Fear and Loving

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This week — how can I convey the upheaval of emotions so many of us have experienced? What started out in vibrant optimism and hope turned into dark days of fear, anger, and anguish.

The heartsick feeling that has lodged inside me this week doesn’t originate in the disappointment that “my party” didn’t win the election. I have voted across the political spectrum over the years — Democrat, Republican, the occasional third party — based on policies, a candidate’s experience, and what I perceived to be the needs of the time.

What hit me like a sucker punch about this election was not the rejection of my political views but rather a repudiation of my world view and my view of humanity. I believe in the equality, inherent dignity, and worth of every human being, regardless of sex, gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, orientation, and ability, and I believe that universal human rights should truly be universal. But since the election results were announced, incidents of violence and hate speech directed at people of color, people of various ethnicities and religions, and people of various genders and orientations have increased sharply, and many of them seem to have been accompanied with the implication that this hatred is condoned and legitimized by the selection of a new leader.

For many of us, this has triggered fears based on our past experiences with that dehumanizing violence. For a woman like me, that can range from simply feeling unsafe while out walking alone to memories of assault. For people of color, LGBTQ persons, and those whose religion calls for an outward display of faith, being such a visibly different “other” brings out memories of past confrontations and triggers fears of having to defend oneself against violence, simply because one does not meet the “norm” of being a white, straight, Christian male or female.

The fears that have engulfed me this week — and the fierce anger that any of us should have to fear being attacked for who we are — have unsettled me deeply and made it difficult to think optimistically about the future. But I have made certain that I give myself time and extra doses of my best remedy: a walk in nature.

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I spent Wednesday grieving, mourning this rejection of my fundamental belief in the goodness of humanity, and trying desperately not to let despair overcome any feelings of hope. After work, I headed out in the gray, blustery weather to walk at Oak Hill  Park and to find some peace. My mood clung to me for the entire walk, as I could see in my photos later, and for the first time ever, I did not return from a walk feeling noticeably refreshed.

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On Thursday, since I had finished my work day around lunchtime, I decided to run away for a hike at Silver Creek Metro Park. The sunshine lifted my mood somewhat, and though I still saw darkness and stark images through my camera lens, I also found light filtering through the shadows. And I began to hold a little more tightly to hope.

I have struggled to find words this week that were both true and kind, both fierce in my condemnation of the hatred and gentle in my compassion for those targeted by hate. Today I am working on filling myself with a righteous desire for justice and with radical love. I am choosing to use my privilege to offer love and comfort and protection to those who feel threatened. I am inspired by my friends who are making the same choice, and by standing together, we can turn this failure of decency and compassion and humanity into a triumph of love for all people. I have to believe we will succeed.

It will take time, courage, hard work, and relentless compassion and love. But we will make America kind again.

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