As the World Burns

It’s a breezy overcast spring morning shortly after curfew has expired. I didn’t sleep much last night. I live in an older suburb of Minneapolis in a little ranch house with a little yard on a little street. We’ve quarantined here for months, leaving only for grocery pickup, and my daughter’s followup medical appointments. Life and time has stood still, frozen in an endless loop of a mundane activities. Outside a global pandemic continues barely abated and neighborhoods are burning and being looted a few miles away.

Yesterday I cried when my cat’s ashes were delivered. It seems disproportionate to the world at large, but my grief is layered and dense. Some days it feels like I’m a matryushka doll, with sorrows, large and small stacked one inside the other. Too many personal losses and traumas in the last year, too much going on in the world that I felt powerless to make better. To even say it out loud, when people of color are dying at the hands of those hired and trained to protect all citizens, seems the height of a privileged existence, but my experience is the only one I can tell. Of all others, I must listen and learn.

At 2am I heard the nonstop sirens. I check the news. Police station burning, more businesses looted and burned. The National Guard sent in. I worry that it’s near the area where my daughter has her oncology followup appointment next week. Will we touch the rage? Will the rage touch us? For some people, the world has always been burning. I’ve spent a lifetime tiptoeing around rage and violence. Growing up poor with alcoholism and domestic violence taught me how to live on eggshells. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t talk back. Get through the moment.

In spite of, or perhaps because of my military stint, I don’t trust uniforms, guns, authority. But I live under the radar, the color of my skin unsuspected, unburdened by stereotypes except those of gender. Passive and uninteresting. Just enough activism to soothe my conscience. Memberships in the ACLU, NAACP, League of Women Voters. Little cards sent to me to make me comfortable, even when I know that there is no such thing as moral purity, blamelessness. The little cards aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, but they’re all I have.

I signed up to be an election judge this year. I thought, before the last few months, that this would be the only way to right the ship. To help legitimize the election. Doubts plague me and I don’t think anyone, from sociopathic capitalists to fuzzy socialists to bellicose anarchists have the right answers. Like most things, an imperfect system with good intentions requires a good faith effort by its participants. We’re too busy egging each other on and dehumanizing each other to manage that. My own efforts to remain a decent human have faltered in the face of willful ignorance and cynical exploitation. I am constantly talking myself down from self-righteous anger these days.

Another round of sirens. The national conversations have begun about this place that I have come to love as my first real home. The president weighs in, as usual, with ugly, violent language meant to sound tough and designed to throw more meat to his ugly, violent base. Most of the protests are peaceful, but the violent ones will be all that are talked about – a way to further cement the ideas of “us” and “them”. George Floyd called out for his mother before he died. Mama.

I’ve been researching for a story I’m working on. When I was at Glacier National Park a few years ago, I read up on the history of the area. I’ve been learning more about the Piikani Blackfoot Indians and the Marias Massacre of 1870. The massacre of nearly 200 women, children, and elderly men was covered up, lied about, reframed, and revised over and over again. I think about that story every day now when I read the news. Everyone has an agenda, a perspective, an opinion, a reason to highlight this fact and downplay that. But the video could not lie. Mama.

The unrest is not over and like everything else at the moment, outcomes are uncertain. Today I bury my cat’s ashes. This I know. I call my mom in Kansas to let her know we’re okay and to make sure that she and my 93 year old grandma are staying safe from this virus. I follow up on my daughter’s chemo med refill. I know that things will not always be like this. I will try to spend my day thoughtfully, get through more tears, find grace and joy in moments, knowing that the world burns outside. It’s the only existence I can manage at the moment.

Zombie Patriotism

When a sitting president declares that he is a nationalist and thousands of people cheer him, this is the outcome of zombie patriotism. American exceptionalism has always carried this downside. If we believe that our country is unassailable in its virtue and honor, we put blinders on to the very dangers that will contribute to our downfall.

canstockphoto22986497The president is taking a third of the population down this road – a road that has a future of unmitigated violence against those who do not embrace this single-celled version of our country. Of the remaining two-thirds, we see complicit behaviors out of either fear or a slobbering thirst for power through association (hello Congress). We hear the people whose mouths protest but whose actions belie something else entirely (Senators Sasse, Collins, Flake, et. al.).

Many people, myself included, have protested, organized, and gone through all the civic venues to push back against this kind of authoritarianism. I will be the first to admit, I’m still having trouble accepting that it is getting this bad. My immediate circumstances have not changed and my life is still relatively decent, a function of white, middle class, heterosexual privilege. It is this mindset that has made me think about the Good Germans. How bad does it have to get before I think it’s bad, before I realize it’s too late?

canstockphoto20174584While people protest that this period in history is not like 1930s Germany, they’ve ignored the fact that at some point, there will be a recession, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster that will be the tipping point. This president and his lackey mouthpieces (FOX included) have set the stage for blame and viciousness and violence. They have set the pot to simmering, so that with a little more heat, it will boil over.

That the president is a stupid, awful human is irrelevant. He is stupid and awful in the way that all bad humans are stupid and awful. How can I get what I want, regardless of the consequences to anyone else? I have never understood the appeal of this braying donkey. I don’t understand fandom of any ilk. Why should one human worship another? And so many of these people claim to be of a religion that condemns false idols.

There are people who are curious and people who are not. Incurious people repeat what they’ve been told and like someone else to create their talking points and memes. These people can be found in every political party or leaning.

Curious people dig deeper, ask questions, refuse to be told what to believe. Curious people save the world, because they don’t assume paradigms are permanent. Incurious people fear change, ambivalence, and dichotomies. Nuance is just a thing intended to confuse them and will be rejected in favor of anything binary.

canstockphoto50558112I am so often baffled by the need to see the world this way. I would find an unchanging world of similar people to be claustrophobic and uninteresting. I am grateful to live in a country that has such a wide range of beliefs, religions, languages, and cultures. This is the country that I feel patriotism for – the country that shines BECAUSE it holds such variety, not IN SPITE OF it.

I hear a lot of people saying “we’re better than this”. No, we’re not. This is what we are – a nation with a bloody history of oppression and thievery. We have to work to be better. We have to understand and acknowledge our history to move beyond it and we can’t waste time on false equivalencies between those who, however ineffectively, are trying to improve things for all people and those who actively agitate and incite violence against others who are not like them.

canstockphoto146639What these nationalists, these self-declared cultists want is sameness, predictability, the bland whiteness of a culture built on stealing that of others. They want the social rules that governed their grandparents to govern their grandchildren. They want pink and blue. The devout and the godless. The easily labeled and easily condemned. They want people to look at them with reverence because they just happened to be born pasty white in a country that reveres pasty whiteness.

The luck of the draw suddenly becomes a proud, personal virtue – something they earned not through hard work, or strength of character but because their parents had a couple of beers and felt randy. How can you build an entire belief system on that?

In addition to this, there is personal resentment. They didn’t think they should have to change. They expected their generation to live as the generation before, whether it be farming or fossil fuels or anything else not already overrun and gutted by corporations. America has survived many things because it is adaptable, not because it is intransigent.

A right winger agitator said that one is not a real American, unless their family goes back four generations. What she suggested is that there is a very small core of true Americans, giving no particular truck to the indigenous populations we slaughtered upon arrival. I’m a first generation American, but I’m white so I might get a pass. Of course, that is cancelled out by the fact that I am a liberal.

canstockphoto48358399But I’m like a lot of Americans. I served my country, voted regularly, paid taxes, volunteered in my community, raised my progeny to be a kind, respectable citizen. When my luck has fallen, I’ve come up with a different plan. I was raised with the idea that life is inherently unfair, but that I must do my personal best, work hard, constantly learn, and to not waste time blaming others – that blame is not an actual solution.

What these people screaming in adulation at this president fail to see is that nothing they are doing or believing will make their lives literally better. It’s wasted energy. Even if they end up in their promised land of all white heterosexual Christian people, they will still find a way to blame and separate and hurt each other.  It’s not a matter of circumstance. It’s a matter of character.

I wrote this post prior to the events of last week, when individuals turned the stochastic terrorism of the president into domestic terrorism – attempted and actual murders of fellow citizens in the name of racism, anti-Semitism, and partisan politics.

Patriotism is defined by our values – a subjective term, a propaganda tool, a way to slap a label on all kinds of nefarious behavior. You can declare yourself a patriot and still be a complete shit of a human being. And in the lingual nightmare that has become our national discourse, it’s a title I’ll happily shed in pursuit of a more just nation.

A Literary Meditation during Black History Month

February is Black History Month in the United States. It’s the month when everybody hauls out their Martin Luther King memes, goes to see “Selma”, and tells themselves, See? I’m not racist. Much like Women’s History Month, it feels like slapping a band aid on a wound that won’t stop bleeding. But if awareness is the first step to getting ourselves out of this cultural morass, of evolving as a society, there’s a whole world of written works to lead the way.

30555488Last week I went to a book talk given by Colson Whitehead. He wrote the award-winning fiction work The Underground Railroad. The opening to the talk was an homage to Black History Month. An eleven-year-old girl sang “Glory” while historic pictures of the civil rights movement in the Twin Cities showed on a screen. It wrung me out. I had to discretely wipe away tears and do my old-lady-digging-in-her-bag-for-a-tissue bit.

2657Much of what we believe and who we associate with is grounded in childhood experiences. I was a white kid from a poor midwestern family, where alcoholism and domestic violence were defining characteristics. I knew three people of color from ages 0-17 and my family had a branch of the racist variety. I heard a lot of slurs and “jokes” growing up. I didn’t understand most of them. I saw the “Roots” mini-series when I was ten, which was pointlessly jarring without mature context and I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird twelve hundred times. But I had not yet entered the world.

I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

When I joined the Army and went abroad, that changed. When I went to college, that changed. And when I moved to my working class suburb in the Twin Cities where my daughter attends school as a white minority, that changed. I went from not understanding, to the academic “I’m colorblind” stage, to a recognition of the world as it is. Because I am white, I will never be privy to a complete understanding of the issues at hand. Empathy can only carry one so far. But it doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try.

27882384I just finished reading A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, a collection of essays edited by Sun Yung Shin. As a writer, I can often miss the message due to the medium. It’s an uneven collection and oversold itself with a quote on the cover that suggested it would be life-changing. That would be the case only if you’d never read anything about racial injustice and didn’t watch the news for the last decade. Still, there were several solid essays that made it worth the read.

American racism has many moving parts, and has had enough centuries in which to evolve an impressive camouflage. It can hoard its malice in great stillness for a long time, all the while pretending to look the other way. Like misogyny, it is atmospheric. You don’t see it at first. But understanding comes.

Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1356654499l/15796700.jpgI just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and it is a reminder that sometimes fiction finds the truth more accurately than facts. It’s a dense, wonderful book that I didn’t want to put down. The story explores the issues of race through the experience of Nigerian immigrants to England and to the United States, places in which no matter where a person is from, they become “black”.

The first time the history of slavery hit me in the solar plexus was after 6149reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved.  When I finished reading it, I sat stone still for an hour, book pressed to my heart, awed and overwhelmed. Colson Whitehead, a delightful speaker as well as a gifted writer, made me laugh. He had a similar authorial thought to mine when reading Morrison’s work. I’m totally screwed. He managed to do just fine, though. The Underground Railroad was a merciless read and an artistic masterpiece.

16981Reading outside one’s experience often has the surprising effect of connection, not just understanding. Our basic humanity is one and the same. That a white woman could identify with the main character in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is not as odd as it sounds. We all choose to see (or not see) people the way we do and ofttimes, it is not as the complex human being they are – it’s the great sin of stereotyping, so that we do not have to expend our energy being curious.

When Chimamanda Adichie talks about the danger of the single story, she reminds us how easy it is to rob others of their dignity through a single narrative thread. And how important it is that we restore it. It starts with the silent turning of a page, of willing ourselves to read outside our metaphorical and literal borders.

Additional Nonfiction Reading:

Fired Up, Part 4: Screw It, I’m Going to Smile Anyway

For many people, it’s been a tough few days. I know some people are hooting and hollering in delight, but they will only be able to maintain that state for so long, before they realize their lives are not getting better and nobody’s drunk uncle is going to change that.

canstockphoto28476729I’ve had to tamp down all my #notallwhitepeople, #notallwomen, #notallliberals, #notallcitydwellers, #notallmidwesterners defensiveness and close myself off from the stream of blame pouring from every venue. Blame isn’t going to help the Trump supporters improve their lives and it sure as hell won’t help the rest of us move forward.

I’m done with politicking for now, because that piece of the equation is ostensibly out of my control. I voted. My candidate lost and now my government is becoming a kakistocracy (thanks, Elyse for the new vocabulary word!). I don’t like, trust or want to be represented by these people, a mishmash of know-nothings, salivating jackals who want to stick it to anyone who ever insulted them by screwing up the entire country.

The real key is to figure out what to do now. When you’re unwilling to engage in the blame game, it comes down to what you, as an individual, can do. And figuring that out takes a little soul-searching. What’s important to you?

canstockphoto10916833My initial reaction was a long laundry list of causes and needs that could easily paralyze me where I stand. We get overwhelmed with the number of things that could be fixed in this world. Sometimes we have to pick and choose what our priorities are and focus on them. It doesn’t mean that we don’t care about other issues. It just means we’re one human who can only do so much.

CHOOSE

The results of the election have helped me crystallize what I want to protect and advance. I’ve decided my priorities for the moment are: civil rights, reproductive rights, education and the environment. If the luxury of time or money is not yours to share, find one thing, one cause, something close to your heart and put it there.

ACTION

Yesterday I joined the NAACP ($30 for annual membership), donated to The Center for Reproductive Rights, set up a small monthly donation to the Sierra Club and registered to become a community volunteer in my school district for 10 hours a week. It’s not much, but it’s a beginning.

canstockphoto6128415I am still finishing the letters to my congressional representatives. I forget that my writing process is always longer then I expect. I told them who I am, what I care about and wished them well as they enter into the fray.

In the upcoming days, I will write to the people I didn’t vote for. I will tell them who I am, what I care about and wish them the strength of character to be better than the pack of hyenas they appear to be. I’ll say it more nicely, though. Maybe.

NO EXPECTATIONS

I keep thinking about how people of color must be shaking their heads at the white people who have just gotten “woke” to the alive-and-kicking racism in this country. And the environment would like to know where the hell I’ve been. My uterus just yelled about damned time. There’s room for mocking and criticism and I can take it. I figure it’s part and parcel of getting into the mix after staying for so long, so comfortably out of it.

This is the silver lining that we can find in the electing of a horrible human being. The rest of us can learn how not to be bystanders or complacent.

canstockphoto5624611I know I’m going to make mistakes and assumptions. I know I’m no saint and I expect to be schooled accordingly. I know that I may not fully understand the issues on the ground or the academic theory that drives feminism and racism and immigrant issues. But I’m here now. Tell me what I can do to help. I’m listening.

MAKING IT PERSONAL

I’ve always believed politics is personal in theory, but this year, it felt extremely personal. My fellow Americans voted for someone who tapped into every hate-filled philosophy in this country and made it his very own. So, yeah, I do take it personally.

Last night, my daughter and I started to get back to some martial arts and strength training. I’m putting up the speed and heavy weight bags again – good for practice, good for anger. I’m not going to wear a safety pin, because I am not fond of symbolism for its own sake (plus, I’m pretty sure that little bugger would eventually stab me). I’ve always been a safety pin. No matter your limitations, do something to make yourself stronger rhetorically and/or physically. Imagine and walk yourself through situations that might require your intervention, whether it be protecting someone in public or disagreeing at the Thanksgiving table.

canstockphoto1478703I’ve been thinking about our finances. Our family lives below its means, but now we’re going to take austerity measures. I want to give more support for causes I believe in (and we might need bail money). The future is uncertain and the effects of any Social Security and Medicare tinkering during this regime will hit hard when my husband and I prepare to retire. Likely when we’re 85, at this rate. This is a good time to sort out what we need from what we want.

In the words of a favorite blogger and writer, Chuck Wendig, I’m going to ART HARDER.  Many years ago I read the autobiography of a man in a foreign prison and what I’ve never forgotten was his ability to recite poetry in his darkest hours. You will find this in a lot of camp literature – the pieces of humanity people hold onto when everything else is bleak – the music, the words. Art is a reflection of our humanity, something we must remind ourselves of over and over, so that we can stop our “othering” and connect with each other.

This is my final post in this after-election series. I have needed to write more this week than usual, but will likely retreat back to once or twice a week posting of the mental flotsam in my brain. Time to regain some equilibrium in order to be in this for the long haul.

Thank you – take care of yourselves and each other.MichelleSig copy

Related Posts:

Fired Up, Part 1: Changing Where, When and How I Get Information

Fired Up, Part 2: Softening Perspective, Steeling Resolve

Fired Up, Part 3: Mitigating Despair

Fired Up, Part 2: Softening Perspective, Steeling Resolve

Apologies for the length of this post. Like many people, I’m still working through a lot of emotions and ideas following this election. It looks like it is going to take several posts to get it out of my system. See Fired Up, Part 1: Changing Where, When and How I Get Information.

Moral ambiguity is a hard line to walk. In an election where people became tribal and primitive in their powerlessness, where everyone was an us or them, it was hard to feel like an ethical, decent person. I’ve always believed how we behave under fire is truly representative of our character and of our integrity.

canstockphoto9443627It would be easy to say we all failed the test, but many people would decry being painted with the same brush. I can only say how I failed. I got angry, I fumed, I thought of other humans with a degree of contempt. It was easy to get caught up in the maelstrom of emotion on either side, but stepping back, it’s even easier to see the willful ignorance on both sides.

You see, I did not want change. My life is comfortable. I had the fortune of being born white in a country that apparently still believes that is something. I have the fortune of good health and health insurance. I’ve had the fortune of being intelligent. Not as smart as I like to believe I am, but enough to pass tests, go to school, to interview well, to find jobs.

I had the fortune of an inner eye that told me whatever happens, I’d be okay, because that’s the way I’m wired. I have a habit of rebuffing others’ complaints, because like any bootstrapper, I believe we all have the same capabilities and that turning lemons into lemonade is a cottage industry that anyone can manage. I’m wrong about that and in cultivating empathy, I have to remember that I am wrong.

As a woman and the parent of a daughter doesn’t all this misogyny bother you? Yes, yes it does bother me. But an individual’s misogyny, like President-Elect Trump has expressed, is just a reminder that some people are still that stupid. Misogyny on the ground and in my face enjoys a good ole’ screw you and just watch me ace you, moron. I don’t mind being underestimated – it’s a tactical advantage.

avoiddtrumplistThat an unappealing human should say things any civil person would find appalling and potentially criminal, is really nothing to my esteem. Until he legislates the misogyny, he’s just a gross person that I wouldn’t let near my family or friends. He’d be on my personal registry of shitty people I avoid. The fact that now he will have the power to act on his belief system, aided and abetted by his creepy religious sidekick, is a real problem.

Right now, some of his supporters are spending a lot of time doing virulent versions of nanny-nanny boo-boo by ramping up graffiti and verbal and physical assaults on people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and women. Someone just signed their permission slip. This is a real problem and humans, regardless of their vote, should be angry about this and prepared to step up as witnesses and defenders.

canstockphoto4607292It’s a funny thing how we try to disavow those in our particular demographic when they do something inexplicable. I mean 53% of voting white women voted for Trump. Clearly, I don’t understand most white women. I suppose I could fall down the rabbit hole of theory and speculation, but it will either be condescending or again, just wrong.

And I really don’t get the white power thing. You just happen to be born white. It’s not like you did anything to earn it. It’s not a product of integrity or values or virtue. If you want to be proud of your skin color for its own sake – well, shit. That’s just Hannibal Lecter weird. Maybe it’s generous to assume that we do these things out of fear and out of love, in the hopes of empowering ourselves through numbers – in the hope of saying to others who look like us, we matter. You matter. You are not alone. But the triangulation of supremacy, victimhood and violence is a threat to civil society.

Lastly, religion and politics. It’s toxic. The 1980s and Jerry Falwell happened. The Republican party mainstreamed religious belief systems as a recruitment effort. People began to feel a moral imperative to legislate exclusionary beliefs. The argument is that identity politics, a religion unto itself, has been trying to legislate their beliefs as well, but I find a stark difference between laws that oppress others in the name of religion and laws intended to protect the civil rights of all Americans, not just the ones who have fish decals on their bumpers.

I have no moral high ground here – I was willing to overlook a lot of things when I voted, because the alternative was worse. I’m scared of the people I saw at Trump rallies – their virulence, the angry mob mentality, their t-shirts which showed a shameless racist and misogynistic view towards their fellow Americans. I looked carefully at the pictures, at individuals, at their children – looking for signs of moral decency, looking for their humanity. I wanted to understand, but I don’t.

canstockphoto5824707All I hope is that my fellow Americans’ win is not a Pyrrhic victory. I must not emulate those representatives that gleefully hoped our last president would fail, because that is treacherous schadenfreude, to wish such a thing on fellow citizens. I must hope that things will not be as bad as I imagine they will be. I must not be an asshole by wishing them so.

So what now? For me, I feel the softening around my edges. My rage is not sustainable. My brain never stops at the boundaries of my beliefs. I’ve been thinking a lot about those people that I am scared of, those people I don’t understand and the road ahead.

I’ve been thinking about actionable measures, about what I do when the elected officials  begin to delete people’s health insurance and restrict the bodily integrity of women. What do I do if they persecute journalists and entertainers, intimidate and threaten protesters, enable religious fundamentalists in all their inglorious rigidity? What will I do if the nuclear threat is heightened to the 1950’s-style hysteria? What will I do as hate crimes crop up around me? Will I be paralyzed? Will I pretend that I don’t see?

canstockphoto12192237The tables are turned. To people who value civil rights, reproductive rights, the right to not be a believer, the right to be of a different religion other than Christianity, the right to love and marry who we choose, the right to be whoever we are inside, it feels as if we have been rendered powerless, noisy Tweeters and street blockers, flailing against the machine.

I think about the introspection I might have undergone, if my candidate won. It would have felt like entrenchment, spending the next 4 years defending her against the words cunt and bitch and episodes of domestic terrorism. Much like many Trump supporters have felt about their religion and lack of education and employment, digging in, constantly on the defensive as the world leaves them behind. But entrenchment and reflexive demagoguery do not create good governance.

I’m not ready to paint a happy face on this, but I am ready to say, This is where we are. What matters? What is helpful? How will I live my integrity, live my character in trying times? Who am I going to be during the next four years?

I’ve started with some ground rules for myself:

  • No stupid nicknames. The President-Elect Trump will be President Trump, no matter how many times I want to refer to him as the Pussygrabber-in-Chief. Okay, now I’m done.
  • I will continue to use qualifiers when describing any group: Some, A few of…which is to say, my brush will be as narrow as it needs to be.
  • I will pay attention to the issues and more specifically, to legislation.
  • I will use my writing skills, my phone skills and whatever money I can scrounge up to support causes I believe in and to fight against injustice.
  • I will continue to respectfully engage those people with whom I disagree.
  • I will listen more than I talk.
  • I will defend the things I hold dear: civil rights, the environment, justice and reproductive rights.
  • I will continue to seek knowledge and understanding.
  • I will honor those who fight, here or abroad, to make the world a safer place for others. This means vigilance against unnecessary wars, ensuring aftercare and respecting their service regardless of whether or not I agree with the objective.
  • I will do the best I can to uphold my personal integrity. Walk the walk. Lead by example.

Who do you want to be? What values are you willing to go to ground for? What is helpful or important?

Fight Harder

canstockphoto5811625At midnight, I woke up and checked the election results and began to cry. My first thought was about the conversation I’d have to have with my daughter in the morning. She stood by me as I proudly filled in the circles on my ballot. Like many of my friends and family, we were optimistic that the world might look different in the morning.

It does look different this morning. It looks like misogyny and racism and anti-intellectualism are now the colors that this country flies. How could it not look like that? Somebody’s drunk uncle just got elected president.

I got caught up in the news cycles, the Tweets, the demoralizing nature of these campaigns. My heart sank when I realized that what I had believed about my country was not true – that we were kinder, braver and smarter than we are.

It’s a wake up call. For me, as a middle class, white suburban woman, it means that I can no longer be comfortable, residing in my pseudo-intellectual pursuits.

Liberals are often accused of being smug or elitist. I am my own American dream, growing up poor, serving my country, going to college, working my way through a sundry mediocre jobs. I’m not wealthy or entitled or pious or academic. But I’ve been comfortable and am surrounded by people who generally share my views. This election has created a shock wave in my world.

It means that I have to take whatever skills I have and put them to visible and uncomfortable use. I have always been moderate and will continue to be so. I do believe reason and compassion are better guiding lights than anger, but anger also serves a purpose – to light those fires and end silent passivity.

It means that as a veteran, I must argue vociferously against our war culture. It means as a parent, I must defend the right to a decent education for all children. As a woman, I must stand up and fight against those who believe women’s genitals are the politicians’ to govern.

As a human, I must stand side-by-side with my brothers and sisters of color for their right to pursue happiness without being incarcerated unjustly and shot down in the streets with prejudice.

These are things that I should have been doing all along. I didn’t ever believe that at its heart, America would choose a man who has shown no integrity, no empathy and no common sense to lead our nation. As his second, we’ve chosen a theocrat who would, given the chance, impose his version of religious morality upon the country.

We will not be governed well or wisely. We will choke on media narratives and the every day reporting of conservative chicanery. We will watch as America sinks into a recession, while protections for our environment are gutted. We will sigh with every Tweet, every insult, every gauche display of inequity. But it is not the end of the world, just the start of four very long, very difficult years.

canstockphoto0484969I am angry, disappointed and embarrassed for our country, but the facade has been stripped away. We know who we are. There’s something amazing that happens when the tyranny of a slim majority gets put on display. The rest of us get stronger, because we have to fight harder.

What will I tell my daughter in the morning? I will tell her that it’s time to dig in and fight harder. Fight for our integrity as humans on this planet. Fight for our right as women to exist on an equal playing field. That we must pursue intellectual and artistic lives with vigor. That we must stand up at every opportunity and fight for the downtrodden, the disenfranchised. That we must defend the environment and animals and protect the vulnerable.

This is the time when real American heroes can be born. I cannot allow myself to sink into despair. I cannot show my daughter that at the first sign of distress, my ideals and beliefs collapse under their own depressive weight. I will not lose my shit and wail and gnash my teeth.

This is an opportunity to become more – more compassionate, more brave, more creative, and more loving.

For every racist who feels emboldened, we will speak loudly in defense of diversity.

For every misogynist who feels validated, we will raise a son or a daughter to be a decent, respectful, ethical human being.

canstockphoto1323495For every shrill cry about intellectualism, we will read and write more books, compose music, create art.

For every petty whine about political correctness, we will become more inclusive and more sensitive.

For every brazen public display of mob mentality, we will create more space for more voices.

That is the America I want for my daughter.

So take a break from the news, take a walk, read a favorite book, spend time with the people you love, recharge. And then roll up your sleeves, there’s work to be done.