Expectations Before the Inauguration

I Have Heard What the Talkers Were Talking, the Talk of the Beginning and the End (But I Do Not Talk of the Beginning or the End)

 

It just hit me that I’m really, truly scared of what’s coming up ahead.

The inauguration is in less than a week. In four days, we will have a president whose word we cannot trust, whose hatred for people unlike him is undisguised, whose entire strategy has been to play on the anger and fear of hardworking, undereducated citizens. And I’m writing this article because I haven’t seen anything like it since about a week after the election. We have become complacent, supportive even, not fighting what lies ahead.

I believe we need to fight. And I am a hypocrite for that belief, because I too have stopped fighting. I am living in a world surrounded by people who talk to me in the patient voice of a suicide hotline, pleading with me to understand and admit to my mistakes in voting for someone like Hillary Clinton to represent the highest office of our people. And for the first few weeks, I fought. I fought bitterly, embarrassing my sister because it was three cousins and two of their friends on one me for over an hour, and at the end of the night, each side assumed they were victorious. I begged for our weekly family dinners to be politics-free, because I couldn’t deal with the praise being thrown in the direction of someone who hasn’t earned it, and received eye rolls and “grow up”s in return. My class WhatsApp group remains one-sided, because I and the one other confirmed Democrat are both miraculously keeping our mouths shut on this one, because we know we will never get our point across.

I am too tired to fight, and I hate that I even have the luxury. That I even have the choice. I hate that I am writing this on my phone, in bed, near suffocating and paralyzed from a sudden rush of anxiety. All because the Washington post reported that construction for the wall between the US and Mexico could begin as early as April, funded by the dollars of taxpayers who didn’t ask for this. Who didn’t ask for him.

And it’s even more frightening, considering Obama is still in office. That plans are being contrived and finalized and he isn’t even our president yet. That this whole world is going crazy, and it’s people who have gotten it this way.

Despite being a woman, I otherwise live in tremendous privilege. The president-elect doesn’t hate people like me, people with my skin color and my religion and my socioeconomic status. So when people wonder aloud, why do you even care?, I offer one of two possible responses, based on which one I feel will speak to them more.

The first: he doesn’t hate me today. But that doesn’t mean he won’t hate me tomorrow. This has proven wildly ineffective, for the most part; I mostly get rolled eyes and exasperated comebacks bemoaning my melodramatic tendencies. I don’t care. This isn’t drama. This is the tragic reality.

The second I haven’t really had a chance to use. Nobody in my vicinity wants to hear it, because it’s the real answer, and the truth is a loaded thing. I care because it isn’t right. No person is inherently greater than another. We all have skills. We all have talents. We all have rights, and it’s about time everyone recognized that, and gave the people on lower ground a stepstool, to get us all on equal footing.

The New York Times Book Review has a weekly interview with a different author, and they will often ask, “If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?” A book seems a bit ambitious, because I expect the president will be quite busy, come the 20th of January, so I would like to offer a poem instead. A long poem, but even just the first few lines will suffice:


I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

 

Walt Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass in 1891, and like most Transcendentalist writings, he imbued within it the themes of unity, of a universal divinity within all people that makes us simultaneously equal and great. We are all equal. We are all divine, and we all have the capability for greatness.

I was on the subway when a black teenager began to recite a poem he had written himself. One sentiment stuck with me; he said that black is a combination of every color, so that when he says black lives matter, it means all lives matter. And he is so right. Because it’s easy to say that all lives matter when all is subject to your definition of alive. It is only when all is truly all, when you can quantify each of its components and prove that every variation of humanity is included, that we will achieve that transcendentalist ideal of community, of acceptance. Of peace.

It may look like there is peace. The rallies are dead. The protests are a distant memory. I no longer see commuters with safety pins affixed to their shirts. But my words are still alive, and I intend to use them until the very last breath leaves my body. I am not done, and hopefully, neither are you.

I am fighting in my own way, and I’m begging you to fight alongside me in yours.

(note: title is also from Leaves of Grass)

 


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