In the wee hours of Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 the world either ends or begins. This is the rhetoric I hear, the anxiety my friends feel, the way we as a country have been visioning our future for the past couple of weeks. What will be our new national narrative?
The world goes on, simply. Nothing really changes overnight, and yet everything changes in our minds: we either lose everything or make history in whatever way our nation decides. This has been a long, grueling, terrifying election season for many. What will we do, who will we be on November 9th?
The past few months I have witnessed some awful events. Recently I wrote about why Donald Trump’s comments around sexual assault and objectifying women hurt me personally, and cause much deeper harm to the marginalized and oppressed. I cannot claim that any presidential candidate has not made worrisome or downright damaging decisions. And, I can say that in these past few months, wondrous moments have also shaken me and made me believe in love as a human act, indeed an extremely courageous one.
Moving to Boston I have struggled to find and maintain community. Being alone is a part of who I am. Yet this time of great fear and hurt has given me a window into the true importance of community and dedicating everything I can to the ones that hold me and keep me. Let me give you some examples.
The Revolutionary Love Project launched in early September and we, 17 fellows, 250 ambassadors and one fearless leader, quickly got down to business. In the course of only eight weeks, we completed three huge goals (one of which will be completed this Tuesday). We took grassroots action and organized over 100 people across the country to host screenings of Divided We Fall, a documentary by our project leader Valarie Kaur about violence against Sikhs and Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11. Some of these screenings happened in living rooms (like mine), and some on college campuses. Just as we reached our targeted 100 screenings, our leader Valarie went on tour with the Together Tour and reached over 20,000 people in 6 cities: Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Brooklyn, Atlanta, and Denver. Though I couldn’t attend any of the actual tour dates, I felt a surge of hope every time someone new felt inspired to take action after one of the evenings and posted about it on Facebook or Twitter. So many new Love Ambassadors spoke openly for the first time about their pain and how they have healed, and helped others to do the same. Now, each of us have been making calls (and encouraging others to make calls) to Get Out The Vote, especially in key states like Florida. We have felt the urgency to build bridges and acted upon it through love, not hate.
A few weeks ago I passed by one of the main quads on campus to find almost 50 students occupying a large sector of the grass with tents and signs seeking divestment from fossil fuels at my university. The students demonstrated a deep commitment to our earth and each other as they educated passersby on their way to class. They showed us that climate change is not an issue by itself, but a gender issue, a faith issue, a human rights issue. Hundreds of students showed their support by wearing orange. Just this past Wednesday, several student leaders of faith engaged with members of HEAT (the Husky Environmental Action Team) in an essential conversation about how our faith calls us to care for the earth and take action on climate change. We expanded the boundaries of our own communities that night, welcoming each other among ourselves.
Besides election day, November also hosts National Novel Writing Month. Writing 50,000 words in one month always seemed downright impossible to me- the time and moreover, the content pose a large obstacle. This year, an interfaith activist and professor at Cal Lutheran University started an online group for professors and chaplains in which to participate. My writing class also created a joint account, so we could all contribute to the word count. Both communities in the past five days have been ruthlessly encouraging to every member, posting inspirations on Facebook and checking in with each other individually. So far, I’m on track: it’s November 7th and I’ve written almost 10,000 words. Without these two communities I could barely write this blog post. Though unspoken, there seems to be a deep understanding that though the world feels dark and scary, we have our team and we are writing for each other. Every time someone posts that they have achieved their daily goal, I send them a silent high five. “You DID IT!” I want to scream.
Late on a Friday afternoon, several women leaders of faith crowd in my office, sitting on the floor and watching YouTube videos. We don’t speak about our fears or hopes, but we hold each other’s company. We keep each other safe simply by listening and laughing. I smile, packing my bag to head home for the weekend. We hug good bye, and implore each other to make good choices.
On November 9th, I hope we maintain the urgency that each of these communities has utilized to turn love into action. My fingernails are gone, my eyes are puffy. My heart feels weary, but not closed. The world goes on, and no matter what happens, we can care for each other if we find the courage.
On November 9th, I will recommit to practicing love with optimism and honesty. I will keep writing. I will keep imploring my students to make good choices.