These Two Things

I’ve been scrabbling desperately to get a grip on the way forward this month, so I’ve been hanging back, practicing self-care, and just trying to get my head clear.

Here’s what I have:

The world has gotten scary.  People are dying in the streets.  The white hoods are back.  The government is torturing Indians in furtherance of giving them poison to drink.  Children are learning that hate is an American value.

There are two things that I know are true, that we can use against this terror and darkness.

Over the past weeks, they have seemed like laughably inconsequential things and impossibly large things, but they’ve never stopped being primal.

The first thing is love.  We can love ourselves.  We can love each other.  We can love fat people, not-conventionally-attractive people, “fours”, “losers”, black people, people who don’t speak English, trans people, disabled people, gay people, people who have had abortions, Muslim people, native people, people who have been “grabbed”, all the people.  We can love them.  We can love us.

And that’s the most powerful tool we have against hate and fear: we can choose love instead.  We can reject the notion that some are so different that they are unlovable.  We can laugh in the face of the cultural rubric we’re supposed to use to judge the value of femmefolk and just love them instead.

We can practice self-care.  We can make safe spaces for each other.  We can help one another.  We can reach out.  We can stand in the street in front of the mosque and say “These people are my neighbors.  I love them, and I won’t let you harm them.”  We can give a colleague a hug and say “You are loved.”  We can offer flowers to strangers, like hippies, and we can tell them– yes, those people we don’t even know– that we love them.  We can see someone struggling and offer our help.  We can ask what the family down the street needs to be safe, and help them get it.  We can love.  We can love the white working-class, and let them know that there’s a place for them in the future.  We can raise children who know, like Mister Rogers used to say, that there’s no one in the world quite like them and people can like them just the way they are.  We can tell gay kids and fat kids and brown-skinned kids that the world is fucked up, but they are just fine the way they are.  We can listen to people, especially when they say they are being harmed.

We can love the earth, too.  I know that this is like, “Again with the hippie nonsense?!”, but it’s still true.  We can love the trees.  We can lovingly plant wildflowers for pollinators to find.  We can pick up trash at the beach because we love the ocean, and the birds, and the sand.  We can sit outside and breathe deep and love the air.

We can reach out into our communities and our world and love what we find.  We don’t have to withdraw and fear what’s outside.  We can offer love as an alternative to hate.

That’s the first thing.

The second thing is a bit harder.

Yes, harder than loving strangers.

But it’s just as important.

The second thing is independence.  We can do it ourselves.  We can stop relying on the state to protect our interests.  We can stop calling the police.  We can stop shopping at the Wal-Mart.  We can stop expecting anomic society to take care of our problems.  We can take responsibility for our own needs.  It doesn’t matter how horrible, how corrupt, how oppressive these institutions become if we deny them legitimacy and reject their attempts to shape our lives.  They need US, not the other way around.

We don’t have to participate in systems that oppress us or others.  We don’t have to be complicit in the state’s oppression of its enemies.  We can choose and build our communities for ourselves.  We can think critically about our actions and listen to those who are harmed by them, even in steps of the process that seem beyond our control.  We can make slave labor, deforestation, pollution, and factory farming unprofitable for businesses by refusing to profit by them ourselves.

We can vote with our dollars for the future we want.  We can support local businesses run by our neighbors and friends.  We can see our supply chains and improve them.  We can offer help to people who are struggling instead of reporting them to the authorities.  We can share our resources with those in need instead of expecting the state to feed, clothe, and house them.  We can clean it up ourselves instead of filing a complaint about litter.  We can leverage our privilege to protect marginalized people.  We can protect each other and set expectations for our communities instead of relying on the police to enforce the state’s rules.  We can learn to make things ourselves.  We can grow our own food, or join CSAs.  We can buy things from independent artisans instead of faceless factories.  We can get together with our neighbors to do hard things together.  We can raise barns and put up jam and bring homemade bread and soup to the old lady next door who has trouble walking.  We can start a childcare co-op, or shop at the farmer’s market, or learn to sew our own clothes.  We can choose a midwife instead of submitting to industrial medicine.  We can learn about the natural world around us and work with it instead of destroying it.  We can buy good things, made with love and designed to work well, and maintain them.  We can mend things that break.

We can be proactive and make a better future for everyone.  We don’t have to accept the options the state-industrial complex offers us, and we don’t have to chase the 1%’s definition of success.  We can make our own society.

And together, if we all work on those two things– love and independence– we will be unstoppable.  Whether you can only participate in little ways, or you have the resources to make big changes, everything will make a difference.

I’m not saying that the dark forces at work in our world won’t matter or won’t be able to harm people, but we don’t have to sit back and let them take over.  We can both choose not to be bullies ourselves AND not to allow bullying around us.  We don’t have to give up ground.  We don’t have to stop pushing forward.  We can still make progress if we all work together.

We can find the way forward– or make a new one for ourselves– if we can all practice love and seek independence.

That’s what I think, anyway.

With love and gratitude for all of you,

Elizabeth