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Sunday, November 13, 2016

One foot in front of the other

I’d hoped that by my Third Third, I would have achieved some Wisdom. I thought Wisdom would be kind of mellow, that I’d feel content and solid and calm.

I spent election day happily welcoming A-->L and M-->Z voters  (A-->Ls beat M-->Zs 656 to 491, as expected). Then I heard the results. So now I’m processing this all, and it’s taking me a long time. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I am angry angry angry. Sometimes I’m vindictive; sometimes I’m passive. None of it feels like Wisdom. It’s an Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross process. Bear with me.

Day One, Wednesday
Overpowering grief settled on me, overwhelming futility, despair, and sadness. A lifetime of fighting mental other-ness and I succumbed, for the first time, to not getting out of bed. I stayed there. Even my mother’s death didn’t put me there; the election put me there.
It wasn’t because my candidate lost. My candidates mostly always lose. I live in a “red” state; most people vote differently from how I do. I can handle that.

In fact, it’s precisely because I’m “very blue” that I have been saying all along that people left out of prosperity aren’t stupid. The stupid ones are the 1% that thought they could keep this up forever, that they could keep people scraping by while they lived at the top of the food chain.

But it’s turned out that prosperity may not have really been the issue at all. One Trump supporter told me America needed to return to the time “when men were men,” when women didn’t act like men, when there weren’t so many homosexuals around. One said, “We’ll never go back to Black again.” And the anti-Semitism has been so overt I can pick it up without a “dog whistle.”

I believe in making America great again. If we’re in our Third Third, we share the same decades, but they weren’t the same for all of us. Some of us couldn’t buy homes in certain areas or swim in their pools. We girls couldn’t take shop class and play the sports we might want to. Some of us were discouraged from applying to certain colleges because they didn’t take “our kind.” Some of us couldn’t vote.

That’s not the great America I want to return to. In fact, returning to that America would mean my America was dead. I knew my mother would die; I didn’t know my America would.

Day Two, Thursday
I feel like every single person who voted for Donald Trump is telling me I have no place in America. They’re telling me my daughter has no place here. They’re telling me my gay family and friends, my Muslim students, my Black friends, my Spanish-speaking friends have no place here. In fact, I probably have the wrong friends. Oh, maybe they’ll make an exception for me because they know me, but the world they want to return to has no place for me.

Maybe the Trump voters felt like all the changes in society meant they have no place here. Where could they go to get away from gays, from bossy women, from “Happy Holidays”? From black lives mattering, from people speaking Spanish? From people wanting to limit guns sold to mentally ill people?

But we’re just one country geographically. How are we going to share?
Day Three, Friday
But how can we share a country with people who want us not to exist? Are gay people supposed to vaporize? Non-Christians, too? People who speak other languages?

Let me try an example, a very personal one. Maybe you think America was great because there was prayer in school. But I have a different memory: I spent every morning of my elementary school years being forced to pray to Jesus – not my religion – in public school. On Fridays, when class was released at lunch time for catechism, only the Brown kids remained. Let me tell you how much our teachers liked that. Let me tell you what it was like when I was told to stand up at Christmas concerts because I was different: “Santa will never come to Barbara’s house.”

And I was in privileged America. My parents could buy a house in a white neighborhood, watch it appreciate in value, and create a nest egg for the future. Black families were denied that option.

Ask me if that’s the great America I want to return to.

I’ll tell you what I miss about America, the one I wouldn’t mind returning to. I miss common courtesy. I miss kindness. Now violence, bigotry, and meanness have been unleashed. People are saying things OUT LOUD that are appalling and threatening. Swastikas are being painted on store windows, the KKK is planning a victory parade, our new president bragged about sexual assault. He incited this and condoned this, and people voted for this.

It was here that I’d written that if someone didn’t vote, they couldn’t complain. And now I’ll say that if they voted for Trump, they have to own it. They can’t say, “I didn’t know it would be like this” or “I was just being a good Republican.” The whole campaign functioned on a racist, anti-Semitic basis at its core, and if they didn’t speak against it, they have to own it.

I’ve often wondered how the people who screamed at Black children integrating schools in the South, who were photographed with their hateful signs, felt years later when those photographs re-surfaced. Did they say, “It was different back then” or “I see I was wrong”? Did they own the damage they caused, the fear and terror they put into a young child’s life? And what about the silent people who let them do it?

It was hard to find a Nazi after World War II, and eventually, it may be hard to find a Trump supporter. People living near Auschwitz could claim they didn’t know what was going on, but I will MAKE SURE people know the damage they wreak. I am an avenging angel. I am Rage.

Day Four, Saturday
Garrison Keillor wrote that “Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen….” and I am outraged. How can someone tout privilege like that? How can someone dismiss the rightful concerns of so much of the population? The Democratic Party is part of the problem. They got us into this mess because they protected their inner circle, they catered to the 1%, they didn’t listen! No one in power was listening! People are being left out of prosperity, out of opportunity!

No one is listening!
Yes, I sound like a Trump supporter. Bernie supporters start at the same place, with the people who’ve been left out.

I shared a house once with a young man who told me he wasn’t into the political work I was doing. He said letting more people have “some” meant he would have “less,” whether it was money or power or even access. He was not into sharing if he could hold onto “all.”

Now I’m angry at everyone.

Day Five, Sunday
I see Arrival, the movie, and I step out of my angry present. Wisdom, I think, is always relearning empathy. Do you know my reasons? Do I know yours? I have not stood in your shoes and you have not stood in mine.
I have spent most of my professional life crossing divides, whether labor with management, political positions, social causes. I have taught, lectured, and run entire programs about “seeking first to understand.”

My Third Third is not the time to start demonizing people.

Whew.

As many of my friends have been consoling sobbing daughters over the last few days, my friend Helen told hers it wasn’t like after other elections, it was more like after her cancer diagnosis: “It wasn’t at all hard to decide what to do then – NOT run away and hide … or give up and give in to pessimistic projections of a doomed future. The only viable option for me was to fight as hard as I could and force myself to believe in an eventually positive outcome, despite the awful things I’d have to endure along the way.”

It’s going to be very, very hard if our climate is destroyed for that future; if families are broken up over papers and documentation; if more children grow up afraid. So I will stand with Standing Rock on Tuesday, I will march with a million women in January, and I will continue to teach English to refugees and immigrants. I am a brave Big Mouth – here and elsewhere – but I hope I will be a kind one. I miss kindness.

9 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I hope I can get to where you are but I'm still angry, full of disgust for my neighbors, and feeling that I don't belong here among them. Twice I've planned on joining local protest events but have backed out both times, using excuses to myself. I'm 71 now...too old; it's too far to drive; it's too cold and windy. It helps to read your article. Thank you!

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  3. Barbara, I would probably be sharing your despair were it not for the fact that I am immersed in a community of people who believe that we are living in a time of global transformation which will involve inward and outward change, and that will ultimately lead to justice, peace, and prosperity for all----and that the process involves both disintegration of outmoded ways as well as integration of new attitudes, skills, and behaviors. The process will necessarily involve suffering too. What if this current state of affairs is part of this process of change, and may serve to awaken humanity's awareness that we must find a new way forward, we must evolve to define and use power differently. Here is how it is stated by the Baha'i International Community in a document called "Who is Writing the Future":

    Despite widely prevalent opinion to the contrary, the human race is not a blank tablet on which privileged arbiters of human affairs can freely inscribe their own wishes. The springs of the spirit rise up where they will, as they will. They will not indefinitely be suppressed by the detritus of contemporary society… However great the turmoil, the period into which humanity is moving will open to every individual, every institution, and every community on earth unprecedented opportunities to participate in the writing of the planet’s future.

    So my antidote to despair is my work with friends here in an a grassroots effort to discover together those spiritual principles that will guide this inner and outer transformation, and to put them into action through service. It is not utopian; it is inevitable. We will see only glimmerings of change in our lifetime but can contribute to the change that future generations will find glorious.

    Be well, dear friend!

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  4. Barbara, my worries include all the minorities you covered and especially Mother Earth. Before the election, Americans seemed to be tentatively and slowly moving toward a majority understanding the great peril we have put our planet in. And now... I don't know. It sends me not to bed to cry, but to a novel to put myself in another time and place -- anywhere but here. However. I'll see you tomorrow at Town Square! Thank you for your thoughts and ideas about positive action.

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  5. Dear people in morning mourning
    In a quandary of feeling and thought? What to make of it all.
    A person who campaigns for president by taking advantage of some people's discontent and using it in such an outrageous manner by exaggeration, deception, and false promises to solve their problems. Deplorable attacks toward competitors'
    character in an attempt to discredit and humiliate them but not really address any of
    the issues that matter. A complete disregard of the truth on anything that matters.
    And yet enough people buy in to his demogagary to vote him into office.
    So many people fooled by his rehtoric that allows this to happen
    So it's been said that: "you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time but not all the people all of the time.
    To the minority of citizens that cast the majority of votes I hope you get what you thought you would get so long as it's not a zero-sum game for the majority of citizens who cast the minority of votes.

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  6. What a great post. You are better than I. I mourned for about three days and now I'm in the anger phase. I'm angry at the people--the voters who couldn't bother to vote, those still made because Bernie lost, the incomprehensible (to me) number of Latinos, African Americans and women who voted for a man who couldn't be clearer he had contempt for them.

    You know me well--you know I'm not a conspiracy type person. However I am not convinced this election was clean.

    It is well past time to get rid of the Electoral College--cause essentially we had a victory brought about by a minority of voters. I am pissed that we're being told we need to pay attention to the aggrieved. Why? Why don't they have to pay attention to us? Some of those who feel left behind by the Democratic Party are people who don't share my ideals. Do their POVs matter more than mine?

    I have never more been grateful to be a Californian. I used to cling to my New York roots, never fully embracing my adopted state. But I stand here today as a full-fledged Californian, proud that the heads of the CA State Senate & Assembly immediately issued a letter saying while American values no longer reflect CA values, we will steadfastly cling to what's right. The mayor of Los Angeles said it will always be a sanctuary city. The chief of the LAPD said he doesn't care if the head of Homeland Security tells him to round up undocumented workers, the LAPD will not EVER do that. And I am most proud of the fact that Orange County, the birthplace of the John Birch Society, went blue--in a big way for Hillary.

    So I am not sure how to channel my anger, but I hope to figure that out.

    Sorry for the long ramble, but as I said, I'm angry

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    Replies
    1. Reiva, a states rights enthusiast is born (smile). I'm going to look up these statements as it's potentially the most hopeful thing I've heard in reply to Mr. T's taking the World Wrestling championship. Thank you!

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  7. So amazing. Thanks for sharing. Together we will make room for everyone.

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  8. It's wonderful how you took a very serious situation and brought in some humor with a lot of wisdom. It helps people think more calmly and create plans that will preserve what is truly good in this country while eliminating as much of the bad as possible.

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