2017 Retrospective: I Won’t Back Down
In 2017, we lost Tom Petty but his final gift to me was renewed focus on the song that would become my anthem of the year. At every turn, 2017 seemed to punch us in the face, making life harder and displaying a cruelty than inanimate measures of time previously seemed incapable of unleashing. But in the face of all, Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” has been on repeat, helping me to get out of bed each day and continue the fight. As we enter a 2018 that promises to be no better and no easier, I’d encourage you all to put it in heavy rotation.
“You can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down.”
Donald Trump proved to be everything we feared and so much worse. A man of malevolent character, staggering corruption, and plutocratic policies, he has made every day worse than the last. And official Washington has stood by and let him do it. Republicans who once pretended to have a backbone now praise him like the autocrat he aspires to be. Our leading newspaper lets him engage in a rant filled with falsehoods without challenge or pushback. People who once pretended to be reasonable or decent serve him and his priorities. It’s all been a bigger nightmare than I even imagined and I imagined the worst. Fighting Trump exhausts me and weakens me but it’s the most necessary fight of my life. Someday my kids and grandkids will ask where I stood during this darkest of moments in our political history, and I intend to answer with pride. Shame on all of you who won’t be able to do the same. I know I’ve alienated people with this absolutist stand but I really and truly do not care. That being said, my personal Facebook page will be divorced from political content beginning in 2018. Those of you who want the politics know where to find it and, if you don’t, just ask.
“Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out.”
Barring a miracle, Trump will be in office until January 20, 2021. Our resistance to his despicable actions can bear fruit before then, however. My sole New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to defeat Rodney Frelinghuysen, who may be the congressman who has most betrayed his constituents in the entire nation. I have lived in his district for four short months, and in that time he has voted to raise my taxes, take my neighbors’ health care, and make my children less safe by weakening gun safety. He is the prototype of everything that is wrong with American politics- a man of obscene legacy wealth and blinding privilege who has never known the struggles that middle class families face every day once in his life. You can make a strong argument that other New Jersey Republican congressmen should be voted out due to their betrayal of their constituents, but there’s no stronger case than Frelinghuysen. I pledge to do something every single day aimed at ending his career.
“And I’ll keep this world from dragging me down. Gonna stand my ground.”
Everything in 2017 felt like a street fight. We faced home sellers who played hardball and tried to use pretty despicable tactics to maximize their wealth and comfort without even basic human regard for ours. We faced a contract dispute that required me to call upon my legal skills in a way that the average consumer would never able to do. We fought against destructive policy initiatives. We challenged thoughtless friends. We stood up and we fought for what we felt was right every darn day.
But fighting every day is exhausting. I am weaker and more vulnerable from the fights but I like to believe that scar tissue will eventually build up and make me stronger. I don’t regret any of the fights, and I’ll take them all on again in 2018. Bad actors thrive when good people do nothing. At the very least, those who try to hurt us or put us down now know they have a fight on their hands every single time.
“No I’ll stand my ground. Won’t be turned around.”
We have created a world that working families can barely navigate. We are driven, smart people who both work full time and raise two children and care for my elderly mother. Every day, we barely manage to survive. Professional workers are expected to be on duty 24/7 with no respites. There are no loyalties to employees- a moment of inefficiency can lead to removal. Everything is tied to maximizing the wealth of shareholders. Many families need both parents to work full time to pay the bills, and yet child care costs are so exorbitant that a significant portion of that second salary is just being transferred to those costs. And thus families slip further into debt and have even less flexibility. Speaking of debt, we’ve developed an elder care system where you are either fabulously wealthy and receive great care or your goal is to see your life savings depleted to the point of bankruptcy as quickly as possibly so that you can receive government assistance. All of this occurs in a world in which 60 percent of the world’s wealth is controlled by 1 percent of the people, and our policymakers’ solution to this outrage is to make things even worse through a $1.5 trillion transfer of wealth from the middle class to the idle filthy rich.
All of this is insane and unsustainable.
I promise that the candidate in 2020 who develops a platform to ease the burden on working families will be our next president. There are some obvious needs: more generous child care tax credits and subsidies and paid parental leave come to mind. But there are many other solutions that experts have been crafting for years, and I intend to hone my expertise on these issues in 2018.
“Well I know what’s right. I got just one life.”
I have many fewer friends today than I did at the start of the year. That’s been a heartbreaking development at points but a necessary journey ultimately. Friendships ended for any number of reasons. Some were the logical result of years of drifting or unspoken tensions resulted from incompatibility. Others were the result of hard stands that I took. I truly believe that those who have embraced Trumpism have done so because their privilege is so blinding that they don’t see how he is destroying our very way of life every day. The only power I have to remove those blinders is to offer the slight pin prick of withdrawing my friendship. It isn’t much, but it’s a choice I’m proud to make.
Finally, there’s a group of friendships that ended for reasons I don’t understand. Maybe some found my politics as conversely alienating as I found those of others. Maybe there was drifting or tension that I simply missed. But I know there were times in this loneliest and most vulnerable of years when I could have used those friendships, and I hurt very deeply to lose them.
There’s a happy ending, however. I’ve always believed that you can’t judge a friendship until you leave the situation in which it was born. In 2017, I left every situation in which any of my friendships were born. We’ve been back in DC for this final week of 2017, and I’ve been lucky enough to catch up with so many of those closest to me. I don’t miss DC as a political or cultural center, but I sure do miss the amazing, deep, powerful friendships I developed. I’m very lucky to have them and I’m very lucky that they continue even in my absence.
I’m not an easy person. I fight and I claw and I take offense and I fly off the handle. But I also care and never give up and love and cherish. Being 42 means having found the right mix of people that love a person that won’t back down.