Netroots Nation is a rich experience. I have so many thoughts and ideas. It's a bit overwhelming to think about writing them all right now. So, I'll begin with the overall emotional experience and write more later.
Truth be told, I was quite wary about going, this year. As an active participant in the Occupy movement (which I wish would be called "Decolonize"), I wasn't sure how welcome I would be. There has been a lot of movement bashing. There is the vilifying of an entire, nascent movement of hundreds of thousands of strangers for the actions of a few. The conflation of "out-of-control" groups of mostly young people who don the gear and claim to be "black bloc" with those who are actually utilizing black bloc tactics in service to others. There is sharp criticism that Occupy "hasn't done anything" or "doesn't have the answers" or "hasn't changed the world, yet."
And, then there is the anger that Occupy doesn't support a political party or particular candidates.
My thoughts on all of that are for another diary, except to say that I was wary. I'm not a part of the mainstream, even here on DKos. I'm disaffected by the entire system of governing we have and I want to see something very different emerge. So, going to an event which was, ostensibly, about getting Democrats elected felt awkward and counterintuitive.
Also, while there are a lot of friendly exchanges here, there is also a fair amount of meanness on the Great Orange Satan. People who don't just disagree with your thoughts, they attack you personally. You aren't just wrong, you're an idiot. I simply didn't want to run into any of that.
But, I should have known...
Above All Else, Community
This is a community I love. I should have known. I should have known that I would get there and experience all kinds of warm welcomes, happy meetings of new faces to put with those DKos handles, & fabulous hugs of reunion with people I'd met last year.
Forgive me my doubt. I think it comes with the territory of being on the fringe. I'm poor. I live with an "invisible" chronic illness. I have a lot of introverted tendencies, though i can put on an extroverted face now & again. And I don't do well with stimulation - sound, motion, lights, tactile experience. I can pretend its okay for a while, but it takes a toll. I always wonder if I will fit in.
There is simply no way I will remember, right now, everyone I met and spent any time with. I'm still recovering from the toll the trip took on my body. But, I must note the companionship and solidarity of Tool and Ian. Tool was kind enough to share his room with me. Ian was e-introduced to me ahead of time by my virtual sister JustJennifer. Both of them were so warm and looked after me. I need to thank them for getting me back to my room on Thursday evening when I "crashed". I ended up skipping dinner and sleeping for 13 hours to recover from the stimulation of just the first day! But, I likely would have been wandering aimlessly if it weren't for having companions who were paying attention. And again on Saturday.
Usually, I would say, "The universe provides." In this case, however, "DailyKos provides." There is simply something magical about this place.
I also want to note a very wonderful time of personal sharing with FlamingoGrrl. What a lovely, warm, open person. Such strength and presence of self to be emotionally vulnerable and simultaneously aware and supportive of others. It was with her that the concept of Una's Undies was born. That's right, "Una's Undies". Look forward to some diaries. Should be fun.
I need to give a special thanks to Meteor Blades and Navajo for giving me some of their precious time and thoughtful attention. I'd been through a challenging experience in my Decolonize work related to some tension internal to the American Indian community. It was helpful and reassuring to hear their perspectives and get some advice on how to navigate those waters. I'm well aware that they are both very much in demand and that their schedules were very full. I am honored that they would do this for me. For that I give huge thanks.
It is also important for me to note that on top of my sister transferring her registration to me when she realized she could not come & Tool offering to share his room with me, Don helped to make sure that I would have food while there. He noted that he was not able to go this year, so he wanted to support me going. Again, this is the nature of this magical community. I had put it out there that I might be able to go, even though finances were tight, and next thing I know, he is sending me food money. I am humbled and awed by the solidarity and generosity. Thank you, Don! I thought of you every time I ate.
Another aspect of my trip which had me worried was finding a purpose. I'm a mission-oriented person. (A blessing and a curse. Yet another diary....) Last year, I was so driven to go because I knew that international bloggers would be there. I consider myself a global citizen - I have lived outside this country a couple of times & I have traveled quite a bit. Additionally, I had been intensely involved in producing the Witnessing Revolution series. For me, connecting anything we do politically with a global awakening of solidarity for human rights and eco-sustainability is fundamentally important. If I had done nothing but go to the two panels with the bloggers from outside the U.S. I would have felt extremely satisfied. Of course, it was much more than that.
This year, there were no international panels or focus on things going on outside the US. I've been heavily involved in Occupy & the main message I was seeing about Occupy via Netroots panel descriptions was that Occupy was over. (Dare I even bother writing a diary about that?) So, what would my mission be? Could I make it a meaningful experience?
Having gotten involved in the Decolonize/Anti-Oppression aspect of the Occupy movement, I made a mandate for myself: as often as possible, be a minority in a room.
That is, I wanted to place myself in situations where the topic at hand was not "my" issue, or there was a focus on a demographic of which I was not a member. I wanted to a do a lot of listening. I also wanted to be another body present showing support for the issues of people who are often marginalized by the tyranny of majority.
I wasn't sure what to expect from that. It's a fairly passive role. It turned out to be rewarding. I'll write a diary specifically about that, as I highly encourage others to try this. For now, I'll just say that it moved me to rethink a thing or two about some of my current political positioning. Not my overall view of things, but some tactics.
Here are some of the panels I went to per my mandate: The American Indian Caucus, Promoting People of Color in the Progressive Blogosphere, Blogging For Transgender Equality, Military Sexual Trauma. (I stepped into "Organizing in Communities of Color" but walked out when I realized it was a white woman giving a lecture to a room of white people.)
One big treat was having lunch with a group of people who had attended the American Indian Caucus. I won't remember everyone, but there was Belinda and Dopper and Navajo and Julie Gulden, nomandates & the local Narangsett woman, Ms. Dove (?), who spoke at the caucus. It was delightful.
I should note that I livetweeted these panels. It was one small way in which I could spread their messages.
Though I would have felt content at my mandate, I was motivated, once there, to seek out some solidarity around my fringier perspective on Netroots. Ian and I determined to see if we could have an impromptu circle discussion amongst those of us feeling a bit outside of the Netroots mainstream. We approached Daniel, a friend of his, and set a time and tentative agenda. For lack of a more creative idea, we simply called it OccupyNN and tweeted out that anyone interested in discussing 'radical' ideas regarding NN could join us on the 5th floor - literally on the floor. We weren't sure if anyone would come. In fact, we didn't even see each other at first. (The 5th floor is big!) But, there was actually a nice little group that formed. We discussed issues we wished had been addressed at Netroots, along with ideas for more effective ways of engaging people with one another on the topics at hand. (You guessed it: another diary!)
My Little Rant
I have to get this off my chest. It doesn't really fit into the flow here, but I don't want to end on this note, so I'm sticking it in here.
I RESENT HAVING TO PAY $3 PER CUP OF TEA WHILE COFFEE DRINKERS GET A SEEMINGLY ENDLESS FREE FLOW!
I simply don't understand why it is so hard to have enough hot water there for tea drinkers. Throughout the entire conference, whenever there were tables out which had coffee, there was one urn of hot water. I managed to get one cup of tea. EVERY other time I had to go purchase tea, while I watched coffee urns being refilled over and over. I asked the staff several times why they weren't refilling the hot water and they told me that the conference organizers had not ordered any more. IT'S WATER! They hadn't run out of tea bags. Just the water. W.T.F.?! I don't drink coffee. Have never had a cup of coffee in my life. I can't stand the taste of coffee in anything. Often, the very smell of it makes me nauseous. If I have to put up with the fowl aroma of coffee all around me, the least you can friggin' do is provide me with tea. Is it that hard? I am one very grumpy Una when I have to leave the area and go buy outrageously expensive tea while all the coffee-drinkers are plied for free. That's two years in a row. FIX THIS!
Ok. There. I got that out of the way. Thank you for putting up with me.
Just Plain Fun
No overview of a Netroots experience can be complete without recalling that it is just. plain. fun!
Have you been to the Chairman's Pub Quiz? This was my second and it didn't disappoint. Raucous, friendly, chaotic, fun! But, hey, vuvuzuelas? Inside? Disabilities here. I was fighting off so much pain from that sound, I could hardly think. Still, what a riot! If you're at Netroots, you must experience this. Adam is a champ putting up with the release of a lot of pent up energy. (Hint: protests are de rigeur) And he puts together a great set of questions. Lots of fun sitting around the table praying that someone there has an answer. Or debating which random answer you're going to put in because none of you have a friggin' clue. Even if you only spectate, it's worth it. And this year, my team - The Trees Are The Right Height - was in the top ten! Woot! (lol)
I mean, damn, I got to dance two nights in a row. Yes, I paid a price. But it was SO worth it. After being so wiped out Thursday, I got a little wiser and had a good long rest after the trivia. I skipped the WaterFire (I live locally) and napped so I could go out. At the Block Party, I left the very noisy tent and went in to find Netroots folk having dinner. I sat across from Lefty Coaster and enjoyed a good meal and conversation before heading out to live jazz at The Dorrance - hosted by Soapblox. It was a great dancing groove for me. (I - not so secretly, any more - have fantasies of being a singer in a funk/jazz/blues band.) Thanks, Lefty!
At The Dorrance, I had a caipirinha, in a "saudade" moment for Brazil. (I don't drink much and its rare to find a place which even knows this drink, so that was a rare treat!) Frankly, I don't even remember how I got 'home' that night. I think I passed out when I got there. I vaguely remember waking up to note a small party in the room and then falling right back asleep. I woke up Saturday morning safe and sound. Such is the nature of having community around you. You can let loose a little and trust that you'll be okay.
Saturday night, I rested in the room again, having pizza in with Tool, before heading to the DailyKos Anniversary party. I am again indebted, as Lefty Coaster was so kind to provide me with earplugs. The live brass band playing when we arrived would have driven me out immediately without them. Instead, I could tolerate for a while and I dance my socks off. It wasn't great music, can I just say - was that black DJ just getting his revenge on a bunch of mostly middle-aged white folks? I mean, there was some decent music in the 80s. Who chooses those songs?! Anyway... everyone was too happy to be there to care and the dancing was lively. And, yet again, I was escorted home safe and sound, allowing me to wake up Sunday with happy memories untainted by escapades of a broken brain. Not much to be done about the massive pains in my body, except to rest, rest, rest. It will likely take me a week to recover. But...
It. Was. Worth. It.
It's a rich and rewarding experience. That includes any frustrations or anxieties that may come along for the ride.
Thank you all for being such wonderful people to be around and to share ideas of how to make the world a better place. I have my fingers crossed that I will magicly be able to make it to
San Diego San Jose next year. (Thank you Cali Scribe, for the correction.)
Note to self on future NN-related diaries:
- The Left/Occupy relationship
- Una's Undies
- The Rewards of my Mandate
- Session format ideas for greater engagement
- What Do We Mean by 'Organizing'?
- Strictly for "The Professional Left?" or More Proactively Generating Diversity
- Aren't A Lot of Bloggers Introverts?