It’s funny that this all comes on the eve of my fiftieth year. I have been slowly preparing for this birthday milestone with thoughtful blog posts on aging, exercise, friendships, parenting, and finding purpose and passion in one’s professional and personal life. My last article was posted way back in October. I was on schedule to complete my next monthly contribution after the election in November…That is, until all hell broke loose.
Since then, I have become a twenty-four hours a day siphon of social media and cable news. I have submitted 947 online petitions to protect my rights and to block bigots from cabinet positions. I’ve joined Illinois Tenth Congressional District Democrats, Democrats of Northfield Township, RISE Movement, League of Women Voters, #LoveArmy, and more. I’ve attended community meetings with concerned citizens, joined Facebook groups that support progressive ideals, and subscribed to countless daily action e-newsletters.
I’ve made contributions to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name.
In less than 48 hours I will board a bus to D.C. to join hundreds of thousands of people for the Women’s March on Washington.
I tried to make a sign for the March that would sum up my mission, to encapsulate all of my anger, frustration, and fears; but, alas, I have finally given up. There is no poster board big enough or strong enough to handle what I want to say to the goon who will now make life and death decisions for my family and to 53% of white women who made this possible.
I don’t intend to turn my blog into a political soapbox; but I do need you to know where I stand as we move forward together. My husband warned me about taking on this divisive topic, warning that in the words of Howard Stern, “If you talk politics, be prepared to lose fifty percent of your audience.”
And so here is where I bid adieu to half of you.
Over the past several weeks, I have tried countless times to complete a post that contains more substance than swear words. I have fifty-something pages of false starts. My morning writing sessions always begin with the same objectives: Take an earnest assessment of my feelings, inject some humor, tell a story from my past, throw in some “clever” observations, maybe a pop culture reference or two, and tie it up neatly at the end with a message about self-acceptance or some other indulgent affirmation. Blah, blah, blah.
But these days, something takes hold of me in the middle of the process. It’s somewhere between my third cup of coffee and a trip to the laundry room to unload the dryer. Maybe it’s triggered by Wolf Blitzer’s voice coming from the television downstairs. I become unhinged. In what parallel universe have I slipped into? It is a world in which a Twitter troll who mocks a disabled person, attacks a Gold Star family, and calls women “pigs” has just been elected president.
There is blame to go around. I want to grab every one of us by the shoulders and shake us for being so smug and self-centered and so above it all. We should have known better. I assumed we knew better. I assumed that we all live by the same Code of Honor despite our differences in politics, religion, and socioeconomic status (stupid, stupid me).
There is a lot of emotion that I still have to sort out. I am distrustful and cynical. I am my most bitter self. I have built a big wall around my heart and the irony of this does not escape me. This is not the way I saw myself entering into the second half of my life.
I planned to do more woodworking, more yoga, more bike riding, and long walks in the forest preserves where I imagine myself listening to Thoreau’s Walden on audio book. I am a solitary person by nature, you see. But this strange moment in our history has forced me out of my comfort zone and, literally, into the streets.
I see my daughter across the dinner table on the night of the election. I hide my smile with pursed lips. In a few hours the prospects of her future will radically expand whether she realizes it or not. It is my daughter that I think about on this night, rather than the candidate herself, and my joy is rooted in the progress that this victory represents.
Hours later, I am lying on the floor in a fetal position. I can’t stop crying. “My soul is cracked,” I manage to say to my husband between chest-heaving sobs. “I won’t ever be the same again.”
As of today, this still holds true.
I am in a very unwelcome position of having no choice but to stand up and speak out. Meryl Streep, I am not. I am a fumbler of words. The thought of speaking with strangers and, further, defending my principles in a public forum makes my mouth go dry and my cheeks turn red. If challenged, I am sure I wouldn’t be able to think of a comeback to save my life. And yet, I will make this journey to Washington and insert myself into the political conversation for years to come, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “…to be the change (I) want to see in the world.”
And then there’s this: I send my daughter to Sunday School, not so much for religious teachings; but to reinforce valuable lessons about humility, honesty, empathy, restraint, and the importance of social equality and justice. It is hard to square these teachings with the outcome of our election that leaves us with a leader who holds none of these things in high standard.
“What Would You Do?” is a perennial part of her religious school lesson plan that coincides with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. The discussion begins in the context of anti-Semitism and is expanded to give examples of other forms of overt and veiled discrimination. The children are taught that it is their obligation–not choice; but obligation–to challenge bullies, to stamp out hatred, and to stand as one against all forms of bigotry. The timeliness of this lesson calls out to me and demands my answer.
I turn the question over in my head, What would I do?
“Act!” I say aloud. Decorum be damned.
I survey the landscape in the aftermath of November 8. It is like a day after a killer storm. I pinch myself. I’m still alive amidst upturned lawn chairs and felled power lines. I find kinship among the survivors. I am surprised to learn that my dad is a die hard Berner and my cousins are bad ass feminists. Our arms are linked together in spirit and we go forth into this new world with a mixture of apprehension and hope. Clean up will be a bitch. But I recognize this as a process…of mourning, of growth, of finding common ground…And proof of our unsinkable spirit.
****Stay tuned for a special post contributed by a Texas gal (and former classmate from Woodstock High) who always looks on the bright side of things!****
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