In the storm of news that has happened over the past week, I’ve been struggling to figure out what to write. So many emotions, so many thoughts. Where to start?
I’ve felt terrified of the rapid authoritarian take over of our government, the silencing of dissenting voices, the usurping of power by a small group of racist, xenophobic, white-supremacists like Steven Bannon and Jeff Sessions. One only needs to read the news to see the pattern.
The government banned Muslims last week. It’s not a far stretch to imagine the Chinese will be next. China has long been portrayed as the enemy of the West. It’s not a big leap to imagine that I’m next. That my family is next. The idea of internment camps, concentration camps and refugee camps gnaw at the edges of my mind. My fear is real and, at times, crippling.
I’ve felt heartbreak for innocent people separated from families with futures in limbo, people whose lives have been crushed and hopes have been shattered. I’ve felt helpless in my desire to help.
I’ve felt anger at people who voted Trump into office, whatever their reasons. I’ve felt anger at people who continue to defend him and his actions, people who seem surprised at the way he has abused his power, spineless politicians unwilling to stand up for ethics, and morals. I’ve felt angry at leaders who are more concerned about their own positions than the welfare of our country and the future of our democracy. Yes, there has been a lot of anger.
I’ve felt a strong distancing from people who have the privilege to walk out of the room when things get uncomfortable, who have the privilege never to walk into the room at all.
I’ve felt a deep disconnect from people who shut out the news because the dismantling of our democracy and the persecution of millions will not affect them. I’ve been baffled by people who live so deep in their privilege they don’t believe injustice will happen, though it happens around them daily. People in denial are almost worse than the people who publicly proclaim their oppressive agendas.
I’ve felt shock – probably bordering on anger too – at people who continue to walk with blinders complaining about the “politics” on their Facebook feeds, seemingly unaware that we’re not fighting about politics anymore, but for the freedoms and rights of our Constitution.
Think that I’m sensationalist and overreacting? I say, I know history and I know where this path can lead.
Then yesterday, I got a Facebook message from a relative. It simply said, “I don’t know anything about politics. But I don’t like anything that’s happening right now. What do I do about it? Where do I start the fight? Please give me the first steps for someone who knows absolutely nothing.”
It was a shot of hope, like adrenaline coursing through my veins. I probably needed to read her message more than she needed any advice I attempted to provide. I needed the reminder of hope. Everyday, more people join the resistance.
This morning, I watched the Senate hearing for Betsy DeVos. Yes, there were several new additions to my little anger balloon. But, I felt inspired and relieved to hear from Senators who spoke truth about the real priorities and needs of our failing educational system. I loved listening to the Senators who blasted DeVos’s conflicts of interest, historically negative effect on schools and complete lack of qualifications. It felt good to know there are people in the government standing up too.
I feel hope knowing that teachers are on the front lines in schools, because teachers are some of the most resilient, bad-ass people that I know – especially urban teachers, who are the breed I know and love best. We know how to fight hard every single day and we do it for our kids.
I feel hope knowing that every time I’ve called a Senator’s office, the lines are busy. People are on top of their resistance game these days.
There are a lot of crazy things happening in our country, but I will not succumb to anger and fear. I will forever cling to hope.
As yesterday’s message reminded me, it’s never too late to learn. It’s not too late to rise up. It’s not too late to fight back.
We are living in pivotal moment in history. It is time to learn what we would have done during the Civil Rights movement, during Apartheid, during the Holocaust, during Japanese internment, during the Chinese Exclusion Act, during Columbus’ genocide of Native peoples… If we’ve ever wondered where we might have stood, what we might have done in the turbulent tides of history, we are standing there doing it now.
It is a time when we test the strength of our democracy. It is a time when we test our own moral courage. Perhaps at no other time has our system of checks and balances been stretched and distorted by people as dangerous or power-hungry. Can we withstand and hold strong?
Behind the nagging fear of what might come, I also have the rising feeling that we choose our future.
History doesn’t just happen to us.
We define it ourselves.
We will write our own stories.
We are in this for the long haul; there will be no resistance fatigue until we change the injustice, oppression and attempted destruction of our democracy.
For every woman, child, man who is waking up now to their own responsibility and power and voice.