie and manipulate their way to ensure that they would stay in power and that their will, not the will of the people, be done. I have seen the denial of sound science, the bastardization of the Supreme Court, and the humanizing of corporations. I have seen basic voting rights and women's rights and minority rights that patriotic citizens have fought so hard for be squashed by people intolerant of cultural shifts. I have seen the uptick of mass-shootings and the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the collapse of public education. I have seen immigrants and welfare recipients be scapegoated over and over again. I have seen how fear-mongering has reduced people to anger, narcissism and short-sightedness. The last ten years has crushed my hope in this country and its government that once stood for justice and liberty for all. Most of all, the last ten years has crushed my hope in humanity.

Some may say that I'm prematurely pessimistic and that we must trudge on with kindness and rise above the occasion. Those words are meaningless. Hope is a fool's errand. Hope is why liberals have buried their heads in the sand and kept muttering over and over again that there is no way Trump would win. Hope is why people voted for Trump; they're hoping that he will be able to lift them out of the quagmire. Hope depends on the premise that things will get better, that an end goal is better than nothing. I guess if you wait long enough, everything that you hope for will come true even if the reality is that the tides of nature is cyclical. Hope causes inaction and encourages complacency.

The world as we know it is pretty much over. Four years is a long time and in the process, many things will be set into motion that cannot be undone. The effects on the economy and on social welfare will be disastrous almost at once. The effects on the environment and the climate are irreversible and its repercussions will reverberate long into the distant future. When the social safety nets have been ripped from under their feet and their education sold to the rich, how do we look our innocent children in the eye and apologize? When their family members lie sick in the streets, crippled by healthcare costs and their friends go hungry, how do we look our innocent children in the eye and apologize? When our daughters are deprived of their equal gender rights and our sons deprived of their sexual orientation rights, how do we look our innocent children in the eye and apologize?  When the oceans have risen and the human population suffer through drought and famine and flooding, when we wake up one day and the birds are silent and the flora and fauna of our youth have disappear, how do we look our innocent children in the eye and apologize?

When we tell our children that the 45th President of the United States of America and the 115th Congress of the United States of America failed to protect to their fragile future and led them down a path of new world disorder, how do we look our innocent children - those who must live with the consequences we are bequeathing to them - how will we ever look at all our innocent children in the eye and apologize?

I have no good advice on how to cope with this all except that I will hold my daughter closer tonight and begin tomorrow with a resolution to muddle through this unfortunate time and do everything I can in my limited power and influence to make sure that there will never be another embarrassingly tragic election like this again. I owe it to my daughter, to generations before us and to the generations after us.

On finding a balance

Chloe Avery, born 09 July 2016. 6lbs, 18in, 2 weeks early and the joy of my life.

Hi! I'm back after being away for a year from blogging with a renewed sense of purpose. Those of you who follow my Instagram already know that I had been busy gestating  a little chest-burster since last October, and she finally arrived two weeks ahead of schedule. Late night feedings, the inevitable two-week old fussiness and sleep deprivation coupled with dun-dun-dun Chinese confinement practices has left me feeling really cranky and bored out of my skull. There's only so much reading and screwing around on the laptop one can do while housebound for a month. I'll revisit this whole confinement thing later when I'm not as annoyed or tired. Anyway... 

I know most people probably can't be arsed about my shitting out a kid or about babies for that matter. In fact if anything, it's a one-way ticket to hauling ass away from this blog. But here's the thing - there's no other time like the quiet hours of the crack of dawn to think about spending habits, mindful consumption and general state of affairs. In fact, I've been thinking so much about these things that I feel a rambling post is overdue. Long time readers will know that I've suffer from a slew of existential fears particularly ones of a dystopian future marred by climate change, in that uneasy Cormac McCarthy way. In fact, the recent news of the triumph of Trumpian politics, the alarming bouts of terrorism, the random, uncanny shootings, and the fact that it's again the hottest year on record, goes to show that I may unfortunately not be that far off base.

I've had some qualms about bringing a kid into this world and being a bane to the already stressed terrestrial resources. Having kids is apparently the worst thing you can do for the environment, right up there along with sitting in business class and flying around the world twice. With that in mind, I decided that I wanted to really cut down on as much waste as possible while saving as much as I could. After all, why spend too much on clothing that I wouldn't really need after 9 months. I started off wearing my baggiest tops and getting a couple pairs of used jeans from an office mate. I also picked up two pairs of black denims from The Gap for $10 each and a couple of loose, long-sleeved supima tees from Lands' End. The denims lasted me at till I was about 6 months pregnant and the tees lasted the whole pregnancy. Then for the last few months, I lived in a pair of full panel maternity jeans from The Gap, the aforementioned supima tees and my mom's Arc'teryx fleece jacket. I was lucky in that my feet never got swollen or bigger so I could pretty much still wear the all the shoes I owned. My pregnancy wardrobe added up to less than $100 overall for the entire 9 months- something I guess only achievable if you lived in the Pacific Northwest and worked at a place with no dress code. I did cave in in the last month and bought a pair of sandals, a top and a couple of nursing bras during the sales at Nordstrom and The Line.

The Lands' End tees were and still are one of the best purchases I've made. They were each $8 a piece when I bought them but look and wash better than tees that are 10 times more expensive. Ethically made? I'm not sure - but then again, are James Perse and Alexander Wang tees ethically made? The best quality t-shirts in my opinion are the Japanese made ones from Comme des Garçons, but I'm not sure they're ethically made either. After tallying the amount I needed to spend decorating a nursery, building my cloth diaper stash and saving for the 529, I felt that I couldn't justify anything more than $20 on a t-shirt.

As for spending on baby clothing, we received A LOT of hand-me-downs from friends for which I'm grateful, it's a bit of a relief to see clothes being recycled. I ended up not really using much of what was given though because (a) it's 80 degrees these days and the baby only wears her diapers and a top and (b) I hate onesies (whoever thought pulling a top over a yowling, squirming baby in the middle of night is a good thing needs to be shot), the baby hates onesies and I ended up buying a bunch of cheap side snap tops that are god-sent. The tees are made by Gerber in Bangladesh though, so ethics be damned.

It was, however, a little disconcerting the sheer amount of used clothing I received; I have literally 7 or 8 gigantic boxes of clothing from 4 different people sitting in my basement and none of which I will be using mostly because I came to realize that 6 or 7 of those side-snap tees, a few footed pants and a bunch of Green Mountain Diapers Workhorse cloth diapers would suffice for the baby. If anything, having less clothing meant I didn't have to sort through as much laundry in general and it just made bleary-eyed diaper changes much easier to deal with. I guess having a uniform system works equally well for babies. Obviously different strokes for different people.

What I've been finding really hard to balance though is the little frivolous clothing purchases for the wee one. I find myself constantly browsing for baby clothing when I'm bored. My focus has shifted from Lemaire to Makie, from Mill Mercantile to Fawn Shoppe. I realize I probably shouldn't be buying terribly expensive clothing that the baby will outgrow in a couple of months, so I end up shopping for cheaper alternatives at The Gap and Zara. And so the entire story of trying to be a conscientious shopper begins again. I'm still working through trying to close the browser instead of forking over money and to start the kid off on the right foot of buying only what she really needs.

Over the next few months, I'm going to try to put together more frequent posts about trying to balance a finite amount of money with extravagant desires - no longer just for myself but for my living vicariously through another being. I'm also trying to find a balance between budgeting prudently and leaving behind smaller carbon footprints. I do this in part because this blog has been an interesting catalog of my transition from carefree grad student, to a jaded researcher to a (still jaded) working mom, and in part because soliciting advice from an online community of strong and successful women and mothers has always been an upside to Assembled Hazardly.