Updated: Aug 1, 2018
Written November 10, 2016, and reposted from the blog "Scratch This Itch."
Less than 48 hours ago, Donald J. Trump became President-Elect. I join the majority of U.S. voters* who were knocked to our knees by this unexpected turn.
I invited some friends over to watch the results. It rained all night long, and I thought few people would show. But as the evening wore on and anxiety increased, more people came through the door. We clearly couldn’t do this alone; we needed others in the room to confirm that, no, this wasn’t a bad dream — it was really happening. I still can’t believe we’re here.
Yesterday morning I did what I always do on Wednesday mornings, which is drive out to the Travis County Correctional Complex to teach guitar and songwriting to incarcerated women. My friends know that this is often the best hour of my week. I call it my church. No matter how lousy I feel when leave the house at 9:45, I am invariably renewed by each class.
But I felt lousy yesterday morning, exhausted, overwhelmed, and yes, a tad hungover — completely unfit to teach.
A bible study class for men is taught at the same time as mine. It’s run by several African American ministers and lay people. They are always warm and kind and happy. Behind the razor wire, as we waited for an elevator, one of them asked me, “Sister, how are feeling today?”
I broke into tears, the ones I’d been holding in since Tuesday night. “I’m scared for my country,” is all I could get out between sobs. The truth is I was also quite specifically scared for them, and for me, and for an America that will now be led by a racist and a mysogynist and a homophobe–an American in which systematized violence against “the other” now has a tacit seal of approval.
I asked the group if they, too, weren’t scared. Everyone smiled and laughed just a bit. “No. We’re not scared of this man. No man has power over us. No man controls this world. God is in charge, and this is just part of His plan.” Their faces were calm. Their hearts were sincere and full.
Then they circled me. They put their arms around me. And they prayed for me, a devout agnostic, while I wept on the closest shoulder. I will never forget their kindness. Ever. They reminded me that love (evident to us every day in so many, many ways if we look for it), really does trump hate. And fear.
The challenges in front of us are not new — only the challenger is. The millions of us asking “what do we do now?” are asking the right question, of course. Michael Moore has offered his five-point plan. For parents seeking to comfort their children, Aaron Sorkin’s letter may offer wisdom.
Yes, it’s the right question; we’ve always asked it, and we probably always will. Go back 130 years to Tolstoy’s What Then Must We Do? — written when his eyes were opened to poverty, political indifference (at best), and class warfare. Open a bible to Luke 3:10 and go back further still: And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
I am open to every answer that comes my way, and this is my own list of answers thus far:
Stay classy (actually, get a little classier), to honor the legacy of President Obama and the First Lady. Easily the most scandal-free White House of my lifetime, they have brought grace, compassion, and humor to their work. Words to live by? “When they go low, we go high.” I need to tape that to my bathroom mirror. I need to get that inked on my forearm.
Stay well-informed and vigilant. It doesn’t mean watching/reading more news, it means accessing the right news. Today, I’m thinking it’s less about following news outlets and more about following the best journalists like David Farenthold of the Washington Post. True investigative journalism is rarer and rarer these days, and 24-hour cable channels build their content off of the work of these reporters, so why not just go straight to the source? Quality, not quantity. Quantity does not bring out the best in me.
Keep raising a mighty ruckus when others’ (or my) rights are violated or at risk. Write the letter, join the march, sign — hell, even start — the petitions (like this one and this one). Re-read the Constitution and know my rights (there’s an app for that, people). Read Ghandi‘s writings on civil disobedience and MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Take action. Document any hate crimes or violence I witness (including violence from law enforcement).
Increase my connection to community. This is really hard for an ardent and single introvert, but it helped get me through Tuesday night. And last night I found myself in the company of several women, all potent artists with shared values. We talked about the election, but we talked just as much about grocery shopping, and we weren’t at all robbed of our capacity to laugh. That’s some healing shit right there.
Make more art. As Toni Morrison says:
Help me add to this list?