Today, I Choose Hope

Today, I choose hope. My beautiful writing partner grounds me. I work from home now and can curate, for the most part, my interactions with the world. North Dakotans are generally nice enough to keep their racism limited to a few looks or whispers on occasion. So I don’t have to see racism daily unless I choose to. I am privileged with being able to live in my bubble. My safe bubble, filled with people who love me. Wonderful white people who understand that our experiences of the world are different. Who respect it when I say something isn’t for them. Who never question when I wonder if a look, stare, attitude or bad costumer service is racially motivated. Although 95% of my neighbors who voted, voted for the current administration and 60% as recent as a few months ago still support that administrations destructive, hate-filled rhetoric, the people I let in my bubble understand. Even if they support the current administration, most are nice enough not to mention it around me. Those who are vehemently opposed to the current administration love and support me. This is my reality, my privilege.

My bright shiny Latina writing partner doesn’t have this privilege. She works with children and has seen how they are effected by the hate, anger and anguish of adults in response to the current administration. She calls me and we talk. Recently I told her something that has resounded in me since. I’ll paraphrase below for you.

Love is something that you have to choose. I have been married for almost four years and each day of marriage solidifies this belief for me. In this same way, I believe you have to choose hope. This is not to say that you stop feeling anything you might be feeling. Being sad is often not a choice and those who say so are wrong. But despair is a choice. Despair is an attitude and you can change your attitude. So you must choose hope.

I went on further explaining that as women of color, when we choose despair it is one more thing we are giving over to White Supremacy and the structures and institutions of racism/sexism/homophobia and so on. It gives these things a win. It is one more thing stolen from us. As a Native woman, these things and the people who support them or are complicit in them have already taken so much. Add to that the things stolen as a Black woman and things start to get heavy.

Today I chose hope. I hope to do so tomorrow too.

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Loving Grandpa Trump

A few week’s ago a thought ran through my head. What if Donald Trump were my grandfather? Not right now, but in the future after he became president and most likely began the second American civil war and started a holocaust.

A cartoon version of different conversations between me and Grandpa Trump flooded my mind. Adoring him at age 6, beginning to question him at 10, starting to hate him at 13, running away at age 15 unable to accept the reality of who my grandfather was.

Being a biracial human, I know that my grandparents were only forced to truly look at their own racism when it was too close to home. My Papa, who I love with everything I have, shared with me recently that he was horribly racist toward white people in his youth and child rearing years. Growing up a black man in a segregated small town in east Texas I can understand why. He said it was only later in life and through his faith in God that he realized this was wrong. “It’s wrong to hate,” he said.

Knowing this I want for Donald to have a beautiful biracial grand-daughter. I want for him to face the reality of his words and consequences of his actions.

More and more I see that all bullies are scared, insecure humans trying to hurt you before you can hurt them or seeking to fill a void within themselves through the pain and suffering of others. It would be great if Donald were just evil. Then I wouldn’t feel disgusted with myself and guilty when part of me, a part that I have tried to get rid of, wishes for a lone sniper bullet to find him.

The truth as always is more complicated and nuanced. Donald is a man. A man who didn’t create the rampant racism within our country. Who didn’t fill the air with hatred toward the other. Or make it acceptable for men to objectify and violate women. While he is profiting greatly off of these things, he didn’t create them. We the American people did.

We refused to get uncomfortable. Refused to call out our friends and family when they said something offensive or morally wrong. Refused to stand up for countless victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Refused to sit at the table and have the hard conversations. Instead, we happily only listen to people who agree with our worldview. We yell and demean anyone who dare think differently than us.

So, what now?

I’m scared. I’m afraid that I might have to leave the country to prevent becoming a statistic in a history book many years from now. I’m horrified for my nieces and nephews.

But…I don’t think hating Donald is going to fix anything. And even if he died peacefully in his sleep tomorrow we would still be a country where being a non-white human means a different existence. And where having breasts and a vagina means violence or the threat of violence is just part of your life.

Regardless of what happens 13 days from now, I hope that we as a country can start looking in the mirror and start being uncomfortable. I hope that we can choose peace and love, because I’m not certain hate is going to win the minds of Donald Trump supporters. Maybe if we can speak to them in love and ask them to imagine how their world might change if they had a child or grandchild who looked like a Trayvon Martin or a Daisy Coleman things might change.

I’d happily be adopted by any Donald Trump supporter willing to hear me and comfort me in this time of great uncertainty and fear. If that’s what it takes for my fellow Americans to see me as someone worth listening to, I’m game.

And maybe if those of us opposed to Donald being our president could adopt the people in our lives supporting him as our parents or grandparents or sisters or brothers we can find a way to an America where everyone is truly free and safe and can pursue peace and happiness.

Maybe…

That’s what I’m hoping for.

My Optimistic Who

For about the past six months or so I have been deeply questioning my faith. Entering into a new phase in my journey with God. This shift has caused my world view and overall life perspective to shift. I found myself becoming more pessimistic. Then asking questions about the nature of pessimism and optimism.

Lately there has been a picture in my head. The picture of my optimism. She looks a bit like Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch Stole Christmas. In my mind, she is surrounded by a protective circle of clear bright light. All around her though is darkness threatening to snuff out her life and light. This fragile image is what represents my optimism. It is something to be protected. Something to hold on to.

On a daily basis, there are at least 10 things I come across that could send me into the darkness never to be seen again.

I feel things. I don’t understand how anyone who has heard the wails of mothers gently holding the bodies of their dead children in Syria doesn’t end up in the fetal position on the floor. It is only the little who in my mind that helps me to try to see hope. To give the benefit of the doubt to people. People who themselves don’t hesitate to be their worst selves in front of me. To share freely with me the darkness and ugly within them.

In addition to this, I am not one who looks away or tries to hide from the darkness. I am the dumb brave individual standing and staring into the darkness. As tentacles reach out from the dark I say “Hi” and try to make friends with this odd creature. Where others run, I stand and question. I try to understand even to the detriment of my self. I guess you could say that I lack a sense of self preservation. The running joke I have with my husband is that he has to have enough self-preservation for the both of us.

Today as I did yoga and thought about the affirmation for today “I awaken,” I finished the sentence in an interested way. “I awaken my optimistic who.” In my mind, I think she lives in my hips. An odd visual I know, but that is where she exists. She protects my womb and supports my center and breath, my power. She helps me to feel sexy and dance and move through this world.

With this simple observation I realized that my optimism wasn’t dead or being covered by the darkness. She was just sleeping and I had to awaken her. I had to consciously seek her out. And when I did that her light would shine so bright that darkness could never overwhelm her.

If this was the case for me maybe that is the case of others. Maybe their optimism looks more like a bear and is located in their head and so when it sleeps it rests for such a long time you would think it was in a permanent coma and was never going to wake up. Maybe these people consider pulling the plug on their optimistic bear. What would it take to convince them to not take this action?

My husband often says that we are just in a swing toward apocalyptic themes in our thinking and culture today and eventually we will swing back toward utopia. That utopia will come again to fill our minds, hearts and dreams. I’m not very patient.

The thought of having to wait sucks. Don’t get me wrong I love all of the apocalyptic stuff. Maybe a little too much. I love the movies and the comics. But. There is a but for me. I want the light.

My longing for optimism is like the longing people who experience winter feel. You spend months bundled up. Then the sun comes back. When you get to feel the sun on your skin you have to smile because it feels good. You know that soon the birds will come back and the flowers will bloom and there will be spring and there will be summer. There is hope.

I want hope. I want light. For this world and those who are surrounded by darkness. For them I want light.

So if you happened across my blog and took time to read this post, thank you and I have a challenge for you. Take some time today and think about your optimism. Where does it live? When was the last time you tried to awaken it or feed it? Give your optimism some time today. Maybe then we can begin to change the tide of our culture and return to a time utopia and light. Here’s hoping.

Fighting Sweetness and Light

I just finished a Christmas time play. The play is short and lovely but not amazing. It plays on the human need for sweetness and light. As a young theatre artist living in a one theatre town I often find myself fighting against these things. Saying things like “nostalgia is just a place of ignorance or selective remembering”.

I am surrounded by people who limit all forms of art to entertainment. For me that is the bare minimum. If a piece of art regardless of the medium doesn’t provide some form of entertainment it hasn’t even begun to do its job. In my region however that is all an audience expects, to be entertained. They don’t expect or want to be moved or made to think and something really wrong has happened if they are made to feel. These for me are what art is meant to do. So I fight against farce. I fight against joy. I fight because I want for the people around me to understand that when art is at its best it can open up your world, it can change your life.

The thing about this play I just finished is it reminded me that sweetness and light and nostalgia aren’t bad. It’s ok to want to be comforted by something that doesn’t make you think. It’s ok to want to selectively remember for an hour. The play reminded me that sometimes great things can come out of work that does this. A movie comes to mind, Forest Gump.

This movie reminded people that although the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were a rough time in US history it wasn’t all bad. I think the difference between this movie and much of what the audience in my region wants is that Forest Gump doesn’t forget the bad. Sgt. Dan is still bitter and angry and broken but he isn’t the star of the movie; he isn’t our focus. The writers of the movie however don’t shove him out of the frame. They don’t say you can only look at the good by forgetting the bad. Rather the writers and director of this movie make a choice to focus on the good while allowing the bad to still exist. What a hard thing to accomplish; but by doing so they strike a beautiful middle ground. They created a movie that is happy and joyful while still being real. This gives me hope.

Hope that maybe in my work at the theatre and my work in my writing I can find this middle ground. I can stop fighting joy. Maybe if I can find the middle ground then the audiences in my region can too. Here’s hoping.