I think that’s the single most articulate thing I can say about the past week.
Two true confessions: One, I hope I have Trump supporters among those who read this log. If I do, I believe in you. I don’t believe in him, but I most certainly do believe in you. I know you wouldn’t have elected him if you didn’t really believe that anything short of categorical change was imperative, and I want to work with you to make your world better.
Second, I am terrified. I grew up directly under the specter of the Holocaust. My grandfather’s sisters – Chana and Leah Wachman — were murdered along with their husbands and young children. My great-uncle, Simon Rosovski, was buried alive. There are more, but even these two sentences have been painful to write. Still, these and more must be written. Because while I doubt any sort of Holocaust would ever happen here, the events that led up to it were characterized by intense economic frustration and a thousand small moral infractions that snowballed into huge crimes against humanity.
There’s no denying that the events of last Tuesday made many people who believe in equality, moral courage, the law, the American government, inclusiveness, and hope feel like the world was spinning off its axis. I was watching the election returns with my nine-year-old, and I started pinching myself then, and I’m still wanting to pinch myself today.
But I have to admit there was an unexpected grace buried in the experience of watching such upheaval with a child beside me. I was forced, as it was happening, to figure out what I was going to say to him, what I was going to model for him. What I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and weep until 2020, but as the tears started coming, his bright face kept turning up to mine, wondering and asking.
I’m not afraid to have my children see me as human, to see that I feel pain and suffering and dismay, but I’m also aware that they need me more than ever to be someone they can lean on. And as my little one was sitting beside me, looking for cues, a few things occurred to me.
Even though it seems like the world changed overnight, it didn’t. No matter who was elected, the anger and fear and resentment and blame we feel is swallowing this country whole was there on Monday, November 7th. It was there last year, too. In some ways, it’s been here since this country was founded. And if it’s there, I want to know about it. If there’s suffering, we need to see it for what it is – even if it’s horrific and ugly and something we want to turn away from – that won’t heal anything. No matter how stomach-turning the wound, it will only fester if we turn our backs.
Also, one can be furious and thoughtful at the same time. There are more than two choices available to those of us who are disappointed and shaken. In other words, we don’t need to decide between believing that the sky is falling and believing that everything is going to be OK by next week. As is the case with every degree of social unrest, the response for a while will be to wade through ambiguity and dis-ease with our heads up, our eyes open, and our hearts expanded.
It is going to be OK, eventually, even though it most certainly is not OK right now. What we’re dealing with – the horrible buildup of political strife and terror and pain and negativity – on ALL sides – is nothing new. Such moments of crises have been in the path of humanity since society began, and their catalysts will always be at least on the fringes. Yet we always find new and better ways to combat them. And there has been enormous success, and that’s not going anywhere, even though it might feel like it’s temporarily suffering from a kick to the stomach.
But even now, we all know that the way to combat the worst in a society has always run along to the same lines: see what there is to see, have the courage not to flinch, the compassion to understand how it came to be, stand up for what’s right, and take care of each other. And I know this can happen. Humanity is goodness with a susceptibility to negative tendencies, particularly when we don’t face our fears and take responsibility for our part in what’s wrong and what can be righted. But at the end of the day, the good always wins out. And while at this moment it feels like it will be a long time before that happens, the sooner we can bring ourselves up to bat for compassion and courage, the sooner we will be able to realize the best this country has to offer. Because sometimes the toughest disagreements clear the air better than any tentative truces. And maybe when we make it through this, we’ll find that our best is better than we ever thought it could be.