Where Were You When…

When I was a kid, I remember asking my parents “where were you when” type questions. “Where were you when JFK got shot?” or  “where were you when MLK was shot or the protesters at Kent University were shot?” My parents didn’t have the best memories so I didn’t get actual stories about it or how they felt. They don’t really enjoy discussing troubling or controversial issues, so there was usually some sort of change of subject.

I’ll be forty in less than six months and I’ve begun realizing two things: 1. I am the age my parents were when I started asking questions like that and 2. I’ve lived through some pretty historical stuff.

The Challenger explosion in 1986 is probably the first I can remember. I was about Eddie’s age. We were not watching it live on TV like so many other students around the country, but I remember talking about it before and what a big deal it was that a teacher was going to space. Third grade was the year we had a student teacher that sparked a fascination with all things space-related, and when that horrific tragedy occurred, it was a big deal. We didn’t really talk about it in school, but I felt the magnitude through my teacher’s and student teacher’s facial expressions and avoidance of the topic.

Later in 6th grade, the Berlin Wall came down. I remember watching it on TV. I was too young to know the history of it, but the celebration and joy and parties they showed on the news did not evade me. I was able to understand that something bad had gone away.

In 7th grade came Dessert Storm. Some of my friends had parents who were suddenly gone, overseas to countries I had never heard of until we started studying them in Social Studies class: Iraq, Kuwait, Iran. I remember a good friend’s dad was in the Reserves and he was called up and had to go. I remember how scared my friend was. To us, wars were in our history books.  Our grandfathers fought those–not our own dads and moms.

In 10th grade I remember getting word that Kurt Cobain had shot himself. It was the first time a pop culture figure’s death affected me. And it was my first time dealing with suicide. Sadly, it would be the first of many: Shannon Hoon, Bradley Nowell, Layne Staley, Chris Cornell, and Chester Bennington would all follow.

The Columbine school shooting happened my junior year of college. I remember sinking to my knees in front of the TV in the house I shared with four other girls. I was weeping before I realized what I was doing. I was in the school of education only a year away from my own student teaching assignment. This was the first of many mass shootings I would consciously witness in my life time. I would watch the US public search for someone to blame: the music kids listen to, drugs, mental illness, parents, but nothing would be done to curb them because apparently our right to “bear arms” is greater than our right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

I was in the middle of teaching a 6th grade Spanish exploration class as a long-term sub when my principal came to the door and told me about the first plane to hit the Twin Towers. She told me not to turn the TV on. I was confused because why would I? By lunch all the teachers were crowded around one small TV in the art room in silence watching those images over and over.

I often wonder what from the present will fall away and what will endure to make it to the history books. What will my own children ask me about? What will right now look like twenty years down the road?

Will they ask “what was it like when Trump was president?” or “Where were you when you heard about xyz?”

What will I tell them?

Sorting Words

I’m not sure what it is I want to write here in this moment. I don’t really know how to organize my thoughts in anything cohesive about what is happening in our country right now.

Ever since the day after Election Day, I have been promising myself I would put something here. Something so my kids look back, read my words, and know what it was like to live in this moment. I have failed at that because I truly don’t know what to point my words to.

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Do I focus on my distress, worry, and anxiety about our new president?  Because I am filled with distress, worry, and anxiety. His campaign was filled with lots of yelling, making fun of people, tweeting tantrums, cozying up to Russia, horribly misogynistic rants, racism, xenophobia, and more. I’m sure when my kids are old enough to read my writing, they will be old enough to read what our new president has said. Maybe.

The Preamble to our Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

See that bold part (that was my emphasis)? That means that our Constitution was put in place to make sure our citizens are ALL cared for, and that our citizens are ALL protected from unjust laws and a tyrannical government.

Our new president has nominated people to fill top leadership roles in our country who notoriously have worked against the very department they are supposedly going to be in charge of.

His chief adviser is a known racist.

We are being told that things that we hear and see with our own ears and eyes did not actually happen.

We are told that our president doesn’t lie, but gives “alternative facts.” (Pro tip: those are called lies).

I honestly haven’t been able to have a single day since he was elected that I could get my thoughts in order about how I wanted to write about this because every single day more news broke or he tweeted that people were mean to him or that Saturday Night Live made fun of him.

It’s enough to make my head spin.

This past weekend was the inauguration. So it’s official now.

This is what I know to be true right now: I do not trust our president.

I also know that I don’t want him to fail. Our country has a flawed system because humans are flawed. I don’t thin our current president is the one that is going to fix that, but I don’t want him to crash and burn because that would mean so very much pain for our country. Even more than has already been inflicted.

My prediction is that he won’t make it through his first term. At best he will be impeached, but then we have his VP to contend with. At worst…well…there are a lot of worse case scenarios and they all include someone’s bloodshed. That is unacceptable.

I don’t really want any part of my prediction to come to fruition. I would love to come here in four years and say, “man was I WRONG about that president!” I want someone–anyone–to get into his inner circle and help him be a leader who doesn’t hurt the people he is leading–someone who will help him do no harm.

Yet, he has already done harm. He has already marginalized.

I keep a small, match-sized flame of hope glowing, knowing full well that as a middle-class white woman who has insurance through her job that it is my privilege to be able to hold onto hope. And yet, how do we get through a day without some hope?

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Do I also focus on the protests? That is something my kids will surely learn about in history.

There were Women’s Marches this past weekend as well. All over the country. Actually all over the world. Women (and men) came out in droves and created what is now officially the largest inauguration protest of all time. There were lots of reasons people protested our current president, but they all boiled down to ALL of us having the SAME rights.

The march made me happy on Saturday as I watched the photos flood my social media. It gave me hope to see so many–millions!–come together to protest and have their voices heard!

We need to take action. Showing up is an action.

Yet I’ve seen some negative posts about march. It makes me sad. It seems that other people are still unwilling to listen to others. People are still trying to tell others that their feelings are wrong. “No, you don’t really feel oppressed because I don’t feel oppressed.”  People are still unwilling to accept that someone else’s reality and experience may be different than theirs–and that both can happen. And that alone is inequality. Why is it that a largely white crowd is a “peaceful protest”, but a crowd made up largely of People of Color is seen as a “riot”?

Our system is broken.

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Do I focus on what I am doing right now?

There is no question in my mind that we have to act. We have to raise our voice. We have to be the change. We can’t be content to write and share blog posts on social media, we also need to DO something.

As someone who is battling a really hard case of anxiety/depression this winter, probably in part to our current political situation, I have chosen to write my reps in congress and in the senate. I have chose to email and tweet them.

I have also chosen kindness. Our country needs kindness–humanity–right now. We need to be reminded that we are connected with each other even if we are different.

One thing we did this winter was actually Eddie’s idea. He was watching the news and saw a report on homelessness–specifically children who didn’t have winter coats and hats. He remembered this when I was packing up all the coats and hats that don’t fit anyone in the house anymore and asked me if we could give them to someone who didn’t have one instead of bringing them to GoodWill. We ended up taking a collection at church and taking the entire haul to Community Action House.

I have given money–be it small because that is what I can afford–to organizations that help educate people about cultural awareness and also go directly to help fund research and work in minority communities. My donations have gone to Being Black at School which helps educate and implement programs in schools to reduce the effects of systematic racism.

And of course I am trying to fight racism, tyranny, misogyny, and the rest with books. Research shows people who read fiction are more empathetic. Reading makes you a successful, smart person, yes. But way more importantly it makes you a good person. If you haven’t read The Giver, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, or Animal Farm, you should. Fiction writers have long been writing about worlds where tyranny rules and what that would mean to humanity.

 

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I am not doing things perfectly. There is more I could be doing. There is better I could be doing.

I am listening, I am staying vigilant, and I am spreading kindness.

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