Wednesday, November 9, 2016

When Your Glass Ceiling Doesn't Break

Yesterday morning, I wrote these words on my Facebook wall:  "For those of us feeling fretful on this election day, I say, "Be not afraid!" We are a nation of quilters, adept at taking frayed scraps and turning them into comforters. We are a nation of tinkerers, who can take metal scraps and turn them into cars and computers. We will be OK."

Last night, I wrote these words:  "No one will listen to my political predictions ever again. I've been wrong so often in this election season that I may never make political predictions ever again. No matter how these last few states break, I would never have predicted this night."

Let me be clear:  at Thanksgiving 2014, I declared that Hillary Clinton was unelectable as a deeply flawed candidate.  Then Trump became the Republican candidate.  I thought he was even more deeply flawed.

Last night, I was still convinced that Trump would not be elected.  I slept on the sofa between 8 and 10.  I woke up for a few minutes and said, ""Is this going to be just like 2000 when we stayed up until midnight only to be told that the election wouldn't be decided for days?" But at that point, I wasn't serious.

I woke up at 12:30 and said to myself, Let me see where we are with this election.  And then I couldn't fall back asleep.

I did watch part of Trump's speech, and I was impressed with his change of tone.  I'm choosing to focus on that.

Let me also remember history, both modern and ancient.  I'm choosing to focus on all the leaders who haven't been great to begin with, but have risen to greatness.  I won't be focusing on the opposite kind of leader as I think back through history.  I will remember the leaders who seemed a disastrous pick at the time but who went on to bring about important changes that we'd have never dreamed possible.  I will think of leaders who had hard rhetoric and harder hearts, but found a way towards a softened stance. 

I will remember my words, all the ways that I have seen the world I thought I knew come through a time of transformation.  I'm thinking of eastern Europe--that wall that came down suddenly in 1989.  I'm thinking about Nelson Mandela released from jail and shortly thereafter, to become the first freely elected president of South Africa and a nation transformed--that outcome was so impossible that few of us dared to hope for it.  Somewhere in my photo albums, I have a fading picture of a friend wearing his "Free Mandela" t-shirt.  He'd been in jail for our whole lives, and we expected he would die there, t-shirts or no t-shirts.

I think it's important to remember how strong the forces of evil seemed then.  But we built our shantytowns on the lawn, we helped Central Americans get to Canadian safety, we demanded changes in U.S. policy which were ignored or dismissed.  We bought our protest albums and went to concerts.  Elders sneered and warned us about the necessity of establishing anti-communist bulwarks, even if they were staffed by genocidal maniacs, as much of Latin America was in the 1980's.

For some of us, the forces of evil, or at least chaos, seem to be strong and gathering now.  But perhaps it's not as bad as it seems.  Maybe this time of divided electorate and hateful vitriol will be what spurs many of us to get back to work creating and safeguarding the kind of nation where we want to live.

It could happen.  It has happened.  It will happen again.

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