I have felt this atmosphere in my country before.
In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, there was a palpable aura around the people who walked to and fro, doing their best to go about their daily lives. We fought back against a paralysis so gripping, it threatened to choke the life from us. We’d been knocked back on our heels. We’d taken a sucker punch to the gut. And we resolved, as a nation, not to let the fear rule our lives. We didn’t normalize what had happened. We fought back. We went to war.
I hate that word. War.
FDR hated it, too. He said as much in an address given at Chautauqua, N.Y. in 1936:
I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.
I am seeing, and feeling, so many parallels, between those times and now, that I have to use a word and idea that may prove antithetical to what’s best for our society, but rings true no matter how I might deny it.
What has happened in the wake of this latest election in the United States is no less than a declaration of war.
I look at the rhetoric. I read between the lines. I see what’s been spewed from the deep places of the Internet. I hear tell of ambitious plans to continue shifting the global atmosphere to one of hatred and “cleansing”, from electing more radically prejudiced leaders to a delineation of in what order to “purge” those who are “lesser”. These are more than words. These are weapons. And they are aimed directly at a global heart of compassion and understanding just now beginning to emerge from the darkness.
In art, there is truth, and words from one of the authors who helped shape me ring true:
ARAGORN: Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.
This is why it is so important that this behavior, this aggression, this warmongering, is not normalized. We cannot and must not accept it as the new zeitgeist. We must stand together against a tide of ignorance and smug notions of superiority. Our imperative, as a species that wishes to survive and prosper, is to stand together, in love and understanding, and declare that this venom will not kill us. Regardless of our colors, genders, orientations, creeds, and backgrounds, we owe it to ourselves and each other to work as one to overcome what threatens to undermine, belittle, divide, and destroy us.
We had a hand in how this came about. We ignored the warnings. We downplayed the severity of the potential consequences. Some of us fell into arrogant presumption, others savored the opportunity to say “we told you so”, still others took the proceedings as a joke, and as a whole, we failed to stand against a rising tide of darkness that now threatens, more than it ever has before, to engulf the world we are trying so hard to save.
The mistakes are ours. We made our decisions. We behold and are sickened by the consequences.
Blame does not matter. Being crippled by guilt is no better than being crippled by fear.
What matters is — what do we do now?
We stand. We plant our feet. We take one another’s hands. We look at one another to see the light we have to share, and foster that light to shine with our individual flames.
We meet the enemy on the field and declare that we do not and will never surrender.
This is not normal. This is not right.
It falls to us to protect the work we’ve already done and the potential we have to make our future better. Each of us, as individuals, has something to offer in what is to come. If we can come together, if we can stymie the growing threat of all-encompassing hatred, if we prove that love can, should, and must prevail — we can win this. We can protect ourselves and our future. And we can look back on this moment and say that, this time, this time, evil was not allowed to rule the day. We can prove that we can get, and be, better.
We shall overcome.
If my voice has any reach, any meaning, I use it to say this: join me. Not in accepting this as the new normal, but denying it power over us and our future. Join me in a community that shares love, strength, and truth. Join me in looking past one another’s flaws, mistakes, and prejudices, to the veracity and beauty of our inner Selves, and telling the darkness and hatred in the world that it cannot prevail, it cannot destroy or conquer us, and it cannot and shall not pass.
I will not be silent. I will not stand idle. I will not let this poison kill us.
I will stand with you, in this time of war.
Will you stand with me?