September 16, 2016Sixteen Years Ago – Melancholic Memories – 53 Days
The Day After – On Resilience
I’ve said much of what I want to say about the events of yesterday on Facebook, mostly in the wee hours, and I’ll paste that in below.
A good friend has said that he can’t wait for me to process this whole trip to the US that I have had because he wants to read what I’ll have to say about it.
I do feel like it will take some time to wrap my head (and heart) around all that has happened here, for me, to me, since August. I came with two hopes, neither fulfilled, but along the way so many, many, good things have happened.
I came because I feared just this outcome and wanted to do what I could to prevent it.
My one Trump-supporting Facebook friend commented on one of my posts today that I have wasted my time. To which I replied, and this before Hillary’s concession speech in which she said something similar, that it’s never a waste of time to fight for what you believe in.
I haven’t watched or read the news today. I’ve seen some headlines but that’s about it. I’m going to step away from it all for a bit – there’s nothing there I feel I need to know right now.
What I ended up doing today was this:
I woke to a grey sky after four or five hours of sleep.
I spoke some with Emma, our organiser here in Old Town, about how we were both doing … okay. We did what we could to prevent this. Now, it is what it is – we must work to assure it isn’t as awful as we feared and hope it’s a lot better.
Then I went to a diner and ate blueberry pancakes. It seemed to me people were being kinder and quieter than usual.
A formation of three or four fighter jets roared overhead with one of them peeling off just above me. My eyes welled in the realisation that those machines and the men and women who operate them will soon be under the command of Donald J. Trump.
At John Kennedy’s grave I was overtaken by a gaggle 8th graders from North Carolina. They all had matching t-shirts. A few wore Girl Scout vests, one, a hijab; they were black, white, South Asian and Latino. I wanted to look each of them in the eye and say, “I am so sorry.”
I got into politics in the first place because of Bobby Kennedy. Visiting him today I thought it was important to take the time to write down the familiar quotes at his gravesite. As I wrote them a man said it might be easier to take a photo. I explained that I knew the quotes but felt today was a good day to write them down. He asked if I was a historian; I said, “no – just a fan” gesturing towards Bobby’s grave. “Well, that makes you sort of a historian than, really.:”
It is from numberless acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance – South Africa, 1965
Aeschylus wrote: In our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our despair against our will comes the awful grace of God.
What we need in this country is not division what we need in the United States is not hatred what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness but love and wisdom and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice toward all those who still suffer within our country whether they be white or they be black. Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago – to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that and say a prayer for our country and our people. – Indianapolis 1968 (on the night of MLK’s assassination)
It was then I began to see my day was going to be healing and empowering.
From there I walked to the Lincoln Memorial and was met by the usual swarm of tourists. I heard a lot of Spanish speakers. A young African-American tour guide led a group including two heavy set older white men in Alabama sweatshirts and caps. He brought them to the point where Martin Luther King Jr stood to deliver his “I have a dream” speech.
Inside another guide said to his charges, “I would make the argument that America is still suffering from the wounds of the Civil War.”
A two year old gazed up at Abe in wonder.
A lesbian couple held each other while reading The Second Inaugural speech, delivered on 4 March 1865 some four years into the Civil War:
…With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
As I strode away in the direction of the Martin Luther King Jr memorial I noticed a young white guy taking extra effort to take a good photo for three black guys posed against the famous back drop of the Reflecting Pool, Washington Memorial and, in the distance, Capital Dome. When he’d done with that I saw him strike up a conversation with another black guy. I had a feeling he was trying to be extra kind, trying to do something to counter the election of Donald Trump.
I dubbed my walk the American Resilience Tour.
The sky had gone steel-grey and angry by the time I got to Martin Luther King Jr. There I found a trio of women, about my age, and overheard one say, “I’m so glad we stopped. We so needed this today.”
An African-American guy was lingering at the feet of MLK looking morose. I heard him say to someone on the phone that he often comes here when he’s feeling low.
Then to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial and more quotes that felt so appropriate to the day.
I then finished the day at the Holocaust Museum.
I was uncertain the museum was the right way to end the day but it is an ode to human resilience and a reminder of why I came to America in the first place.
Fascism is no joke – this Trump presidency calls for a new age of vigilance and activism.
We all – not just in America, but everywhere – need to be in it, we need to be paying attention, and we need to be acting – not just talking, not just Tweeting, and blogging and liking and sharing, but participating in real-life.
This is a resilient country. Americans are a resilient people. They, and we all, will get through this.
Here is what I said on Facebook on Election Night:
At 11:35 pm:
I feel sick. We are in trouble people – all of us – even if she pulls this out, and I sure hope she does, but I’m feeling sick, like I said. Something has gone wrong. Somehow we have to come together and solve these problems – the problems of people everywhere who feel like they have been f**ked by the system as we know it.
Complacency + a lack of empathy = we’re all fucked.
I’m going to sleep (perhaps with my Australian passport under my pillow). And I’ll see out my time here feeling a little guilty for being able to go home. When I get there I’m going to take a break from politics for a bit but then find a way to throw in with people working to lessen the fear, close the gaps, increase empathy and try to assure we have a system that works for as many people as possible.
What’s happened in America is part of a big big world wide problem. It’s on all of us to try to solve it – with empathy and understanding.
People who feel hard done by, feel hard done by. Dismissing their feelings as whinging or selfishness breeds contempt for the system, distrust in the policy makers, and civil discordance.
There are a lot of people feeling hard done by – Trump voters, Bernie voters, Black Lives Matter folks, young people struggling to get a hand on the ladder, any ladder – all of them have legitimate complaints that have been dismissed or manipulated by the powers that be.
I don’t know what the solution is but I think it involves ratcheting down the rhetoric and finding a way to really listen to one another somehow.
At 3am: Final comment. Sleeping now, really.
Wednesday morning: The sun has risen, the world is still on it’s axis. I’m going to go find pancakes and read my novel. For my friends in very dark places today – take a deep breath, go for a walk, gets some rest. We, everywhere, need to ready ourselves.