I haven’t written in a few days. I’ve been distracting myself with projects and workouts and, as always, work. This morning, as I sit down to type my thoughts, I find my insides a quagmire of outrage and confusion, impatience and frustration, sadness and numbness, and maybe more than anything: disappointment.
My brain is spinning in circles, with no clear direction, random facts brimming to the surface in a stream of consciousness that I can’t clearly comprehend.
My thoughts keep going back to the movements of the past. Segregation, for example. After decades of black kids being restricted to poorer educations, people had to force the government to decide to take action, and that took another dozen years before they began enforcing sanctions and made segregation illegal. Even then, local politicians authorized the use of police and military force to keep grade school aged black kids from walking into white schools. It took a few years for the heat to wear off, and then the public stopped focusing on segregation as a hot button issue, and so all of the publicly funded white private schools that were created, and racially based, were ignored. We have seen this trend again more recently with the passage of gay marriage; those opposed went kicking and screaming, and then instead fought for legislation for “religious freedom” which would allow people to discriminate against gays on a legal level.
Then my head spins to the Civil Rights movement, the public marches, almost universally peaceable, that were met with extreme violence on the part of white protesters who refused to give African Americans a seat at the table, and instead murdered, beat, and intimidated them. Then I flash to the Civil War, where hundreds of thousands of lives were lost to end slavery. And then it spins on to a litany of facts, from failure to give women a seat at the table, to lacks of hate crime laws to protect populations that need help, to… on and on.
And then I’m back to where I spent the days before the election: absolute shock and disgust that anyone could possibly vote against measures that accept and include humanity, and how we can possibly give power to a man affiliated with every principle that goes against my personal feelings and beliefs. How could my own family have voted for that man? How can they not share my outrage, my disgust, my fear?
And then, finally, my rational brain trumps my emotional brain. In the cause of social justice, there are no easy victories. Nearly everyone I consider a hero has been fighting this same fight with little victories and major setbacks since long before I was born. The Equal Rights Amendment never passed, Martin Luther King gave his very life, Emma Goldman was deported for refusing to be silent, on and on.
Despite the ugly corners of the history of humanity, however, this does feel like a very divisive shift. After a handful of years of slow and deliberate progress, this feels like such an angry line in the sand. In a strange and somewhat hopeful way, I see a silver lining of this election possibly being a great unifier: Donald Trump and those he has surrounded himself with are anti-everything: Black, Mexican, Muslim, Immigrant, Woman, Gay, Transgender, the Disabled… we have an opportunity to all be on the same page.
I see people I respect, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, conceding in a way, with mutterings of giving the new president a chance. I don’t think I can do that. I recognize that there are governments out there without the freedom of speech, who silence those who are not in power, who use intimidation, prosecution, and violence to keep voices from being shared openly. This feels like a step in that direction. It feels disgusting, and scary. And all around me, I see people (most of them white and religious) who shrug and roll their eyes and say this isn’t that big of a deal. To me, it is, and to nearly everyone in my circles, both professionally and personally, both locally and online, it is a big deal as well.
I’ve spent hours in these past several weeks typing about social justice, about logic and human rights and history and celebrating our differences. And I’m realizing that it is almost impossible to reason with the unreasonable. I can’t reason with a political mindset of refusing to teach sex education, then refusing to allow women to get abortions, then refusing to pay welfare to babies born in poverty. And how is it that for the second time in my life time, my candidate has won the majority vote and still isn’t the president?
As I organize my thoughts here, I realize how all over the place I am, how exhausted. I feel like I just emptied the drawers of my desk and dresser and laid out all of the items in a big pile on the floor, and now I’m just standing there, a bit helpless and overwhelmed, with no idea of how to organize them differently, or if I should just leave them all there in a big pile, or if I should just start with one item and begin the job.
For a few minutes, at least, I’m tired of screaming, and I’m tired of being silent. I’m tired of reasoning and being reasonable, and I’m tired of being silenced and being told to wait my turn. I’m experiencing a vast and personal unrest. The fundamentals of my life haven’t changed: job, kids, bills, goals, living life… but my faith in humanity is being stretched and I’m not sure what to do with it.