As a young reader, I was always fascinated by the Dear America series. It was a line of historical fictional books from the perspectives of young girls who were alive to witness great moments in time. At the time I was reading these books, I wondered what it was like to be part of a historical moment. I wondered what it was like to stand at the precipice of change and simply jump. Long after I closed the cover of my last Dear America book, I was honored to have voted for President Obama in 2012, and later I was honored to have voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Both of these campaigns were so hugely important for the history of our country, and suddenly I knew what it was to stand on the brink of change. Unfortunately, as anyone living in any country in the world could tell you, Hillary Clinton did not win the 2016 election, despite receiving the majority of the votes. In a heart wrenching twist of our democracy, our new president was elected instead. I feel myself again standing at a jumping point. So please indulge me, as I live out a childhood dream and write my own Dear America moment.
January 20, 2017 is a day that will live in infamy. It was a day I thought I had mentally prepared for, but still hadn’t fully digested. I still can’t say his name. I still can’t look at the news. As a cis-gendered, heterosexual white woman, I don’t have much to complain about. (In fact, it’s women like me who largely contributed to this man getting elected.) The future doesn’t look much different for me in my own life. It is the lives of those around me who will be most affected. At this point, most of us are so bombarded with news that we are just reading headlines. If we do read the news, it’s so traumatic it prevents us from doing it again. I get it. My voice in all of this will get lost, but I’m going to keep writing anyway.
I spent a few moments on January 20th at the local Islamic Center’s People’s Inauguration event. I knew that it was the place to be that night. At the end of the event, everyone stood up and said various promises they had for the upcoming years. We pledged to be more inclusive, to be more supportive, to be more educated. It was a beautiful space, and one I was grateful to be a part of. On January 21st, I attended a retreat on social justice and community building. We discussed what it meant to serve and to help. We discussed what it meant to make certain parts of our communities “the other.” One must stand in solidarity with someone rather than for someone. We discussed complacency.
Ponder this momentarily: what does it mean to be complicit? It means standing on that ledge of change, and neither jumping forward toward change nor moving backwards in opposition. It means you allow for things to happen even if you don’t directly support them. Admittedly, I have been complacent in local and statewide politics up until now. I have stood by while policies changed, without feeling like my voice was important enough to matter. As we mark a new chapter in our history, I’ve come to realize that none of us have the luxury of complacency any longer. Those who are called to fight and to stand must do so. This is the time. This is our Dear America moment. We no longer have “slavery” in terms of shackles and chains, we no longer have “segregation” in terms of signs and bus seats, and we no longer have internment camps. But we do have institutionalized racism. We do have the school to prison pipeline. We do have systemic discrimination. Injustice by any other name is still injustice. This is our time, America. This is our story. What’s it gonna be?