January, 2017 felt like the longest year of my life. Unfortunately as it ended, February offered competition for the title.
“I’m feeling so angry this man has been allowed one day in the White house.” my friend Karen Lynch posted on Facebook yesterday. Yep. Me too.
Even one day was way too long. His noisy, reckless existence in office has become the backdrop to our lives. It would be one thing if it was only terribly unpleasant, but we can’t dismiss the fact that it’s also extremely dangerous. That it has already proved lethal for some immigrants and people of color. My wanting/needing beauty, kindness, rest in my life doesn’t change this danger or my acute sense of responsibility as a citizen.
Someone posted this on Instagram. “she’s strong but she’s exhausted but she’s strong…”
In a nutshell, that was me for the month of February.
February 5th was the day my 96 year old Mom fell and fractured her pelvis. My sister and I flew out to Phoenix 36 hours later and assisted in her transfer from the acute care hospital to the skilled nursing facility, where for three and a half weeks, she received great physical therapy and had to endure seriously passive aggressive nursing care. Sometimes rude and harsh, often times non-existent. As her nurse-daughter advocate, I tried to be super nice because 1) I am, and 2) Mom was (rightfully) afraid of retribution. Was my advocacy successful? Partially.
There’s nothing I hate more than bullies. For me a bully is anyone who wields power over another and doesn’t wield it kindly or appropriately. In this category, I place some governments, some hate groups, some police officers, and sadly, some nurses. It also includes any person who is physically stronger and/or meaner than another and decides to target an individual FOR ANY REASON.
Trump and his administration deserve a special place in hell for the category of bully they embody. Along with Hitler, Pol Pot, Mussolini, the Czar in 20th Century Russia, Stalin, Putin, etc… you get my drift. Mega-misuse of mega-power. Particularly cruel individuals without redeeming qualities who inflict untold amounts of fear, terror, and harm on those they are meant to serve.
Back to nurse bullies for a minute. I also believe there should be a special place in hell for this group. I’ve seen too much. As a fellow nurse, as a patient myself, and now as an advocate for my Mom.
After a week in Phoenix (when I thought things were somewhat under control) I returned home and promptly got sick with that nasty virus that has been taking people out. It took me out for ten days, during which time I continued my advocacy via phone and email.
All of this (Mom’s fracture, my illness, oh yeah, and a couple of other things) would have been easier to handle if it wasn’t for the news every morning.
I know we’re all trying really hard to fight off this demagogue-administration. Seems like the media has belatedly stepped up to the plate. I know some national organizations (the ACLU, the SPLC, and others) are fighting in the ways they can. We have to. I’m still signing some petitions and making some phone calls, but I confess I’ve fallen off more than I’d like to be true.
Surfacing from illness, most of my days are interlaced with personal and “normal” activities. Each time I hear of another governmental crime perpetrated, I wonder in which way this moment is analogous to the unfolding of the Third Reich. Were a sizable portion of German people upset, angry, and worried like we are? What proportion were? Did they get active, or after awhile did they just wince when they heard about something? Wince, and then go back to their “to-do” list?
I once saw a documentary that went to the German village where Kristallnacht had started. Back then, it was a small village with a sizable minority of Jewish citizens and shops. The filmmaker asked the German residents where they were the night of Kristallnacht. I’ll never forget this one woman with piercingly blue eyes and silver hair who looked to be about seventy. With no sense of discernible dis-ease, she stared coldly into the camera, righteously enunciating her alibi “I was busy baking bread”. Her words cut through me. With that one sentence I understood something of evil. In that moment I promised myself never to be too busy baking bread.
But at which point does the bread baking cease? At which point do we overthrow our own daily concerns to help those under on-going attack?
These days there are so many things on my mind. But this is mostly what is on my mind. Instead of repeatedly asking the question, “What are they doing now?’ asking “What are WE doing now?” What we do will make the difference. Of that I feel certain.
But what is our game plan? Our strategy? Where is our leadership? How do we protect people from hate crimes? How do we create real sanctuary and safety for immigrants? How do we not turn on each other? How do we find bravery in ourselves, and stay brave? So many questions.
Here’s Rachel Maddow on Russians, Trump, and bravery.
I am also reminded by this article in The Guardian of what we have already accomplished. It is indeed good to be reminded.
I’m feeling a little lost and compass-less. Maybe it was just the bad case of February I had.
I’m hoping to feel stronger and less exhausted soon.
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On another note…
It’s important to know we’re not alone. I found these words comforting and inspiring. Padraig O’ Tuama, poet, Christian theologian, and healer leads the Corrymeela Community of Northern Ireland — offering a place of refuge.
He reads the words (I’ve transcribed below) at the end of this most wonderful interview with Krista Tippett. I love people who can hold so much unknowing and trouble in an open heart. Though I do not currently have a daily prayer or sitting practice, perhaps this blog-writing practice is a way that I kneel, sit, listen. I hope so.
(I’m actually not sure if Padraig’s words are in poetry or prose form. Please forgive if the form is not as it should be. Also, I am not sure which of his books this reading was taken from.)
Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of praying.
And we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But…
I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway.
So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting.
Making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to.
There I greet God and my own disorder.
I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire, and my trouble.
I say hello to distraction and privilege.
I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus.
I recognize and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story.
I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body.
I greet the things I think will happen.
And I say hello to everything I do not know about the day.
I greet my own small world and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.
I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day.
And hope that I can hear some stories and greet some surprising stories
during the long day ahead.
I greet God and I greet the God who is more god that the God I greet.
Hello to you all I say as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast.