There are some days that you hope only happen once in your lifetime, if they happen at all. Some days that you hope only happen once in a lifetime or not at all. Days that cast long shadows and make you shiver. Days where what’s happening weighs on you because you know it’s not just, not right, not going to have a good outcome (even though you hope otherwise). Days that make you itch beneath your skin with the need to do something, even when you can’t quite pinpoint what that something is, for you.
On a day like Friday, January 20th, 2017, when someone—who is ill equipped for the status in both manner and experience—ascends to the highest office in a country of great influence over world affairs, after running a campaign where xenophobia and sexism and racism and bigotry were the order of the day, I encountered of all of these sensations.
This is not a political blog insomuch as I don’t actively post about politics here (I have other social media for that). But I’m certain, from some of the pieces I write, you can easily guess at my politics. Writing is personal therefore writing is political. And I’m getting more personal for a moment.
I’m an introvert. I subsist on a few close relationships and the company of books and notebooks and the quiet of sparsely populated rooms. I’m not flashy. I don’t bloom under attention. I’m not a great orator. That is to say, I’m not the type of person I think of when I think of a person leading social interventions, rallies, marches, movements.
But I will lead. When other people aren’t fit. When other people won’t stand up. When something is wrong. I’ll do it quietly. Forcefully, if need be. And I’ll do it my way.
My way means, first and foremost, with words. Words pouring out through ink and paper or keyboard and monitor. Through fiction and non-fiction. On social media and in emails and written letters to those in office who need to be consistently reminded that they are meant to represent me and people like me.
My way means calling out falsities when I see them, and there’s a lot of work ahead in that. This last year has been chock full of misinformation, both intentional and unintentional, garnished with click-bait headlines. And this misinformation runs from Breitbart to Occupy Democrats, from Fox News to CNN. The truth and a lie are not “sort of the same thing,” and a lie on the left, while maybe targeted to a different purpose, is just as bad as a lie on the right.
So my role is to call out, to corroborate, to cite reliable sources and to deliver the message: until you can corroborate a story – especially a story that seems too good to be true or too terrible to be true – with at least three or four other reputable, reliable sources, with at least one not having a stake in the story, consider it suspect.
My way is making a promise to myself to read even more in 2017, especially non-fiction. To explore realms of political and social science with which I’m only tangentially familiar, because I’m constantly realizing how much I don’t know. And it bothers me. (Though I realize, as much as I’d like to, it’s simply not possible to know everything.)
My way is involvement. A culmination of all of the above put into action through lending myself and my time and energy, as I have it, to some kind of outreach (social media, phone banking), to internal and administrative support for the people or organizations that need it.
My way is through my privilege. I’m not rich. If a catastrophic personal event happened, I would, inevitably, wind up in a place that most people do: with expenses I can’t pay and worries of losing my livelihood. But right now, I’m comfortable. Together, my husband and I make a decent living and we, unlike many, have no real debt. We’re lucky. We’re privileged. And it’s my job to use that privilege to make things better. So I’ll be “voting with my dollar,” as it were, donating to organizations and causes that are dear to me and that will help, not just affect positive change but to decrease the negatives that will no doubt come with this administration and maintain the gains we’ve made over the last eight years.
I’ll also be subscribing to at least one of my favorite journalistic outlets, because from what we’ve seen so far there is a tug-of-war going on with the media and I don’t want it to become a full fledged war. We have a very real need for strong journalism in this country. Not just today, but tomorrow and every day and every year as we keep moving forward. Accountability is key and, even when it has its faults, journalism helps keep the public, and those who serve the public, accountable.
And it will be hard.
For some people, these next years may be the hardest they’ve been through.
These next years will be exhausting, and thankless and at times, they will probably seem endless. We’ve passed the end of one era and are in the beginning of another but, eventually, this era will too end. We may not come out of it unscathed or without losses, but we will come out of it.