Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Like many Americans, around 59 million, I am shell shocked this morning, stunned, not quite sure if I am living in a parallel Twilight Zone universe.
Donald Trump is president? With Mike Pence, the man who advocates for gay conversion therapy and ending a woman’s right to choose, a heartbeat away from the highest office in the land?
Yes, we will survive? Yes, we will overcome whatever Trump and the Republican majorities in the Senate and House throw at us. But at what cost? Will people be deported? Will Muslims be banned even temporarily from entering the United States? Will we overturn Roe v. Wade? Will same sex marriages become illegal again? Will millions of health-insured Americans lose their coverage if (when) the Affordable Care Act is repealed?
I am mostly sad. Sad for our country, sad for my children and students, sad for all of us.
I have dedicated my life to fighting for social justice and social change, and yesterday’s election seems like a swift and painful kick to the gut, to the core of my being.
When I was eleven or so, I started writing a novel about the friendship of a white teen and a black teen. The white protagonist, upset over the inherent racism of society, decided to go on a roadtrip/quest to find justice and peace. I wanted to be the youngest person to write a novel. My mother often sat with me on lawn chairs under the maple trees in our backyard and listened as I read my story.
I abandoned the story after a few months, but I have never wavered in my commitment to making the world a better place.
I organized a local chapter of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry when I was in high school, and protested against the treatment of Jews in the USSR. I canvassed Connecticut neighborhoods for the Connecticut Citizens’ Action Group (CCAG), fighting against utility rate hikes and the pollution of groundwater with toxic waste.
In 1982, I joined 250,000 people in New York City as we marched against nuclear proliferation. In August of 1983, I drove through the night with a dozen CCAG colleagues and friends to the 20th anniversary March on Washington, commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech”.
A month later I was in Europe on a trip sponsored by Mother Jones magazine to protest Reagan’s decision to install nuclear weapons in England and other parts of Western Europe. In England, we met with a group of women who’d established an encampment at Greenham Common to protest militarization and promote peace. In Germany, we met with activists who’d fasted for more than a month to challenge the presence of Reagan’s Cruise missiles.
When I started teaching Jewish Studies at a private school in 1987, my whole focus was on social change and recognizing the prophetic imperatives built into my religion. And that commitment deepened when I became the school’s community service coordinator and was able to lead students in projects that made a difference in our neighborhoods and with people in need.
In 1992, Verna and I helped to register voters outside Safeway in San Francisco. We truly believed in being part of the process to help more Americans vote and express their political convictions.
In 2000, when many of us believed the election was stolen, Verna and I set up a website, bushstolethepresidency.com, and sold t-shirts with his face on it and the website listed. We made nearly $3000 and donated all proceeds to anti-Bush and social justice-related causes and organizations. We even gave one to Michael Moore who said it had made the cut of t-shirts and other donations he’d amassed. A local columnist, Stephanie Salter, mentioned our t-shirt in her penultimate column of things she was grateful for before she departed San Francisco for the midwest.
Verna and I and her then 77 year-old mother, along with Miguel in a stroller, protested against the men in power at the Bohemian Grove in 2001, and again in 2003 with more than 200,000 people in San Francisco, as we voiced our opposition to Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Miguel and I once helped to paint the house of a local refuge for families in crisis. My students and I used to serve meals to the homeless, and even recorded many of them for an oral history project that won an award. Maya and I have made teddy bears that were donated to kids in the hospital.
Our commitment to change will not waver with the election of Donald Trump. My children and my students still know that we must be forces for good and justice in the world, and that we will not succumb to the racism and misogyny and ethnocentrism that was so pervasive during this election cycle.
Even a Hillary victory would have meant that those of us who cherish liberal ideals, the same ideals that helped to end slavery and mount the Civil Right movement, would have had to lead a chorus of change from the progressive left against the wall of oligarchs who prefer profits over people.
I am sad, I am shocked, I am worried. But I will never, ever stop fighting for basic human decency, for the Golden Rule that we treat each other as we want to be treated. I refuse to accept that our nation is a Trump nation. We are better than scapegoating immigrants; banning Muslims; attacking women; and other recklessness.
The hard work of battling for justice continues. I will do my best to remain on the frontlines.