Politics and Social Justice

My world has changed.

It has been one hell of a week. I didn’t vote for our new President. As the hashtag goes: #notmypresident.

I’ve read a lot of commentary about how shocked liberals are that so many people are ready to vote for a xenophobic, racist, homophobic, sexist man for President (not to mention his piece-of-work sidekick. I’ll admit it, I’m one of them. It’s been horrifying to reflect back on how confident I was that the vast majority of people are generally able to recognize and dismiss Trump as unqualified to be President. Confident that our social justice movements were basically working. I was blind. I initially titled this post, “The world has changed.” But then I changed it. For millions of people, the world is exactly the same as it was.

Our country has a lot of questions we need to answer collectively, but for me personally, the question is simple. How do I help? It isn’t enough anymore, clearly, to just be a person who thinks all these things are wrong. That’s just living with opinions. My dogs do that with aplomb. Opinions aren’t enough. How do I make the things I believe go from opinions to real actions out in the world?

The smallness of my life is overwhelming. I am one vote, one person. I’m not even a whole person, I have a chronic illness (fibro) that leaves me with less than half the energy of a normal person my age. It also means that I can’t recover from injury, even the little micro-tears from exercise, easily. Yesterday, for instance, I did some standing forward bends in yoga. I can normally do these. It’s a basic, beginner pose. But yesterday my lower back muscles just failed me. By evening I was in immense pain. This morning I woke up after a nightmare that I was repeatedly getting shot in the back, to find I was in so much pain I couldn’t turn over. I started my morning by laying in bed and crying for a few minutes, just to let the frustration out. This will take probably a week to heal. My husband had to bring my cane over to the bed, and dress me.

I already over-spend my fractured and frequently useless periods of energy on very worthwhile things, like my family, my education, my passions. I spent nearly fourteen years struggling with a debilitating anxiety disorder, time I wish I could have spent with more intention than merely coping, which means I don’t have the resources I might if I’d spent that time building a professional career. Yes, our household has extra money that we can give to a charity. We do that already. We give monthly support to several. And I’m glad we do, it’s a privilege to have that resource. But it isn’t enough.

What is enough? We all have to answer that in our own ways. We have to look at:

  • Which issues matter to us?
  • What resources do we have?
  • What energy do we have? What time can we give?
  • What do we need to learn that could help us move forward?
  • Who can we connect with to make our efforts more effective?

When I try to answer these questions for myself, the answers seem weak, like peeps from baby birds. So much more than I can give, is what’s needed. But everything helps. Everything we can do, even the small things, will add up to something. The point is, add your piece. Big or small. Vote, of course. Obviously, right? My first step is to finally be an adult who takes politics seriously. I’ll keep a better eye on what’s going on in my local politics. National too, right? I suppose so, although right now when I think about what Trump might do, I want to stick my head in the sand. Can’t we pretend this isn’t happening? No. Pull head out. Vow to peek out from behind the fingers, laced across face, covering eyes.

Second step: connect with other like-minded folks. Seems obvious, but I don’t just mean, “surround yourself with people who think like you do.” That’s a recipe for an echo chamber, and we know what that looks like. It even has its own “news” network. No, I mean, surround yourself with people who are working for the same goals you are. For me that means finding out what I can spare energy on, and giving that energy to a group that’s working for something I believe in. Right now whenever I ask myself what I believe about our country, it’s that we have to be better than this. It’s unlikely I can push big change on my own. I don’t have the wealth or power or charm (I know, right?) to influence some large social change. But I can join my little piece of clay onto a larger sculpture. I can be a part of an important statement.

What if we all did that?

I attended a wonderful seminar this week for yoga teachers and teachers-in-training. In yoga, we study The Yoga Sutra, a collection of aphorisms about yogic instruction and wisdom, compiled by Patanjali somewhere around 1600 years ago. In the sutra there are ethical precepts known as the yamas, and the first of these is ahimsa. Ahimsa means: do no harm. In class yesterday, one of my classmates was wearing a tank top that said, “Do no harm, but take no shit.”

I call that a start.

 

 

 

 

 

7 replies »

  1. I’m in shock too. And I’m not even living in the US, so I can’t imagine how shitty it must be for you. But what buoys me is the backlash coming from people who have decided they don’t want a bigot to be their president. The support they are offering marginalised communities gives me hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! I am very heartened by the number of people who seem to be having the same response I’m having. “Holy crap, we knew it was bad, but we thought the movements were working. Clearly we were wrong. We have to help more. Help NOW.”

      And the vast majority of those people have way more energy than I do, which makes me so, so happy.

      Like

  2. I love this post and feel the same way that you do. I didn’t see this coming either. I live in my liberal bubble a Trump county, but I didn’t think the majority of the country would also vote the same way. I understand it a bit more now, but election night and the days after were devastating. Let’s hope we move forward and be the change that our country needs.

    Also, I wish you good health and more days that you feel great than those that are filled with pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I agree with you. Moving forward and being the change is what we need to do now. I know it in my heart, but boy, it’s hard to stand up again. I feel so blown to the ground after the election. I want to just lay here and sleep for a few months.

      Like

  3. Hollie!! I love this post. You said it all perfectly. I just have to disagree with one thing. “I’m not even a whole person…” That’s right lady…I disagree with this wholeheartedly. I’d say that you are wayyy more than a whole person….you are doubly whole, or maybe even 3 or 4 times the energy…difficult to quantify. But I tell you, from the first time I met you I saw your fun, delightful, bright energy and now that I read about your struggles and the difficulties with fibromyalgia and anxiety (wowee…a 1000% perfect score for being so open and honest) I say that you are embodying the qualities that make a “whole” human, whole in spirit, in energy, in love. (And my heart goes out to you for the back pain) You rock! I really, really appreciate what you have offered here…its really, really beautiful and really, really inspiring. Thank You!!!
    May the Force be with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Cada, hello! It’s so great to hear from you. Thank you so much! I can’t tell you how I appreciate what you wrote. Really! That just means a lot to me. I’ll be holding that all day. 🙂

      I’m so glad you’re out there making your beautiful art! Knowing that just makes me feel a little safer and better in the world. We need art now more than ever. It holds us together!

      Like

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