It seems to us like we’ve been an activists our whole lives and that’s because it’s true. There are some traits in our society, like poverty, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality where you don’t really have a choice in the matter, do you? Growing up and well into when my work formally began in college, I was surrounded by an informal sort of liberation theology, one whose roots I didn’t see until I was well into my 20s. In that ideology we are taught to look to the Jews for guidance on how to endure against a population that can turn on you at any moment. Ross felt the weight and resignation of that history yesterday. He felt the palpable fear of someone for whom a history of oppression pours though his very blood. On any normal day, this isn’t Ross at all. Most of his friends probably voted for Trump yesterday, but he wasn’t surprised by that. What hurt the most was the silence of those we are supposed to consider our allies. The six million Democrats that simply didn’t show up. I felt the weight of my gender yesterday, as we were working at the polls. Perfectly nice white guys hit on me in front of my husband before entering a polling booth and voting for a man and a people that is proud of the very real act of oppression, rape. When I saw the poll numbers and the fact that the working class whites who have been said to be the only Trump supporters voted for Clinton, I thought about every time I had been scapegoated for the crime of having been poor.
We saw a lot of gay men yesterday who paced around, they asked us for updates. We were excited about the turnout. We thought it meant that the Democrats were going to show up. This is a diverse crowd, this is California. But the gay men knew better, they knew to be anxious because for them the past isn’t so far away. They remember the days, within my lifetime, when men like Trump meant very real violence.
It’s easy today to be depressed, and we are. And we are angry. And we are disgusted. And we are also sadly not shocked in the slightest. And it can feel hopeless in a way that makes us want to let go of trying to make things better.
But when we think of this, we can turn to history. I remember Elie Weisel’s beautiful words and faith in the face of the darkest of humanity’s oppression, he wrote of the survival of the human spirit during the Holocaust. He survived to remind humanity that there is beauty in the darkest of worlds. I think about Fannie Lou Hamer, and what it meant for a generation of black women in the South when you said the word racism. A generation that is still alive. A generation that remembers, all too well, what men like Trump are capable of. I think about how she told us not to fear death, because they’ve been trying to kill us for a long time and damnit, we are still fucking here. I think about Socrates, who was so committed to the truth, that he was willing to sing it right up to his death.
We’re Jews. We’re Native. We’re Women. We’re Queer. We’ve survived poverty, mankind’s attempts to eradicate our own people, rape, violence and we’ve thrived at it. We’ve made it work, every time with style. We know that ideas are bulletproof. That people can be killed but the unquenchable thirst to make this world more beautiful endures within each of us.
But we have to remember that we’ve survived because we’ve aligned with each other. We’ve survived because when they came for one of us, they came for all of us. We’ve survived because some people always cling to that belief, even if it means great danger to themselves. That is the good in humanity. That is the thing that makes us strive even though, for too many, life is, in fact, nasty, brutish and short. People do it because the gift of existence is so beautiful that we continue to pass it on, generation after generation, no matter what is thrown at us. Like Albert Camus, who survived resisting the Nazis in France to go on and remind us that existence is such a beautiful gift that no matter how dark things are, you are a complete asshole is you don’t appreciate every breath you take on this earth.
No one can keep us in chains while we believe they have no right too. This is not a new fight. This is a war much older than any of us can remember, but its the only war I know of that’s ever been worth it.
What is best in us is always more powerful than what is worse than us, but only when we understand that what is best in us is our desire to take care of the people around us. The goodness in us comes from the fact that our species is fundamentally social, we need each other to survive. All great civilizations were built on the backs of millions of people doing their part. Millions of people enduring through hopeless conditions, day in and day out. Continuing to create even it seemed completely futile to do so.
Hate won this day, but hate has won lots of days. But it hasn’t won the war yet.
With love, always.