Throughout years, I’ve been accustomed to being an outsider. Deeply influenced by Martha Nussbaum, I try to practice rational detachment. I still feel great sympathy for any weak person or creature, get happy when nicely finishing a task, and undergo depression when getting overwhelmed, yet I objectively analyze my emotions as if I am outside them. I still believe in social justice and equality, yet I try not to develop clear personal opinions about many controversial social issues, since everything has both pros and cons.
My summer in Seattle is barely thought-provoking. As a Foucauldian, I’m so familiar with ideas regarding to power relation such as LGBTQ justice, economic justice, immigration justice and criminal reform justice that I don’t think I acquire a lot of knowledge from the Washington Bus. Yet the internship experience offers me an interesting opportunity to observe people from the perspective of an outsider of both American politics and Washington State.
I observe staffs, interns and fellows of the Bus. All of them are young and enthusiastic. They idealistically believe that if they engage young folks in politics and increase their voter turnout, the voice of the Millennials will be heard and Seattle can be a better city. Some of them are born and raised in privilege, reflecting upon how lucky they are and working to empower the underprivileged. Some of them had traumatic experiences related to discrimination, physical and mental health, and poverty, yet still thriving and never giving up. No matter I agree with their ideologies or not, I appreciate their attitudes towards life.
I observe pedestrians and passers-by when canvassing to register people to vote. Some of them are nonchalant towards politics since they don’t think their voting matters. Some of them view voting as a routine of life without thinking about the meaning of it. Some of them perceive voting as an honorable right and faithfully fulfill it. Some of them are friendly. Some of them are indifferent. Some of them are cynical.
I observe Seattle as a strange city. I see rich people living in luxurious houses with French windows facing the ocean and a spacious balcony to view the sunset. I see poor people roaming and sleeping on the dirty streets. I see the juxtaposition of fine dinner restaurants and homeless people in Pioneer Square, the most historical area of Seattle.
I listened to the conference of City Council Members voting for Trump Proof Tax, a local tax of 2.25% on income in excess of $200,000 per year. I knew that this tax is against Washington State Constitution, since according to the Constitution, income tax should never be collected in the state. I heard a lot people, both rich and poor, testify for this legislation and claim that the regressive tax system of Seattle is unreasonable. I heard Council Member Kshama Sawant compare Trump Proof Tax to Roe v. Wade, since both of these legislations are results of great social campaigns.
I fully recognize that due to the environment I grow up in and the experience I’ve had, my ideology sounds all too much like that of the middle-class academic that I certainly am. Acknowledging my limitations, I’m grateful for the opportunity DukeEngage-Seattle offers me to get exposed to different ideas, philosophies and worldviews. I try not to make judgements based on these discrepancies, since these discrepancies don’t indicate we are right or wrong. Just as Axiom No.1 of Epistemology of the Closet by Eve Sedgwick, all people are different. We need to understand and appreciate this diversity.
I would like to end my blog by citing the beginning paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us. We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” In the age of disintegration, as an outsider, I have made and will always make the effort to understand and reconcile different beliefs.