Embracing Complexity Politics

What Matters in a Political Leader, 2021

I’m cross-posting here so that you can find all of my writing in one place. Please visit the South Seattle Emerald to read the full essay.

As an immigrant from an increasingly oppressive state, make no mistake — I love getting to have elections.

But I sure hate election season.

I used to feel ignorant when pundits confidently dissected policy points. Over time, I grew frustrated as experience showed me that the pundits are often oversimplifying. This year, a new emotion is joining the mix: longing.

What if choosing leaders felt more like the sacred collective experience it could be? Less like patriotic duty and more like a patriotic harvest?

Continue reading at The Emerald

Reflections on Societal Healing

What does societal healing mean? What will it take?

I’m steeping in the wake of an impossibly rich conversation with Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Kazu Haga, Tada Hozumi, and Staci Haines—some of my most inspiring and courageous teachers in the intersection of individual and societal healing. Thanks to the folks at Building Belonging for handing me an opportunity that I hadn’t even imagined for myself.

I’m now trying to write about it two days later, which is only 2x the time it took me to come down from being completely starstruck and without exaggeration 100x faster than I typically process anything as rich and complex as this conversation was.

I’m hosting a follow-up community discussion next Tuesday (August 18, 9:30-11:30am Pacific Time) for those who have watched the video and want to be in community with others who feel likewise sparked by the energy this conversation generated. So far we have over 90 RSVPs—and I want to write these early reflections in support of us marinating in conversation together.

So, here goes. What follows is less of a summary, and more of a draft of the tapestry weaving in my mind as I reflect on the interconnected threads of conversation.

Continue reading “Reflections on Societal Healing”

Healing Means Justice Means Healing

What will it take to stand in this opportunity for systemic change?

Disclosure & disclaimer: Some projects mentioned here are partly funded through Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative, where I work. Views expressed here are my own, not my employer’s.

The data trail of racial wealth and health disparities in the path of COVID-19 is a story of deep injustice. But not the complete story.

Just as high blood pressure lets us know something needs to change, but can’t show us how to be well, we need to look through our data with deep intuition in order to re-imagine the future we want.

Let me paint a story of a healed future. This story asks those with resources and institutional power to drop what we think we know. It asks those waiting for change to stop waiting. The change we yearn for won’t begin from above. This future is already being born, and it invites you to choose which story you’ll be a part of.

Continue reading “Healing Means Justice Means Healing”

A new job: Real Estate Strategist

Cover letter

Why did I take a job at the City?

In June, I began working at the City of Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development, as the Real Estate Strategist. There is so much to say, and I hope to have an essay for your thoughts soon.

For now, here’s the cover letter that accompanied my application for this job. It reflects how much the Between Americans experience has influenced me, and how much I hope it will continue to. I hadn’t planned to make this public, but I’m posting it here to stay accountable to these intentions. Continue reading “A new job: Real Estate Strategist”

Our Political Polarization: Heartbreak and Healing


Why does politics feel crazy these days, and what can we do about it?

Last year, I facilitated a year-long conversation called Between Americans. The 24 participants—half red and half blue—had signed up hoping to achieve connection and understanding across the political schism. By the end of the year, most hadn’t achieved what they’d hoped for.

Certainly, I’d facilitate the conversation differently now. Other similar projects, both online and in person, seem to be achieving dialogue more successfully than we had. But the experiment succeeded in one regard: it revealed truths about our national disconnection that couldn’t be blamed on other people.

(For a more personal version of this essay, check out “Beneath partisan politics“, edited by Anne Focke. She wrangled a version of this essay that I’d all but given up on.)

Continue reading “Our Political Polarization: Heartbreak and Healing”


This is one of two essays that I wrote in Charles Mudede’s Writing the City class at the Hugo House in 2018. I was more afraid of making my truths public back then, and didn’t know what to do with it once I’d written it. I’m finally publishing it here, without edits, in late 2021, back-dated to when I first wrote it. This assignment was to write about loss or change in Seattle.

“Our client wants the new building to feel authentic,” one of the developer’s consultants is saying.

“It should really feel like part of the community,” the other consultant affirms.

I glance over at my partner Brian to see if he has any insights to offer. The four of us are nestled inside a Pinterest-ready conference room: rough-sawn wood paneling, rusted steel, red mid-century accents just so.

Several neighborhoods away, interior décor has aged less punctiliously in a cluster of small restaurants run by a refugee generation. Sharing their street is an old warehouse complex; at eye level, one warehouse bears a large white sign, generously sprayed with graffiti. The mind fills in the letters covered by spray paint: “NOTICE OF PROPOSED LAND USE ACTION”.

Continue reading “Authenticity”

Paradise for Productivity

Image of an Amazon Sphere building at night

This is one of two essays that I wrote in Charles Mudede’s Writing the City class at the Hugo House in 2018. I didn’t quite know what to do with it then. I’d submitted it to a few places and they didn’t want it. So, fuck it, I’m publishing it here, without edits, in late 2021, back-dated to when I’d first written it. This assignment was to write about the Spheres—what they will tell us, when they are the only remnants of Seattle in some apocalyptic future, about this city that we live in.

Here’s a term I first learned in landscape architecture school: “effortless fascination”. The rustling of leaves, the babbling of brooks, the fluttering of snowflakes—these things captivate us, lift our minds out of the stresses that otherwise hold our attention. Nature restores us through hypnosis.

I’m thinking about effortless fascination as I take in the still-life composition inside one of the Amazon Spheres. A dazzling canopy of stage lights bathes an inert forest, thick with rustle-free leaves, glued inside a flutter-free snow globe.

Continue reading “Paradise for Productivity”

How Should I Vote?

Graph of Important Leadership Qualities over Time

How should we select political leaders in complex and changing times?

As election season ramps up again, I find myself wondering more than ever before: how should I research the candidates?

This year, while facilitating a conversation among people who voted for Clinton and Trump, I’ve noticed that, even among people who’ve committed time to discussing different political worldviews, life gets in the way. Most can’t find the time to research every issue, or to talk it through—and many feel guilty or inadequate as a result. But given the unavoidable demands of our jobs and families, I wonder if this guilt is, in fact, a clue.

What if the way we’ve come to frame our responsibility as citizens—to be knowledgeable, detail-oriented voters—is in fact unrealistic and unsustainable? Continue reading “How Should I Vote?”

Helping out Salmon in Fremont, Seattle, WA

Why would developers voluntarily clean up icky runoff from the Aurora Bridge?

In Fremont, a block uphill from Seattle’s ship canal, construction is wrapping up on a glassy office building. An unassuming, newly landscaped terrace flanks the building. The Aurora Bridge soars above the terrace, carrying cars over the canal.

Along the canal, boats dot the water’s surface on this sunny July day. Below the surface, salmon have begun their migration upstream. The salmon run will continue into the winter, and their babies will make the return trip to the ocean come spring.

Continue reading “Helping out Salmon in Fremont, Seattle, WA”