Friday, January 20, 2017

Don't Mourn, Organize

I stashed this Doris Lessing piece for a day just like this; I saw it on Facebook and have no idea who should get credit, but thank you, whoever you are:

I will not be watching the Inauguration.  No, I will be at work, doing what I can do to make life better for students and faculty and the people who will eventually employ our students.

I am worried, but I am always worried.  The older I get, the more I realize that the people in charge are not magical in any way; they are ordinary people with gifts and talents and character flaws which may or may not undo them completely.

I came of age during the Reagan years, so I'm used to feeling like the people in the cabinet are a strange mix of the one person who knows lots about governing, the one in charge who worries more about image than substance, a collection of inept people who know nothing about the departments bequeathed to them, and the others who have some potential and may work out. 

The Trump reign seems to be very similar to Reagan's (if you want to read an interesting article that compares Trump to LBJ, go here).  I fully expect attempts to gut all the departments that I hold dear.  But frankly, many groups like NPR and PBS have already been made much less dependent on public funds than they were decades ago--and it's worked out.

Maybe this will all be O.K.  But it's more realistic to know that much of the next 4 years won't be O.K. with me, and to look for ways to protect what and who I cherish and to try to help those who don't have the advantages that I do when it comes time to resist.

Image from Two Sylvias Press

Maybe we will create great art in the face of great uncertainty.  It's happened before. 

I am holding onto the idea that once people have their rights, it's hard to strip them away.  I tell myself that it's rare for civilizations to backslide significantly--but I am aware of all the times that it's happened.

I am aware that times of great societal darkness often lead to times of great enlightenment.  I'm thinking about the time that the plague swept through Europe, which left the countries decimated, but gave the peasant survivors more leverage to build better lives--steps towards the end of serfdom and eventually the Renaissance.

I'm also aware that the people who lived through the plague would not be alive to enjoy the best years of the Renaissance.

You can see how my brain goes back and forth:  "It will be O.K.  It takes a lot to change the direction of the ship of state"; "Maybe it's time to stash some assets offshore."  On and on my brain goes.

I am not yet sewing my jewels into my hemlines, but it's crossed my mind--not that I have any jewels, and knowing me, I'd grab the wrong garments as I fled.

I grabbed a Bob Dylan CD as I headed out the door yesterday morning, and during my travels across the day, I kept returning to the first track of Bringing It All Back Home, "Subterranean Homesick Blues."  I was surprised by how much this song, written before I was born, still seems relevant, just as it did when I first heard it during the Reagan administration.  Here are some words of wisdom:

"Don't follow leaders, watch your parking meters."

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

And for my friends who will be demonstrating:

"Better stay away from those / That carry 'round a firehouse"

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