Undoubtedly the news will keep changing even as this post stays the same, frozen in time, like the photos from my children's births, like the one-liner I thought of and couldn't help sharing, like the story of one child struggling with math on some random day a few years ago.
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I strive to live and vote my Catholic faith, which defies classification at a point on a political spectrum, and defies alignment with either of the two major parties.
For that reason I resist the label and don't fit the mold; but it would not be unreasonable to take a weighted average of sorts, or to scrutinize my voting history, and to call me a political conservative.
I've lived most of my adult life in areas that are represented by political liberals. My Congressional district is represented by Rep. Keith Ellison -- currently touted as a potential candidate for DNC Chair -- in one of the safer seats held by the Democratic Party; in the 2016 election he was re-elected with 69.2% of the vote.
My Senators, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, are both Democrats as well, although their last wins were by a much narrower margin, outstate Minnesota being much less likely to vote for the Democratic Party -- the "DFL," we call it here, short for "Democratic-Farmer-Labor" party, and a nice counterpoint to the term "GOP." We currently have a Democratic governor, too.
When one lives in a district or a state that is predominantly populated by the "opposite" party, it is common to complain about how your vote doesn't really count or some such thing. I think that apathy is probably higher, too: what's the point of voting when it isn't going to be close enough for my vote to matter? I won't get that little rush that you get from being on the winning team.
And maybe there is a tendency to look around, especially at local issues that you might rather have managed by people who, you know, agree with you more and would rather do things your way, and harrumph about how you wish things were different, and throw up your hands and say whaddaya gonna do, with THEM in charge. Even if you do go and vote.
Democratic policies are popular enough in my district, I think, that there isn't much pressure to reach out to political conservatives, to social conservatives, to address their concerns and to try to gain their support. I suppose that there are many districts out there in the United States, districts that always come up red, where there are progressive voters, people who vote for Democrats, but not enough of them that the local leadership faces significant pressure to reach common ground. I can't imagine that it is any less frustrating for blue voters in red places than it is for red voters in blue places.
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I have found myself reflecting a lot in the last several months on the fact that my family chose to live where we live.
I understand that this isn't true for everybody who finds themselves in the living-under-the-opposite-color problem. Some people don't live where they would like to live, because of various pressures that trap them in a house, in a neighborhood, in a region.
We're not trapped, though. We chose this place. And so did many, many of our neighbors in this Congressional district, in this densely populated precinct that is even more strongly blue than the district as a whole.
And what can that mean except that I have some values and priorities in common with my neighbors?
Surely some of these priorities and values are nothing more than preferences. Some things that run deeper, might only be coincidences: we like the same surroundings, but for different reasons. But surely some of it means that we also have some true and deep common visions of the good life.
I like the sounds that a city makes; I don't dream of drifting off to sleep to the chirping of crickets on a background of dark silence, at least not enough for it to dim my fondness for the voices of people calling out to one another, the rise and fall of a car engine passing by, the wail of a siren, the airplanes on their way in. I hear the sounds of people and I know there are people out there. There's nothing wrong with crickets and songbirds, and I know many good people love them; I just also like city sounds. Sounds aren't a reason to leave for me.
I like walking out my front door with my husband and in less than half a mile of sidewalk, settling down at a table in a coffeeshop, restaurant, or bar. I like that a lot less than I would like living where there was no sidewalk or no place to walk to. Other people don't mind this and might even prefer a quiet residential neighborhood to the mixed-use areas I enjoy living in. That's fine. I like the city.
I like that my son who doesn't have his driver's license yet can hop onto public transit and get to any sort of place he might want to go: to the facility where he practices his sport, to the mall to see a movie, downtown to shop for clothes to replace what he's outgrown, to church to serve Mass, to take a class. It's harder to get out to see friends in the suburbs, but everything else is within reach of the bus pass.
My kids don't go to any local schools -- something that often neighbors have in common -- because we homeschool. But that doesn't really set me apart from the neighborhood kids much, since we live in a city where there's quite a lot of schooling options: open-enrollment public schooling, charter schools, private schools both religious and nonreligious, and a wide acceptance of homeschooling as one expression of parents' responsibility to educate their children as they see fit. I know the neighbor kids don't all go to the neighborhood school up the street or to the geographically closest high school. They have choices, as do we, and I like that.
I tend to be an introvert, which might make it sound like I'd prefer to avoid crowds. But the anonymity of crowds is my favorite kind of anonymity. I like to be among lots of people, but not have to talk to any of them. I like to watch people, take them in the way one takes in art at a museum: admire, goggle, pause and be moved. I like the urban balance of the Upper Midwest best of all, the size of the average personal space, its particular spot between warmth and coolness -- one can walk right past a stranger on the street without making eye contact, lost in one's own world; but it's also usually acceptable to smile and say "Good morning!" It surprises people a little, but it's not rejected. And so you can really do what you want. Also, you help your neighbors shovel out their cars after a blizzard, even if you hardly ever do more than say hi most of the time.
I have a tiny urban yard with one tree and a high fence all around. I don't mind that much; you can't have everything, and at least mowing goes very fast. We do put up with a level of property damage and theft that seems just part of the background of city life; and the occasional news of a more serious crime; but on the other hand, we feel entirely safe walking around, and neighbors do talk to each other about issues that come up.
I have a new house in an old neighborhood, carefully constructed so that it will not stand out as obviously different from the others. We have seasons here, some of them intense. We have big snows, and (compared to other cities in the region) really quick and responsive snow removal; I can see those city taxes are well used, and as a result, I don't feel bad at all about paying them. I live near a public branch library and use it, maybe not as much as I would if I had more time or less money, but I am glad it's there -- both for the books, and for the behalf of the people that keep it a busy place. Our gym membership is the local YMCA, which through a mix of public grants and private donations makes membership available on a sliding scale to everyone. Neighbors on my block speak Spanish, Somali, English, and Korean.
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All this is by choice and by preference. I expect that many of my neighbors live here, choose central Minneapolis, in part because they care about the things I care about, because they would rather live in the middle of the city than in the middle of the country, or because something about the area gives them what their household, their family, needs to survive. I expect that those who are like me in that they have choices, must also be something like me in that they chose something I chose. And with all of us living together in the same area -- we must have some common goals.
Common ends, common visions -- not everything in common; not always agreement about how to get there; but I have a sense that we have common desires, a desire that we find some way to make common sense.
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Today I thought a lot about common goals, spent some time with paper and a purple pen writing those thoughts down. Then I picked up my phone and I called, one after another, the district offices of my two Democratic senators and my one Democratic congressman. In each case I got a staffer on the line right away. In each case I identified myself as a Minneapolis constituent.
I told the Senators' staff, each in their turn:
I'm calling to thank the Senator for opposing the President's executive order. We must stop executive overreach in its tracks. The whole Congress has to stand together as a body in support of the federal courts against the executive branch. What I'd really like to see the Senator doing is reaching out across the aisle to try to work with the handful of Republican Senators who have expressed opposition to the executive order. Bipartisanship is really important to me and I want to see the Senator working to forge a bipartisan coalition to assert Congress's authority to check the President.
I was a little braver after having called the Senators, so when I called my representative's office, I talked more. I told the Congressman's staff:
I'm calling to thank the Congressman for opposing the President's executive order and for getting out there and being a visible support to refugees, especially the ones who live in our community. I am probably one of the Congressman's more conservative constituents. I want him to know that I believe all human beings have equal value from the moment of conception, regardless of nationality or religion, and that we have the responsibility to protect the innocent and shelter the homeless. So I want him to know that he has conservatives in his district who support what he's doing to oppose the executive order and to stand up for immigrants and refugees.
I also want to urge the Congressman to reach out to those Republicans who have spoken out against executive overreach and try to work together with them. I know it is not easy to work with people on the other side of the aisle. I am asking the Congressman to try. I believe that bipartisan unity is necessary to push back against the President and to remind the President that it's Congress who is the tribune of the people, and that Congress has the authority to check the President.
Everyone I talked to was very pleasant. They listened, they thanked me, they said that they would pass the information on.
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I don't know what good it did.
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Do we ever know what good we do?
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But I told them the truth, and I asked them for something that I want, and that I believe they have the power to seek. And the duty to seek, if they think enough of their constituents also want it.