Protest is Also Our Patriotic Duty
My Brother died on Veteran’s Day. He wasn’t a soldier. He was an Artist. So am I. So are my sisters. None of us served in military battles. But my gratitude for those in the generations before ours who did so that we could be artists runs deep. Not only do I feel gratitude, but a tremendous sense of debt. If not for the unselfish service of brave men and women warriors, we artists, designers, builders, planners, scientists, educators, caretakers, musicians, philosophers, story tellers wouldn’t have a chance of being able to be of any service to our country at all.
I’ve barely thought about how to be of any use to anybody for days because I’ve been thinking about the shocking realities of what I personally lost this week. There were certain realities that I was enjoying last week because of my privilege as an American. Privilege, not Right. As George Carlin famously said, “we only have privileges – because they are not rights if someone can just take them away.” The reality that we live in this week is that many of our privileges are in actual great danger of being taken away.
The most precious privilege that was just stolen from me was the ability to be able to believe in the promise of America. I used to have the privilege of being able to tell my children, my students, my grandson, random kids that are kind enough to listen to a little old lady who’s talking to herself, that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can achieve anything here. You can even become President one day if you want. Always a great line to give to children. You can have the #1 job, if you prove most capable because America is a meritocracy. Given what we have just learned about ourselves as a nation, that’s going to be a ridiculously hard sell.
So today, in honor of Veterans, I must find more than what it takes to be an American. These past three days have shown me that the fight must first be engaged in a deeply frightening and dark battlefield. I have found that this defeat has ripped me down to my foundation, and that the rebuilding of my strength and ability to navigate this reality must depend upon knowing who I am as an individual person of individual thought. That is what the individual soldiers fought for.
As an individual person this is what I know about being an American right now.
• My beloved candidate LOST.
• That doesn’t mean I want America to lose. I don’t want Trump to mess up the country. I really don’t. I don’t want things to go poorly. I won’t hope for him to do a bad job – even if all indicators point that direction. If I did that, I would be acting like one of these Bernie vultures circling the wounded body of my defeated heroine happily singing “I told you so!” while we’re all hurting. Like yeah. That helps a lot. Thanks!
• While I fully support the exercise thereof, and would be honored to put my life down to protect the First Amendment, I do not support the use of violence, rioting, harming others and destruction of property as a form of free expression.
• While I am saddened by the election of the president, and therefore first lady – I must beg the immediate cessation of slut shaming – I don’t even care if she’s a certified slut. Slut shaming Melania does not advance any necessary argument about the election. HOWEVER… it does contribute to the regression of the cause of women’s equal treatment. Please stop!
• While I find the behavior of the people who put Trump into the presidency to be deplorable, and their positions to be based on barbaric and backwards thinking, I must listen to them. Yes, they are dangerous and violent. But how are we to understand them if we keep telling them that they suck and they’re stupid? We still need to figure out what they need. That’s important information. I’ve done this exercise of listening to people I can’t stand many times and been amazed at how much I’ve learned about myself, my own fears and my own stupidity. Nothing heard – nothing learned. I think we should listen more than we speak.
Of course I won’t give up my sense of shock and outrage… yet. It’s only the third day in this new world and I’m not going to deny my feelings just because I have the discipline to not act on them. I’m going to feel like crap until I don’t feel like crap. But, this is indeed a new world.
You know who is also in a new world? Answer: Donald Trump. He’s in the fishbowl that is in our microscope now – and it’s our job to make sure that we watch his every move. We have to scrutinize, rally and oppose every dangerous and destructive idea that he and his administration proposes. That’s where our moral obligation lies – and that’s where we still have Constitutional rights.
Of course I’m angry. I think we should speak out. Of course I’m worried. We are facing an anti-science, anti-reason, anti-immigrant, anti-environment, anti-diversity, anti-progress administration. That’s scary! There’s some real harm the ideas in these folks’ heads can do. Of course I will oppose and fight against the forces of shallow celebrity infatuation and adulation and dishonesty, bigotry, unbound hubris, blissful ignorance and devastating irrationality. I wasn’t actually planning not to speak out.
I just don’t want us to cheat ourselves by being hysterical. There is a very big difference between meritorious satire and mendacious misrepresentation. We have to do some hard work because we get the government we deserve. We have to focus in the spirit of reason, peace, enlightenment, the principles set up by our very own Constitution.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Protest is our patriotic duty — but hate is what got us in all this trouble. We have to put what we hate out of our hearts because we have a fight ahead of us. We have to fight, indeed. Remember we are fighting for the dreams, ideals and the people we love.