On election night, Stephen Colbert punctuated his tenuously-delivered monologue with a litany of things Americans might be able to agree on. Most were funny and unifying, but they lacked the zeal of certain, confident delivery, both on the part of the audience and Mr. Colbert.
The unfunny reality is that perhaps the only thing all Americans have in common at this moment is the very discomfort that was palpable in that live election-night Colbert special: the discomfort of our own fear. Fear of the repealing of policies that advance equality for LGBT people. Fear of racism. Fear of physical violence. On both sides. Fear of sexism. No matter where people find themselves on the political spectrum, many feel fear – or something like it – walking down the street. A close friend of mine is unable to be in public spaces without obsessing about which half of the room she’s in, exactly, voted against everything she stands for.
As a motivational tactic, we know that fear can be successful in the short term. It can drive people to the polls, to demonstrations, to the outer edges of decency and humanity. But like anything else, fear has its limits.
When fear and scarcity are compelling us forward, we eventually burn out: the human and political body can only endure so much adrenaline before a rest is necessary. It’s exhausting being afraid all the time. It’s impossible to sustain.
And when the fear subsides, whether it’s next week, next month, or in your next breath, Citizens Project will be there, sleeves rolled up to do the difficult work of reconnecting, rebuilding, remembering in a nation and community divided. That’s the beauty of working at the grassroots level. We can remediate on the cellular level, and we can step humbly into the great honor of being advocates.
The late poet Audre Lorde said:
“Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose
the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution,
but more usually
we must do battle where we are standing.”
In our case, the revolution invoices radical love. Deep listening. Careful observation. And more courage than we think we can muster. More courage than it takes to simply shrivel into fear.
While we don’t have all the big solutions, we do have a few small suggestions to begin to repair what’s been broken and recover what’s been lost:
If you’re cis, hug a trans person.
If you’re straight, tell your LGBTQ friends that you will never stop fighting for their rights.
If you’re white, speak up when you hear or see racism or discrimination.
If you practice a majority religion, reach out to someone whose paradigm is different and listen. Pray with them in their preferred way of praying.
If you know that someone you love voted differently, tell them you love them. Full stop.
Every day, insist on leading with compassion.
While the real battle is not violent or bloody, it is glorious. It’s having the bravery to stand up in your allyship, especially when you’re afraid of standing alone. It’s small acts of kindness and humanity, over and over again. It’s loving like you’ve never lost, and hoping beyond hope that together, we can eradicate fear… and move forward together.
Our battle, our revolution, begins when you are ready. We’ll be waiting.