As I reflect on my own path in 2016 embedded in the path of the nation, I ache with apprehension and hope. I ache with gratefulness and fear. This ache, I think, is in the pit of our collective stomachs, a recognition of hideous truths, a desire not to hide them, and an awareness that now is the time to DO something about them.
This past summer, I was greatly privileged to meet foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement: Ruby Shuttlesworth-Bester, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth’s daughter; Catherine Burks-Brook, a Freedom Rider; Fred Gray, lawyer for Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks; Rev. Carolyn McKinstry, a childhood survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. I toured Selma and walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Joanne Bland, who was present on Bloody Sunday. I got to stand in Martin Luther King’s kitchen and see where his children slept. I held shrapnel from the 16th Street Church Bombing, and I saw Angela Davis’ childhood home on Dynamite Hill.
What humbled and inspired me throughout all of these experiences were the endless stories of incredible love in the face of hatred, fearlessness in the face of terror and faith in the face of evil.
Later in the summer, I had the privilege to attend a Lakota sun dance, a four-day ceremony of sacrifice, prayer and renewal. Upon arrival, I was warned of the power of this ceremony and that some struggle their first time because, I was told, the sun dance will make one encounter the ugly parts of themselves. They were right. The ceremony was an autopsy revealing my most deeply buried flaws, my weaknesses, my character defects, my selfishness, and it illuminated the lies I tell to myself to make peace with the way I live my life.
It was only after reflecting on the sun dance that I began to understand a Trump presidency. Trump is the inside turned out, a mirror to the repulsive. We cannot look away. We cannot pretend, rationalize or explain away what we are. THIS is America as we have been and as we are. There is no reason we should be surprised. It is a very old reflection.
But there is hope in this.
As Taoists believe that there is a seed of the Yin inside the Yang, so there is a seed of movement in this shame of our nation. When there seems to be only darkness, only light makes sense. When the world seems over-run with sorrow and hatred, it is then that “only kindness that makes sense anymore.”
When looking to this future, we must look to the past. We have models. We have trails blazed. We have torchbearers. There are so many stories, and the most hopeful thing is that every story is about a human who just decided it was time to do something, that working together was better than being apart, and that love was stronger than hate. For each one of them, there was a time where direct action was the only thing that made sense anymore.
We’ve been mourning over an old problem revealed. Now it’s time stop looking in the mirror and get to work at making America great for everyone for the first time.