Friday, November 25, 2016

Thankful

Even the birds seemed mindful of Thanksgiving. Late afternoon held a silence usually reserved for daybreak. The air was cold and clean with whispers of rain. The houses looked cozy, lights illuminating families and friends gathered around tables or clustered around televisions. A few windows revealed Christmas trees, which caused me to marvel at the domestic skill I myself lack. Christmas trees more than a month before the day!

I passed by the lawn to which for so long was staked a "Veterans for Trump" sign, now disappeared.

At home three people awaited me: a husband preparing turkey, a college student who'd undergone the requisite gain in maturity after only three months' time, and a teen growing so furiously that he looked starved (all evidence to the contrary). The three playing Monopoly as the turkey roasted.

And I felt lucky, despite no Christmas tree (yet), despite the fact of this Trump presidency.

People do go on. Life does go on. Fighting for what we believe, for what we know is right and wrong, that too goes on - tomorrow.

Someone else, walking by my own house, must have seen a scene of cozy domesticity, and felt as I did, not envy, but a kind of wonder and love of it all, beginning and ending with the birds that knew to hush in recognition of a day made extraordinary by being altogether ordinary.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Topsy-Turvy

I wake up disoriented. It takes me a few seconds to place myself, to remember what day it is. It takes me another minute or so to feel a familiar knot, an awful, choking mix of anxiety, frustration, and helplessness. Yes, yes, Donald Trump did win the election. I roll over, grab my tablet from the nightstand, and start checking the news. Anything could have happened overnight. I am prepared for anything. And yet I am also quite obviously prepared for nothing, because each fresh bit of news - today it's that President-Elect Trump called some of our most well-known reporters into a meeting to excoriate and browbeat them, as only a good fascist does - shocks and galls. I cannot be surprised anymore, I think. And then, once again, I am surprised.

++++++++++++++

Blogging, post-Trump, feels indulgent. I could be spending my time in a way that's more useful to others. I could be writing a letter to a senator, signing a petition, calling my representative's office. I have done these things. They feel small and insignificant. I don't know whether they will do any good.

I don't know what to tell my children. I don't know how afraid they should be. I don't know whether they will have to fight in a war we (we? they? he?) should never have started. There are so many unknowns.

As a child I read a book, an homage to Escher as I remember it now, about a world gone topsy-turvy. It's only in the last few weeks that the book, long forgotten, has come to mind. Its images and text seem to have leapt off its pages into the world I inhabit. It's as confusing as it is frightening.

What do we do now? I keep searching for answers. If I look to history, I see what we should not do. We should not stand by, we should not let what is morally repugnant become what is normal; if it's normal, it's too easy to overlook.

It is harder to figure out what to do, and to know what action of mine might make a real difference.

I cannot even sit still long enough to write coherently. I apologize. 

This will have to suffice, until things make a little more sense.

Time for more phone calls and letters.

The people walk upon their heads,
The sea is made of sand,
The children go to school by night,
In topsy-turvy land.

 (excerpt from Topsy-Turvy Land by H.E. Wilkinson)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Voting: One Family's Legacy

My mother always took my brother and me along when she voted, even when I was so small that I couldn't see or reach the rows and columns of levers, and the massive switch underneath. So the experience was ingrained in me: the privacy curtain, the stale smell of the air in old buildings (schools, churches) not kept up, the elderly men and women who helped my mother fulfill her civic duty. In these public spaces, unlike most, children were encouraged, even celebrated, and few adults missed the chance to remind us kids that someday we too would be granted a golden ticket, like Charlie Bucket's, to vote.

Afterward we'd sit down to a special dinner. My grandmother believed in Election Day dinners. In my memory these were almost as elaborate as Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, although they involved cold foods, not hot: picnic food in November. My birthday fell a few days before Election Day (still does), and so for me the air was doubly charged.

Once dinner was finished my mother, grandmother, uncle, and aunt would scurry to the family room and watch the returns, sometimes well into the next morning. They, political junkies all, were never more animated than on election night. I would lie on the floor and half-listen to swells of conversation. I didn't understand most of it but by its pitch and tone I could suss out who was winning or losing, and whether we (unified in this if nothing else) were happy about it. No one ever remembered to put me to bed. I'm not sure they knew I was in the room.

++++++++++++++++++++ 

Three of four of those people have died, and yet they are with me on Election Day. This I know: They would be appalled by this election season. They would be inhaling it as reliably as they inhaled the smoke from their cigarettes. If they knew how to do so they would be checking fivethirtyeight.com as obsessively as I am.

I miss my grandmother, mother, and uncle most on the first or second Tuesday in November. On Tuesday I may not use switches and levers to cast my vote for HRC, but when I ink circles I will sense my departed family gathered around me much the way my brother and I swirled around my mother as she voted. I will smell their cigarettes and feel their passion for the electoral process. And I will be buoyed by their legacy as I vote for the candidate they would have chosen.