Originally published on Bullshitist and republished here with their permission.
We will feel surprised and not surprised.
We will look at each other with compassion when the surprise comes, and we will feel it, too. We will look at one another with disdain when we believe surprise comes from ignorance.
Why couldn’t we see that America has been racist forever, sexist forever? How could we not know? How could we not have loved each other enough to know?
Sometimes we’ll be gentle in our answers. Often, we will be unskillful and forget that kindness is not only about making nice; it is also about keeping soft, not sharp, inside ourselves.
This is what we will do now. We will try not to think others are mean and uneducated. We will reach for the best in ourselves and in others and fumble, often not finding it as people put up Trump signs in their yards that were never there before the election.
Sometimes we won’t try at all and we will meet others’ angry ignorant pain with our own angry ignorant pain because like breeds like, and we are tired of taking the high ground and cultivating forgiveness when others cultivate hate.
Besides that, they should know. They should know what they’ve done and that we are not just going to take it forever. We are definitely not taking it forever. Not even any more right now.
We will do something. Anything. We will do things even if they don’t help because maybe persistence itself helps. Of course it does.
Protests build energy rather than drain it out. Coming together to plan soothes us and we have seen how easy it has been for one man talking, talking, talking with the cameras in his face to foment hatred.
And that’s to say nothing about his policies and processes of governance because we can say nothing concrete about that. But we will feel uneasy. Uneasy, all the time.
What we will do now is commiserate and isolate.
We will talk and listen and read each others’ pain, and sometimes we will feel solidarity, but mostly we will feel pain stirred up in our guts because literally everyone, everyone has been victimized by Donald Trump and people like him.
But some got enough from the bargain of passivity-for-belonging that it’s still a reasonable deal. The way white masculinity (as a construct, of course) sets everything on fire with steady stoicism is still a reasonable deal for some, but not many.
It’s not reasonable for women and non-binary people, and they’re are more than half the population. It’s not reasonable for people of color, and almost half of them are men. It’s not reasonable for queer and trans people or immigrants.
We are a majority of people for whom the actions of white masculinity – white capitalist masculinity (the actions and the construct) – are seriously fucked up. We are a majority and we will continue to act like we are different and we have deep rifts between us because we do.
We are a teetering hierarchy of circus performers balanced on a long pole held by a bicyclist on a tightrope, and some of us have further to fall when the wheels slip.
Some of us will be eaten by the lion, and others will just hop down and go home defeated when it all goes wobbly, but we are not – have never been – in charge of the show.
We are not counting the receipts and taking the money to the bank and choosing whom to hire and whether or not the fraying tightrope needs repair.
We will realize that we have always been outside of the big game, even when we feel clever for having been allowed to partially participate.
But maybe we already knew that. We will look at Hillary Clinton and realize our error at trying to play, learning all the rules, buying the proper attire, smiling as the cameras flash.
We will realize what we already knew and some of us have already begun to act upon. We will stay silent sometimes because we are not sure. Or because we are in danger. Or because it probably won’t do any good to speak. Or because we have only learned to save ourselves.
We will learn better habits.
The sofa and the screen can’t save us now. Even if it’s a really nice sofa. Even if we don’t watch TV with all those ads, we just use the computer and that’s somehow superior. Even though we know a few things about wine and that makes liking to drink wine seem like a cultural pursuit.
It just won’t work anymore. The civilized ways of coping with pain won’t work anymore, and we will need to learn to slow and level our breathing. We will learn to manage anxiety.
We need to stretch and move the body and come into the body, whether it’s through yoga or t’ai chi or qi gong or prayer prostrations or nature walks. We will learn better habits to soothe the pain of the journey ahead.
We will also look for stronger sedatives, and some of us will die. Some of us will die in pain, feeling that we don’t matter because our culture has acted for so long like we don’t matter, and now there are banners on every building actually saying it, actually proclaiming it.
There are no longer whispers and glances only. There are proclamations about how we don’t matter and some of us will not be able to hold on long enough to learn better habits.
It will be too hard and we will show up for each other when we can with our little flames of hope and our furrowed brows. We will shine, shine, shine, shine as long as we can.
This is what we will do now.
We will hear the bite in our voices and wonder who is speaking. We will stop ourselves from taking it personally when our friends cannot take our hopeful bullshit right now because they’ve been through it worse, damn it.
We will learn to nod and say, I’m sorry and I didn’t mean to and please forgive me. And when our friends fail to love us we will not take that personally either because we are also incapable of showing love every minute of every day.
We will cry because the abuses sustained by anyone who rails against optimism are so real. We will realize that we, too, are holding every lesson our culture ever taught us about how people should be treated.
That will lead us to understand that sometimes when we think we are being kind or tolerant or even loving toward someone, we still look like the abuser. We stand like the abuser. We talk like the abuser. No matter how hard we try not to be that, we must learn to weep for what we are, because we are all the things.
We are holding everything at once: the anger of righteousness, the pain of assault, the sadness of compassion, the shame of involvement, the grief of despair, the confusion of all of these things together in a culture that only taught us we would be good or bad, right or wrong, not everything at once.
But we are all things and we will realize the weight of that – and hopefully the potential.
We will learn to be better bystanders (because really, we are not standing by; we are all in). We will be frightened when we speak up, and sometimes we will be silent even when we didn’t mean to be. We will learn to notice.
That’s what it takes. Awareness. Practice.
We will swell with bravado and cower with fear. We will find the place where both together make courage. We will feel the inalienable parts of us calm down and take courage. We will know we can do that again when the next assault comes.
We will accept that calm dignity is a reliable way to find the kinds of words and actions that people are proud of when they die.
Sometimes dying too soon is worth those words and actions, and we will find both grief and inspiration when the dying happens to those we love, and to those we don’t even know.
We will sometimes choose survival and hopefully not regret our inaction for too long.
We will practice for the moments of affront and assault that come and come again. When someone says this, we will say that.
This is not a rehearsal, a reliable-every-time solution. It is practice.
We will share our strategies with others, even when they are too frightened to see those things as options.
There is wisdom in knowing how a thing might go badly and choosing otherwise, and we will come to see that kind of wisdom can only be housed in each body, not in do-it-this-way thinking.
We will learn to make choices daily and breathe and listen and choose again. We will notice what we cherish with greater zeal and listen and breathe. We will feel a heightened sense of everything we feel and sometimes this will be like the real prize in the bottom of the box of turds we were told was candy.
We will practice saying and correcting in private places and also in public, and we will learn to love the honest trying far more than we hate the errors. We will create systems of support that don’t lapse quickly into havens for complaint and inaction.
Those who came before us and met challenges and repression and assault have put all of their wisdom into our DNA. We are never alone. And we are acting and creating and making beauty for those who come after us.
We will remember them, even though they are in the future, just like someone in the past has prayed for the loving triumph of peace and compassion right now. Right now. We will realize that everything is happening right now and every breath, intention, word, movement matters.
We are not one “we.” We are every we that ever came before us and solved and failed to solve these very same problems.
We are not one “we.”
Thank goodness. How would we solve these problems if we were all of one mind? How would the pearl of divergent thinking, of art, of making anew emerge without the irritation in our bellies? We will learn to soothe one another’s irritations as best we can.
The only thing we need more than the conflict of diverse perspectives is love.
This is what we will do whether we realize it or not: We will make the world in which we live tomorrow.
Kimberly Dark is a writer, sociologist, and raconteur working to reveal the hidden architecture of everyday life, one clever story, poem, and essay at a time. She also leads retreats on yoga and body-stories. Read more at www.kimberlydark.com. Follow her on Medium and Twitter.
Search our 3000+ articles!
Our online racial justice training
Used by hundreds of universities, non-profits, and businesses.
Click to learn more