Be not afraid
The day is here. It is a day we all feared: when a demagogue with no inkling of how to run a state takes the reins of power.
We began 2016 certain in the knowledge that Hillary Clinton would succeed President Barack Obama. We begin 2017 unsure of anything, save that at least the next two years will bring pain.
It's easy to be afraid. More than that: it's understandable. On New Year's Day I was seized with a fear and a depression I had yet to feel since the election. Fear is the evolutionary trait bred in us to help us survive. We fear the unknown, the uncertain, the dangerous.
But, I say now: Be not afraid.
Isaiah says: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Not all of us believe in God. I myself am of the very agnostic variety. But this Scripture comforts me. We must strengthen ourselves, uphold each other. This solidarity will get us through perilous times.
Solidarity: that is the key word for the next four years. Our opponents don't believe in solidarity. They don't believe that we owe anything to each other as human beings. They believe that your lot in life is your own work, and no help can be given you. The Isa Upanishad says: "Who sees all beings in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear." This is our weapon, our common humanity. And yes, even though it's hard, even though it's like a camel passing through the eye of a needle, we must see that in our enemies. By this I don't mean we shouldn't confront them, shouldn't fight them, shouldn't defeat them. We must do all that to preserve a decent human life. But once we are victorious, vengeance can't be ours. Then we fall into the same cycle, death and violence, recrimination and resentment. My literary lodestar James Joyce wrote in Ulysses: "Force, hatred, history, all that. That’s not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it’s the very opposite of that that is really life.... Love, says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred."
As my Twitter bio I have this: "I will not accept your fear. You will not take my hope." Marcus Aurelius said something similar: "If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment." We can't control what others do; we can control how we react to it. And that control is difficult. It may be the most difficult thing we've ever done. But giving into fear is how they win. They thrive on our fear. Fear gives them power. The country's fear after 9/11 turned George W. Bush from a one term president into a man who destroyed this nation's good standing around the world. We've come too far to allow putative president Donald Trump to do the same. He won with 46% of the electorate. Forty-six percent of the 60% of eligible voters who bothered to show up. Hillary Clinton beat him in the popular vote by 3 million. He has no mandate, unless we give it to him.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said: "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." The next two years—at the least—will be the most difficult we've faced since the Civil War. But those who came before us, and those who come after us, expect of us nothing but this, that we won't betray them, that we won't falter when the world is roiling. We must do that which we think we cannot do. To paraphrase a skinny kid with a funny name from Chicago, we must be the change. No one else will do it.
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