November 9 – The Day After
November 9 – The Day After
Ed. Note: While this piece was inspired by the events of November 8, 2016, the words and phrases in italics below were taken from Selected Poems: 1965-1975 by Margaret Atwood.
I refuse to look in the mirror, as I know what will stare back is sorrow and sadness. I cannot allow my kids to see that look; that look that tells them, immediately, instinctively, indisputably, that something is wrong.
It is dangerous to read newspapers. They are filled with so much negative information, so many opinion pieces about what may come, what may be. While in some areas, the air is filled with an ether of cheers, not in my house, not in my head.
How did this happen? Why did it happen? What will happen next?
This is not order, but the absence of order. We live in a country where this should not, cannot happen. This is for banana republics and third world countries where the populace is fooled by con men and flim flam artists. But not here, not in the grand ol’ U.S. of A.
I wander around my house in the quiet of night. Whose dream is this? It must be mine, as it is my footsteps that creak on the hardwood as I descend the stairs, slowly making my way from room to room, checking on my kids, ensuring that no harm befalls them tonight – at least.
Surreal is a word that is bandied about, often improperly. But tonight it seems only fitting. This cannot be real. It is a fever dream. It is surreal.
I want to climb back into bed and wake up in four years; I want to climb out the window and shout at the moon; I want to climb out of my skin so I don’t have to carry this feeling. Which is what, exactly? Shock? Horror? Disappointment? Anger? Frustration? Annoyance? Fear? Maybe all of the above.
I am able to get a few hours of restless sleep. I awake in world I hardly know – a world I don’t want to know. And yet, here I am. I cannot help but think that we are all relics of what we have destroyed, and we must now come to terms with a new reality.
After a few more moments of despair, a switch flips. The sadness has not gone away, not at all. But my reaction to it is altered. I begin to think, “was the sky ever that blue?” Had I got what I wanted, would it have been that different? Would my life be better in any true, measurable way?
The answers to those questions are now rendered moot, irrelevant to the task ahead. We must resist. We must refuse to disappear. Now, more than ever, we must make ourselves known, and push back against the powers that want to be, but cannot be, without willing acquiescence. We must circle, confront our opponent. Let them know we will not be quieted, we will not be defeated.
Some outcomes are immutable, and we should not waste time trying to control matters over which we now have no control. But we do have the ability to control our reaction. If we have any agency in this world, it is in our response. Do we cower and retreat? Do we stand and deliver? The measure of a man is how he faces adversity; how he reacts when all is falling apart around him.
And then it happened. The most aggrieved person – more so than the nearly 60 million others, stood at a lectern and spoke from the heart – a heart that could have been nothing less than broken; a heart that must have been shattered like shards of a glass ceiling; a heart that still beat with selflessness and inspiration for the well-being of others.
She cajoled us to get off the mat and face our demons – both inner and public. No one ever survives by retreating or giving quarter to the powers that shouldn’t be. The only way to survive in moments like these is to move forward, remembering the past and the pain, using that as fuel for the future.
We owe this to ourselves, to the greater good, and we owe it to our children. The Chinese proverb implores us to go straight for the heart of danger, for there you will find safety. That is our true place. As people, as citizens, as sentient beings who want, nay, demand, more from ourselves and our society, we must confront our would-be oppressors and let them know that we will not be oppressed; that we will not back down; that we will not fade into darkness or the abyss.
The battle may be long, and it may be difficult, and at times, it may seem hopeless. But that is the true test. Do we have the gumption to fight for what we believe? If we don’t, maybe we don’t truly value those beliefs?
The somber day ends and I am reunited with my kids. They have smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts. It was their own ignorance I entered, and I could not be more grateful. They are too young and too innocent to be required to know the task at hand. One day they will, and one day they will appreciate what it entailed, and one day they will look back with respect and gratitude that a group of right-minded people were willing to put aside whatever differences they might have for the betterment of all.
History, our history, is not written on a single day, nor even a single year. History is written over prolonged periods when people – against long odds – create change that is lasting (even if only temporarily so).
None of what I feel is mine, it belongs to 60 million people and the countless millions more who voted against their conscience on a hope and a prayer; it belongs to our collective future; it belongs to our children.
So, with sorrow nearly as great as it has ever been, I resolve to move forward and battle back. I will not go quietly into that good night. Too much is at stake; too many people will be affected by our choices, and our responses; too much of our tomorrow is riding on decisions made by those of us feeling pain today.