This week people all over the US prepared for Thanksgiving. Just like every other year, magazines and blogs offered new twists on favorite recipes of old and tips for flawless table-top arrangement. At the supermarket, I saw folks buying ingredients to cook dishes they eat only once a year.
Unlike every other year, shoppers were wearing masks and planning to gather in smaller groups. Some folks and their family began isolating two weeks early so they can spend the holiday together and safely. My household usually opts for a Friendsgiving with a ridiculous number of humans and way too much food. This year, we’re keeping to ourselves per the CDC pleadings and planning for a smaller (but no less exuberant) affair.
Part of holiday preparation in my household includes voluminous decorating. There are colored lights, construction paper fall leaves, and artful turkeys everywhere! One thing you won’t find amongst the harvest imagery is any reference to pilgrims. As woefully under-informed as I feel about Native American history, I am at the very least aware that the first thanksgiving I learned about in school is a complete fabrication.
My household and I are working to de-colonize our holiday experience. Last year we read a native land acknowledgement before eating our bountiful feast. This year we are learning the real story of the first thanksgiving. Instead of watching classic Turkey Day movies of years prior, I am watching documentaries about Native American culture (past and present).
There is so much about the pre-colonized humans who lived in this country that has been deliberately made invisible. I have had a surface-level understanding for as long as I can remember about the US government’s oppression and abuse of native people, but it is only now that I am digging into the history that I see just how deep that rabbit hole goes and how horrifying the reality is.
I have idolized first nations folks for most of my life, putting them on a pedestal of superior natural survival skills and unsurpassed understanding of living in harmony with nature. I see now that what I thought was admiration was actually objectification. I saw native folks as important artifacts, like exhibits in a museum, instead of human beings who live, suffer, and thrive all around us in present day. Preparing for a better future includes bringing those people, their heritage, and their contributions to modern American society into the light of public recognition.
Planning for the future has been especially difficult in 2020. The pandemic has put many plans on hold for an indeterminate amount of time. It has changed the global economy in some irreversible ways and completely redefined the workplace. It has reshaped human social interaction and is sure to have a myriad of lasting consequences we cannot yet fathom.
When I consider how I should prepare for the society of the future, I see a continuum of possibilities between two distinct (and equally achievable) outcomes. One future where we continue as we currently do, governments handling one climate or social disaster at a time, one after the other in increasing frequency, citizens adjusting daily life to the new normal of every passing calamity. On the other end, a future where humanity has reconciled with our history of supremacy, grown out of it, and collaboratively crafted a long-term vision for prosperity and inclusion for everyone.
It is definitely possible for humanity to get our collective shit together, and awareness does seem to be growing around the world. But I wonder: when enough of us finally figure it out will it be too late. The last couple years before I got divorced, I tried very hard to convince my then-husband to work with me on resolving the issues in our relationship. It was not until I was done trying and had moved out that he finally said he was ready to participate. But then it was too late.
I don’t know how to prepare for the future. I am working diligently to dismantle the toxic narratives I absorbed during my upbringing in contemporary society. I am doing all I can to replace the racist and exclusionary systems society currently runs on so we can all have a future. But it might not work. And I feel like I need to prepare for that possibility.
A wise and thoughtful teacher of mine said this week: “Maybe this younger generation can succeed in writing new narratives and building new systems because they are not encumbered by the guilt of having established all these institutions.” I hope she’s right. And I feel like I need to prepare for that possibility too.
Information and Inspiration
The Writing on the Wall
For several months leading up to the election, activist groups and media outlets predicted the now-soon-to-be-x-president would throw a tantrum if he didn’t win re-election. Community groups put out newsletters and held virtual trainings on how to prepare to mobilize against a tantrum-induced power-grab. Susan Page even asked about it as the second to last question of the vice presidential debate.
We all know what happened next.
Election night arrived. Just as predicted, several states were not able to count all their ballots because of the millions of mail-in ballots cast this year due to Covid. But one particular candidate declared themselves the winner anyway. Just as predicted. He also demanded states stop counting the votes while he was up in numbers. Just as predicted.
We all know what happened after that.
Demonstrations and marches occurred all over the country demanding that every vote is counted (or that the counting stop). Just as predicted. Fortunately, the judicial system required evidence and the Trump campaign and Republican ally lawsuits were rejected as baseless. Our electoral system churned on, and votes continued to be counted. A week later it became clear that Biden won the election.
And we all know what has been happening since.
A certain someone is refusing to accept the result. Just as predicted. And that certain someone is insisting the current reality is an impossibility. Just as predicted. But a collective shift has begun throughout the country and around the world. It appears the writing is finally on the wall.
Once the election results were announced, media outlets suddenly began dealing with the Gaslighter-in-Chief in a less deferential manner. Announcing his statements have no basis in fact in the same breath the comments are reported. Abruptly calling out falsehoods. And offering colorfully articulated admonitions on his absurd behavior. Suddenly, a whole lot of people seem to be done pandering to his childish and incendiary antics.
It's entertaining. It’s affirming. And it’s about time.
Where was all this collective call-out during the last four years? The mainstream media should have been aggressively lie-identifying since day one of this horror show of an administration. Some organizations did, but most did not. Most media outlets bestowed upon the Whiner-in-Chief the respect appropriate for the President of the United States.
Why? Because we have collectively decided the human who wins that title also gets to wield an awful lot of power along with it. We have also collectively decided all that power entitles that human to a certain level of deference, regardless of individual demeanor. It’s clear to me that was a mistake. And now the writing on the wall seems to be the permission slip everyone was waiting for to offer him a reduced volume of respect closer to what he has earned.
It turns out you can only read the writing on the wall if you understand the language it's written in. Listening to the most ardent insisters of election shenanigans all I hear is: "there is no way Trump lost." According to these folks, it is impossible that the 2020 presidential election could conclude in any way other than a second term for the incumbent.
There is no arguing with that mindset. Facts won’t cut it. There is an insurmountable pile of evidence that Biden won the election and zero evidence of election malfeasance depriving Trump of a second term. Before all those disbelieving humans can accept the results, they have to accept that it was always a possibility for him to lose. They have to set all the conspiracy theories aside before they can see: he simply did not win.
It might take a while for those folks to come around. Some or all of them may never make it back to reality. The good news is that the rest of us don’t have to wait for them to catch up before we press-on with the important work of making the world a better place.
That is one of the great fallacies of the current democratic party: I don't need the President to unite the whole country before we can get to work making progress. I need elected officials to get things done and solve some of the massive looming societal problems like poverty and climate change. This week a summit was held on making the shipping industry greener and Madeleine Rose from campaign group Pacific Environment poignantly said “We remind countries today that nature does not negotiate; that climate delay is now climate denial; and that catastrophic climate change is already here.”
We don't have time to wait for everyone to get on-board. We must make some forward-thinking systemic changes immediately. We can bring the bigots and deniers into the fold once everyone is fed and clothed and sheltered and given access to education and health care.
That's the writing on the wall. Our society cannot continue to operate in the ways it currently functions. The world cannot continue to operate the way it currently functions. The climate has changed and is continuing to change. Women want to be treated like human beings instead of objects. Marginalized folks want to be seen, acknowledged, and accepted as part of us. Oppressed people want the knees off their necks.
There are uprisings everywhere demanding change in all these areas. I just hope enough humans in power are paying attention. I hope they can see the wall and read what we are writing on it, before it’s too late.
Information and Inspiration
My whole life I have exchanged letters with my gramma. We talk about important things. We talk about mundane things. I have asked for advice. She has given advice. We send poems and photos to each other and share bits of our lives. Although we have always lived far apart, my gramma has been a major influence on my life through her letters.
My gramma is certainly the person I have corresponded with most, although I have also kept up with other family and friends through letters. Sending birthday and holiday cards is one of my favorite ways to reach out and touch someone. Emails and texts are great, and I send those all the time, but there is something significant and special about receiving a message in a physical form. Holding a piece of something that was held by someone I know and love makes the distance between us feel less significant.
Letters can also be a useful way to process emotions and find catharsis. This week I wrote a letter to an x-boyfriend. I said all the things I should have said during the end of our relationship. All the things I didn't say because he would not have heard me anyway. I may or may not actually send this letter, but that wasn't the point. I needed to say the things, whether he ever hears them or not.
I feel similarly about writing to elected officials, which is another thing I have been doing for most of my life. My great hope is that they read my words and take them in, but sometimes I just need to say things to them, whether they listen or not. Emails are great for this because they are instant, and because I can type much faster than I can write. So this week when I was outraged by the City Council's budget amendments vote, I fired-off a few quick and upset emails.
I assume hand-written letters make a bigger emotional impact, even though these days I usually send electronic letters to my elected officials. When I worked for the federal government, sometimes people would ask how to contact my supervisor because they were so pleased with my service. I would give the address and go about my workday. Whenever a complimentary letter arrived in the mail, it was a very big deal. Someone who invested the time and energy to write and send a physical letter amplified their appreciation by all that effort.
Letters are less frequent in today’s era of email and instant messages, but that makes them feel even more significant. I feel a special kind of joy when, amongst all the ads and credit card offers and magazines I didn't order, I receive a letter from someone I know. Letters are an significant reminder of human connection as well as a powerful tool of self-expression.
Now is an important time to use all our available resources to express ourselves to the humans who run our government, and to demand change. Lift up your voice. Use your voice to lift up the voices of others who are frequently overlooked. Speak out, comment on social media, send emails, write letters. Send a little piece of your humanity through the mail as a reminder to the people in power that they are supposed to be working for us and that we are paying attention to how they show up.
Information and Inspiration
Hanging above the sink in the bathroom of my first dojo was a list entitled Rules for Being Human. Every time I washed my hands I read it as many times as it took to rinse away all the soap and grab a paper towel. This list included many pearls of wisdom, some from the original and some my teacher added. A few feel especially relevant today:
Life will give you lessons. What you do with that wisdom is up to you.
If you don't learn the lesson early, they will get harder.
Pain is one of life's ways of getting your attention.
I have seen countless social media posts today wondering how so many people could vote to keep the current white house occupant after witnessing all the damage he caused over the last four years. I hear that pain and that frustration and that disbelief. And it reminds me of the dojo rules for being human. Pain is one of life's ways of getting our attention.
I hope the closeness of this election is exactly the pain we need to remember our work is not yet done. Electing a new president will not solve all our problems because it will not suddenly remake our society into a place of equal opportunity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. By electing a new president, we will not solve the problem. We will only have solved one of the symptoms.
The dojo rules for being human concluded with two other considerations especially relevant today:
You will tend to forget all this.
You can remember any time you wish.
Let this be a good reminder. Let us please learn the lesson to come together and solve voter suppression and tackle all the other things standing in the way of people having a voice in government. We will undoubtedly forget again, but we can remember any time we try.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.