I am not going to talk about how I’ve felt like I’m going to barf for three days straight, because I know I am far from alone in this. Go visit your Facebook feed if you need confirmation.
But I am going to say one thing. Because it’s hard to say nothing.
In 2014 I started working with a community organization that provided resources to victims of domestic violence. It is an organization that, like most in this field, struggles with funding and relies heavily on volunteers.
I met really wonderful people, it gave me perspective…I genuinely loved it.
But it was a volunteer position, and when baby #2 came along and I started to wear thin I backed off. I started going less often, and I’ve spent the past year waffling on whether or not I have it in me to go back now and give them my time. I know they need people like me to stick around if they want to keep providing services to their clients and I care about what they are doing, but finding and paying a babysitter, making the drive…it was just, like, a lot of hassle.
The first thing I did Wednesday morning was email the volunteer coordinator and get my name back on the schedule. Because now, I really fucking care.
Yes, I cared before. I cared about the Syrian refugee crisis and judicial reform and the degradation of the environment and women’s health. I would donate when I felt like it, occasionally post something on social media, didn’t hesitate to state my opinion when asked.
But in so many ways my daily life did not reflect the values that I know, deep down, are important. Blogs on my RSS feed about political oppression and violence and humanity and science and the environment have, for years, been skipped over for celebrity gossip sites. I slacked on local elections and community activism. I wasn’t completely inactive, but I often avoided things that were uncomfortable or inconvenient because I felt as though my community would pick up the slack.
I no longer feel that way.
The morning after, a friend from grad school called me. After about 15 minutes of extended silences broken with “…I don’t…I just….I don’t even know…”s, he started telling me about how he had started to try to find tiny crumbs of good that could potentially come from this.
Like…the peaceful transfer of power. The class Democratic leadership has demonstrated in the light of such a devastating loss, indicating that maybe our political discourse hasn’t degenerated to the extent that all the campaigning and debates would have led us to believe. Things like that.
But for so many people, this election feels like a true tragedy. A broken heart. The pit in your stomach, the absence of a way out. It’s all you can think about, and there is nothing you can do. The feeling is familiar and horrible.
It is possible that recommitting myself to an organization focused on women’s issues and marginalized groups is just a defense mechanism for the moment, a distraction. Something that will fade as the shock wears off and this new reality becomes normalized.
Or maybe it marks a bigger change.
There are many, many people out there who devote their lives to making the world a better place. People who put their health and safety at risk, make careers out of working for a cause with no thought to any sort of personal gain or glory. People who make these things a priority. Who have been able to maintain their focus on issues that are crucial to the community, who have been able to see that none of these liberties or freedoms or services that are paramount to maintaining a free society were ever a given, or are ever permanent.
…and there are people like me who are comfortable, who believed the country was moving in a certain direction, and who became complacent.
This is a stark reminder that when it comes to values and laws that we hold dear we not only can act, we need to. And not just during elections or times of crisis. Even when things seem good, seem to be moving the right direction, we need to pay attention. We need to talk to each other. We need to work. Not your friends, not your neighbors. You.
We are responsible.
So maybe this is a crumb. Maybe this will jolt us back into realizing that what we do day to day matters. Maybe we will become more engaged. Maybe engagement will lead to a more solid foundation upon which our collective goals, as a nation, can be built. Maybe, ultimately, it will make for a better future.
It’s not much, but right now so many of us are searching for anything. A crumb will have to do.