"I don't usually get involved in politics..."
This declaration has appeared in my Facebook news feed several times in the past few days, followed by statements on the government shutdown. I can't recall exactly what those statements have been because I keep getting stuck on these seven words, stunned by the enormous unexamined privilege embedded in them. I wonder what it must be like to have the luxury of being able to choose not to get involved in politics.
I'm a lesbian mother of two. The first half of that description positions me outside mainstream culture. The second half plants me dead in the center of it. As a result, everything I do is political. When I show up to volunteer at my sons' school, I'm a lesbian entering a classroom, a scenario that many people in this country fear. When my family attends our hometown's harvest festival, we're not just a merry band of four celebrating autumn but a two-mom family representing "our kind" simply by being present there.
Even if I were a lesbian who chose to remain in the closet, I'd still be involved in politics. Politics would be the gloved hand over my mouth, stopping me from speaking my truth. Politics would be the impetus for the lies that I'd have to tell myself and others. Politics would be the entity stopping me from living a fully authentic life.
I cannot escape politics. Neither can you. No one can.
When we talk about politics, we're talking about our relationships to social norms, rights, laws, economics, wealth, resources, opportunities and the people who govern such things. Ultimately, when we're talking about politics, we're talking about our relationships to power.
Everyone has a relationship to power.
These complex power structures affect all of us. We are all "involved" in politics, some of us actively, some of us passively, some of us unwillingly or unknowingly, but we are all inescapably involved. Even a person who quietly participates in the status quo has chosen a political position.
Many people in this country don't have the privilege of ignoring their relationships to politics, for a whole host of reasons. As a result of the government shutdown, many more are learning -- some of them in very painful, stressful, anxiety-producing ways -- that they can't ignore their relationships to power any longer.
Recognizing your enmeshment in politics for the first time can feel like waking up from a nightmare about spiders only to find your body entangled in an enormous spider web. If this sounds familiar, welcome, newcomer, to the real and messy world. The upside: You are not alone. The downside: It's up to us to fix this mess.