You Are Not Alone and Now Is Not the Time to Be Silent

I’m struggling to find ways to take action while abroad. I cannot attend the weekly protests erupting at home. I have a French SIM card and can’t call internationally to encourage my senators to flex their spines. My mom (successfully!) emailed Murkowski against the confirmation of DeVos (though it proved insufficient), but mainly we just wake up and drop our jaws at our tiny screens hurling the horrors that transpired while we slept. Despite the moments of heartening, it’s difficult to evade becoming overwhelmed. So while France, too, nurses the foreboding possibility of its own entrance into this wave of 21st-century fascism and shakes its head along with us at each day’s events comically worse than the last, I feel removed from the home that, despite its fundamental atrocities and hypocrisies, I still desperately love.

My heart breaks for the people encompassed in a sweeping ban designating national hostility, for hard-won legislation and also common-sense legislation, for body autonomy and reproductive rights and healthcare and environmental protection and efforts to dismantle institutional racism and foreign diplomacy and heeding history’s lessons and every misguided, backwards step to come. Precisely because I feel so bitingly this overwhelming and cruel uncertainty, I also feel more heavily ashamed and unjustified at the minute yet paralyzing pain that governs my own personal existence. And because with every action comes its equal and opposite reaction, snide reminders of the insignificance of my struggles in the face of so many real issues to struggle against only feed that dripping, hollowing shame.

But it is not so far a leap to uncover the connections. In these double-edged times when it is all we can do to convincingly remind ourselves that our fortitude needs exercising to grow and that perseverance is possible, there is no division between personal and political. The larger collective world is not separate from us. It is a testament to humanity that we can feel enormous pain in (comparably) trivial adversities and allow it to topple us, to strike us squarely in the gut so as to simultaneously steal our breath and bend us in half.

For some agonizing time I fell back into spiked ruts which, though painful, are now as familiar and intimate as my own shadow. In that exasperating palimpsest of the demons we refuse to let go of, I bewilderedly watch myself repeatedly, voluntarily hand over my worth, resilience and belief in possibility to a prolonged delusion that scrapes away my insides. As I half-curiously, half-irritatedly contemplated how to reconcile my selfish desire to wallow in my endless faults with my quivering yet burning need to participate in just progress, I looked in the mirror and smiled at the wonder that I saw.

Because this body that endures changes and squeezes and death glares and deep breaths and chastising and congratulations (which are two sides of the same coin) and scorn and far too much responsibility for anyone to handle, this body has again demonstrated that inside of it exists an ancient and powerful knowledge that it is but a microcosm of the web it inhabits. Against my resubscription to a bogus, sexist, oppressive business scheme and mental manipulation deeply infiltrated in society, my body rebelled.

Long-held injuries flared up and hot tears stung. I panicked and flailed defeatedly — here I was again — but gradually, in the way that subconsciously you have known something for a very long time as it builds up under your skin but finally hits as if an entirely new, revolutionary epiphany, I wrapped myself in the soft truth of my connectedness and saw that my inner struggle mirrored the outer. In the context of the coinciding of a deeply introspective, fracturing historical moment and a well-positioned yet idiotic demagogue; when what the world needs most is compassion yet we are told to harden our skins; when we are convinced at once of the need to emulate simpler and truer times of the past and to speed forward towards relentless progress that should have already been made, we push harder to control and return more devastated when we can’t.

This is not to say that we do not have agency. Through protest and civic engagement and displays of humanity and commitment to step up and speak out when we recognize the warning signs, people power cannot be ignored and is already churning out impact and influence. Within every moment, we have choices. But in the larger framework of an election truly not decided by the people, and a history to which we are beholden but unable to change, and the sticky snowball of fear with a mind of its own that declares the only way up and out is to glom on, we are not in control of this world.

Surrender on this global scale, implemented personally and effected collectively, means leaning into that blurred mesh that feels a little uncomfortable because we know it’s time to wake up. Let us feel entirely the despair, the overwhelming deluge of absurdities and regressive power plays inundating our life-bubbles we have worked so hard to protect. Let us throw open the doors to that one little space maintained pink and tender, secret and oh-so-precious, reserved for the a-political and the soft glow on which we know we can depend in our moments of retreat.

Because if there was ever a time to deepen our humanity and build our strength, this is it. We cannot escape the realities of cementing justice and compassion as irremovable and uncompromising by separating our personal humanity from that of the rest. When we lean in, when we allow the full melding of our determined activist ideals and our vulnerable, tired, sacred organs, that pink and precious place will grow deeper and wider. When we finally fully listen to people of color and believe in their pain as our own, when we interrupt the steamroller of betrayed agreements to respect indigenous rights, when we pull from our education of a modern genocide embodying evil to recognize that Never Again requires commitment, when we engage with our bodies not in a hostile tug-of-war but by nurturing boundless acceptance, then we will truly feel the gears of change turning. Then we will feel more ourselves and more human, and remember that we have always been those things.

So yes, take care of yourself. Spread self-compassion and self-care unsparingly, and let it seep outwards and permeate the boundaries. But please, let’s not build walls. Let’s share and listen even when all we want to do is crawl and huddle and cry, and then when we’re on our knees and puffy-eyed let’s sit in a circle (or maybe a virtual one) and touch our hands or maybe not, maybe just let the space and the waves and the beingness roll and sit and refresh us.

We’ve got work to do, and my journey and yours and ours is so very far from over. And it will change and we’ll mess up and we’ll learn things and relearn things and forget them again, and hopefully relearn them, and I will love myself, as fiercely and unconditionally as humanly muster-able. Now is the time to be fiercely and unconditionally human. Truly, we have no other choice.

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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?