This morning, as I was walking to the store, I saw something green in the middle of the road. As I got closer I realized that it was a few blades of grass pushing up through a crack in the pavement. The recent rains are already turning our hills green. LIke many of us, the grass is an immigrant which has found a home here. Its growing edge is tender, but its roots are patient, persistent and powered by the force of life itself.
After a week of grieving the November election, I began to regain my perspective. Yes, I was disappointed that the pendulums swing has not yet hit its nadir. No, I dont regret my perpetual hope that each moment will mark that turning point. Because everything I know about history and about natural processes assures me that that point will arrive.
But didnt we always know, in our hearts, that the work before us would never be as easy or a simple as replacing a president? Didnt we always know that the hard work of restoring the soul of democracy would go on regardless of who occupies the White House?
There is no question but that we are going through some very dark times and will be for some time. But did we really believe that America would somehow be immune to the kind of suffering which brings wisdom in its wake, the kind of suffering endured by almost every other nation? To believe that would be to indulge in the kind of exceptionalist thinking which clouds the reasoning faculties of the neoconservative ideologues leading us deeper into the Big Muddy.
It appears highly likely that the legacy of the current administration will include even greater giveaways to their corporate sponsors, significant reductions in the standard of living for millions of working Americans, further erosion of worker and environmental protections, a Supreme Court which will reverse Roe v. Wade, the beginning of a theocratic state, dismantling of Social Security and Medicare as well as the public school system, further erosion of civil liberties and the continuation of a disastrous war which will cost countless lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. I could go on and so could you.
But that is no reason to give up hope. We have endured worse. Reactionary Republicans may have won (or stolen) the election; the Democrats may (or may not) have run an effective campaign. But our vision of a just society, of a peaceful world, of humans living in partnership with the natural world was not defeated and cannot be defeated. That vision will endure.
The greater work with which we are engaged is nothing less than a radical shift in human consciousness. Throughout our history we have undergone several such shifts. They are never easy, never without great disruption and suffering. I believe that what we are witnessing is the last gasp of a dying paradigm which, of course, refuses to go gently. It may be that we are called to serve simultaneously as hospice workers helping it to die while minimizing the damage and as midwives assisting in the birth of a new human story.
Our challenge will be to find the courage to do this work with as much love and compassion as we can muster, to maintain our faith in our vision and to continue to organize for even more effectiveness. We need to build coalitions with those who share our vision in the broad strokes while accepting differences in our ideas of the specifics.
It is important to acknowledge our feelings of loss and disappointment, but we can no longer afford to indulge in pessimism. We must cultivate hope as a deliberate strategy to keep ourselves energized. We need to reach out to each other for strength when we get discouraged and offer hope to those we see despairing. whatever we do, we can do with joy and gratitude.
More than ever before we need to show up, to pay attention, to speak the truth and to practice letting go of the outcome of our efforts. This means doing what we can with as much intelligence as we have and trust in the power of life itself. After all, in the end grass will always prevail over asphalt and rivers will always defeat dams.
Larry Robinson is the Mayor of Sebastopol, California. He can be reached at email@example.com