Many Americans feel in a state of shock since November 8, 2016. We’ve feel we’ve fallen down. We’re struggling to get back up. In a tailspin of emotional and psychological overwhelm. Our souls feel battered by a barrage of irrational acts, selfish motives and ignorant outbursts. Each New York Times or Washington Post headline slaps my own hopeful spirit before my first sip of morning coffee. Each tweet incrementally erodes my hope in humanity. Each GOP vote in favor of more wealth, power and prosperity for the elite and self-entitled few leaves me feeling voiceless.
The threads of the fabric in our American flag are being pulled at one by one. We are watching the unraveling in slow motion. Liberals are accused of being radically leftwing. And yet, we are simply responding to the size of the actions in like proportions.
Frustrated and discouraged, we resort to cynicism. Others completely withdraw, protecting our small selves from any more psychic, emotional and spiritual damage.
Such is the nature of political upheaval. Where we used to feel the warm patriarch of presidential energy cloaking our democracy, we now feel the lead of dismay and disappointment deep in our hearts. (Admittedly, I am romanticizing the Obama years, but don’t we all miss him, even a little?) Fear and intimidation are influencing decisions heretofore made with considerate, well-researched studies and informed, expert opinions. Terms as nationalism, fascism, federalism, and populism are bandied about on a daily basis. All we’ve known for decades as the roots of our imperfect democracy – equal opportunity, entitlement programs, public education, government stability, environmental health, a well-regarded reputation as a developed nation and leader on the world stage, wild lands and open spaces is being blown apart and systematically destroyed with each passing of executive order or congressional vote on that filthy senate floor.
Each generation has their ills with which to contend. Ours has been the destabilization of world peace since 9/11 in this new climate of fear and chaos.
Sigh. It’s a lot to take in. And, I believe this dark tunnel has a terminus and that the light is visible, if we will squint carefully in the right direction.
I have good reason to state this. I appreciate and understand times of transformation from my own life experience. I appreciate the growth experience they offer, albeit quite painful. The suffering is a measure of the value and importance of what’s at stake – just as the pain of heartache can inform the depth of love for the loss of a loved one. In this case, the importance of what’s at stake is obvious – our democracy.
This experience may have been foisted upon us like an unwanted cousin at a Thanksgiving family dinner, but for now he has pulled up a seat and is drinking our Cabernet. There’s no getting rid of that unwanted cousin or apparently, any significant member in this Administration, until sanity returns to Congress along with a semblance of integrity.
This is our new reality, when we are being asked to become more of ourselves. As American citizens affecting the world by the choices we make. As spiritual selves connected to a larger flow of life.
We all have choices. The outcome of which are as personal to our intrinsic ways of being as the callings of our soul is to the type of human beings we are. It is up to the strength of our individual character to answer the callings before us to preserve our democracy, one act at a time.
We can – and are – becoming a stronger nation, for answering the calls before us.
There was a time in my own personal life when I was forced to answer a similar call. It was a soulful cry, when my deepest nature cried out for something larger than the life I was living. I was forced then, to make a radical, painful choice on behalf of the self I was becoming, the outcome of which resulted in a complete unraveling of a well-established, secure and familiar life.
This time of political upheaval feels a similar calling, though not as deeply personal. While I was forced through life lessons to examine the ugly parts and weakest aspects of myself, to love myself when all others did not, I feel equally forced now, to regard and go beyond the ugly parts of our nation to remember and love the strongest parts of our democracy.
When I watched the ugly images of Charlottesville along with the rest of the country, the disgust for the darkness in humanity was as strong as the hate message it was sending – and yet from those moments I saw the bright, strong responsiveness rise in millions taking a stand in favor of equality for all ethnicities. In the noise of the controversy and declarations of white supremacy, I felt renewed for my hope in humanity, as NFL players had the courage of their convictions to kneel down in protest against police brutality and racism while many called them snowflakes and shouted derogatory remarks.
As I listened to Tweety withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, I saw the brightness of scientists gathering on the National Mall to impart their wisdom and knowledge of why our Rocky Mountain Octobers are eighty degrees, as a way to understand how our personal health is inextricably linked to that of the planet.
When I glimpsed the volume of signatures on petitions to save Bears Ears and other national monuments, I felt the unity in the collective voice of thousands of American citizens, all expressing our deepest wants to preserve the best parts of America as reflecting the best parts of ourselves.
Our intrinsic freedom and fundamental right as American citizens to pursue what lies in our hearts or lives in our minds, is living through each choice to cry out alongside a sister on Constitution Avenue at a Woman’s March Protest, rejecting a commander-in-chief handfed to us courtesy of the Electoral College and in contravention of the popular vote. Every time someone chooses to protect a non-Caucasian person from a violent act of hate and racism, we demonstrate our belief in protecting the diversity in all peoples and their fundamental right to exist, regardless of race or color.
Just as we can choose our routes to work each day, we can choose to look beyond the ugliness to see the beauty in the response thereto.
Just as I felt challenged back then through my own life experience, I was forced to choose to look at the lessons I was learning rather than the pain I was suffering. I came to believe in the experience itself.
I believe in this experience as well. I believe in preserving the integrity of our core American values as an authentic aspect of being American citizens, particularly when these values are being threatened like an unsuspecting tourist on the streets of Columbia. I believe in the sanity and sanctity of the legal process, though it’s being mocked from the Oval Office like an overweight sorority girl at a drunken frat party. I believe it’s important to love our democracy as an intrinsic part of our existence. I believe our hard-won right to vote is a right worth preserving and exercising each relevant November. I believe we are growing stronger as a nation, more fearless and clear, with each argument examined, each issue addressed. I believe we are more invested in our democracy than ever before, perhaps as strong as our forefathers had. I believe it’s important not to let the tactics of fear and intimidation determine how we vote in midterm and future elections, but that we can make informed, intelligent decisions reflecting our deepest values and core beliefs. I believe we can reject the cheap grabs for power like our commander-in-chief made a cheap grab for, well, you know…
I see this country as more aligned with our beliefs and core values than ever before. Freedom of speech and expression are revered as vital vehicles of protest in favor of preserving equality and opportunity for all. Love of our wild places evidences in each protest to protect public lands, if for no other reason than to know that the wholeness of being in nature reflects back the deepest wholeness in ourselves. Each outcry to save environmental policies protecting clean air and water reflects a strong desire to preserve a healthful quality of life for all.
Just as I learned the hardest yet memorable lessons from that tumultuous time to reclaim pieces of myself to become a stronger human being, I learned the voracity of my beliefs that held up in the value of the experience. Somehow, I found the strength to rise up after falling down again and again. I found the determination and self-acceptance I hadn’t known before that time. It all coalesced to form a more fearless self. Though I wish it’d been easier, I am grateful for that particular time in my own dark tunnel.
I offer this because I think it’s important to remember that each time we feel that we are living in Trump’s America, we can look up at the Belt of Orion and appreciate that this is a small period of time in which we are being challenged to become a stronger, better nation. Each time we may be tempted to toss our ballot into the garbage and say to ourselves, My voice doesn’t matter, we can remember the millions who feel as we do – and know it is the collective voice that will get us through. Each time we feel the train we are now riding on may be chugging through the dark tunnel with no terminus, we can and will emerge into a brighter, more beautiful view on the other side. It’s not unlike the California Zephyr riding through the Moffat Tunnel – it’s darker, more stinky and lass longer than we’d like, but it emerges out into the Western Slope in the Rocky Mountains, to reveal a breathtaking glimpse of the brightness of the spectacular views and awe-inspiring landscape, and we wonder how we ever arrived…