In this post-election moment, the first three—grief, fear, and rage—demand less explanation than the hope.
At all the black lives senselessly cut short.
For the ongoing abuse of native people and their land, as evidenced at Standing Rock.
For the world of tolerance and justice we thought we were inching closer to. For those in the social movements that have gotten us where we are, the brave souls whose work now feels like it’s for nothing. (It’s not.)
Let us wail without shame, for our grief honors these losses.
For our brothers and sisters. For all who are other than mainstream, white, heterosexual men.
For our children.
For our own safety now and in the time to come.
For the fate of our water, our air, our soil, our wild places.
Our fear is not to be denied. It is not a cause for shame, any more than is our grief. Let us honor our fear and listen to what it has to say.
Let us feel a common bond in our fear, and recognize that we are all subject to it in different ways. But let us not feed our fear, or yield our hearts to its sway. Fear is an astute advisor but it should never be crowned.
At the ugly resurgence of hatred and injustice.
At our leaders for their corruption and deceit.
At our fellow citizens for the ballots they cast or did not cast.
At each other for not doing more, not standing up, not drawing the line.
And underneath it all, perhaps, we are angry at ourselves, at the part that is complicit, that could have done more.
Let us respect our anger as a galvanizing force. Without its fire we won’t get far in creating a better, more beautiful world. Let us harness anger as fuel and ride it, for bottled up it will only explode. But let us not fetishize anger or give it free rein. For it is anger combined with fear that gives rise to hate. In angrily, fearfully fighting hate, we only serve to propagate it. This is one of the tragedies we face.
As Philip K. Dick wrote, “to fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement. This is a paradox; whoever defeats a segment of the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus, imposing its form on its enemies. Thereby it becomes its enemies.”
In the face of the gathering storm, with so many reasons for grief and fear and rage, what reasonable hope do we have?
The rottenness of the old structure has become impossible to ignore; its filth and decay are revealed. It seems that things are going to get much worse—we are entering a cycle of destruction. We can hope that it is a creative destruction, a demolition that makes room for new growth. We can hope that the chaos we are hurtling toward forces us to come up with new ways of relating.
Let us hope that the breakdown becomes a breakthrough. That hitting rock bottom is what we need as a society to wake up and chart a new course to recovery.
These hopes can seem distant and may offer little as a way of comfort. It’s partly a matter of perspective: zooming out, we can see the larger shape of things and the possibilities ahead. It can help to zoom in, too, to witness the grand and mundane beauty all around us. The flowers thrusting up through cracks in the sidewalk. The kindness of a neighbor. The handful of stars glimpsed through city haze.
Wherever we find hope, on whatever scale and in whatever stories and dreams, we must treasure its light—use it to get to work.
But in the face of such massive troubles, it can be tough to feel our work has meaning if we’re not out on the front lines or doing political work. Protest and activism are vital. But not everyone’s gifts are best used in these settings. There are a million other pieces of this puzzle we’re all working on together.
We each have our place. We can each trust our innermost knowing to guide us to where we can be both most fulfilled and most effective. If in doubt, seek the sweet spot where your gifts intersect with the needs of the world.
Ask yourself not how one should best serve but how you can best serve the birthing of a more just and beautiful world. In what small but concrete way can you impact people positively? Trust your own gifts, the things that make you excited.
Your joy is as contagious as any hatred.
Author: Jonathan Hadas Edwards
Image: Elephant Journal/Instagram
Editor: Katarina Tavčar