Today the world does not stop; today the world changes. I know I am changed from the person I was two months ago, and I cannot be the only one. The events of this election moved me from complacency to action, and that is something I did not and could not foresee.
The action is hard and uncomfortable. Action has real and lasting effects. My first step of action, in November, was regarding a casual comment on Facebook. A person I love commented, in passing, on someone else’s status. The comment was an assumption and generalization about all Muslims. I reached out to that person to tell them I perceived the comment as the predecessor to hate speech. A discussion was begun and those conversations left a deep scar in one of my most valued relationships. As I cried about the words and the resulting scar I wondered Why did I just blow up this relationship? I concluded, because I would want someone to stand up for me. There is no regret about that small action, but there is sadness. Selfish sadness at the damage to my relationship, and a larger sadness at the fact hate speech has become normalized so quickly and people cannot recognize the genesis of hate speech when it occurs.
Hopelessness and helplessness set in. I felt the world that valued equality and treated people with dignity and kindness slipping away from me. My friends and I cried together and the question on everyone’s lips was, “We have to do something, but what do we do?” And I wanted to do something too, but what could be big enough to really make a change? On giving Tuesday I forego a week’s worth of eating out and donated to organizations I believe make the world a better place. (Worldbuilders, Planned Parenthood, and Literacy KC) The rush of giving money felt good, for a few hours, but then I thought I want to do more.
I tried to write, because I am a writer and I thought that is what I was supposed to do. But the world was still too raw, and the words could not yet find an order to make sense of the chaos. The projects I desperately wanted to finish sat frozen—because I was frozen in my lack of hope. Then one day in December, I saw a Facebook posting for a VISTA at Literacy KC. I had no idea what a VISTA was, but I knew Literacy KC was a non-profit that helped adults learn to read and gave our community members vital skills that improved their lives. I believe in reading. I believe people who take the time to read about other cultures and worlds have more compassion and are more likely to treat others with dignity and kindness. I also believed I had the skills Literacy KC could benefit from, so I applied. It was the only action I felt qualified for, and it felt good to do something instead of asking my self over and over again, What can I do?
The New Year came and soon after confirmation hearings began. As I read about the nominees and watched their interrogations I found myself calling a senator for the first time in my life. I left messages explaining I am the owner of a small creative business and depend upon the reassurance of the Affordable Healthcare Act to keep pursuing my American dream in a writing career. When a girlfriend asked if I wanted to go to the women’s march on Saturday I found myself saying yes, without hesitation, surprising even myself because I did want to go. On paper I hate everything about a march. I hate crowds. I hate being cold. I hate being outside. But I feel strong enough about making sure the world treats others with dignity and kindness to overcome my reservations and say my discomfort and unease is less important than voicing my concern. My concern is that minority and women’s rights are being buried and I am losing access to affordable healthcare.
Because the world does not stop today I cannot stop either. Tomorrow I march, and on the 30th I start my work with Literacy KC. The words are starting to come to me in my writing, and the lessons I’ve learned over the last few months will continue to shape me. I will change and grow and try to make an impact in the small way I can, because it is the only way I know to move forward with hope.