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The trump Riot: Grief and Gratitude

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I’m still processing yesterday, as are we all. January 6th will undoubtedly go down as one of the darkest days in American history. Whoever thought we would live to see an armed insurrection incited by the President of the United States??

My emotions are a complete jumble, from deep grief to fear to gladness that our election process has held up under enormous pressure. And of course there’s intense relief that January 20th is near. 

There are so many aspects to this tragedy, a glaring one being that — if we are honest — we all know how different the day would have looked if black and brown people had stormed the Capitol. Night sticks would be bloodied and broken, jails would be filled to capacity, and the death toll would have been far greater.

I don’t have many words today, though my mind is so full of them I barely slept. I am hoping against hope that Vice President Pence will honor his oath of office by removing the clear and present danger from the Oval Office. It’s past time for the 25th Amendment.

My main feeling today is gratitude, most especially to the journalists — print, TV, radio, camera operators — who put their lives in danger yesterday to bring us the stark truth of what has happened.

 An outstanding piece of journalism from British reporter Robert Moore puts into words what we all know in our hearts:

“America’s long journey as a stable democracy appears to be in doubt.” 

December 21, 1946: Don’t You Know Me, Bert? Ernie?

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Watching this Jimmy Stewart treasure has always been one of the high points of my Christmas season. I look forward to it all year, and I cry at the end every single time, even though I know most of the dialogue by heart. I’ll pick up eggnog and popcorn this week and settle in after my Zoom Christmas Eve service.
If you’re also sharing quality time with Jimmy & Donna, perhaps this bit of history from my fellow blogger Richard Daybell will enrich your experience. Merry Christmas week!

 

Wretched Richard's Almanac

Frank Capra said that it was his favorite of the many movies he made throughout a phenomenal career. He screened it for his family every Christmas season. Yet it’s initial 1946 release at the Globe Theater in New York did not bring about yuletide euphoria and visions of sugar plums. It’s a Wonderful Life premiered to mixed and sometimes dismissive reviews, but it went on to become one of the most critically acclaimed films ever made, garnering a permanent spot in every list of the top films of the last century.

From its very beginning, it did not inspire great expectations. It was based on an original story “The Greatest Gift”written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939. After being unsuccessful in getting the story published, Stern made it into a Christmas card, and mailed 200 copies to family and friends in 1943. In 1944, RKO Pictures ran across the…

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Choosing Joy at Christmas

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I woke w/ Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus in my head – not a bad way to start the day! I’m playing it now and remembering my Mom’s dancing giddiness whenever she heard it. I can only imagine her joy, being a young lead soprano w/ the Boston Orchestra and singing her heart out as the organ swelled to a crescendo.

“Forever and ever! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

It’s transporting just to think about. I am glad she had such joy!

Christmas is often sad-sweet, especially once you’ve lost close loved ones. Those ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future dart through your head and heart unannounced, sometimes bringing tears, sometimes laughter.

The season has been especially tough since I lost my beloved brother at Christmas in 2013. This year I lost two dear friends, and I’m hurting for their families. But surprisingly, I’m on a fairly even keel so far. Perhaps I was prepared for a difficult time between COVID, trump trauma, and the prospect of a particularly solitary Christmas.

At any rate, I’m decorating more than I have in years, listening to carols, watching Christmas movies, and reading Advent books of art and poetry. I am fortunate that while I sometimes edge into depression, I am mostly prone to grief — simple sadness. So I can choose what I will pay attention to, what energy I will feed.

Christmas, like all of life, is both/and — sadness and joy, loss and abundance. After all, the season celebrates the birth of a tiny baby who offered peace to everyone on earth for all time, but who was also destined to experience deep grief, betrayal, and a violent death. History has it that he was a poor handyman who became the most influential person who ever lived. The ultimate both/and.

As author Anne Lamott says, “Hallelujah anyway!”

I wish you great, transporting joy this Christmas, if you celebrate the season.

Trouble with the Trump Transition? You’re Not the Only One

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The guy occupying the Oval Office isn’t the only one having trouble with the transition to a post-trump world. 

When I asked my Facebook friends whether anyone else was feeling unspeakably tired, the response was a resounding “Yes, yes, and yes.” People spoke of migraines, tension, and a sense of unreality, but mostly exhaustion. How else could we feel after being anxious, grieved, and/or outraged for such a long, long time? 

Even if we were engaged in “normal life,” we knew that all was not well. Not by a long shot. The president is a walking diagnostic manual of multiple mental disorders. Still, many also spoke of feeling “ecstatic” and “liberated” and being able to breathe deeply and sleep soundly for the first time in four years. So it’s both/and. Ecstatic and exhausted. Still grieving, but profoundly relieved.

#Irrelevant

This transition period is fraught in its own special way. The president is mostly quiet — golfing, watching TV, occasionally rage tweeting: “FRAUD!!!…THEY CHEAT!!!….RIGGED ELECTION!!” But you can tell  his heart’s not in it anymore. He is like a caged, wounded beast. His suffering is palpable — it feels pathological, like everything about him. He mostly hulks in the corner and sulks, occasionally lashing out ineffectually from behind his bars. (Won’t it be a fine day when Biden removes all the barricades trump has erected around our White House?)

I know trump is still the president, he still has the nuclear codes, he is still firing every effective and ethical civil servant who comes to his attention in these last days. Yet I feel he is increasingly becoming background noise. Irrelevant. And so my mind and body are relaxing in stages, little by little. I think this explains my daily mood swings. My brain chemicals are sloshing side-to-side so much that it’s dizzying. 

One day, I fear that trump is encouraging violence between Proud Boys and Antifa so that he can declare marshall law and at long last have his beloved military parade in the streets. The next day, I meet my neighbors at the local farmer’s market, buy some kale, cabbage, and sweet potatoes, and also some flowers and a stupidly expensive bottle of local Cabernet Franc. (The orchardist told me that Franc grapes are the “daddy” of both Cabernet and Merlot, so it’s got to be good.)

Getting outside, laughing with other people, and spoiling myself brings me back to our new reality. 

Yes, COVID. Yes, rampant racism. Yes, our democracy is shockingly fragile. But donald trump is done. The voters have spoken, and spoken loudly. Even though he continually tweets that he is “just getting ready” to reveal “massive fraud,” he is history. 

And speaking of history, hidden in his twenty morning tweets today is a plea for “historians” (in quotes because I guess he doesn’t believe in historians) to recognize that COVID vaccines were discovered under his watch. Perhaps he’s thinking about his legacy? Is reality getting through? More shall be revealed. 

New Head Space

For now, please take of yourself. Drink lots of water. Drink good wine, if you partake. Sleep late. Go outside and move your body. Eat chocolate. Treat yourself to flowers or books or whatever makes you happy. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Because amidst the darkness that is COVID and the national security risks caused by the man-child’s refusal to allow a peaceful transition, there is also room for happiness and joy and relaxation. As his yammering fades, there’s a lot more space in our heads for peace and goodness. We deserve that. 

And may we use our new-found head space to engage with the January 5th Georgia run-off election so that those same voters who rejected trump will continue to reject ugliness and division by denying trump’s enablers a majority in the Senate. Make a difference, here.

Just imagine if the Congress could once again do the people’s work! 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:5

The Eternal Election Night

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The last four years have been interminable. The year 2020 itself has lasted four long years. And now we have entered the Election Night that would not end. Several people have requested that I write a blog post in response to what is going on, even a friend in New Zealand. I’ve never had such requests before, so I’m trying to comply.

I find I’m up against some challenges, one being that I’ve just returned to Maryland after four months of hiding from COVID up at my place in New Hampshire. I drove on Election Day because I hoped there might be a pause in the wilding trump supporters who have been harassing people, stopping traffic, and trying to run Biden buses off the road. My car is plastered with liberal bumper stickers, plus it’s a communist hybrid. Thankfully, it was a quiet drive. But I’m all discombobulated and can’t find anything in the wreckage I’ve unloaded from my car.

Also, as I mentioned in my last post, WordPress has instituted a “new and improved” blog platform that everyone seems to hate, and I haven’t had the time or inclination to learn how to use it. Blogging is not the simple act it once was. I can revert to the old platform, which worked perfectly well, but it would cost me $300. So there’s that. 

And finally, I don’t much feel like writing. My head is jangling, filled with all kinds of brain chemicals I’m not used to. I don’t have a TV, so usually don’t see commercials or hear the stress-inducing manic music most of America lives with. But the networks are graciously allowing even plebeians like me to livestream this week’s mayhem, so here I am, hooked. I’ve been glued to my computer screen since I arrived home at 8 p.m. election night. I watch the red & blue vote tallies not move, as I flip back and forth between MSNBC and CNN and FOX (my first time ever watching the latter — it’s kind of fascinating).

The Narrow Path

Last night I wisely unplugged and went to a prayer practice circle held on the grounds of my church. We used the Welcoming Prayer, which I’ve blogged about before. I recognized and welcomed my fear and anxiety and anger, and then I released them to God. 

It was harder to let go of the grief that I’ve discovered underlies it all — grief for my country, for humanity, for the planet. Grief feels good and right, even holy. No matter who wins the election, the fact remains that nearly half of America thinks it’s OK to have a president who cannot tell the truth, who promotes violence and racism, gasses peaceful protesters, denies science, and gleefully puts the profits of coal companies ahead of human survival. Grief is appropriate.

Biden’s path to electoral victory is narrow, and trump’s is narrower. But the narrowest path is the path back to basic sanity and civility for our nation. If Biden becomes president, it’ll be a steep and dangerous climb. If he doesn’t? Well, you see why I can’t write about this.

What we know so far . . .

Book Review: On the Brink of Everything, by Parker Palmer

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There’s a lot to love in this little book. Parker Palmer is one of my favorite spiritual authors, and I’ve been fortunate to see him speak a few times. His humility and wisdom are so refreshing and needed these days, and as he ages, his readers just get more of both. This book speaks to my time of life and the subtitle says it all: grace, gravity, and getting old.


Parker says we need to reframe aging as “a passage of discovery and engagement, not decline and inaction.” Then he goes on to tell us what that looks like for him through essays, poems, and stories, plus a good sprinkling of quotes from other wise people. Lots of Thomas Merton. This is a relaxed and friendly read, and his take on spirituality is the same: “an endless effort to penetrate illusion and touch reality.”


No matter your age or spiritual background (or lack thereof), this book could do you good — especially if you have an activist’s heart.

*** Let me apologize for WordPress. Apparently the powers that be decided to completely change the way this site works, and I can’t figure it out, nor have I the inclination to at present. Figures that the only technology I had even a tenuous grip on is now no more. It really was the only user-friendly blog platform I’d found, and now — not so much. So I am unable to categorize or label my blogs, but I’m sending this out anyway. ***

I Will Not Enable trump’s Psychological Warfare

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I have experienced some psychological trauma in my life — not nearly what some people have survived, but enough to know what it feels like. What happens to your brain and body. I felt the nausea, pounding heart, headache and disassociation from reality last night, as I watched the so-called “presidential” debate.

When I woke this morning, it was all still there, plus a sense of panic because my cat had escaped and spent the night outside with the wild animals in the pouring rain. Perhaps she felt safer out there than trapped inside with the abuse and vitriol emanating from my computer.

I read a quote this morning that put our national nightmare in perspective for me:

“The president is engaging in psychological warfare against the American people — as tin-pot dictators do.”

— Tom Nichols, international affairs expert

(Tin-pot dictator: An autocratic ruler with little political credibility, typically having delusions of grandeur.)

No Trespassing, trump

So today I choose not to further expose myself to his abuse. He will not be in my head or my heart today. I’m staying away from screens, except perhaps to post pictures of colorful leaves or my cat (who came in for breakfast). There’s a part of me that wants to stay engaged, to watch the war on Twitter, the disbelief from the pundits, the rage on Facebook. It feels like therapy, in a warped way. Only it’s not — it’s enabling. I won’t listen to him, I won’t allow him to disturb my peace.

I’m making pancakes from scratch for brunch. I might build a fire even though it’s sixty degrees. I’m going to read my Bible and my Mary Pipher book, “Writing to Change the World,” because we each have to use the gifts we’ve been given. And I’m going to write — perhaps make progress on my unlikely essay about what trump can teach us about spirituality. Maybe I’ll edit some poetry I’m working on, or plaster my dining room walls with easel-sized Post-Its and start mapping out my memoir in bold colors. I’m stalled in my early thirties.

I’ll light scented candles and drink copious amounts of tea. I’ll cuddle up in a blanket and treat myself as if I’m having a sick day. Because I kind of am. But I know the cure. I’m with Joe Biden on this one:

 

“Will you shut up, man?!”

Choosing Peace

My Writing Space

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If I were to design a writing space from scratch, I couldn’t create a space more perfect than the one my grandmother left to me. To top it off, it’s a chilly, rainy day and my tea is brewed. Amen.

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write . . .”  — Virginia Woolf

 

“And there must be sunflowers and cats in her room . . .” Melanie Lynn Griffin

Am I procrastinating getting to work on my next memoir chapter? Why, yes. Yes I am. It’s nearly noon, and I have yet to ring my Tibetan singing bowl, the one that tells my head and heart it’s time to “center down,” time to seek memories and make meaning.

“How good it is to center down!

To sit quietly and see one’s self pass by!”

— Author and civil rights leader Howard Thurman

Instead I’m taking pictures of my cat.

And now I’ve started a blog post.

Happy Saturday to you.

Alice in Wonderland

 

Hope for People & the Planet: Don’t Mourn, Organize!

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I’ve  been feeling a little hope lately, which is scary. “Don’t get your hopes up,” my mother used to tell me. Well, why the hell not? I’d be just as devastated either way, if the current president ends up staying in the White House.

The thing is, trump is (literally) banking on progressive people in this country feeling hopeless and helpless. Because hope, even a sliver of it, may lead to action. It can lead us to make phone calls or write letters or call our legislators.

If we feel it makes no difference and we’re doomed, we will just numb ourselves with social media or TV or alcohol or chips or outrage or whatever it is that allows us to survive these perilous times. Worst of all, we may not make the effort to vote if we think it doesn’t matter. Especially if trump has made it more difficult and confusing to cast a vote.

Our Health and Heritage Under Attack

This week, buried in the on-going chaos that is America, there was news of the trump administration’s final preparations to sacrifice to the voracious Oil God, one of America’s most sacred and iconic wilderness areas: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Since his election, trump has taken direct aim at our natural heritage of wildlands and wildlife, and he’s undercut programs that promote clean air, clean water, and climate stability.

It’s mind-boggling how quickly he has reversed our nation’s progress and dismantled much of what I spent my thirty-year environmental career doing. This is not about me, of course, but I have to say, it hurts. And many of the people I love and served with in the environmental field have also been stunned and demoralized.

One of the longest and most intense battles of my career has been the effort to protect the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling. So when I heard the news of how close we are to losing this treasure, how trump is trying to make sure this pristine wilderness is destroyed before he leaves office, I will admit to hopelessness.

But when I wailed about it on Facebook, my dear Sierra Club friend BB wrote in response, “Resist. Organize.” He says that a lot lately. But this time it sunk in.

The Arctic Refuge
Photo: Natural Resources Defense Council

You and I Can Make a Difference

I immediately poured my pain and passion into a letter to the editor of the Washington Post to share what I know of what’s at stake in the Arctic Refuge. Off it went, and the next day The Post called to say they wanted to print it. I was so excited! You mean, I can still do something useful? I am not powerless? I can do more than march in the streets waving signs and yelling till I’m hoarse?

I desperately needed this reminder that we *all* have everyday tools that can make a difference. I’m talking to YOU! I challenge you to find something that you feel passionately about and write a letter to the editor, preferably responding to something they have recently printed. Below is my letter :

♦♦♦

“I am sickened by the Trump administration’s last-minute effort to sacrifice one of the country’s most sensitive and iconic wilderness areas to oil drilling [“Drill plan for Alaska refuge is finalized,” front page, Aug. 18]. Most Americans will never take an Alaskan bush plane north of the Arctic Circle to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yet a clear majority opposes drilling there, honoring our nation’s generous tradition of setting aside irreplaceable parts of our natural heritage for future generations.

As director of the Sierra Club’s public lands program during the 1990s, I was privileged to visit the refuge and to celebrate the annual porcupine caribou herd migration with the Native Gwich’in community. These hardy people depend on the caribou for food, clothing and tools, just as they have for thousands of years, and their spiritual and cultural traditions revolve around the animals. They call the caribou calving grounds in the Arctic Refuge “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit,” meaning the sacred place where life begins.

 

President Trump’s desperate push to desecrate this precious and pristine piece of God’s creation before Jan. 20 dishonors indigenous culture, denies the climate crisis and gives the definitive answer to the question we have been asking for four years: Is nothing sacred to this man? No, nothing is.”

♦♦♦

And here’s a note (edited) I just received about easy and safe ways you can help make sure there is hope for the future:

  • Make calls: share your enthusiasm and hope with potential voters. You could be the reason why someone votes for Biden/Harris.
  • Download the Vote Joe App: This organizing tool allows you to reach out to organize your friends & receive updates from the Democrats.
  • Join Biden for President’s volunteer Slack: Connect with Joe Biden’s campaign and learn about the latest volunteer opportunities. You’ll meet other volunteers as well — virtually, of course!

In the words of the martyred union organizer and songwriter, Joe Hill:

Don’t Waste Time Mourning, Organize!

Courtesy: Alaska Conservation Foundation

Awakening From the Trump Nightmare?

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I’ve had the strangest feeling lately, sometimes several times a day. I feel happy. I’m just going about my business, chopping fresh summer squash and tomatoes or brushing my newly adopted kitty Alice, when all of a sudden I realize there’s an underlying happiness. I’m not sure what this is about, but I have some ideas.

You can brush my tummy. No, really, go ahead . . . trust me

Life Right Now

Several things have happened. For one, I’m staying longer term at my beloved country house in New Hampshire, away from the COVID hotspot near DC where I live most of the time. Four months instead of six weeks. So there’s less anxiety. I am still very careful, but I don’t feel as if I’m taking my life in my hands when I go to pick up cat food. At night I watch stars, listen for owls, and hope to see the shadowy shape of our local bear. During the day, I sit on my deck and gaze over the same meadow that my grandmother and my mother gazed over, waiting for the wild turkey and deer to show up.

The Meadow

I also got off my last prescription meds after losing seventy pounds. In my journal I wrote: “Last prescription med taken. I am the Queen, the boss, the winner, the smartest, best, rockingest human on earth. Just so you know.” (That last sentence has the ring of a presidential tweet, doesn’t it?) This is a long-time goal, and I’m feeling really good about it — so good that I went to the local sandwich shop and got two scoops of my favorite ice cream, peppermint stick. First ice cream since December, and it was beyond delicious, especially topped with hot fudge and caramel sauce.

Hope At Last

Lastly, there’s Kamala. I’ve already told you how I feel about her. I am under no illusion that the pollsters have a clue what they’re talking about. I am nowhere near complacent after 2016 and with all the voter suppression going on. The stakes in this election are literally life and death, COVID, healthcare, climate chaos, police brutality. Even more so if you happen to have been born with brown or black skin.

Still, there’s a tiny tinge of hope where there was none a few months ago. Perhaps America will step up. I don’t know. But we might.

Tears, All the Tears

Last night was unexpectedly weird. We knew it would be weird, being the first virtual convention in history. What surprised me was my reaction. I was in tears within minutes. I often cry at “America the Beautiful,” but I never cry at the National Anthem. Too militaristic for me. Not so last night. I started crying when all those regular old American people began reading the Preamble to the Constitution, was in full flood by the time Biden’s grandkids read the Pledge of Allegiance, and then all those faces, young hopeful faces singing the anthem! By the time we got to Bruce Springsteen’s inspiring song, The Rising, I was drenched.

 

Watching the videos and listening to the heartfelt speeches, I proceeded to run through all the feels in short order: deep sorrow, anger and rage, hope, fear, even trauma. Especially trauma. What we have been through and continue to suffer, as individuals and as a nation! I love America so much. I texted my friend: “I hate what he has done to us!”

And you know what? I feel happy about those feelings, all of them. It reminded me that Melanie’s still in here. All my feelings are still alive, despite having had to put a lid on them for the past four years. I mean, you have to build up defenses against the constant atrocities and the dread, especially if you’re a sensitive sort like me.

I felt my defensive numbness starting to melt last Sunday at the Quaker meeting I attend. A woman rose to remind us that New England Quakers are celebrating three hundred sixty years as a faith community working for justice and peace. “And two years ago,” she said, “a new light was lit when we began meeting here at Orchard Hill. I am constantly amazed at the light.”

I found I was crying. All the lights, all the amazing lights.

A light was lit at Orchard Hill

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

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