Like many of you, I’m feeling squeezed. I feel like something is choking me. I feel like gasping for air even though I’m breathing. I have been trying to take breathing breaks in part to stay calm and in part to remind myself I am still alive. Still kicking. And if I’m still kicking, I can act. I can do something. I can make some difference. Somewhere. Somehow.
Today, I will work to keep educating kids. Today, I will look to science before it becomes a four-letter word. Today, I will practice other languages so I can maintain my ability to see, hear, and interact with people who come from different places. Today, I will ignore the faux extravaganza that will take place in my nation’s capital. Today, I will make music – some in protest, some to remind myself that beauty and art still exist and will continue to exist. Today, I will take care of myself in preparation for what is to come.
And that brings me to tomorrow.
To those marching, stay safe, stay strong, stay vigilant. Say what you mean but say it to those who will not reuse it to mangle your words, vision, or beliefs. Tomorrow will remind those in power that there is opposition to their methods – that millions of people disagree and will continue to hold these public servants accountable. Take pictures and video tomorrow. Share them widely so we all know how many people raised their voices because frankly, the numbers and the message will be misrepresented in the mainstream media. I have taken part in many marches and protests. Almost never have the numbers reported been the numbers we saw on the ground. Almost never has the message reported been the message expressed. This will be the first major protest where phones and cameras can readily report the actual event. We the people will need to see the multitude gathering in peaceful protest of what is to come.
There are many reasons this man is being sworn into office today. I could discuss Russia, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and manipulation of the media. But I will not. In addition to the above, so much of this happened because there is a great divide between certain sectors of the populace. On some level, we on the coasts of this great nation, have zero idea of what is going on in the interior of the country. Yes, there are pockets of people in urban areas that think like those on the coast, but for the most part, I have no illusions that I know what someone in rural Nebraska is going through, what their needs and fears are, and what they feel might best address those needs and fears. In order to make a difference in two years or four years, I believe we will need to reach out to the people who think differently, meet them, get to know them and their needs and fears, and work together to come up with a solution that works for more of us simultaneously. I say this because I believe this Presidential election should not have been anywhere near this close. The fact that it was (and even though Clinton won the popular vote) just means that we needed to do a better job of reaching out to those who were undecided and those who chose to stay away from the polls in droves. Next time, we must be better prepared to help pull back the curtain and show truth to power.
As for the incoming President, I could call him a sexist, narcissistic, misoginist, megalomaniacal monster who has no idea what he signed up for, but I won’t do that. I won’t do it because I believe he will be loud and jarring. And to use performance language, I believe he will be there to pull focus. His antics, his bullying tactics, his dramatic and maniacal clamor is a huge performance of misdirection. It is sleight of hand. It is designed to keep us reacting to what he is doing and saying instead of paying attention to what is going on behind the show in front. What concerns me is that if we just pay attention to the sound and fury and shenanigans of the man who sits as President, we will miss the essence of what else is happening. And that will be crucial.
To get through this, we will need to divide our focus in multiple directions. To get through this, we will need to be strong and we will need to be smart. I caution us all to react to focus-pulling in front of us with only as much attention as is warranted. We must not let the shenanigans pull our focus away from what is really going on because let us not kid ourselves, stuff is going on behind closed doors. Decisions are being made and actions are being taken, and if we don’t pay attention to that as well as to the smoke and mirrors going on in front of our faces, it will be to our detriment.
So, in addition to paying attention to the needs of those who live in different parts of this country from us and to the wheeling and dealing going on behind closed doors, we will also need to pay attention to what takes place in our own backyards. We will need to become stewards and caretakers for those who need help. Yes, we will need to hold the politicians’ feet to the fire, but we will also need to build and sustain awareness of who needs help in our vicinity. Kindness and tolerance are great buzzwords, but they will take on more poignant meaning in these next four years. They, in addition to vigilance, awareness, and action, will need to be the banner under which we march into this uncertain future.
I am not kidding myself into thinking things are going to be fine. I do not believe they will be. This will be a harrowing four years and dare I say it, possibly eight years. I know that, and I have a feeling many who are celebrating today’s inauguration will be singing a different tune in just a couple of years. However, I do believe that with kindness, tolerance, vigilance, awareness, and action we can prevail. We can usher in change.
In thinking of it, I would add one last word to this list. I would add education. We need to educate ourselves and each other about what is happening. We need to foster curiosity about what is really going on so we can make better-informed decisions. This goes for all of us on all sides of this tumultuous landscape.
I will be honest. On November 6th, I had no idea this might occur. “No way,” I thought. “No way will this country elect someone as unqualified and frankly revolting as this man who couldn’t keep a job on a reality tv show.” But, to many, he was a viable choice because he was marketed as representing change, any change. Again, I have a feeling that many will realize this “change” is not the kind they thought they wanted. But, like climate change, those kinds of “Oh, this actually *is* horrible,” realizations don’t come as “ah-HA,” moments, especially if the marketing keeps telling us “Don’t worry. It’s ok.” Those changes come gradually and by the time we realize they have arrived, they have already taken up residence, and it will be a major job to rid ourselves of them.
So, moving forward, we need to watch for the marketing and the spin. We need to call out every dirty trick and every bit of sleight of hand. Each time we see the wool being pulled over the population’s eyes, we will need to shine a spotlight on it and keep educating and keep speaking the truth. That is how we will pull ourselves back from this precipice, because let’s not kid ourselves. We are in unchartered territory here. Never has such an inexperienced man had such power in such a dangerous time. He has access to mind-boggling destructive power and the ego to want to wield it. And never have we had such changes taking place on a planetary scale while the person who sits in the Oval Office shows no desire to address those changes. And in fact, his choices for EPA and Education leads show us that he actively doesn’t care about them. And because he doesn’t care about the health of this planet, we have to care. And because he doesn’t care about the health of the people, we have to care. And because he doesn’t care about anyone but himself and those like him, we have to care.
We have to care, and we have to do something about it every single day until he is gone. T minus 1382 days and counting.