Mourning is Just the Beginning

I woke up gasping. I still have trouble painting a full, panoramic picture of reality without crumpling, eyes shut against the hot tears that continue to leak, sometimes bursting and some slow drops sinking into skin. These hard days have been defined by those tears. My own place in this maze, this present moment that is really, truly happening, is questionable and simultaneously absolutely materialized. 17 years old in Spain and not returning to the country for months, I could hardly be more inconsequential to this fateful election — yet I am more entwined, more responsible, more necessary than I have ever felt.

We are angry. Of course we are angry. We are angry at the third party effect, at voter reluctance, at protest votes, at early divisions only made nasty by their disciples, at the idea — however unfounded it may be — that joke write-ins like Harambe garnered any votes. These surface angers are the easy turns while we initially flounder in denial. Then come the next layers. We are justifiably angry that THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS VOTED FOR HILLARY CLINTON, that only 55% of Americans voted in the most crucial election of our time — though previous hacks at voters’ rights laws could have contributed in vulnerable areas, that 53% of white women voted Trump after all that, that the definite majority of those who will truly be subjected to anything that occurs and their consequences (young people) were silenced, that every group (with the exception of low education levels exclusively in white people) who has ever been majorly oppressed, discriminated against, intimidated, and in any way marginalized in modern and historical America was soundly trampled upon and dragged through the thorny dirt. We know all of this.

More than all of the statistics, the unexpected and the unsurprising ones, we are angry that “our country betrayed us.” This does not represent us, we say incredulously. We are shocked. Heartbroken. I am too. And we are allowed to feel that heartbreak — we must. But we must also take responsibility. We, the White people, especially the shocked liberal ones, must take responsibility. It is obvious that we overlooked a not-so-latent vein of unabashed white supremacy unburdening its unjustified yet human fears of dethroning: we watched it loiter, but it was below us. We are better than that. Anger at their resentment is too easy to fall into, too easy to blame. Through every period and campaign, we know that the white low-income segment, clinging to pride and worth in a meritocracy only on the façade, has continually been manipulated to grab at strings dropped from a deceivingly lofty altitude while dropping to all fours, waiting to be stepped on and pushed further down. Still, through all that glaring manipulation, we are repulsed and incredulous at the hate.

And so we, as White, liberal, mostly well-off people, must also take responsibility for our astonishment. We do not recognize the racism because we do not experience it. People of color don’t have the option to bask in the reassurance of our constant declarations of confident collective goodness, our progress, our moving-towards-racial-equalityness. We surround ourselves with reinforcements of that ideal and we are relieved. We’re headed in the right direction. Which is true — we are, and we must keep believing that to galvanize our tireless work towards it. But imperative to that work’s efficacy is our recognition that, clearly, we as a demographic have an enormous role to play that is not self-congratulatory and not superior, but urgent and humble.

On The Day After my newsfeed — my primary means of live, updated communication while abroad — was and continues to be characterized by messages of determination, hope, and solidarity. That is inspiring. It’s worth remembering those messages are primarily coming from the privileged, protected among us. There’s room for hopelessness and mourning, too, and certainly anger. Anger must be harnessed and not forgotten; let us blaze this moment of sorrow and despair into our very bodies eternally and stoke that fire all the way to revolution. For unbelievably merited reason we dismissed Trump’s campaign and landed us in horror we deemed impossible; let us not underestimate his presidency. So when that hopelessness and mourning becomes moving to Canada or staying in Spain or declaring, simply, that this is not our America and we’ve lost faith in humanity, our job now is to recognize those moments as impetus for change. Leaving the United States is not an option because those we fight for — the most vulnerable who will be impacted most by every racist, bigoted, terrifying perception and policy — cannot leave. We abandon our companions in the lurches and we have committed horrendous sentences to injustice. We fight for them because we find ourselves in positions of privilege but also because, in the words of one of the greatest, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Isolated liberation does not exist while dehumanization marches on.

Thoroughly aware of my country’s history, numerous and grave current issues, and egregious wrongdoings too plentiful to count, I love my country. Not for its consistently and undeniably racist history, its colonial, imperialist legacy, its international prowess or its Dream. I love my country because I know what we harbor; I love that when a Spaniard asks for an American comparison I am nearly always forced to emphasize that generalizing the U.S. is impossible in many regards; that we have conflicts and activism and complexity and diversity and magical wildlands and dynamic cities and comfort and a purported concept of inclusivity and relentless change and everything that everyone else loves about our country. They’re worth loving. And the time has come that the systems in place maintaining our status quo that works so well for some and devastates others no longer guarantees the things we love. We have proven that, and we’ve proven that revolution must come.

Our work starts this very moment. We remain in our grievance but as propellant to nourish us on the decidedly trying path that has always been but begins anew now. Hurt is being caused, hatred is being spewed and lives are being threatened and people terrorized RIGHT NOW. Thanks to a wakeup call like we’ve never seen before, we must stay woke to the very apparent fact that we have not come as far as we think we have and we, collectively, are not who we think we are. This realization, this ramble, this questioning of everything I know and opening myself to all that comes, this attempt to jump head-on into the fervor that is positively roaring to be unleashed is only the beginning and will continue to expand and develop, but this is the beginning.

The revolution has already started. We, the Millennials, who have been so thoroughly trashed for our screens and our selfies and our laziness and sensitivity, we who overwhelmingly believe in equality and compassion and tenderness and community and connectedness, in safe spaces and trigger warnings, we will pull this slack until it breaks. I have never known my right, duty and responsibility so clearly. I have never been so ready.

Here are some resources for concrete action:
-Michael Moore’s Morning After To-Do List
Finish Your Ugly-Crying. Here’s What Comes Next.
-New York Daily News journalist Shaun King
-Show solidarity against the Dakota Access Pipeline and donate to the Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock
-Donate to Black Lives Matter
-Donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center
-Join your local Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) chapter
-Living/communal Google Docs offering support and suggestions: The “Oh Shit! What Should I Do Before January?” Guide and Concrete Suggestions in Preparation for January (by demographic issue, but for any interested readers)
-Search for, find, and donate time, money, or other resources to social justice organizations doing important work

This is only a glimpse of a very long list of actions, ideas, and movements we can start, support, amplify, and participate in. What do you have to add?


Too Many Metaphors — It’s Part of the Plan

More often than not, life does not go as planned. In fact, planning is such a useless attempt at control and securing future comfort that I now view plans as a likely predictor of what will not occur in reality, regardless of almost any efforts to steer the universe in my pre-ordained chain of events tailored specifically to meet my perception of productivity. I think most of us understand that, at best, planning is setting an intention that will come to fruition on the off chance that every decision preceding it also disregarded everyone else in the world and decided to heed our personal desires to ensure that our expectations and preparations are not left waiting for a date that perpetually no-shows.

Let it be known that as I sit here preaching the futility of control, I also have next to me a list detailing the activities and times of errands I would like to accomplish today to be prepared for leaving home for 4 months and millions of other lists outlining my long term goals, my short term goals, epiphanies I’ve had, people I want to apologize to, etc. You get the picture. Alas, writing this blog post did not show up in my plan for today. Whaddya know.

BUT, sometimes, little latent ideas of a desperately desired outcome seem to seep their way out of the molten iron that is reality doing its best to sever and block our plans, relishing in the irony that although they were originally part of the plan, the fickleness and impracticality of these outlines rendered them even less feasible.

And so arrived the relentless tears on the plane back from Thailand. Somewhere between seven straight movies, many episodes of multiple TV shows, and a repeat listening of an entire Broadway musical soundtrack (Ahem, Hamilton, I reallllly wouldn’t object if you decided to kick someone out of your eternally sold out shows to help a friend), it hit me.

The marvelous aspect of this particular realization is that I wasn’t drinking coffee. It wasn’t in the morning, it wasn’t after exercise, it wasn’t during a fired-up discussion on social justice issues I’d convinced myself I understood. It was, in fact, in the midst of 30 hours of traveling, permeating simultaneously with a feeling of intense fullness, leftover minor food poisoning, bodily frustration with sitting for so long and building anxiety over returning home. Despite all these historical indicators of despair and curling up into a ball with no desire to emerge unless my life magically became someone else’s, I cried because I felt a little shrapnel of peace finally lodging itself in my shoulder like a reminder for a war veteran.

I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep pinching my body in shame. I couldn’t go through an existential crisis every time I felt bloated or decided not to follow my body’s instructions. I couldn’t dictate my self-worth based on whether or not I had the motivation to exercise and I couldn’t look around the airport fighting the urge to compare my own body to that of every other female traveler — hell, male too. I was never, ever, ever going to embody the altruistic, confident, razor-sharp goddess I envision as a product of mastering my “issues” if my sense of deservedness as a member of humanity fluctuated depending on how my stomach felt.

Here’s the thing: this was part of the plan. I was scared to leave home for the sole reason that I know it’s impossible to run away from problems. Frolicking around in Thailand, then New York City, then Bolivia and Peru will not “fix” me. I am painfully, anxiously aware of this. Yet, with this ineffectiveness of control and annoying fact that I actually can’t escape my own company no matter how far I fly, I’m still a writer. I get to decide my own story. (Even if you’re not a writer, you still do. You don’t have to even know how to read or talk or be articulate or respectful or have any qualification as a productive member of society. Even if you’re Donald Trump you get to create your own character.) Though planning — like dieting, arguing and assailing with the intention of changing someone’s political party, denying that you share any characteristics with your mom, and refusing to acknowledge the merits of technology — in effect, doesn’t work ever, I am inevitably the author.

If I can’t get out of writing the longest book ever and constantly redeveloping the main character, why the hell should I waste it on not being a badass, hilarious, edgy, compassionate, impulsive, sometimes offensive, sarcastic, supportive, open-minded impossibility of a really short human?

Granted, this idealistic perception glosses over the very, very real inevitability that even since that realization I’ve crawled into bed with the intention of talking to no one and intense wish that I could teleport to an alternate path for this Barae person with complete disregard for the community issues that light the passion-fire in my belly. And these times harbor not an inkling of glamor. They suck, really hard, and I forget my lifetime position as editor in chief, fact checker, correspondent, and author of my little story because I don’t want the job. I am attacked with pointed, pungent reminders that I am not in control, never will be, and also probably will never be able to fully surrender my desire and hidden theory that I am, in fact, in control.

With no other choice, I accept the position of head author and also every other contributing writer. But don’t let it go to your head, Barae, because I was turned down by literally every other opportunity and given no alternative offers. So now we’re stuck together, and I intend to develop my reputation as a hell of a committed writer and a scary investigative journalist that everyone loves to hate, especially famous people with nothing to hide.

I’m currently accepting applications for the position of editor.