Hands Around Lake Merritt
Was election night as bad as it gets, or is the worst still to come? That sick feeling of disappointment, of alienation from your nation, of watching a big part of my demographic identity declare itself in direct opposition to everything in my mind, spirit, soul… Yeah, Tuesday sucked.
But faced with that question, if the worst is still to come, I just can’t find my optimism. He appointed a known white supremacist as his chief advisor! I can’t wrap my mind around that. We have a president who wants neo-nazis at his right hand. And Americans are cheering for him. It’s…disgusting.
All last week was trying to keep the spine straight, the head above polluted water, clinging to the emails, texts, and conversations of support and shared awareness, but even when those come from around the planet they feel small when the world at large has gone insane.
Then Sunday. A beautiful warm autumn afternoon in Oakland, when an estimated 10,000 of my fellow Americans gathered to surround Lake Merritt with a message of peace, opposition to bigotry, and dedication to the ideals that made America great in the first place.
My mother, awesome woman that she is, took us to an anti-War protest for the first Gulf War, and I’ve found my way to a few others over the years, but this was the first time I’ve seen thousands of people united in somber silence, peace signs held up in the air, saying without words that we as a country are better than what our “democracy” puked up on Tuesday.
Oakland has seen nightly protests of broken glass and tear gas as small numbers of people manifest their opposition. But this was something altogether more inspiring. Children played tag on the grass, dogs in sweaters, neighbors sharing food and hugs while everyone from old school Berkeley hippies to post-Millennials (have they named them yet?) shared a space and a message.
God it felt good. Restorative. Reassuring. Fortifying. There are four long years of resistance to (let’s be honest) evil ahead of us, but there are a lot of kind and genuine souls in my peaceful army, and I have faith in us. I found my optimism. They gave it back to me.
I want to stop there. But I can’t shake one other feeling. Nor should I. It’s fear, not for me (entirely insulated by my privilege and status) but for the children of America, the minorities of America, the refugees and the immigrants of America, all the vulnerable of America. So many groups are threatened by Trump’s inhumanity, but on Sunday they came together in one little boy. The demonstration was dissolving by then, everyone heading home for dinner, and I felt wrung out. Not ready for the pain of seeing a child having cause to ask this question.
This is not who we are. This is not who I will ever be. And you and I both will do everything we can to protect this child, won’t we? I’ll see you on the barricades if we have to, because this child deserves to live in a country where he never has to ask this question again.