Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Five Hundred and Two
"driven to despair, he throws himself under a train"
synonyms: hopelessness, disheartenment, discouragement, desperation, distress, anguish, unhappiness;
Sometime last week I published my 500th blog post. Normally in a blogger's world this would be a significant event. It means that there were 500 thoughts I felt valuable enough to share with the world. It means well more than 500 hours of my life had been spent writing these posts. It was some time in mid-January that I noticed the number approaching; the count was 497 that day. Oh, I thought, I'll have to do something special to mark it...
And then January 20th happened.
Blog posts 500 (Pink) and 501 (Self Care in Tough Times) were written and published without noting their numerical significance. It seems like a small thing to go unnoted. It makes sense that with all that has occurred in the United States since Donald Trump's inauguration that something only personally significant to me went uncelebrated. But, it is yet one more sign at how things have changed and of how other things have become more important.
My concern for my friends, my neighbors, and my community have filled my mind this past week and a half. It was not that I had a conversation with myself about how I shouldn't note this milestone when there are far greater issues before me. No. It was that those issues so occupied my mind that the thought of what to do about my 500th post simply never came back into my mind.
The truth is that I am deeply afraid. I'm afraid in a way I have not been since I was about 11 years old and found out about the existence of nuclear weapons and the cold war. I would lay awake at night listening to planes flying overhead, wondering if, should a nuclear war begin, I would be able to hear a missile approaching or if I would just vaporize in my sleep, never knowing what had happened. Laying there in the dark I felt powerless. I also felt a deep sense of unfairness, that there were people in the world who had the power to decide the fate of millions. People who did not know me, or my family, or my neighbors. People who could, with the push of a button, condemn the world to death.
This realization changed my life, it changed me. This inherent wrongness made me want to do whatever I could to bring about a more peaceful world. It was during this time that I wrote my first letter to a politician. I became an activist.
In the intervening 40 plus years my activism has ebbed and flowed. I have written letters. I have voted. I have boycotted. I have marched. I have organized. I have spoken out. I have crashed and burnt out. I have angrily turned away in frustration. I've fought always the desire to hide, and have, at times found myself wishing that I could go back to ignorance because to not know would be far less painful.
But however dark times have been I have never truly despaired. At least not deeply or for very long. There has always, always been a reason to have some hope. Whatever awfulness human beings are capable of there have always been people willing to stand up for what is right. Even now, when we face a very real threat to the foundations of what really does make America great, a time when it would be far easier to tap into one of the millions of distractions and turn away, we are choosing not to.
Today, instead of marking the 501 posts that have come before, I am looking ahead. Today, I am stating that I am not willing to give into despair. I will continue to act, to speak out and to look towards hope.