Travel, Texas, Twitter
Greetings from El Paso, where I’m currently squatting as I make my way through a small, meandering southwestern solo trip conceived primarily to burn through an abundance of vacation days. It’s been awhile since I went on a trip alone that wasn’t for work and I’ve already remembered all of the things I love and hate about traveling alone. Mostly — I miss my partner, I get bored, things become infinitely more dangerous and menacing at times, and I get stuck in my head. But — I love meandering the streets of new places, lost in thought, able to finally take a break from my hectic life to be quiet, all on my own schedule, which I can easily throw to hell and cut off at 6 p.m. when it’s dark and I can bury myself in an AirBnB and read, or take notes, or sleep. It has its ups and downs, but, for the most part, I’m glad for it.
Being in El Paso does mean being in Texas, though, a major source of thought and angst and love and pride and misery for me, which anyone who knows me knows, right off the bat. I love where I’m from and I hated it for years and I haven’t moved back but I am always trying to visit. It’s complicated! I have a weird relationship with Texas and being here always means reviewing that, over and over again.
…which is made way worse by the U.S. presidential election cycle! To be a journalist in 2018 is to be online which is to be right in the middle of a political nightmare without end. And that means my life right now is seeing the words “Bernie” and “Beto” twenty times every hour and being unable to mute either, much to my steadily mounting annoyance. Something I want to emphasize is that journalists (and I believe this firmly) should be non-partisan: we don’t endorse candidates. You cannot (I feel) report on what you endorse. Which is different than being political and different than voting (I am political and I do vote.) The nature of a fractured, polarized country, however, is that when you’re left with two candidates at the end of the day, one is virtually always less likely to ensure the mass-misery of the nation than the other, and that is not great but that is America.
That’s how I see general elections and that’s how I write about them. Primaries are different and, if you’ve survived one, you know they’re hellish, hair-splitting, divisive slogs through a crash-course in why a two-party system can be problematic. (Two parties = two options = 5,000 opinions per side.) The Beto-Bernie ruckus is a good example of this: two white men who have not announced they are running for president have already split online Democratic voters down the middle. That’s been exhausting for me, for reasons that being back in Texas is helping me to formulate. Namely this: as someone who writes for a progressive publication and makes my life in left-of-center spaces, I have an obvious understanding of Sanders-esque politics. (I also like health care, want to fight climate change, hold the wealthy accountable, etc etc!) But I’m also a person from the South, with a deep awareness of the reality of how Americans vote. I knew in 2016 that Bernie wouldn’t win the Democratic nomination, for a simple reason: he didn’t win Southerners of color, a crucial, king-making voting bloc that arguably every single Democrat has nonetheless let down, without fail. This is also why I’ve never entertained the “Bernie would’ve won” argument I’ve heard repeatedly in D.C. and NYC — how can someone win a general election if they can’t win a primary?
Bernie is a (very old) white man, one who has struggled to appeal to, most starkly, voters of color. Beto, by contrast, is a young, hip, new white man, with vague politics and sweeping rhetoric, bolstered by a diverse coalition of supporters. (Obama-esque, if you will, to invoke a president I’ve long had qualms with after he orchestrated mass-deportations across Texas.) Both of these men are lacking in various ways (who isn’t?); both have some perks. Should we be talking about them a year out from 2020? In my earnest opinion, fucking hell no.
However! I’m annoyed by the dismissal I’ve seen Northeastern leftists show towards Beto, a man who came within 2.7% of flipping a Texas senate seat. That’s huge, it’s unprecedented, I saw and I gaped and I took note. And while leftist Twitter has largely dubbed him a centrist post-midterms, that wasn’t really true this November — by Texas standards, he actually ran far to the left. I wish people who are not from the South would recognize that for what it is and bend their understanding of this country just a bit.
But! That doesn’t really change my wariness, of Beto, of Bernie, of anyone. In all honesty, my exhausted, single thought about the 2020 election is that, in a country where people who are not white and who are not men struggle every day, I’m frustrated by the centering (from everyone) of people who are, in fact, white men. But I’m also frustrated by bubble-liberals, and by the disproportionate power certain cities (like the one where I live) hold in a country where most states and cities fall behind and suffer as a result. A number of Texas progressives I respect have argued that Beto should run again for senate in 2020, something that would see him remain to the left in a state that has struggled under single-party rule for decades. They’ve pointed out what people in D.C. and NYC have missed — that elections aren’t just about who is president, they are about states, and counties, and cities.
And sitting in Texas, where 7-year-olds are dying at the border while the largest number of uninsured people in the country struggle to survive, it’s hard not to feel the same: that maybe someone truly invested in the future of this country would think more about its parts than its sum.
On running in the city as a woman. What’s left of the Gay Left? Waking up white women. This love letter to H-E-B, an iconic Texas grocery store, touched me deeply and vindicated the fervor with which I maintain my H-E-B bags to this day. Tin House ending is garbage! I would also rather be straight than give my sexual orientation as “Q”. This essay is the most I’ve thought about 7th Heaven in maybe 20 years. Books librarians love.
Me: The Trump administration will revise the estimated number of lives saved by freezing Obama-era fuel efficiency standards following outcry. As coal plummets, the Trump administration works to save it, with COP24 in the background — where coal took center-stage. Anger and protests greeted the U.S. fossil fuels side event in Poland. Miami’s landmark climate gentrification resolution opens up a new frontier in environmental justice efforts. Property developers and golf course owners are among those cheering on the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era water rules.
Elsewhere: In Louisiana, the oyster industry works to save the state’s rapidly-eroding shoreline. Seismic testing, which could harm marine life, is a go for the Trump administration. Nothing can prepare you for this story, about an artist slowly dying from lead poisoning after years of using natural ingredients (shells). Florida’s new fossil fuel plant plans. Carbon emissions from rich nations are set to rise in 2018. Thailand’s Phi Phi islands grapple with a drinking water shortage.
Clean energy jobs would likely help the rural Midwest. Extreme heat hurts Tucson’s poorest. Alabama coal ash ponds do not meet EPA groundwater rules and must permanently close. Climate and health intersect across America. Bulldozers will soon plow through Texas’ beloved National Butterfly Center to make room for the border wall. Southern communities are reviving their relationships with electric co-ops. Climate change is threatening Georgia’s peach season. Turtles’ tummies are clogged with plastic.
Around the Globe
Africa. There is an ongoing rumor that Nigeria’s president died and has been replaced by a look-alike. The U.N. warns of mass-rape in South Sudan. A fire destroyed Congo’s electoral commission building with the country set to vote in days.
Americas. Peru backed anti-corruption reforms. Queer Brazilians are rushing to get married before Bolsonaro takes office. AMLO becomes Mexico’s first leftist leader in decades. Robert Mueller’s team has recommended no prison time for Michael Flynn, citing his active cooperation with the investigation. But Michael Cohen is going to jail. A federal judge in Texas moved to gut Obamacare. Wisconsin Republicans’ last act: making sure elected Democrats can’t fully do their jobs. A 7-year-old from Guatemala died at the Texas border after U.S. officials failed to treat her.
Asia. A pause in the U.S.-China trade war quickly went south. U.S.-China relations are also dipping for other reasons. Demonstrations for Papuan independence turned violent in Indonesia. Another day, another step closer to charging Israel’s prime minister with fraud. Sri Lanka’s political landscape is destabilizing its credit. The killing of a British backpacker in New Zealand has sparked remorse, outrage, and controversy. The Senate voted to revoke U.S. military support for the war in Yemen, a mostly symbolic blow to Trump. Relatedly, a U.N. ceasefire in Yemen moves forward.
Europe. Britain’s wrongful deportations. Absolute Brexit chaos leads to Theresa May somehow keeping her job, albeit with an expiration date. Paris faces its worst riots in years, halts fuel tax hike as a result — but the Yellow Vests rage on. In Strasbourg, a man opened fire on a Christmas market. Luxembourg will make all public transit free.
Spoken & Written
“If you’re not from Texas, the state might seem like one giant stereotype of cowboys, conservatism, and brashness. But Texan identity is more complex than that: There’s rural Texas, Silicon Prairie Texas, honky-tonk Texas, hipster Texas, Latinx Texas, oil-soaked Texas, Vietnamese Texas, and yes, gun-slinging Texas — just to name a few.” — Pryia Krishna
Go on a hike in a desert, if you can. | Eat a burrito, or like, 20 burritos.