My husband posts a weekly piece on the Chicago Tribune’s digital blog. His commentary immediately after the election reflects the apprehensions of many Americans and echoes my own concerns. As a nation we cannot allow ourselves to normalize bigotry and fear mongering in the name of a deceptive patriotism. Particularly in this holiday season when the theme is peace and good will. Like my husband, I am frightened, but defiant. Here is his essay. They reflect my sentiments as well.
This is not the monthly piece I intended to post. How can I write about ‘adding joy and finding meaning’ when the veritable ecosystem that sustains me has changed precipitously?
On the surface, the world looks the same. There is no respite from the endless advertising drivel and ill-advised tweets streaming on the blogosphere; traffic is flowing; the joggers along the lakefront are huffing and puffing. But yesterday’s rosy outlook is shrouded in a telltale sign of fear and I am twitching with nervous jitters as I look out at the new world order of the president-elect.
One country has become two societies. It is we against them and no in-between.
I am beset with childhood memories of living in a similar time: before the Civil Rights Bill; before Roe v Wade; before the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I remember how bleak and uninviting my neighborhood was, the paint peeling off the porches and heartbreak and tragedy behind every doorway. It was a gritty existence that rubbed off on me and left me raw. The ethnic differences from one block to the next created mini-neighborhoods, the borderline streets as impassable as high fences. The houses and storefronts looked similar but an ominous undercurrent was always there. Look-alike candy stores, groceries and fresh fruit stalls were on opposite corners, each drawing customers from their side of the block but there was no leniency when a mistake in geography was made. “What are you doing here, where do you live, go home.”
Back then, I accepted these insults to civility as a reality with which I had to deal. I learned to navigate that environment by being compliant and adaptable. Most colleges had quotas on the number of Jews they would let in, so I applied to the schools that accepted my application. The majority of resort hotels in the Poconos were segregated so I took vacations in the Catskills. When I moved to Minneapolis or Dallas the realtor took me to the “neighborhoods where I would feel comfortable.”
But to face an environment like that, today, is intolerable. In the year 2016 I won’t accept living in a world with such prohibitive boundaries. So yes, I’m frightened. But I’m also defiant.
The space for expressions of joy may have shrunk. But the need to find meaning in life for the years that are left, demands expansion. Despite a political climate that warns me to hunker down lest I become next in line for a graffiti swastika on the door and a Night of Kristallnacht in nearby Skokie, I will not accept a narrowing definition of the role I write for myself going forward.
Count me in the ranks fighting for equal rights as the War against Women attacks the gains that have been made. Find me out front working with elderly men and women who feel irrelevant and isolated by a youth-driven demographic so self-absorbed it thinks Disneyland is a country off the coast of Florida. Smile with me as I teach my granddaughter to play Jacks and Pick Up Sticks before our bedtime ritual reading books and tickling each other silly.
Sit with me as I breathe consciously and quiet my mind in a morning meditation to attain peace and an open heart and an understanding of my true nature. That is when the answer to the on-going question of “Why Am I Here?” becomes clear.
If this is the beginning of America’s dark ages, I will add my light to the radiance of millions of progressive men and women from coast to coast pledged to dispel the gloom. www.chicagonow.com/cheating-death/