Like many people I know, I woke up that Wednesday morning, the day after the election, shocked and unnerved. I was supposed to have awakened elated – finally, a woman president! And hooray — we were joyfully continuing that long march begun a century ago, with the Wobblies and the suffragettes, that led to the union and labor movements, that led to the New Deal, that led to civil rights, that led to gay rights and marriage equality that led to gender equality and… Hell, you get it.
Did I say a century? Ha! Make it two. Let’s not forget that whole contretemps with the folks across the pond. Let’s not forget Hamilton and that rad hip-hopper Jefferson, and the other Founding Fathers. We have been marching steadily, (with a very painful layover while we straightened out the mix up over just who is a person and just what is property, and fought a war to ensure that everyone in the country got it), towards that bright, shiny future, which was supposed to be my bright, shiny present, of peace, love, equality and justice for all.
And yet, on Wednesday morning, November 9, I woke up shocked and unnerved. And frightened. I am a woman. I am a Jew. My son is black. I fear for him most of all. On November 9, while I woke up terrified (literally terrified at the revolution that was seemed to be taking place in my world) there were a whole host of people who woke up with this insane belief that it was ok to haul out the white hoods and disgusting invective and hatred that they had been keeping under wraps for what — a decade? more? a century? And if that weren’t enough, to add insult to injury, the cold water shock of realizing that this notion — that it had all been excised somewhere in the murky past – was merely one more instance of my white privilege. This behavior had always been around; I just had all the proper armor in place to not see it.
A month later, and I continue to be mind-numbingly outraged (sorry for the oxymoron, but I can’t think of any other way to explain it), as I watch the (real) news and see, more than the misogyny and racism and anti-LGBTQA hate speech spewing forth, but the great glee and lightening speed with which that That Man is dismantling 60 years of civil rights and liberties.
And, as I prepare to send my son off to university next fall, my black, liberal, loud and wonderfully vocal son, who has been taught to speak truth to power, I worry about the landscape into which he is stepping, and wonder if it’s filled with landmines.
Actually, I don’t wonder — there will be plenty of landmines (and some of them are actually good — you know, the ones that blow up youthful preconceptions or the petrified ideologies of the know-it-all teen that need to be softened or changed, that are a part of healthy college life). There are some landmines, though, that have been planted by the sudden normalization of all the other horrible “-isms” that have plagued our society and have been gaining ground at too rapid a pace. These are mines that can hurt. These are mines, I fear, that can kill.
Right about now is the part where I’m supposed to find some grace, some kind of uplift — that light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel that will ease my readers’ (and my) mind, right? You know, the part where the dragon may have eaten the princess, but we find out, just in the nick of time, that she was cruel and not the real princess at all, while the real princess grabs the sword to fight the battle… I fear that the light at the end of the tunnel is really the light of the oncoming train.
I just typed “no one is racing to pick up the sword,” and deleted it, when I realized that fear is not quite true. Many are sprinting towards the sword in the stone — all of us who are outraged and frightened, we are picking it up. We are speaking out and shouting truth to power. (Ugh. I found the sliver of happy after all. Yay me.)
We will continue the battle. We will face insurmountable odds. We will lose a lot. Not just lose, but scary lose — on the environment, civil rights, education, etc etc etc — but we will slog on. Because that’s what we do. We slog. It will not be enough. Not right now; maybe not ever. “Enough” rarely ever is. Right now, though, it is all we have. So we will use this blade until someone – perhaps you, perhaps me, maybe my son one day — forges something more powerful, more permanent.
Until then, we will be afraid. Until then, we will suit up and show up nevertheless. And we will raise our voices to speak truth to power and lose a bunch of battles and fight through the fear and one day, we may actually win the war.