How deeply I looked forward to celebrating our first woman present; how sincerely I dreaded the other outcome, the one we now have.
I will only say a few things, because my filtered version of the internet is daily bursting at the seams with astonished essays, angry stances, assignments of blame, and other iterations of deserved and palpable grief. I am right there with it all. But I have had to turn away from it, if only to preserve my sanity. That is what we did on Sunday; we left our screens and went to the woods with the dogs.
Some thoughts on surviving the next four years.
- Celebrate the tiny things. I went to the library book sale this weekend, and this thought actually ran through my head: “At least I can still read. At least we can find solace in books still.” It sounds silly to say out loud, much less to write, but it was sincerely comforting to me at that moment.
- Champion the women and people of color in your life. We need each other now more than ever.
- Spend time with mute creatures. Like babies and dogs. They have no idea what is going on and in this way can be infinitely calming.
- Make art. In whatever form most calls to you, create something with your mind or your hands. Artists tend to make their best work under the shadow of frightening regimes.
- Support nonprofits who are doing the hard work every day. I’m giving to New City Arts Initiative, the ACLU, Oceana, Planned Parenthood, and the NAACP. There are hundreds and hundreds of amazing organizations all over this troubled country who need us. Find one that speaks to you.
- Kiss your loved ones.
- Turn it off when it gets too much. Go outside. Read a novel or a random Emily Dickinson poem. Write your grandfather a letter.
(Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing)
My beloved sister and brother-in-law are coming this weekend for our annual feast. I love my new job, my new teammates, the things I get to think about at work. Our dogs are stupid but were so happy and carefree on our hike. This beautiful golden basin of a city that we live in. Sumi ink. Liturgy. Guion.
(My soul also is greatly troubled)
The day we left for Iceland, nine congregants at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, were murdered by a young white man, motivated by hatred and racism. Guion read the news to me while we were picking up our rental car in Reykjavik, and we were stunned and appalled.
Upon returning home, this tragedy loomed over my thoughts and continues to do so. I cannot say anything that even remotely compares with President Obama’s beautiful eulogy, which brought me to tears, or with the many other thoughtful and important essays and articles that have been published since the shooting, but I felt like I had to write something, in my small way.
The essential thing is this: As white people, it is easy to feel separate from this incident and to write off the killer as a solo actor who does not represent us. But I would challenge us white Americans to dwell in complicity. Meditate on what it might mean for us to carry this burden, to acknowledge this cowardly young man as a product of the environment we have fed and fostered. Don’t fetishize black forgiveness; don’t feel like we, as white people, are off the hook because of the unbelievable grace of this congregation. Don’t pretend like this was an isolated and surprising incident, coming out of some shocking, hidden wellspring of racial hatred. We know where such bigoted hate comes from. We knew it was coming. We started it; we brought it here.
Racism is an impossibly vast monster. But I’d like to posit that without doing some magical collective thinking — and communal acknowledgment that we, as American whites, are as guilty as the depraved murderer — we will make no headway in fighting that monster.
As a white woman born and raised in the South, I want to be daily aware of my complicity in the heartbreaking racism that plagues my fellow white people. I want to acknowledge the racism that unfortunately takes residence in my own heart. Without such humility and admission of our collective guilt, will we ever come to repentance?
God have mercy on us. We do not deserve it.
Memory Is Like a Shotgun Kicking You Near the Heart
By Frank Stanford
I get up, walk around the weeds
By the side of the road with a flashlight
Looking for the run-over cat
I hear crying.
I think of the hair growing on the dead,
Any motion without sound,
The stars, the seed ticks
Already past my knees,
The moon beating its dark bush.
I take the deer path
Down the side of the hill to the lake,
Wade the cold water.
My light draws the minnows,
Shines through them, goes dead.
Following the shore
I choose the long way home
Past the government camping grounds,
And see where the weeds have been
Hear the generator on the Winnebago purring.
The children of the tourists
Are under the wheels
Like a covered wagon.
They scratch in their sleep
Until they bleed.
When I get home
I drink a glass of milk in the dark.
She gets up, comes into the room naked
With her split pillow,
Says what’s wrong,
I say an eyelash.
. . . . . . . . .
OK, so it’s kind of a rough poem to leave you with for the weekend, but WHOA. Isn’t it awesome? Stanford is Guion’s general muse. We’re off for the weekend to see Daniel and Lauren get married and, boy, are we pumped for them! See you Monday!