Mourning in America

The day after…

Half the country is elated; half wants to slit their wrists. The elated half cheers the prospect of massive wrist slashing. This is what we have come to. Where is the comity? Where is civility? Where is the community spirit that says: “We are all citizens of a great land; we may disagree, but we will not be disagreeable; we will not hate; we will respect our differences”?

A recent meme on right-wing web sites suggests that the right to vote should be limited to those who have four grandparents who were born in this country. With such a restriction in place I would not be allowed to vote. Neither would my husband. Neither would any of my children. Neither would any of my nieces and nephews. Only my grandchildren and the nieces’ and nephews’ children would have the right to vote. This is what we have come to.

I wrote to my grandchildren to apologize to them for being part of a generation that has lost the ability to empathize with others, a generation that, apparently, has lost the ability to engage in critical thinking, a generation that has little respect for the “other side,” but offers instead only vitriol.

I believe that we began this slow slog in the 1980’s when greed ceased to be viewed as a deadly sin and began to be lauded as a virtue. Selfishness wasn’t a cause for shame; it became a patriotic duty. “Welfare queens” were destroying America! Food stamps kept the lazy from seeking work! Paying taxes was no longer the price for living in a democratic, civilized society; it was “the government” picking your pocket. Now, candidates for any office from local school board to President of the United States have to promise that they won’t raise taxes. Never mind the need for road and bridge repair, cyber security, upgrades to our electrical grid, clean energy, and so on. The “private sector” can take care of all that. This is what we have come to.

I’m depressed. I’m in despair. I’m not sleeping well. I want to find a glimmer of hope somewhere. This morning I heard the laughter of my neighbor as he waited with his son for the school bus. I don’t know what they were saying, but they were happy as they held hands at the end of the driveway. It was a small thing, that laughter, but it lifted my spirts briefly. This is what I need to hold on to—not what we have come to be, but what we can yet become.

The Week After…

“What we can yet become…” If anything I am in deeper despair today than I was last week! Even state governments are mostly solidly red. That means more voting restrictions, the dismantling of EPA regulations, the expansion of privatization of public schools (hereafter referred to as “government schools” to control the message that public education is a bad thing).

Yet, we are still here. How do we make a difference? I’m looking to the poets—W.B. Yeats, John Keats, Wordsworth, Billy Collins, Richard Wilbur. And to humorists: Garrison Keillor, James Thurber, P. G. Wodehouse, David Sedaris. And to wordsmiths who are also musicians: Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Ryan Adams. I am looking to hopeful inspiration wherever I can find it. What are you looking toward?

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7 thoughts on “Mourning in America

  1. I continue to grieve, but I woke the other day to a refreshing and white-hot rage. I am thinking about and deciding on action. Each day I find one thing, just one. Yesterday it was that Planned parenthood has reported record donations, many many of them in the name of Mike Pence. I wish you courage, and peace.

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  2. I agree, Diane. Things are scary. What we can do, I think, is make our voices heard. Donate to causes that support minority rights, women’s healthcare and rights, the environment. Volunteer. These ideas are not original but have been offered by others I respect. And like you said, be lifted by the laughter of children – they are our future.

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  3. Thank you for these reflections. This line brought a pained chuckle: “The elated half cheers the prospect of massive wrist slashing.” I, too, am deeply sad…and this was the focus of my slice. I am grateful for slicing! Writing brings light and relief.

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  4. As Maureen said above that writing brings light and relief. And so does reading! May you find solace in the wise words of the poets. Here’s a quote I’d like to share:

    “Reading gives us someplace to go when we need to stay where we are.”
    ~Mason Cooley

    And this would be my great escape.

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  5. I think being in schools really helps. Trying to see and hear everything through the eyes of child holds me to looking for opportunities and remembering we have the power to choose. There is more good in the world – we just need to make sure we are sharing the good as much as the bad –that is a choice we can make. Hang in there.
    Clare

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