Me, in front of Citibank after withdrawing all my money and putting it in a Credit Union!
Done grieving yet? Me neither.
Life in America is probably not really that different, I mean, in terms of the corporations who’ve been calling the shots for a long time, buying our government, etc. For a long time we had something of a voice (the progressive agenda voice), or thought we did, within the government. We’ve still got that voice in Bernie and Elizabeth Warren and a few others, but basically we’ve been out-maneuvered. Hillary won the popular vote by well over two million, but we “lost” anyway. We’ve been getting edged out of power for years, what with the gerrymandering of districts, and the uncontrolled spread of fake news media (Fox, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, etc), which has done a stupendous job of manipulating peoples’ fear and sense of powerlessness.
Boy, are those Americans gonna be surprised by the billionaire-corporate-oligarchy Trump is appointing to power, an oligarchy which couldn’t care two figs about the poor and working class, and less than two figs about the upper middle class with our measly 50,000 to 200,000 dollar incomes. Yep, the whole lot of us is gonna get screwed.
We’re up sh*t creek without the proverbial paddle.
It’s not like there’s nothing we can do. Witness the Standing Rock victory of December 3, 2016. The water protectors, practicing non-violent civil disobedience (a la Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr.), were willing to live in marginal housing in sub-zero weather and stand strong in their convictions while they were viciously assaulted by attack dogs, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, sound cannons, and water cannons in freezing weather. And.. Standing Rock water protectors won!
The water protectors at Standing Rock exhibited an incredibly strong intention and tons of stamina to keep going in the face of such aggression, threats of aggression, and on-going fake news reports. It’s now illegal for Energy Transfer Partners to continue constructing the DAPL pipeline. Even in victory, vigilance needs to continue, because Trump and his cronies don’t seem to think “legality” applies to them.
So, where is OUR strong intention and stamina?
Most of us are still grieving, and daily being gob-smacked by the latest revelations about new cabinet appointments, men who are the very opposite of who should be in these positions of power.
Along with prolonged grief and an on-going sense of unfolding disaster comes physical exhaustion. I hear all the time that people feel they are suffering from PTSD (standing for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Post Trump Stress Disorder. Trauma? Trump? Same thing.) People are taking breaks from Facebook, from the “news” in general, and probably from the on-going discussion of oh-lord-what-to-do?-what-to-do?
Whatever stage of grief we are in — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance (and this is not a linear progression) — it is imperative to honor our feelings —NONE of them are wrong. Don’t let anyone tell you to get over your feelings. It’s also important to honor our physical exhaustion — whether PTSD-related or from actual physical exertion (e.g. the tremendous physical exertion of the people at Standing Rock). It’s a good and appropriate thing to rest, to take breaks, to nap, to call for a personal time out. We are not super-humans. It doesn’t help anything or anyone if we burn ourselves out with our grief, lack of rest, or self-judgments.
By all means we should take the time we need to nourish and replenish, refresh, and get perspective. The haul is going to be a long one. It’s important to remember beauty exists in nature and loved ones. Enjoy it. Grant yourself the right to pleasure — time spent enjoying friendships, music, theatre. What inspires you? Nature? Books? Art? the bravery of others? reading about small acts of kindness? All this is abundant. Gift yourself.
Need a little time in bed with your blanket over your head? By all means, do that too. Just remember there is not much oxygen in there, so don’t stay too long.
I have a couple of African American friends who have said Welcome to my world. I have always known there is racism. I am even aware of its unwanted and ugly existence inside myself. Now I feel I didn’t get its depth and length and breadth, the vast repercussions of it in all its nightmarish on-going horror. Because of Trump’s encouragement of bigotry, I feel I am waking up from my lifelong white privilege-induced semi-stuporous lack of a sense of urgency.
The insecurity and sense of danger people of color, LGBTQ, immigrants, and women have always experienced is now something that white, middle class, liberals, progressives, and activists are anticipating experiencing. No longer “safe” in our ally status, but actually one of the target groups. Think HUAC, Joe McCarthy’s House UnAmerican Activities Committee. When I was young, my dad worried every time I signed my name to left-wing documents. He told me Don’t do it. You can imagine how he felt when I moved to Cuba for a year! He had friends whose lives had been destroyed by McCarthy for a lot less. Back then “destroyed” in terms of white middle-class Americans was a word I didn’t fully comprehend. In addition to demonstrations and railing against imperialism, my own experience of being a “revolutionary” included “fun” drugs, sex, and rock ’n roll. Only activists who were black or brown were seriously at risk for their lives. Young, white revolutionaries wore “being arrested” as a badge of honor, not as a flirtation with torture or death. (And here’s another approach to list-signing.)
Anyway, one silver lining is that there are A LOT of US. The vast majority of Americans are against this blossoming oligarchical, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist, climate-denying rule. More will be.
The trick for us will be how to take care of ourselves and each other as we find the strategies and tactics that will work. (There are already some good ones being offered. See my selfie above). How to find the energized and determined middle path that is not full of hatred and thoughts of vengeance, but is also not passive and unworried (because at this point they may not yet be coming for you).
Personally I am seeking this middle path. Of being wakeful, curious, self-educating, finding small meaningful ways to engage, uniting with others, and keeping my heart open to beauty, joy, love, and a hope that we can — as Pete Seeger sang — overcome.
Here is some of what I’m reading that is inspiring me, and helping me sort out how I want to proceed.
Now Is the Time To Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story by Charles Eisenstein
Now Is the Time to Stand Up: Practicing the Dharma in Uncertain Times, Part 2 by Jack Kornfield
Van Jones: Only a “Love Army” Will Conquer Trump by Tim Dickinson
I’d love to hear from you about how you are getting inspired and taking care of yourself, and any ideas you have about good ways to resist and overcome. With much love,
2 thoughts on “Caring for Ourselves in Dangerous Times: Acknowledging the Lay of the Land”
Love this, Gayle. On the same page as you, as ever.
Thank you my dear Jay. xo, g