America is Beautiful. Keep Going.
Now’s the time to tell you how my cross country trip and recent events made me love America and have hope for the future.
1. America is beautiful. The grandeur of its mountains, sprawling plains, Utah’s red rocks and monument valley — the earth so beautiful you have no choice but know that there is a god in one way or another and wow god is weird. But cool. And beautiful.
2. There’s progressive hopeful voices everywhere across this nation. I drove from New York to New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, Boulder, Moab, Navajo Nation, Arizona, Las Vegas into Los Angeles California. I saw this land and met new people every day. There were progressive voices EVERYWHERE. In Lincoln Nebraska, the host of a comedy show went on an anti-Trump rampage to a crowd that was completely in agreement. I saw pro-immigration posters in Nebraska. A uniformed official at the Hoover Dam made jokes against Chris Christie when he saw my NJ license plates, and we joked together putting down Trump. In Omaha we visited the birthplace of Malcolm X and met the inspiring young people running the museum, where progressive groups inclusive of white people and people of color meet to organize for the future. In Chicago we visited Hillary’s childhood home, someone who inspires me deeply. I visited the Motown Records museum in Detroit — one of the proudest and most beautiful homages to black pride and cultural contributions to America I’ve ever seen. We saw historical markers for the Underground Railroad — marks of this country’s beautiful history — history of helpers and activists, and of those who fight for a better nation.
3. Before I left for the trip I recorded sound for a Bill Clinton interview. It was meaningful to hear someone with his knowledge and unique insight reflect on what the hell is going on. The interviewer pressed him on how we can get better as a nation and heal from Trump — which he prefaced with historical examples that proved the notion that even in the face of oppressive regimes “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” (MLK Jr) — He went on to say that we must see the current administration fail to prove that it was not the right choice and it does not work. The fear and threat is how bad it will get and what damage will be done, and whether or not we can recover from it — but part of progress is seeing the wrong answer in all its wrongness. I’m paraphrasing here because this interview was weeks ago — but this is the message that stuck with me, and it helps me to have hope — that all of the wrongness now can empower the rightness of tomorrow.
4. I listened to Hillary’s “What Happened” audiobook. It mentions a lot of places in America, while we were in Des Moines, here she was mentioning this great bakery in Des Moines. So while I got to share in the America of her narrative, the message of the book struck me much deeper. The book starts with her personal stories, a chapter on her marriage, being a mother, caring for her mother when she died, and goes into her personal life and experiences. The middle of the book feels like a historical record. She documents what was happening in the world in and around 2016 in a factual way, with passages on Black Lives Matter, the opioid epidemic, Flint Michigan, and shares tons of facts and data and personal interactions with each issue that’s part of this moment in our history. Then it starts to feel like a legal document or subpoena. She lists all of the data and facts known especially regards to the FBI and Russian interference, naming several documented events that I was not aware of. She lays it all out. It’s an incredibly helpful tool to wrap your head around what the hell happened and is still happening. It also feels meaningful to have the names of the victims and families involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, cementing it in our American historical record. The end of the book lays out what we need to do next and how we can have hope — and the great message that we must Keep Going.
So much of the book brought me to tears. It echoed the emotions I felt about her and what I saw happening to people and society. She shared one part of what would have been her victory speech if she was elected President. Clinton’s mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, was abandoned by her parents as a child and she and her sister were sent away on a train to live with relatives who would abuse them.
“Sometimes I think about her on that train. I wish I could walk down the aisle and find the little wooden seats where she sat, holding tight to her even younger sister, alone, terrified. She doesn’t yet know how much she will suffer … I dream of going up to her, and sitting down next to her … and saying, ‘Look at me. Listen to me. You will survive. You will have a good family of your own, and three children. And as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up and become the President of the United States.’
Hillary never became President of the United States. But in that sentiment I know some mother somewhere will have the daughter that will be. I don’t feel crushed, I feel hope — because every time I’ve been hurt, I’ve gotten back up and learned how to do more, and do better.
Today more than ever, we have to remember the beautiful, that which gives us hope. Stand up, speak out.
The next generation has all of the tools, vitality, and inspiration to turn around the damage we live with today. America and the world are beautiful. We help each other. I believe progress on gun control will be successfully fought for, and that we will not stand for the currently insane NRA. Things can and will change. Our children and our individual creative work is full of boundless power and potential for beauty and happiness. Keep Going.