365 Days Later: #SustainedOutrage and Resistance

This day, one year ago, was a terrible one, and I wrote about it here. It was terrible having to face my children and somehow explain that yes, everything we valued and held dear was not valued in our country. And it was terrible knowing how many people, around the country and around the world, were waking up afraid. I cried about as hard as I ever have on election night 2016, and kept crying on and off for weeks and even months beyond. Honestly, I was like my own little swampy ecosystem…I’m lucky I didn’t grow moss.

Wet dog doesn’t want to be wet

But my goal from that day forward was #SustainedOutrage. The thought was that I couldn’t afford to get complacent, or to sink into despair. Neither option is viable. Complacency, I knew, is quite possible when living with all the privilege I have, being white and middle class. And despair was a hound dog on my back, hot breath in my ear, telling me that nothing would make a difference, so why bother. So…#SustainedOutrage. And when I felt overwhelmed, either by the terrible things that were happening or by the sheer malicious cruelty I was seeing demonstrated by those in power, I reminded myself of my very simple mantra:

Help the most vulnerable. Work toward a better future.

Simple, right?

To me this meant that I could donate money to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, write postcards via Any Refugee, or donate books to LGBTQ-friendly youth groups or take to the streets to protest the Muslim ban.

It also meant getting involved with Sister District and Flippable — organizations that sprung into existence to lead the fight for electoral change — as well as Everytown for Gun Safety and Emily’s List. It also meant reading books and articles by Ta-Nehesi Coates and Nancy Isenberg and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  and others, so that I could better understand the country I live in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I kept a list, so I would be accountable. I kept a list so that if my grandkids ever asked “what did you DO when all this terrible stuff was happening?” I would be able to show them. I kept a list because I needed to remind myself to keep the faith.

I didn’t always succeed. Some days I didn’t take action. Often I forgot to write it down then wouldn’t be able to remember after. For a few weeks straight this summer I lost track of things. I was still trying to stay engaged but I was flagging, losing energy, growing weary. Luckily, this is a long race, with plenty of runners. Early in the year, I read a blog post that referred to a choir. In a choir, everyone needs to breathe, everyone needs to pause and inhale, but there are enough of us that we carry each other, we sing while our neighbors breathe, and we breathe when they are singing, and that way the song continues, strong as ever. I needed to breathe.

This past weekend I was at KidlitCon, and I heard the amazing author Sandra Uwiringiyimana speak about her book, How Dare the Sun Rise. Sandra is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but had to flee due to the conflict. What struck me afterward about her talk, (which was amazing and terrifying in so many ways and I cannot WAIT to read her book!), was when she said that yes, she grew up during a war, but there was joy, there was laughter, there were parties and weddings. She said, “I had a wonderful childhood in Congo, but I never see that part of my country in the news or in books.”

And it resonated, because I realized that #SustainedOutrage did not mean less joy; that I didn’t try to minimize the laughter and limit the fun so that I could stay angry. Enjoying life does not equal complacency, it equals resilience. Less joy serves no one.

 

 

So one year later, we are still here. In some ways this year has been far worse that even my over-active imagination feared. The disrespect given to our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, the hatred and suspicion aimed at our Muslim family and friends, the emboldened racism hurting our communities of color, the blatant cronyism and corporate greed plaguing everything from our education to our environment…it’s bad, friends. It’s really bad.

But we are still here. And we are still fighting.

So I’ll keep up with my #SustainedOutrage for another year. I’ll call my local reps to support automatic voter registration. I’ll write postcards to support candidates in Virginia and other purple states. I’ll donate money. I’ll write books that try to make a difference. What will you do with the next 365 days? How will you keep fighting? Because I still believe that in the long run, love trumps hate.

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