11/12 and Counting
I went to sleep half an hour before the election was called. My sleep was grey and dreamless.
I awoke unable to take my usual deep and nourishing morning breath. The only thing I could manage was a thin inhale that had to maneuver between stone piled upon stone.
I was in a supreme oxygen-withholding-deep-dread-awareness-of-the-day-before mode. This soon became laced with organ menacing fear. My blood and breath were running their course, but with their backs to one another. This felt like a mirror of what is going on in our country. Those on opposite sides and preference have turned away from each other to lick their wounds or shine their win.
I thought about what will happen to Standing Rock. I thought about how deeply ingrained our country’s misogyny is; how fierce it is in our cultural geology. It is scary-squared to think about Trump and Pence having a go at us. I thought about friends who voted for Trump and Pence and their vile views. What might this do to friendships? These were all issues that had been contentious conversations before the election. What would happen now?
We: those who voted for Hillary, those who voted third party and those who did not vote at all, are part of how this happened, as is the campaign and Hillary herself. Did we really believe no matter what happened that we had this election in the bag? Were we just too complacent to call out the behind the scene chicanery of ‘our’ party and the media? What if we protested then and not now?
I know that even if we did all we could, that the political machine is not a cool and witty steampunk contraption. It is a behemoth of gears of unrelenting disregard for those who do not oil it. We may still have had this outcome.
It was a blur of grasping for a normal moment; but normal is reshaping itself. It is throwing off our old expectations and behavior. That normal is chalk on the sidewalk outlining a body waiting for a forensic examination. This will be blown away by January’s snows. Don’t try to catch the glittery dust. There is no romance in those sparkles. My mantra for the day was, “We don’t need the SYFY channel. We are living it.”
Facebook was a flutter with condemnation, allegations and challenges of retribution. Some questioned if they should unfriend their friends who stood on the opposite side. Others tried to educate by posting endless articles and memes meant to show each other the way. Some tried to placate and reach out. Basically, Facebook used some funky mushrooms in its soup recipe post.
People look for comfort and explanation when bad things happen in order to cope. Posts and conversations began to talk about how Trump is our shadow figure and that this is a good thing to have happened so that now we can fix it. One article told me that Trump is really our spiritual teacher and that we can learn all about the darkness from him. Can you guess what my shadow wanted to do when I read that?
While there is some truth to this; to hear this now feels like an easy way to take the sting out of what happened through the guise of being ‘spiritual’(and I am part of that world).But I don’t want to take the sting out. I don’t want to risk losing the urgency to act. We need the sting.
The time will come when this shadow can be our guide to action, but we need to become stronger and unified first, or risk becoming passive because we are overwhelmed with the task.
In a need for some relief of growing fears I wondered “What would be in my swag bag from this new venue of the Un-United States?” The grips dissolved in my hands when I picked it up. Clearly, I didn’t have a handle on this thing yet.
But then there were the swastikas. I remembered learning about Nazis as a child, and being afraid to go to the bathroom at night because I would see two Nazis there with guns.
The hatred and bigotry is not only pointed toward Jews, I know this; but because the Nazi Swastika is still the symbol used, as it has become a container for all hatred; I cannot help but feel the time when I was in third grade and had rocks thrown at me for being Jewish.
The darkness of generational pain and loss again stops my breath, but it also sharpens my eyes and makes my feet want to walk hard on the path to join in the fixing.
We cannot become quiet and still after the first spate of protests fade, and our everyday lives call us back. What is ahead is daunting. It is bigger than each of us. It has also happened before. We have to look at history and finally learn from it. I fear that if we do not do this, and do not work together in a committed, compassionate and smartly strategic way, we will become the country of our nightmares.
It is Friday night. The sun has set on the fourth day since the elections. Autumn night Shabbats are my solace. The early darkness of these weeks, that only last till the next solstice, is a precious time to me. It is richly lush with the scent of the shifting earth. There are still some leaves left to swirl in the winds and our gardens are putting themselves to ground to begin their new year of regeneration.
This is a poignant image of what we need to do right now. We need to look deep into our own interior landscapes and then we need to look toward each other.
I remember lighting candles and singing with the friends with whom I am now at odds. Politics and religion are hard issues to clash over, and this election has brought them both out full force. I am not sure that the- we should just agree to disagree-solution will work this time.
The principled stance, despite the different ideas about what that is, has become a central pillar of discourse. The politic and the moral are deeply interwoven in the Trump/Pence platform. They see their politics growing out of their religious beliefs. Separation of their church and state does not exist in this world view that is rife with twisted and hateful declarations and plans to act on them.
“I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history,” said Pence. How can we respond to this? Action, not only words, must become the new response. Registering Muslims is the beginning of another holocaust, and not disavowing David Duke is agreeing with him.
I have friends who voted for this ticket because of its economic policies. They say they disagree with the misogyny, racism, xenophobic plans, denial of climate change, LGBTQ rights, voter suppression, etc. They do not see the disparity of this. Those who are vehemently opposed to Trump/Pence do not see how they can miss it. This is where communications break down, and friendships find themselves in peril.
“When we judge others – we contribute to violence” – Marshall Rosenberg
Friday Night- Shabbat Mantra: “Before you taste anything, recite a blessing.” Rabbi Akiva
It is Saturday, still Shabbat, and five days in and counting. The air is crisp and I feel fried. I have spent some time on Facebook posting and responding to other’s posts. I told myself that I would limit this because I didn’t want to get pulled into the whirlpool of call and response of the frustration, anger and pain. I needed a break and I wanted some solitary time to collect my own thoughts. I can take in just so much before I begin to lose my already off kilter center. And it is Shabbat, so why did I even turn on my computer?
Saturday-Shabbat Late Afternoon:
Words are difficult to reach now. The past days have lodged themselves in my body. As the sky begins to turn toward the evening, the end of Shabbat is coming. I usually feel filled with new energy for the incoming week, but I feel tired and heavy with concern and despair. When the body, mind and emotion are on overwhelm, the spirit steps back to make room for what the soul needs to process. The extra soul that we receive on Shabbat has not been a comfort to me because I can hardly feel it. My heart is wide eyed with pain and turmoil. I fight with myself to find my hope, the belief that we can make it through what is to come, and then, somehow, I feel a fragile smile of resolve.
Hasn’t come yet. Can I presume I know what to assume? Not anymore.
But I do know that we cannot just crawl back into the cocoon of stillness. We need to fight that inclination and then fight the fight. Inaction is not acceptable.
Cry, if you are inclined, with tears of salt or howl with tears of primal tones. Let those tears roil into a sea of engagement. We need to move into the waves of action and wisdom.
I am afraid that the earth’s hands will let her fingers, that have been so entwined to hold us, dissolve and we will fall into the muddy abyss if we do not.
This was originally published in Vermont Views Magazine: