Last Saturday, the day after inauguration, I woke before dawn and remembered who was president. The thought felt like an injection of lead through my veins and I lay awake wondering if the world might be ending. It was quiet outside and dark. There was no sign of anything wrong, but still I wondered if bombs could be going off in nearby states and cities and I might never know. I decided that, if this were the case, if we were suddenly at war, then at least I was in the right spot. My younger son, who had turned four the day before, had cried for me in the night, and now he slept next to me, his matted hair against the pillow. The bedroom door was open, and so I could hear my older son snoring gently. I thought about the fields outside my house, and the swamps where hundreds of geese land and lift off every day. Somehow it felt like all of this might cushion me for a moment if the world were turning to ash.
As morning came and as my mind moved from dream-world to real-world I knew that I needed to march. I had spent the week hemming and hawing about whether I’d make it to the women’s rally. I told myself that I had valid reasons to stay home: My brother was visiting from out of town. I had a memorial service to attend at noon. I had been to a student walkout the day before and had told myself: one protest is enough. But, deep down, that felt like bullshit. “I’m marching,” I told Kellie as I passed her in the kitchen. “I’m marching for both of us and you’re watching the kids.”
Minutes later I stood over the kitchen counter with a Sharpie and a piece of cardboard. “What should my sign say?” I asked.
“Love Trumps Hate?” Kellie suggested.
“I can’t write that one,” I said. My brother and his girlfriend had now emerged from the guest room and were pouring their morning coffee.
“Why not?” Kellie asked. “Is it because you don’t want to use his name?”
But it wasn’t that, I explained. I just don’t take for granted that love wins.
My brother’s girlfriend nodded like she understood. “It definitely feels like evil is winning right now.”
A year ago, if you asked me how I felt about the word evil, I might have told you that I didn’t really believe in it. I might have explained that I thought that people were complicated, that their motives were often misguided. But now it’s 2017 and I seem to have changed my position on that. I believe in evil as a powerful force. I can already feel it tugging at the edges of my world.
We joked about a sign that would say Evil is Winning, but in the end I settled on Facts Matter. I scrawled it out in fat letters, dressed for the rain, and drove downtown.
I had no idea that the day would be so bright, that marching would feel not like an obligation but like the very medicine I needed: faces of friends and people I knew, faces of people I barely knew, faces of people I’d never ever seen. We moved, amoeba-like, one organism, from our capital lawn to the heart of downtown. Nothing changed because we marched. The president is still the president. Everything changed because we marched. We were one cell connected to other cells all over the world, and for those moments we were a united body, vital and thriving, filled with light and not dread. Light and not dread.
Through all of this—the first day of his presidency, the brutal week that has followed—it does feel to me like our world is turning to ash. Every time I check the news, our country has taken another step towards fear. I am filled with dread, and so, there is one face in particular I try to remember. It’s the face of my son on his birthday—it was also inauguration day. I’d been fighting gloom all day, but just before his bedtime we stuck a candle in a cupcake and gathered in the kitchen: me and Kellie, my two boys, my brother and his girlfriend. We sang to him, all of us standing, the birthday boy seated at the counter, and at the sound of our voices he glowed. I mean, he radiated light. His whole body was purpose, and that purpose was receiving our love. He knew how to take it in. He knew how to drink it. I keep trying to remember this because I know that I will need it. I will need to borrow his brightness; I will need to give it back.
I can’t promise anyone that this will be the thing that saves us. I can’t promise we will win or that we will be saved. But I do know this: Beauty persists. Joy persists. Love persists. They are all nestled there next to my anger, like ribs holding a heart in its place.
A world made of ash — and of the persistence of our hearts. Yes. Thank you for words that resonate in my bones.
I can barely stand how much I love every word you wrote….your swept me up in the gentle tide of your emotion–and by the end, I was/am choked up and tears are rolling down my cheeks…such beautiful vulnerability followed up by a reclaiming of optimism and peaceful determination, rather than quiet desperation…you have such a gift for writing and connection…thanks for sharing 🙂
Such a welcome, beautiful statement that gives me some transcendent joy. I love the metaphors/similes/details: “amoeba-like,” “ribs holding the heart in place.” This deserves a wide readership.
You write it all so beautifully, my heart thumped in my chest as I read this.
Your posts always resonate, Jenn, but this one had my heart pounding, tears streaming. As always, thank you for sharing.
Your words connect us all Jenn. They flow from your heart, your mind and your spirit. Let them make their way to pages and screens, and let them shine, let them march through these challenging times. Love prevails. Always.
I don’t believe that love prevails but I also don’t believe it can die. A lot of us are going to die during Trump’s presidency and it will be his fault, his decision, his pleasure. He is anathema.
Side by side with his presidency of sickness, people will continue to love their
children, their brothers and sisters, their parents, and their partners and people they haven’t met. God bless you Jen. Big love flowing toward you.
Thank you for marching.
Beautiful… I’ve been feeling so much of the same lately. And the march for me, too, was sweet sweet medicine. I know it’s time for us to show up and stand for what matters to us – and even though it scares me– I keep worrying that the worst is yet to come and that we can’t even imagine what is– now is the time not to shirk away.
You talk about working to understand “the other” and yet in your response you allude to things I didn’t write. It’s almost like you skimmed this and projected your assumptions onto me.
Not just the other, but the “evil” other, right? Could you allude to the allusions I have made which aren’t found in your letter?
Can I allude to your allusions? Yes, I can. There are two. They’re pretty clear cut. Were you unable to find them?
You’ve said it so beautifully. Thank you for sharing.
I’ve just now been deleting emails from after the election when I became unable to look at the Internet. Buried among the sales pitches and requests for money was this “Goodnight Already”. A year has passed since you posted it, but your essay still resonates. It gives me, if not exactly hope, something close enough to hope to be comforting. (I hadn’t realized Stump’s birthday had fallen on Inauguration Day. Words elude me on that mingling of events.)