Since last November, most people I know have felt like they’re stuck in some sort of alternate universe. I definitely went through the first two stages of Dr. Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief (denial and anger) last fall. I’m not sure what bargaining (stage three) would look like in this scenario–maybe trying to bargain with yourself? if I write 30 post cards and call my congresspeople twice a week, then at least I can say I’m paying attention, right? But not long after the high of the Women’s March in January wore off, I was stuck at stage four–depression.
I tried to go backward in the natural progression and try out anger again for a while, but that didn’t get me past my grief. I tried keeping an activism log, but my failure to maintain it after a few months put me right back into despondence.
Then I read something my husband shared on Facebook, “How to Stay Sane If Trump Is Driving You Insane–Advice from a Therapist.” And it made sense to me. Stage five–acceptance–doesn’t have to mean accepting the present administration as the new norm or becoming complacent. It’s more complicated than that. Acceptance in this case means being able to accept that, despite our horrifying circumstances, this is indeed what we’re working with now, and we must continue. Wallowing in depression is a win for the other side.
But the key, according to behavioral therapist Robin Chancer, is not to fall into false optimism:
There are times when optimism is not appropriate or possible, and this is one of those times. Our President is delusional, lying, or ignorant; disastrous climate change and war with North Korea loom; marginalized people in our society are suffering. Faced with these calamities, catastrophic thinking is a rational response.
A group of pleasant, like-minded Berkeleyites gathered at an office in south Berkeley to write postcards last night as part of the national #IdesofTrump movement to let 45 know how we’re feeling.
Indivisible Berkeley supplied lots of pre-addressed postcards, which made it go much faster. The first few hundred were pre-stamped as well. We kept writing as someone went out to buy more stamps, and volunteers were at the ready to apply postage to all the unstamped ones, so they would all be mailed today, the Ides of March.
Some folks brought their own cards, so there was a true variety represented, including photos of people forming the word “RESIST!!” on the beach to kittens telling off Donald in their own cute way.
Some people wrote a little, and some wrote a lot. Artistic types drew pictures. At first, some seemed hesitant, unsure of what exactly they were supposed to write and whether they were supposed to sign their names or not. But once the ink got flowing, it was hard to stop. Mostly, we wrote in silence until someone new would show up and we welcomed them, or someone left and we wished them well in their future resistance efforts. Occasionally people shared the contents of their postcards and snapped photos for their Facebook pages.
I started out thinking I would just come up with something pithy and stick to it–that probably being the most efficient method. But writing became cathartic, and I found myself using words to express my frustration, despite the knowledge that 45 would never actually see my words.
Sometimes I was to the point.
Sometimes I just wrote what was in my head.
“If I said ‘pretty, pretty please,’ would you go away?”
Sometimes I even got personal.
“You are mean, and I don’t like you, even a little bit.”
And occasionally I put on my educator hat.
“You make bad choices, Donald. If you were a schoolyard bully, I could talk to you. But unfortunately you’re president, so you just need to resign.
signed, a teacher”
I’m willing to admit that I was starting to have fun. One of the last ones I wrote was kind of mean.
“I know you don’t know how to read, but please find someone to read this to you: It’s time to go home now.”
It’s not too late–send your postcard today. It feels really good. To see others, go to IB’s Facebook page.
The night before the march we got out the poster board and broad-tipped Sharpies in five different colors. I spent way too much time looking for catchy phrases to put on my sign. We’d heard that in New York no rulers–or anything that could be used as a weapon–were allowed to hold signs. So I punched tiny holes in mine, inserted string, and planned on wearing mine sandwich-board style. In the time it took me to make one sign, Dave had made six–enough to make three two-sided signs so that he’d have some to give away to people who didn’t have any. Dave’s two-sided ones were “Ally/No Bully,” “Resist/Fight,” and “Free Melania/No Country for Old, White Men.” Mine was “No Hate. No Fear. Everyone Is Welcome Here.”
The day began with scattered showers, so we wore our raincoats and put clear packing tape on our protest signs to protect them from the rain. I’d looked online for what to pack for a protest march, but it wasn’t actually that helpful. I already wear sunscreen every day, and I generally carry a water bottle. I honestly didn’t expect to get pepper-sprayed, so the suggestion for vinyl gloves (so you won’t spread the pepper spray via your hands) didn’t seem relevant to me. And writing your emergency contact number on your arm in Sharpie (because they take your phone away from you in the slammer) seemed like overkill. Besides, I know Dave’s number, and if I got carted off to the hoosegow, he probably would be too.
I packed some Band-aids, a portable container of hand sanitizer, an ear-warmer, and a kazoo. Dave was really smart and brought cashews. We picked up our friends at their house and headed for the North Berkeley BART station. By the time we were halfway there (near Monterey Market), we were already seeing people walking with their signs toward the station. So we parked and walked the last half-mile to the station. It was early in the day, and we had energy to spare, so why not?
We saw the lines around the BART station from the moment we turned the corner onto Virginia Street around 10:20 a.m. I wish I’d thought to take a picture, but I was focused on getting to the march. Luckily, Berkeleysidedid it for me. The pic below was taken just a few minutes before we arrived there. We were so glad that we had clipper cards and got to bypass the lines buying tickets. Apparently there were still lines to board BART an hour later.
Once inside, the atmosphere was festive–people reading each other’s posters and discovering friends among the crowds on the stairs and platforms. I heard my name called from above the escalator and turned to see a friend who’d moved to Connecticut years ago!
Unbelievably we snatched some seats in the last car of a train that was heading toward San Francisco but stopping at Oakland’s 12th Street station. Many people had stayed on the platform to wait for a train that would head further east and drop them off at the Lake Merritt station, which was closer to the beginning of the march route. But it turns out that the train that followed us couldn’t even stop at its scheduled drop-off point because of overcrowding at the station; so I guess we were lucky we’d gotten on the car we were on. With each stop, protesters piled in until we were surely beyond any capacity that train had ever seen. But everyone was kind and cheerful.
We emerged from the 12th Street station and set out to join the march already in progress. Streets were closed to traffic to allow the hoards of protesters to march down the middle of Oak Street up to Grand Avenue and along Lake Merritt. The march’s destination point was Oscar Grant Plaza (officially Frank Ogawa Plaza), where a rally would feature speakers, music, and other performers at 12:30.
It was really less a march and more a shuffle as thousands of people came together as one to take to the streets and express our deep disappointment in the presidential election’s outcome. But rather than spouting rage, we were espousing peace in a hundred different ways. The variety of signage was a testament to our boundless creativity and was evidence of our various passions. There were humorous ones (e.g., We Shall Overcomb), and the ones children carried (e.g., Be Nice), were the sweetest. Some used Trump’s own words against him (This Pussy Grabs Back!), and some relied on wordplay (Truck Fump). Some stated what should be obvious but isn’t (Women’s Rights Are Human Rights), and more than a few depicted ovaries and vaginas. I personally liked the alliteration in Viva la Vulva! As an editor, I also appreciated that 99 percent of the ones I saw were spelled correctly. And as Dave pointed out, maybe “facism” is a thing.
I was impressed by the range of people represented–women and men; infants to senior citizens; humans of every ethnicity and religion; folks in wheelchairs; some with canine companions; some with musical instruments; and lots with pink pussy hats. We were chanting, laughing, even dancing. We were all in such a good mood, so happy to be surrounded with like-minded people who might not have identical political views but who all agreed on one thing: we were mortified that Donald Trump was our newly elected president. For some, it was their first march; for others, it was the latest of many.
There were those who staked out a spots along the route and watched the parade go by rather than become part of the swarm, but we all waved to each other. Several people lined up along the Oakland Museum, and many cheered us on from the second and third stories of their apartment buildings along Oak Street. We passed the courthouse, the library, the Scottish Rite Temple, and hugged the north shore of Lake Merritt. As some marchers split off down other streets to take shortcuts to the rally, the crowds thinned enough that we were able to pick up the pace a bit.
Around 1:30, when we turned from Grand Avenue onto Broadway, I was ravenous, so we stopped at The Old Brooklyn Cafe and Bakery for sustenance. The little corner shop was filled with other similarly hungry protesters, and we all made room for each other. Dave and I got two of the last three bagels and gobbled them as we rested briefly.
On our way out of the bakery, we ran into friends who were coming from the rally. Was it over already? It was supposed to go until 3:00. They said they enjoyed the music and the dancers, but they couldn’t really hear the speeches from where they stood. So they decided it was time to grab a late lunch and march back home.
It was 2:00, and we were four blocks away from our destination. We could definitely still make it before it was over. But if we weren’t going to be able to hear the speakers, did we still want to go? Of course, if getting to Oscar Grant Plaza was really our goal, we could have walked the one block from the 12th street station and arrived there long before the rally began. Dave’s back ached and my feet hurt from all the standing on pavement. What can I say? We’re getting old.
No, being part of the march was our true aim. We were among the thousands in Oakland and over a million nation-wide that marched on Saturday. I didn’t know it at the time, but people marched all over the globe in solidarity. We are part of a movement that is going to fight back. We didn’t need to stand at the rally to prove that.
We passed the Paramount Theatre and entered the 19th Street station, where many marchers had propped up their signs in a row as a visual record that they had been there. We waited on the platform with dozens of others who were done protesting for the day. When the train’s door slid open, and nobody in the packed car seemed to be exiting, I asked if anyone was getting off. A voice behind me urged me to get on, so I started to step inside the car. Just then a man emerged from the crowd and pushed me angrily back onto the platform. I wish I could say I channeled Gandhi and practiced passive resistance.
But I pushed back. And I may have said a bad word. Luckily, it ended with him grumbling under his breath that I was there for a stupid reason as he brushed past me and went on his way, apparently to accomplish something more important than defending women’s rights. In my head I had a few more choice words for him, but I ignored them and made my way onto the train to take us back to Berkeley, a little shaken and steamed but too tired to care about one dissenter in such a positive group.
Once on the train, a dad discovered that his toddler had lost a shoe and nicely asked if we could all look on the floor around us. Packed too tight for people to bend over, I assumed the shoe was gone-daddy-gone. But seconds later, an arm shot up holding a tiny sneaker, and everyone around us cheered. We were a team, a force to be reckoned with, a finder of shoes, and advocates for justice. We were a part of history, dammit!
If Saturday’s protest was any indication of the passion, resolve, and cooperation we are capable of, we have a good chance of making our voices heard.
In the spirit of community, I joined about twenty-five others at Berkeley’s Hillside Club to watch Obama’s inauguration up on the big screen. We had a potluck breakfast as we watched Senator Chuck Schumer introduce a civil rights leader, two supreme court justices, the vice president, a minister, a poet, three singers, the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir, and our continuing commander-in-chief.
Despite the overly loud man with limited social skills who clapped a little too vehemently a short distance from my ears, it was a nice gathering of folks who look with hope to the future and didn’t even complain when the coffee ran out.
I was so happy that among the significant historical events that Obama referenced, he included Stonewall. And when he was listing off the people of this nation, he included not only women and people of color, rich and poor, but also “our gay brothers and sisters.”Thank you, President Obama, for finally including everyone when you say “We, the people.”
I think Dr. King would have been proud that the inauguration of our first African American president happened on his birthday. A fitting tribute.
My friend and fellow children’s author, Deborah Frisch, posted a perfect story for today based on Obama’s inauguration four years ago. Enjoy!
So the U.S. government started subsidizing corn and soy farmers—not fruit and vegetable growers, just the people who produced corn and soy. So if you’re a farmer, and you get paid to grow corn instead of broccoli, what would you do? The results of that little shenanigan are that fewer than 3% of American crops grown today are fruits and veggies, but over 50% of all farms in the United States pump out corn and soy.
I tuned in to the documentary Weight of the Nation on HBO because I needed something to kickstart my quest to lose weight. I figured some scary facts and figures about heart disease and diabetes might overcome my weak will power. And there were plenty of doctors who made those points.
But what it mostly did was expose to me the conspiratorial inner workings of U.S. agriculture. My idyllic (if tragic) idea of the American family farmer working against all odds to harvest crops in time to save the ranch from being repossessed by some villainous, mustachioed banker? I now know that’s just fodder for movies celebrating some American ideal that no longer exists.
The information from this program combined with everything I culled from “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” (a lecture I watched and commented on in an earlier post) made me realize how political the food industry is. We’ve become so dependent on our processed, pre-packaged meals that we don’t fully comprehend how far we’ve strayed from the naturally nutritional food our grandparents ate. (Okay, Grandma’s gravy swimming in bacon grease might not officially be considered healthy, but there was nothing in the list of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce, making me wonder about its origins.)
I’m not by nature one of those sprout-eating granola-crunching types. I grew up on Wonder bread, Coca-cola, and Pop Tarts. So when I started buying whole wheat bread and limiting myself to one soda per week, I figured I was doing great.
But I’ve started reading labels more carefully, and it’s illuminating. Even whole wheat bread that one finds on the shelves in the grocery store has either sugar or corn syrup in it. And I dare you to find a salad dressing that doesn’t have either.
Okay, so I buy my bread from our local bakery and make my own salad dressing. Am I safe now? Apparently not. Once you get in the habit of reading labels, you begin to question everything. Which is good, of course, but quite inconvenient. I don’t have either the time or inclination to make everything from scratch.
I have started buying some organic produce and I found a schedule of the farmers’ markets in my area, so that’s a start.
But I still walk by Pop Tarts with a certain amount of yearning.
In my local paper, the West County Times, is a short regular feature titled “News of the Weird” which I never fail to read. This morning did not disappoint.
Apparently Oklahoma state senator Ralph Shortey was moved to write a bill banning the use of human fetuses in processed food. Which, of course, would be really gross… if it were true. When the state leader of the anti-abortion camp—who I assume would have made it his business to know about such things—pointed out that this was not an issue, having never heard of one instance of such a disgusting practice, Shortey said he’d read about it on the Internet.
My reaction? I’m so glad to have fled Oklahoma when I was 17.
It’s not as if nobody in California has ever done something dumb (sorry, double negative there), but when I catch anything in the news about the state where I was born, it’s usually something tragic. (Think the bombing of the federal building and numerous tornadoes.) Or it’s an account of some politician who is so stupid, it’s embarrassing. (Think Ralph Shortey, Jim Inhofe…forget it, the list is too long.)
California has tragedy. (Think earthquakes.) And it has crazies. (Do I really need to list names or can I just say “Hollywood”?) But we have progressive, intelligent politicians representing us. (Okay, so twice we elected as governors movie stars with very small brains, but our senators are usually pretty good.) Plus we have mountains, the ocean, great weather, amazing diversity, every kind of food you’d ever want, abundant culture of all kinds, and fresh local produce all year long.
I’m sure there is some California state senator who has introduced ridiculous legislation—Prop 8, to name just one—but there’s enough other news about California that I’m not embarrassed to say I live here when I read the paper.
So, thanks, Ralph Shortey, for reminding me why I moved away.
Sorry, Okies, you’re stuck with him. And Jim Inhofe too.
This sounds like the kind of solution that a third grader would come up with: to get us out of national debt, why not just make—literally—more money? As in platinum coins.
A little-known statute gives the secretary of the Treasury the authority to issue platinum coins in any denomination. So some commentators have suggested that the Treasury create two $1 trillion coins, deposit them in its account in the Federal Reserve and write checks on the proceeds.
–Jack Balkin, a Yale Law professor
Such a simple solution, eh?
What if I tried to do the same to pay for my daughter’s college? Pay off the mortgage on our house? Buy my own publishing house to produce my books and a distribution company that would put them in the hands of readers worldwide? Heck, I wouldn’t even need one trillion-dollarcoin. I could probably get by with just a billion-dollar coin. I mean, I’m not greedy…