The young women in my life help me rise up.
January 15th, 2017: Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in northeast Portland, Oregon (© 2017 Diego G Diaz)
‘I hope I’m wrong.”
That is about the only hopeful sentiment I can muster right now. It’s the sentence I’m using to end the conversations with those in my life who support this new administration: “I hope you’re right, and I hope I’m wrong. I really do.”
I hope you’re right that he will bring back jobs for the middle and lower classes and provide health care that covers everyone.
I hope I’m wrong in my fear that this administration will provoke a nuclear war and destroy our planet through reckless deregulation and promotion of fossil fuel.
I hope you’re right that he will rebuild the infrastructure, without corruption or by blowing up the federal debt.
I hope I’m wrong in my belief that hard-won civil rights will be overturned, and racism, misogyny, and hate for anyone who’s not a white man will become normal.
I so wish I could believe you that he, and the billionaires and Goldman Sachs execs he’s filling his Cabinet with, “have worked hard and made their money and now can devote themselves to the public good.”
But I can’t. I believe the new president is a con artist, with a monumental ego and natural talent for manipulation and revenge, surrounding himself with white nationalists, profiteers, and minions who will spin lies for him.
At midnight on election night I got a text message from my daughter Liza in college: “Mum.” The plaintiveness in those three letters zinged my heart.
“What’re you doing?”
“We’re sitting here watching CNN. All the party left. You?”
“With the suite of girls. Watching. How’re you feeling?”
“Depressed. But I know we’ll be OK,”—always the mum, I’m not even sure I believe it—“people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people, prisoners . . . not OK. I’m not ready to give up Hope till they call it.”
“How are all of you?”
“We are tense and scared. . . . I don’t believe it can be him. Still.”
Starting the next day, through the transition, and as resistance to this administration and its executive orders has risen and taken to the streets, my social media feeds have popped up one bright spot: the thoughts, feelings, actions, and hopefulness of these smart young women I know, mostly thanks to my daughters and church.
The first post I saw from Gabi, youth governor for our state in high school, now pre-med in Philadelphia, gave me chills: “I'm still with her. But her has now become a much larger entity. I stand with women across this country who strive every day to crack the glass ceiling, who need access to female-centered healthcare, who find themselves being judged for their looks instead of their ideas, who work hard, who are constantly put down and told to give up, and who meet all of this adversity with resilience, compassion, and strength.” Last month she marched in her new city with the “I’m with Her” sign she made with red, white, and blue arrows pointing to the crowd around her.
Talia, a white college freshman from Illinois who’s been whupping my daughter on the cross-country course all fall, displayed a huge smile at the Women’s March on Washington that she said couldn’t fully convey her joy at being there. “The most important words to remember right now,” she said. “Whether you are a woman, a person of color, a non-Christian, part of the LGBTQIA+ community, mentally or physically disabled, or are afraid for your safety for any other reason, this is what we must remember. We are not powerless, we are not helpless, we are not alone.” After seeing the supportiveness of police assigned to the march, she urged white women to start showing up at Black Lives Matter events.
At a party recently, I ran into fourth-grader Sylvie, who was excited to show me the Hillary action figure in a blue pantsuit she got for Christmas. She decorated her door with campaign stickers and made a sign: “I’m with her because she believes we should have equal pay and everybody at the top should pay their fair share in taxes.”
Lately the two of them have been busy resisting at rallies filled with Lego people, rebutting the current president, and expressing outrage as news reports play in another room.
Her older sister Lilia, a college sophomore, remembered how desperately their late grandmother wanted to see the first woman president in 2008. “I didn’t want her to vote for Hillary because I wanted to be the first woman president (a dream I have long since given up). . . . I was so ready for the country to show that they believed in women, that they trusted women, that we were making strides toward a better tomorrow. Instead I am left reeling. . . . We can do better. We have to do better.”
This winter my older daughter, Shaya, has become an around-the-clock organizer. She invited me to a meeting held by the Boston chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. Four hundred forty-five people came, early arrivals forming a line down the block to get into the Arlington Street Church. The young organizers expertly engaged us in how to plug into dozens of local actions led by local black and indigenous leaders.
“The polls show that the younger generation voted consistently against Trump across the country,” Arianna, a college junior in Los Angeles, pointed out. “We, as future leaders of this country, have a duty to continue to fight for the values we voted for. Do not let fear paralyze you.”
These young women’s hopefulness, their hard work, bring me hope. If our country and planet survive the next few years, our youth are building an energized movement of resistance. And I have to believe that when we all marched on January 21, the first woman president of this country marched with us.
Maybe she will be my senator, Elizabeth Warren, or state Attorney General Maura Healey, who ended the Boston rally with a call to arms: “If you take away our rights, Massachusetts will see you in court!” She made good on the promise just a few days later, joining in a suit against the immigration ban. Or maybe she’s the quiet blue-haired teen wearing a rainbow Pride sweatshirt, clearly thrilled to be attending her first protest. Or the one with cornrows and a hot pink placard that reads, “Girls Rock.” Or the one on her dad’s shoulders waving “Dignity” high over the crowd.
“Mum.” Liza texted me again.
“I dunno. . . . Just !!! . . . I have a headache and the environment here is very, very down. But I’m okay. Just sort of heartbroken.”
“Talia and Gabi wrote wonderful posts on FB.”
“I know. I read them both.”
“Think Gabi will run for president? Or Sylvie? Or both!!”
“I hope so.”
And so do I. So do I.
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Kimberly French, a UU World contributing editor, has also written for Salon, Tikkun, Utne Reader, and other publications. She leads the Climate Justice Team at First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleborough, Massachusetts, and chairs her town’s Community Preservation Committee.
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