In 1992, MTV ran a campaign thing called ‘Choose or Lose’. It had townhalls with the candidates (most famously with Bill Clinton being asked, “Boxers or briefs?” – his answer was briefs and long before Monica Lewinsky found that out, too). It also pushed for motor-voter laws which were to enable people to register to vote when they got their drivers licenses, and it also pushed for the assault weapons ban. I remember that summer and fall thinking I could be a part of the democratic process and that voting was awesome.
Okay, in hindsight maybe we hitched our cart to the wrong horse in Bill Clinton, though he could have stopped his impeachment by doing one press conference and answering all the questions about the ‘sexual relations’ he had with Monica Lewinsky. But Bill Clinton was no Alexander Hamilton (Hamilton published a pamphlet outlining his extramarital affair to clear himself of allegations of embezzlement – which he was innocent of).
So the idealism and can-do spirit of the summer of 1992 died a slow death in the Senate chamber of an impeachment hearing that shouldn’t have happened. And for me, it was really nailed shut in my mind in 2003 when The Chicks (formerly known as The Dixie Chicks) went through what they did being some of the first victims of ‘cancel culture’ (watch the documentary ‘Shut Up and Sing’ just to see how devastating that was and how fucked-up, too).
Moving forward twenty-eight years….
I was in the car yesterday listening to 80’s New Wave/Alternative music and I had a thought:
I want my idealism back.
That thought was followed by this one:
You never lost it.
And I never have. It just shrank down to a tiny little flickering flame deep inside me but it was always there. I just wished all to hell I hadn’t let it get down that far in 2003 to where it wouldn’t come back to life like it’s starting to now. But I can tell you it wasn’t just watching three women getting virtually strung up as twenty-first century witches in 2003, but thinking that people had taken my idealism from me by being awful to me, or by alienating me from everyone else.
No one can take away what you feel inside. No one can reach inside your heart and mind and take your thoughts and feelings away from you. You may think they can, and they may tell you they can. But in reality, that’s not true. You have the freedom to think and feel any way you want to and to live your life accordingly. Yes, there will be motherfucking assholes who do their dead-level best to shit all over you or just try to pick away at your idealism and good feelings because they’re shit-heads. Don’t let them do that, if they say they can, tell them no and walk away (because assault-and-battery is still against the law).
I had another thought on the road yesterday I hadn’t had in a long time: there are people who don’t want me to be happy or to be fired-up about something. My response: fuck that shit. And remember that you’re not someone’s hemorrhoid cream or responsible for their thoughts and feelings. If someone can’t handle me in a good mood or fired about something… that’s their problem and not mine.
You do have the ability to choose or lose. And yes, your choices may not be agreeable to some people. But if your choices are about freedom, justice, and hope, and against oppression, fear, hatred, and death, they’re good ones.
Life is hard, yes. But it doesn’t have to have to grind you down and you don’t have to walk around feeling sad and sorry for yourself all the time, as my father used to say. I will also say you don’t have to be an angry blob of gaslighting-conspiracy theory spewing blind obedient idiot either. But either one is a choice and I would just say try not to fuck it up.
I’ve begun to truly learn my lessons from 1992 onward in terms of hope, idealism, and happiness being lost and found. For if something is lost, it can always be found. You can lose your way but find your way back home.