I woke up this morning thinking about the election, thinking about everything that has happened to me and the people I know and love since Tuesday the 8th. Thinking about the appointments Donald Trump has already made to his cabinet-to-be.
I was also thinking about social justice, social justice communities, and my brother. As the years have gone on, as he and I have become more aware and conversations on privilege and oppression have moved more predominantly into our view, we’ve both become deeply passionate about social justice and equity. But we’ve fallen further and further from each other, with views it seems at times are so far separate that there is a gash, a deep chasm between us that, in the wake of this election, has only continued to grow.
He is angry, believes in removing those who would seek to hurt the oppressed from power by whatever means necessary. I promote empathy and understanding, and taking time to build trust so we can begin to change hearts and minds. His is the short game. Mine is the long.
My brother and I talked about climate change the other night. Right after the election, a multitude of news organizations reported on how a Trump administration could have devastating effects for the future of our planet in regards to climate change. The question “how much time do we have left?” — not just us, anymore, but humanity in general, and the entirety of planet Earth really — slid alarmingly into view.
He asked me how I deal with the fear and pain from something like that. I mentioned the comfort I take in nihilism, in the idea that nothing really has any inherent meaning, and in the idea that humanity as a whole, the general thing of it, just causes a lot of pain and heartache anyway.
What I really meant was: I don’t feel like I have the power to do anything about this, so I shut it out. I keep my head down and keep on keepin’ on, hoping someone else will have the power I don’t have to make a change.
All my life, I’ve been focused on the long game. That’s why I ended up joining Teach for America and going into education. My view has been, for a long time now, that education is the foundation for the whole future. Inspire in kids self-love and self-awareness, a desire and thirst for learning, critical thought and a sense of self-efficacy, and maybe they will grow up to love others and think critically. Maybe they will grow up to have the power that I didn’t, to make a difference in government, to do something like curb climate change.
But, as my brother pointed out, we’re in a time now when the long game may not exist without the short game. What could happen without someone to stop our new administration from pulling out of the Paris climate agreement — a move that would encourage many other countries not to follow the agreement themselves? And now, with the rise of neo-Nazi sentiment, what could happen to me? To my family?
We don’t know. Of course we don’t know. We don’t know until we get there. But there has to be a way to stop “there” from being the darkest timeline. We have to fight it. Now.
The short game has become critical, and I have spent the past 14 days despairing over the fact that I’m not playing the short game. I know people who are heading to Standing Rock to support protesters. I know people who have joined protests against Trump and the administration he’s building around the country. I know people who fight and fight every day to make their voices heard. And today, my devotion to the long game obscures my ability to be part of the short game. There are few protests in my small town, and I am afraid (in part as an echo of my time as a journalist) of sharing my perspective because of the backlash I could receive that could make it harder for me to do my work.
But the short game is critical. And “keep on keepin’ on” is no longer appropriate. If I want to keep playing the long game — sure, I can’t pack up and head to Standing Rock, or Washington, D.C., and leave my students, my job, and my small town life behind.
But there is one way I can play the short game, and that is by doing the very thing that has driven me, furiously and intensely, in heat and angst and pain, for my entire life.
It may not seem like much, but words have power. Our lives are defined by the articles we read on our social media feeds. Right now, words are what I’ve got.
Better than keeping my head down and waiting for the day they come for me.