What do we do now?
Three different friends texted me this question late last night, after I had turned the TV off; after I had said goodnight to my housemate, who insisted things might all look better in the morning; after I had tried to go to bed, listening to the Pray As You Go podcast and clutching my smartphone.
Last night I had nothing to tell them. This morning I'm thinking about at least two other times in my life when I looked in the bathroom mirror and thought: I have no idea how I'm supposed to get on with the rest of my life. How do I do this?
This is what I did then, so this is what I'm doing now:
I brushed my teeth.
I washed my face.
I made a list of small, essential tasks that feel manageable: 1. Renew my ACLU membership. 2. Put away my laundry. 3. Clean my bathroom. 4. Figure out next week's trip to New York.
I'll add more things to that list as I go, and take what satisfaction I can in ticking things off. I will pretend to feel normal — I will pretend to be "normal" — until it's no longer pretending.
The terror we all live with, past the basic needs of food, water and shelter, is that someone will tell us, "You're not welcome here." Half the country told the other half that last night. I'm seeing a lot of posts on social media this morning to the effect of "this happens every four years, get over it," but that's not right. This is something new in my lifetime. The winning candidate didn't give us an inclusive, optimistic vision for the future; the best he could do was offer to rid us of whatever was scaring us.
I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm a college-educated white woman who supports herself. In the world of our President-Elect, I'm negligible — fat, unattractive, annoying and probably another "nasty woman" — but I'm not The Enemy. I'm not The Other.
But too many of my friends, in this new world, are The Other and even The Enemy. They're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. They're immigrants. They're people of color. They have families formed by adoption and love rather than by blood. They do good work through government agencies that may not exist six months from now. They live with pre-existing medical conditions they may lose their insurance for. They live and work in the inner cities, in places our new President-Elect describes as lawless jungles.
Last night, half the country told my friends that they can't be sure of their welcome here. That this is not their home. But this is their home, and this is my home and this is your home and for God's sake — literally, for God's sake — isn't that what America is supposed to be about?
This is still our home. The important, essential thing for all of us to do in the weeks and months ahead is to remember that and to behave that way. Say hello to your neighbors. Offer help to people who look like they need it. Volunteer. Join up. Speak out. Today, right now, look up the names and addresses of your Representative, your Senators, your local lawmakers and send them a note to say, "Here's who I am, here's what I care about." Seriously, introduce yourself. That's what I plan to do this morning.
We still have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It has not perished.
These are organizations that can use your money in the months ahead:
American Civil Liberties Union
Matthew Shepard Foundation
National Council of La Raza
Southern Poverty Law Center
Hug your friends and family. I leave you with the wisdom of Lou Reed:
But not fair at all.