But here’s the good news –
We can still love.
We can still live with courage.
We can still be kind and honest.
We can still find beauty
and joy and hope even now.
Even now there’s good.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell
Remember during our history classes together when we talked about the Holocaust, and slavery? Remember when we watched The Grapes of Wrath and talked about how the migrant workers who came from Oklahoma to California were treated during the Great Depression? Remember when we talked about The Trail of Tears the Cherokees were forced to take? Remember how we talked about the colonization of Africa? And non-violent resistance against British rule in India? And the internment of the Japanese-Americans during WWII? And remember when we read about the prejudice and discrimination shown towards the Italians, and the Irish, and the Chinese when they first arrived in the United States?
And remember how we wondered together what we would do if we were living during those times? Would we be heroes like Schindler and Irene Sendler and Gandhi, or would we be the other people in history – the ones who just turned a blind eye to the horrors and atrocities and pretended to themselves that this wasn’t happening?
Well, now we have the opportunity to find out. We are living right this moment during one of those times in history.
Be kind. Be brave. Do good.
I love you.
– Mrs. Terrell
Ways to help –
– “Advocates say the fastest way to help immigrants separated from their children is to post bail.”
– Also: Pay for immigration lawyers; contact local law enforcement and ask that they not partner with ICE for raids or other purposes; and the usual stuff – march, writer letters to politicians, protest.
My inner voice said, “You need to do this or you’re going to die.” The voice did not say I was going to win. The voice did not say it was going to be easy. Or fun. It just said that I should do this – you know, if I didn’t want to die and stuff. So. Yeah.
I wasn’t really sure what the voice meant by “die” – physically? mentally? emotionally? – but running for office seemed preferable to death. So one drizzly day I found myself walking down to the courthouse during lunch break. My shoes squeaked as I crossed the lobby – the long line of people waiting to get their cars licensed looked over at me – I grinned sheepishly and pointed to my shoes – and got some chuckles from the people in the line. I went to the elections office, was greeted by some cheery ladies behind a desk who pointed me to another office, where the mother of one of my former students asked me if I was running for school board. I told her yes, and I’d never done this before, and… how do I sign up? She smiled and put me in front of a computer where I typed in my name and other particulars and the next thing I knew it I was a political candidate.
I’d signed up on the last day a person COULD sign up – a Friday. It wasn’t until after I signed up that I learned the names of the other folks I was running against. One of them had a Spanish surname and I found myself feeling a huge sense of relief – like – oh! I can withdraw my name and use this woman with the HIspanic name as my excuse! I can say I want her to win because I support diversity and equality and rainbows and so forth. But the thing is – I knew the real reason I wanted to withdraw my name was because I was scared. Plain and simple. Yes, of course, I support diversity and equality among all people – but taking my name off the ballot wasn’t in any way going to promote those things. It was just going to give the voters less choices. It wasn’t going to guarantee that people who would have voted for me would now vote for the woman with the Spanish last name. It wasn’t going to help my school district to take my name off the ballot. In short, taking my name off the ballot was just going to make me a chicken shit. And so when Monday rolled around – the last day I could take my name off the ballot – I fought my cowardly urges, and kept my name in the race.
I am a responsible person who doesn’t particularly like responsibility. Maybe you’re like me? You take on responsibility because you know you’re the best one to take it on? I don’t enjoy being the boss. I don’t enjoy being responsible for other people. But my career as a teacher and my experiences helping my elderly parents have shown me that I’m good at it.
I think I could do a lot of good on the school board. I believe I have the background in education, and the maturity and experience, to bring progress to my school district. But – and how do I explain this part? – I am not afraid of failing. I’m not afraid of losing. What I am afraid of is not trying. What I am afraid of is not having the courage to do something that I feel is the right thing for me to do.
I’ve never thought of the other candidates running for this position as my opponents. It feels more like we’re teammates together – all working towards the same goal of helping our community. And I believe that whoever wins is going to rise to the occasion and do a good job for us. I believe the person who wins is the one who’s meant to win. And that might be me. And it might not.
It has been a wonderful trip so far. I’ve met some really amazing new friends, and reconnected with old friends and former students, who have stepped up and offered their support (and their lawns and corners for signs). I’ve had a lot of fun getting out in the community and meeting people – it has given me hope for the world to realize how many good people are out there being kind, being honest, doing right by each other.
There’s some reason my inner voice guided me down to the courthouse that day. There’s some lesson I’m supposed to learn, or something I’m supposed to do that’s going to help someone or something. I’m not sure, yet, what that is. I’m still not even sure that winning is a part of the whole deal. But I’m going to go forward and do my best to be honest and live with integrity, and trust that everything is unfolding as it should.
Here’s how McCain’s death has affected me, in a personal way – I’ve come to realize what a chicken shit I am – I stand on the sidelines criticizing the GOP, criticizing the DNC, criticizing the politicians who don’t support universal health care, criticizing the political leaders who have allowed corporations to take over our country, criticizing the politicians who aren’t giving shelter to those seeking asylum and the homeless, poor, and unemployed – I send my letters, post my blog posts, march in the marches, criticize my fellow human beings who aren’t doing what I think they should be doing – and what the hell?! It’s easy for me to stand on the sidelines and lob my criticisms at the people who are “in charge” – it’s a lot easier than actually stepping up to the plate and running for office myself. I am humbled because I realize I am lacking the courage to put myself out there in the fray and open MYSELF up to criticism, and the slander, libel, and rumors that always seem to circulate around people who are willing to shoulder our responsibility for us.
I am deeply conflicted about McCain. I find it hard to stick pins into a man who endured five years of torture – who refused to be released from prison so long as his comrades were still in there – and I can’t help but wonder how *I* might have been changed if I’d gone through the same circumstances. I’d like to think I’d be really noble about it all, and forgiving, and so forth. But I don’t know. I don’t know how an experience like that would have changed me.
There were things McCain did that were horrible. Horrible. I would agree with anyone who said that. But I find I don’t have it in me to hate this man.
Right now I find myself thinking about that moment when he cast his vote against dismantling the ACA. I find myself thinking about that moment when he stood up for his rival, Obama, against that woman’s prejudices and misinformation. I find myself thinking about how he refused to be released from prison until his comrades were released. I find myself thinking about the family who loved him.
This is the one thing I know, for sure, about McCain – he had courage. And I’m not sure I have it in the same quantity.
I don’t see how anyone’s anger towards this man is going to make the world a better place.
It has been a year and a half since Mom died. Dad had been in the hospital, suffering from delirium caused by an infection, when Mom passed. When he was released from the hospital after her death, he never returned to the apartment they’d shared together before he went into the hospital. He, basically, woke up from his delirium to find himself in a new home and without his companion of 62 years. I know he’s been working hard in the last 18 months to make some sense of it all. His courage since Mom’s death has been awe-inspiring for me to witness. I always knew he was brave – his mountaineering adventures are proof of that – but I never realized the amazing depth of his steely inner resolve until the last year and a half. I think I finally understand now how he survived those weeks on K2. I finally understand why so many people look on him as a hero. He is one. A genuine real life hero. And he’s my father.
Every single one of you who ventures forth into a new day in America is a hero. It takes courage just to walk out the front door these days – and you’ve got it. Go out there and shine like the sun shines. Love like that’s all you’re made of. You’ve got this.
“To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings.”
– Mary Baker Eddy
Something happened this weekend that really touched me. The eldest son and his girlfriend came over to watch the first Harry Potter movie with us. And when it got to the part where the students were being divided into their different houses, I asked the son about this – did the different houses each represent a different trait or characteristic or something? He said that one house valued intelligence, another courage, a third valued kindness, and the fourth valued ambition. I asked him which house he thought he’d fit in and he said the one that values kindness probably (which was cool to me because the eldest son is brilliant – but he chose kindness over that). He asked me where I’d go, and I said maybe the scholarly one – or the kind one.
And then we sort of mulled over the idea of any of us going to the house that values courage and we decided that, yeah – we’d probably all be okay with that one, too. “I’ve climbed mountains…” I said – trying to blow my own horn – “and traveled and had adventures…” and then – and this is the part that really touched my heart – the son said, “And you’ve gotten in the middle of a fight and stood up to bullies before.” And his girlfriend asked, “Really?!” – trying to picture me doing that. And the son said yeah, he’d seen me walk into a ring of gang members before and seen me try to yank one guy off another one.
And this is true. I did do that. I saw a young man sitting on top of another young man, pounding his head into the parking lot pavement when I came out of a movie theater once – and, without thinking, I walked into the ring of spectators watching this happen, and tried to pull the attacker off his victim. I yelled, “Stop it! You’re killing him!” And one of the spectators said, “Lady, you better be careful. This guy could have a knife!” And I turned on him and asked him why he was just watching, why he wasn’t trying to help. And then I put my hands on my hips and announced, “I am a teacher!” – like that was going to make them all stop. And the guy who was smashing the other guy’s head into the pavement sort of paused, and looked up at me for a minute, and then went back to doing what he was doing. Pretty soon the police came out and took care of it all.
But… I didn’t know my son had appreciated me doing that, or had admired it. He’d been watching me from a distance with his friends and their parents – he was only nine or so at the time – and I always kind of wondered what he’d thought about it all. Had he thought I was crazy stupid to get in there and try to break that fight up (which I probably was, in retrospect)? Had he been embarrassed by me?
And last weekend he told me I had made him proud that night.
Isn’t that cool?