“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crises.” -from Dan Brown’s Inferno, derived from Dante Alighieri
Well, shit. I had promised myself I would write the post I have been composing in my head for months after I finished the last novel I downloaded from the library. Instead, I downloaded two more and started right in…who knew Inferno would begin with an open-handed smack to the face? Message received.
For the most part, I have remained silent on “the big stuff” that has been going on since the election via social media, except for posting the occasional on-point meme, retweet, or call to action. It has been too much. I have been completely overwhelmed by all of the things I have wanted to say and do that I have essentially paralyzed myself. I know I am not alone in this, but it does not lessen the frustration or the sense of helplessness.
Recently, a friend who I had not seen in a while asked me how I was over a drink, I replied, “Do you mean besides the fact that it feels like we are all in a ridiculous nightmare from which you never wake up and this country is a shit show? I’m great.” Dramatic? Maybe, but I have trouble sleeping at night because I am thinking about how nothing I did that day furthered a cause and God, there are so many rights, people, and organizations being targeted and attacked. How do we fight them all? Good show, you White House buffoons (and hot damn, isn’t it the whitest of houses?), good show. Attack it all. Divide and conquer.
I have remained silent because our world is already so flooded with voices–and in a way, it is wonderful, this outpouring of emotion, but at this point, I don’t want to debate or try to relate to those who feel differently than I do, or even commiserate with the many who feel similarly. So I have kept that voice inside and only let it out during runs, in conversations with my husband, and in counseling sessions. But the subconscious is powerful, and for the first time in my life, I am having dreams directly related to today’s political environment.
And here is my privilege showing. I am white, middle class, and was born in Ohio to parents whose great-great-great grandparents were born in America, which I guess makes me not an immigrant by this administration’s “standards.” I do not wake up and wonder if my family will be safe. But I worry for those who do. We are a nation of immigrants. Deny that and deny our history. Our foundation. Our growth. Our future.
My therapist said the world needs my voice, and I guess I needed someone else’s permission to write through the anger, guilt, and privilege. So I am posting this because to remain silent is to retain some appearance of neutrality and I am anything but neutral on what is happening here…and also because I need to hold myself accountable. Even if what I say is nothing new, I’d like to think of it as one more voice joining in the collective and powerful “Om” of this is not okay.
As a human, I am deeply concerned that there are people who STILL have not accepted that there are basic rights that belong to every single person. As a woman, I am furious that someone, anyone else thinks they have the authority to dictate what I do with my body. I am disgusted that this president’s vocabulary, in addition to being embarrassingly limited, includes words like pussy and bimbo. As an American, I am ashamed by association. I didn’t vote for this man, but a shocking number of citizens did. An even more alarming number did not vote at all.
Maybe America has never been quite the protective big brother I like to imagine, walking his little sister to the bus stop and peacefully intervening on behalf of his weaker classmates. But now it seems that big brother is just another fat bully with one unbelievably malignant narcissist of a stepfather, who is wreaking havoc one asinine tweet and executive order at a time, whose rhetoric has resonated with what I can only call the Dark Side of America, awakening in the ignorant some backwards sense of entitlement to being “American.” Yesterday, a friend of mine shared that he feels like an outsider in his own country after three white men tossed multiple ethnic slurs in his direction when he returned from a run. This makes my physically ill. These are the things that make me feel the most helpless, the most discouraged.
I am by no means a model citizen. This election was a wake-up call for me. I have been relatively moderate and passive in my political life. No more. I am working on accepting that I cannot be actively involved in every single issue that has already arisen and that will continue to pop up over the next four years. There are too many. I am going to go Panera on this and Pick Two. I will pick two fights that will be mine. I hope you’ll pick two that are yours.
Struggling with where to begin?
The Indivisble Guide, written by former Congressional staffers, lists the below five great steps on their website, which I encourage you to visit and share:
- Find your three MoCs (Members of Congress), their official websites, and their office contact info at www.callmycongress.com.
- If you’re in my situation and have representatives who are fighting the good fight, let them know! Thank them for their commitment to you and the issues important to you.
- Sign up on your MoCs’ websites to receive regular email updates, invites to local events, and propaganda to understand what they’re saying. Every MoC has an e-newsletter.
- Find out where your MoCs stand on the issues of the day — appointment of white supremacists, tax cuts for the rich, etc. Review their voting history at VoteSmart.org. Research their biggest campaign contributors at OpenSecrets.org.
- My Note: VoteSmart.org is an awesome place not only to follow your MoCs’ voting history, but also to get overviews on issues, including key votes, public statements, interest group ratings, and ballot measures.
- Set up a Google News Alert (http://www.google.com/alerts) — for example for “Rep. Bob Smith” — to receive an email whenever your MoCs are in the news.
- Research on Google News (https://news.google.com/news) what local reporters have written about your MoCs. Find and follow those reporters on Twitter, and build relationships. Before you attend or plan an event, reach out and explain why your group is protesting, and provide them with background materials and a quote. Journalists on deadline — even those who might not agree with you — appreciate when you provide easy material for a story.
Put your $$$ where your mouth/heart is: Donate to organizations that are protecting or fighting for what is important to you.
Finally, seek to find balance. In order to stay sane and be a productive advocate/activist/human being, I have realized it is necessary to take some time away from the news, and organizing, and problem solving. It is okay to look at your favorite puppy’s Instagram account or binge watch The People v. O.J. Simpson (talk about another unbelievable “victory”). Take deep breaths. Sign up for the Headspace 10-day free trial. Practice random acts of kindness. PERSIST.
“We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.”- Maya Angelou