I’m not gonna mince words. This week has sucked in many, many ways. And it has proven horrific for some of our fellow Americans in yet another outburst of violence.
And honestly, I just couldn’t do a Fangirl Friday because it seemed banal, given the tenor of this week overall. And sometimes, I just don’t have it in me to talk about things that normally give me joy and help me escape.
So I’ve been sitting with the weight of this week, thinking about how those of us who are marginalized in whatever ways are being stripped of the small gains we’ve made over the past few decades. And I’ve been thinking about the historical expanse of this country, and how our past has been both light of liberty and bloodbath, and how we as a people continue to carry the cancer of systemic racism, xenophobia, nativism, and dangerous nationalism, that we haven’t faced it and dealt with it. Instead, we’ve fed it with fear-mongering masquerading as news, with rampant, empty, soulless commercialism, and hypocrisy that parades around in a flag and carries a Bible.
I’ve been thinking about all these things, and about how I’m so goddamn tired and so goddamn sad. I’ve spent most of my life working to make space at the table for myself, for my peers, younger people, and everybody else who didn’t have it. I’ve worked to try do my part to dismantle the institutions that were built on the backs, blood, and bones of the marginalized, and spent a lot of time putting myself into uncomfortable situations to learn and recognize my own biases, and to learn how to be a better ally to POC, people with disabilities, people unlike me who are marginalized in all kinds of ways.
And in spite of that, in spite of all the work, I feel like ultimately, I failed.
Because here we are.
Here we fucking are.
And I spent a lot of yesterday not knowing what the hell to do or how to help because everything is too much when it’s a constant drumbeat of godawful toxicity and vile, venal outbursts and violence.
It’s overwhelming when it’s everything.
So I did something that I’ve done many times in the past when I simply couldn’t grasp the enormity of everything. I noticed that someone I follow on Twitter had mentioned that they were having a hard time, dealing with some depression and anxiety, no doubt made worse by these times.
And I did something that I automatically do when I see a comment like that, because I know what it feels like to be in those spaces, because I, too, deal with chronic depression.
I reached out and offered a space to talk.
Most of the time, people don’t take me up on it, but they always appreciate that someone noticed, that someone checked in and offered. I’ve been in those dark places, and I make the offer because I’m good for it, and there have been a few times when I spent a few hours online with someone who just really needed to talk, who needed someone to listen.
I think, on top of everything else, that these times are also really lonely, because everybody’s in survival mode and running scared and tired and who the hell can you trust?
After I offered an empathetic ear yesterday, I felt a little calmer, a little more grounded. Maybe it was because it was one person and it’s a lot easier to focus on one thing at a time, on one person at a time, even in the midst of utter chaos.
And it made me think about all the other people throughout history who have worked to uplift rather than tear down, who have seen and experienced unimaginable brutality and violence and maintained their humanity; or dealt with the every day experience of living while a POC, and I remembered something Bishop Desmond Tutu said: “It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. Never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant.”
We ARE stronger together. Human rights activist and congresswoman Cynthia McKinney said that, too. She said, “We are way more powerful when we turn to each other and not on each other, when we celebrate our diversity…and together tear down the mighty walls of injustice.”
I thought about that, and about how I calmed down a little when I focused on one thing I COULD do in that moment of feeling at a loss — reaching out to one other person.
I’m a firm believer in building community where you are, in acts of kindness no matter how difficult it is, and in creative forms of resistance and incivility, often that involve art and humor. So in my attempt to re-ground myself in the midst of the shit, here are 5 things you can do in your own community that I find have helped ground me:
1. Reach out to friends and family and, hell, acquaintances. Plan something like a potluck or a dance party (I’m a huge fan of dance parties — especially if it’s like a block party or something). Or maybe a Taco Tuesday outing or something. Be creative. Things like this help build solidarity and break down barriers.
2. If you’re planning an event or protest, join forces with other organizations, like churches, civic groups, schools, clubs — whatever. And of course, please invite them to your dance and taco parties.
3. Use your talents in creative ways to help locally. Maybe you have some graphic design experience. How about designing logos for little league teams that don’t have much money? Or use those skills to help create cool, funny, biting protest signs or T-shirts? Are you good with social media? Offer to be a point of contact and coordinator for a local event/protest. Are you a caterer? Can you help prepare snacks for an organization meeting? Think creatively.
4. Check on the olds! Are there older people in your community who might feel isolated but would like to help? Reach out and see what kinds of abilities and talents they have. Plus, intergenerational organizing opens doors to all kinds of knowledge-sharing and community-building. And that means, Check on the youngs, too! Everybody can do something.
5. Help people register to vote and get to the polls. Volunteer as a poll worker or as a driver to make sure as many people as possible participate.
Also, read this article in The Guardian about creative ways to resist on the day-to-day (the hologram protest — that was freaking brilliant!).
It’s helped me to focus when I operate locally (and that’s within your online communities, too) and pick specific things I can do and then do them. And sometimes it’s something that for me is just a matter of course — checking in on someone.
But it can mean the world to someone else.
No matter how small it may seem.
Please share ideas on navigating these times in the comments. Collective creativity is AWESOME.
And if you’re able to march, the Families Belong Together actions are taking place tomorrow (June 30) all over the country. If there’s one near you, grab a friend or two and head out. MoveOn.org has locations of local marches.
Participants have been asked to engage nonviolently and to wear white to show solidarity.
Collective creativity, friends. Share your thoughts and ideas, and much love to you all.