The Power of a Story

I'm often met with skepticism when I start talking about the kind of world that I'd like to build.

And you know, going over those goals myself, I can agree it's one hell of a daunting list. As a progressive, as a feminist, I've set my sights on no less than changing the culture in which we live. Perhaps it would be better to say that I want to create entirely new cultural expectations and norms. Well, yeah, not exactly "entirely new", but there are days when it seems like even suggesting that women should not be generally treated as eye candy in the media is a radical proposal. (To take one example.)

But then there are also the days when I feel... well, confident. I won't go on overmuch about what particularly sparked my latest round of that confidence, for a number of reasons. I'll just put it this way: I'm feeling like I have the power of a good story on my side of this one.

It seems impossible to believe, even to me. Wasn't I the one that was just complaining about the way women are portrayed in the media? (Yeah, that was definitely me.) And yet, I see the same messages that I believe in, repeated from the characters and stories that I enjoy. In the mentor explaining that those who commit an action are the ones responsible for it, not the people that they commit that action upon. (Numair, from Tamora Pierce's Wild Magic. If anyone was curious.) In the song that defiantly howls, "even if it's an impossible future, we'll set it in motion." (Nana Mizuki's Young Alive!, originally in Japanese.)

Surely some of this is confirmation bias. I ignore (or at least, fail to remember clearly) the stories that don't align with my world view. And there are certainly no small number of those - my earlier critique remains a problem area, even today, even with some of the stories that I like!

And yet, there's one last point to be made: we're the ones that acknowledge the power of these stories in the first place. How many times have I been rebuked with "Lighten up, it's just a story" or some variant thereof...? Dismissing the power of a story to affect the way we think, the way we act, is all but willful blindness to the way people react to the world around them. Acknowledging that power is the only way I'm ever going to succeed in changing the culture in which we live.


Democratic National Convention 2012

One of the things that President Obama does very well, and has always done very well, is to remind me (and everyone else) that the Republican Party does not have a monopoly on soaring rhetoric and claims to moral purpose. Perhaps it was the song they started playing after the speech that sums it up best? "Wherever this flag's flown, we take care of our own."

We take care of our own. Listening to the President speak, listening to all of the different speeches at the DNC these last few days, I am reminded of why I support this party in the first place. I am a liberal, a progressive, a Democrat, because I believe that government can be part of the solutions to our problems. Because I believe that some of the problems we face are best addressed at the federal level, that government is the best solution for issues of health care and can do a great deal of good for the economic situation.

And on these issues and more, President Obama's speech reminded me of why I'm not only going to vote for him in December but also why I'm now putting in my time and effort to volunteer, to ensure that he is re-elected. I can't say whether or not I would have written this last night, immediately after the speech... but it became a moot point, since I was tasked with running the computers and projectors displaying the speech at a watch party in Alexandria. Kept me more than busy enough to ensure I didn't get home until very late. (Doesn't help that I live an hour away from Alexandria...)

I could recap the main points - highlight the idea that a plan that forces seniors to continue to deal with insurance companies is a travesty, point out the need to improve and modernize our infrastructure and education, emphasize the importance of continuing to support veterans. I could even go over the things I didn't like about the speech; listening to it, I was struck (again) by the idea that I'm honestly to the left of the President on a surprising number of things. But in all honesty, that's what watching the speech is for. I can't possibly do better than his own words. (Although if people want to have that discussion, have at it in the comments.)

So all I truly have to offer is the feelings that the President evoked. The idea that "we take care of our own", as the song puts it. Or, to quote a song even closer to my heart (well, quote my translation of it, anyway), "those who chase their dreams will shine."

More than anything else, I am going to be voting for President Obama in November because I believe that his is that path. That he is the President under which we will take care of our own. That he is the President under which we will be able to chase our dreams... and not just chase them, but reasonably expect to reach them, with the support from the people and from the government that is part and parcel of living in a place like the United States of America.