“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” — William James
When I was young, any time I had the fortune to go to the beach, I stood in the ocean, letting the salty water lap gently at my ankles. I closed my eyes, picturing countries and people thousands of miles away from me on the other side of the body of water connecting us. I imagined a young girl standing ankle-deep in the ocean off the shore of South Africa, or the Philippines. Always, she was thinking about me too, and the way we were connected against all odds and distances. We would never meet, and yet, we knew everything about each other, as though each wave against our ankles whispered our deepest secrets.
My senior capstone project, “The Political Is Personal” was never meant to be a continuation of my childhood fascination with interconnection, but in many ways that’s exactly what it has become. Within these pages, you’ll find 37 pieces of writing—election essays, personal essays, journalism articles, short fiction stories, academic essays, interviews—that explore the power structures that comprise our reality and connect all of us in relationships, unbalanced as they often are, that revolve around exchanges of power.
This is a project centered on the study of power, but it’s rooted in a deep admiration and love for the art of storytelling, and the power that stories have in our lives. What is power but itself a story of how the world works? The interconnection I felt standing in the ocean was one of the first stories I remember telling myself, a story that made me feel connected to something larger and filled my tiny soul with wonder. This story, like all stories, helped form my understanding of the world, shaping my values and beliefs and ultimately, guiding the course of my life and the choices I made. Every piece in this collection ponders the importance of stories in shaping the world we live in, and how only in telling different stories can we achieve the transformative changes that will mark our movement toward a more just and equitable world.
Encapsulated in this project, you will find pieces of writing that discuss the power of truth, public and self-image, language, emotion, bias, persuasion, oppression, denial, disconnection, dislocation, capitalism, legislative governance, systemic prejudice, criminal justice, addiction, shame, privilege, fear, family, societal expectations, taboos, history, broken promises, religion, acceptance, guilt, loss, love, war, resistance, colonialism, patriotism, the values we hold, and the stories we tell. There is power everywhere, in everyone. When we know what to look for, when we pay attention, we can see it. We can subvert it, channel it, redirect it.
It’s important to study power for a number of reasons, but the most critical is how it can show us that, deep down, we all want the same things. We all want to be loved, to be recognized. We want dignity and respect. We want the same opportunities that have been afforded to others. We want someone to notice our struggle, to care about it. We’re not nearly as different as we like to think, separate on the surface but connected in the deep. We’re only divided because we build the walls ourselves, not because they were destined to be there.
When we recognize power, we can question it, we can challenge it, and we can understand what is broken so that we can fix it. We can start with ourselves, tearing down the walls we’ve built that keep out those who look different than us. We can make the choice to stand in the ocean and feel the warmth of that connection we’re sharing with untold numbers of people. We can make the choice to empower. We can make the choice to see the common humanity we all share. We can make the choice to honor and protect it.
In the same way I felt a heightened sense of humility and humanity when I stood in the ocean waves, imagining all the people to whom I was connected across the world, studying power has humbled me. It has made me a better human being, more aware of the world and the diverse experiences of the people who live in it, and quicker to empathize with the struggles they have.
My younger self—so fascinated with people she would never meet, people she cared deeply about regardless—knew something about the connections we all share. They were secrets the waves whispered to her as she held her face up to breathe in the warmth of the sun; secrets I lost track of over the years, but have, through studying the interconnection of all power structures, found my way back to. Hopefully, the writing on this website unlocks doors within you that you too forgot had ever been open, along with a few new ones.
Here’s to creating a more compassionate, equitable world that reflects the best parts of our shared humanity. Finding our power, channeling it, sharing it with one another: it’s the only way we can truly move forward.
This website contain over 160,000 words about the intersection of power and people. Feel free to explore and read only that which most interests you.
After reading this short introduction into the project, I recommend visiting the Examining Power Structures page to learn more about how power operates within our lives and how we can use that knowledge to build a more just, equitable world. The essay also introduces my framework for thinking about power structures, which all the writing in this project connects back to.
From there, dive into the Collected Works page, which features all 37 of the pieces I wrote for this project divided into genre-specific categories. Each piece has an introduction that helps draw connections to my larger ideas about power outlined on the “Examining Power Structures” page.
After reading a selection of pieces from the “Collected Works” page, if you’re curious about how the project developed from idea to book-length work, visit the Path To “The Political Is Personal.”
The Unpublished Journals section offers a small sampling of entries I made by hand over the course of the project. Most included selections are ideas or concepts that didn’t make their way into the project in any of the written works, but still contributed to my thinking about power in interesting ways.
To view a list of books read throughout the project, further reading and viewing recommendations, and source information for all collected works, visit the Works Cited page.
Finally, the About The Author page offers a tidbit about who I am and provides contact information for those who want to get in touch and talk about power. You’ll also find acknowledgements to the people who helped inspire and develop this project.