If you’re reading this, you made it to 2018. Congratulations. Many with whom I agree politically and morally were, at this time last year, inconsolable, even hostile toward hope, and scarcely capable of envisioning this day. We were in the early stages of a kind of grief.
Grief over what loss, exactly? Loss of a sense that our society is on a path toward inclusivity, a sense that we are closer to the mountaintop, in striking distance of a promised land of diversity, justice for the disenfranchised, less economic disparity, concerted action toward the troubled environment, respect on the global stage. A more perfect union. If not a cessation of war, a move toward more peace. Progress.
But on January 1st, 2017, all of that seemed dashed.
Around that time, at a meeting of fellow Progressives, most of them women, I posit that all of the above might merely have been deferred, and we must cling to hope. I am heckled. In that moment, my whiteness, maleness/cisgendered-ness, and privilege are obvious as never before. Easy for me to say, and to think. In the faces and voices of my sisters, white, of color, cis, and otherwise, I see in excruciating relief their grief exacerbated by a shocking clarity: sexism and racism are even more entrenched in our nation than we’d thought, which is saying something indeed. And these forces are not abstract. They are as real as the air we all breathe, but unlike that air, quite visible; malevolent, physical presences, now wielding great power. How are we to deal with this, to beat it back as our forebears did, to continue their great work, and preferably not die in the process?
Shortly thereafter, the Resistance fitfully coalesces, gets its shit together. Yes, there’s some collateral damage: friendships are strained or lost, relationships rent asunder. Families plunge into crisis, prescriptions are filled. Clickbait and outrage porn earn millions for darkly savvy media types, and genuinely drive some folks legit crazy. Twitter battles ensue. The word THREAD gains new meaning. Rabbit holes are traveled, realities reassessed. Civility seems suddenly quaint. Nostalgia for boredom becomes a thing.
Has it really only been A YEAR?
I am reminded that the only way to slow down one’s perception of time is to travel. The constant influx of new information, new scenery, etc, makes the days, weeks, months seem longer. I once looked at this phenomenon in only a positive light. But now, not so much.
It does not seem possible only twelve months have transpired since January 1st, 2017. Because, like travelers, we’ve been processing new data, pivoting, thinking on our feet, planning. We make space for an unprecedented political and cultural flux, from the actions of the new administration, to the ongoing pushback; from the Women’s March, to the Mueller investigation; from the seismic #MeToo movement, to Democratic wins in North Carolina, and, for the love of God, Alabama. Even if you stay home in 2017, you travel in your mind, you memorize faces, names, places, as never before; you visit vistas created, and/or reported on, by others. You spend way more time in cyberspace, unintentionally distorting time. And you fiercely desire for this to change, even as your dopamine is digging it.
But more importantly, despite the exhaustion, you are actually engaged in action to change it all, probably as never before in your life. I certainly am. And while certainly not every action of resistance is successful, it’s not wasted energy. People are connecting in real time, in the streets, on doorsteps, at City Halls, on the phone, at the polls. Much better than chatting – or warring – on Facebook/Snapchat/Twitter/et al. I daresay we can all agree on that.
A different collective is rising, emboldened by small victories, not quite so despairing. Cautiously hopeful. Accepting, as the grief-stricken eventually do, that we lost a great deal, but beginning to allow that concerted, sustained effort may yet restore some semblance of those dreams of long-ago 2016.
Happy New Year.