Election night has been so upsetting that even my cat threw up, twice. Everyone in my immediate family called their mother. And we all sort of gawped at one another, long distance, while in the mirror, I could see the pulse beating in my neck.
I could be angry—but I see no point. Right now we are at the mercy of the angry, of those who added their rage to their fear, and who bought into a campaign that offered very little reason, and very little knowledge, even, of the Constitution, so that a man who awaits two criminal trials could become president of the United States. More anger—while natural—will not serve us here. Not now—not en masse.
What we need to do now is what so many have started already. It is, in fact, what we did after the Orlando shooting. We need to say we love one another. We need to say we’ll protect one another. We need to say that when one of us becomes a victim, we all stand as victims. And this stance is a potent thing. It makes of us a unity. All of our colors and creeds, all of our genders and sexualities—we are one force pushing against the hatred that we just watched lay hold of our country. In our resolve, and in catastrophe’s peculiar alchemy, we will become the very community we’ve fought to defend.
Catastrophe is Greek for “overturning.” If we look to the Jews, who are no strangers to oppression, we see that their prophecies are actually histories of catastrophes. They are prophetic, in part, because they show what happens if we follow the same patterns of the past. In recent centuries, a national cult of unreasoning hostility would both engender and suffer an overturning, after reaching a climax—which was usually a war. According to this pattern, the catastrophe would right the world after the world had gone upside-down. The catch, of course, is that millions of innocents would suffer the price.
We all have reason to fear. We all have reason to fight. And if Trump makes good on his promises, and deports the Muslims, and suppresses the women, and walls off the Mexicans, and increases police violence, and orders unconstitutional arrests—if he picks war, and ruins the earth, or starts to shoot the good folks at Standing Rock, then yes, we do fight. We fight legally and peacefully. We renounce all violence, unless it is the only way to save a life.
We look to our gifts: our ideas, our art, our pedagogy, our science, our ethic, our humor, our courage, our faith. We each find the tool with which we are most deft, and we wield it to carve out what good we can, to preserve democracy where we can, to open our unity even to those who voted for this threat, because, at heart, they too were afraid.
We may not be able to say that we were there on the night that a woman became president. That is a loss. So instead let’s say that we were part of the community that saved the country—not just half of it, but all—by holding onto its most basic ideals even when our brethren, our media, and the government itself lost sight of them.
For the next four years, build sanctuaries for one another. Put a sign in your office, or church, or classroom that reveals that you keep a safe place for minorities. Keep certain social media communities alive and talking; they need members more than ever. Read. Write. Speak to one another, even if it’s just to our group. We may not be able to convince our opponents of our ideals, but we will be able to bolster our friends. So rise up. Sit in. Sing. Pray. When things have become this dark, we need to use our voices, if only to know that we are not alone.
We are not alone. The popular vote has shown that. The rest of the world will show it. Our leaders haven’t fled us; they are young and they remain among us. We have faced our losses, and more of them will come to claim us. But goodness is divine, because in spite of even death, it rises again.
(Originally posted November 8, 2016)