Captain’s Log 5,224
I am coming up for air. I think this has been the longest “spell” of not writing ever. I have been too anxious to write. That has morphed into despondency. I am verging on generalized apathy now.
I have been fighting for justice and human decency since October 15, 1969. That was the day I wore a black armband to school to protest the Vietnam War. The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. Even though I was living in small town Iowa and was still in high school, I did what I could. I wanted to be older. I wanted to be in college where I knew I could make a much bigger noise. But I had to settle for the armband. What I really wanted to do was bring our soldiers home.
I was called into Father Walding’s office with another brave student (also wearing a black armband) to explain ourselves. What was to explain? He knew exactly what we were doing. We were chastised. I was told my mother would be called. Considering what my big sister had done to cause trouble at that school 10 years earlier, I didn’t think my mom would be too upset over a black armband. My cohort’s father owned a large grocery store in town and he was a VIP in the community, so I knew nothing would happen to her.
We refused to back down. We talked about the work of Jesus and how he stood up to the Pharisees and the Romans. Catholic schools come in handy when you need to play the Jesus Card. Father Walding threatened us with GPA reductions and all sorts of other things. We held our ground. When boys defied this guy, he took them into the gym and they put on boxing gloves to settle the score. He couldn’t very well do that with us. Not nice to punch girl students in the face.
I think deep down Father Walding was proud of us. I think this trip to the office was all about posturing and making noise. One of our favorite nuns who was also politically active watched us come out of the office and she winked at us as we walked by. Had she been able to get away with it, I know she would have worn an armband too.
He never called my mom. He never complained to my friend’s dad. He never did anything.
I grew up a lot that day. And I continued to make political noise for years and years. I marched. I chanted. And I have never missed an opportunity to vote for anything. Ever.
Progress is usually made in baby steps. Looking back, I have been able to see how far we have come as a nation that celebrates diversity and extends humanitarian aid to those in need. It was certainly not a perfect country, but I felt safe. I felt that I mattered. I felt that I had actually done something to make a better world.
After this week’s disastrous election, I feel like I have been thrown all the way back to the starting line. Those who espouse bigotry have taken a mighty foothold on our democracy. Their anger and bitterness has been fueled by a man with no moral compass whatsoever – a man who steps on anyone to get what he wants. A man who brags about how wonderful it is to grab a woman by her genitals because…..because he’s white, male, and privileged.
I woke up today to read the news about Muslim women being attacked, the word FAGGOT painted on a gay man’s car, swastikas painted on buildings, NO NIGGERS written on the walls of a high school bathroom, the KKK planning a parade to support Trump in North Carolina, and on and on. Those who have held their hatred in check have been given permission to act like untamed animals. And it’s only going to get worse. Mark my words. There is a lot of the iceberg left to expose.
I no longer feel safe here. I am afraid to say anything for fear that some maniac will vandalize my car or my home. I am shutting down. I feel like I am drowning. I feel like one of the early Christians who met secretly in the catacombs of Rome. Even at the Peace Corp reunion a few weeks ago, people there were anxious about giving away too much of their political leanings. I went to a literary fundraiser last weekend, and a nice lady told me to feel comfortable because everyone there was leaning left. I breathed a sigh of relief and was actually able to choke down a piece of cheese.
How sad. I read an article about a little boy who lives with his two moms in Brooklyn. He asked his pre-school teacher if Donald Trump was going to kill him because his moms are gay. Imagine that fear! Imagine that his little mind cooked up that huge ball of fear when he should be learning how to create magic with his set of Legos. What is this madness doing to our sweet and innocent children?
I lived through the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I will never forget the fear we all felt when Kennedy gave the ultimatum to pull the weapons out of Cuba. The entire world was watching. It could have been the end of us. I feel that way now. I feel that this could be the end of us at any time. I have no doubt that we will enter another World War very shortly. No doubt. And it will most likely be with China. Guess Trump will have to have his clothing manufactured somewhere else. Fucking hypocrite.
So I am torn. Do I pull my weary ass out of my almost-retired chair and take up the mantle for human decency yet AGAIN? Or do I keep my head down and settle into an easier life of puttering through the garden, painting furniture, reading a lot, traveling, etc.? I don’t honestly know if I have the will or the gumption to be a warrior. I don’t honestly know if I even count anymore. Do I make a difference anymore? I am not fishing for praise and encouragement. I am seriously unsure of where I fit and how effective I can ever be against a madman and his confederacy of dunces. When everything you have worked for seems to be evaporating before your very eyes, it’s hard to feel encouraged to keep going.