Last night I ordered a copy of the Constitution from Amazon and had it shipped to the White House.
I sent the Constitution to Trump because since the election, and particularly this first week in office, I have been responding to email after email and post after post from organizations I support decrying one despicable executive action after another. I’ve been signing petitions and sending letters and worrying about what might happen.
And my worry has been justified, and I certainly wish it wasn’t. I wish he’d been blustering and not intent on carrying out every extreme campaign promise.
I was directed to a site last night and asked to “personalize” the form letter about the immigration ban. It was filled with all sorts of arguments, facts, and statistics aimed at a reasonable person whose mind might be changed by such arguments. And I know this president absolutely does not care about reasonable arguments or the voice of anyone who does not support him.
He imagines support where it does not exist: A landslide popular vote The largest inaugural crowds ever.
(I do know people who voted for him; I’m related to several of them, and I can tell you the particular reason they pulled the lever. It wasn’t a blanket endorsement of hate. The reasons were being a lifelong Republican, and being against legalized abortion.
None of the people I know who voted for this man wanted him to do all the things he said he would. They were betting against it. They bet wrong. Though, for the sake of our relationships, these are things we don’t talk about.)
I looked at this long letter with its numbers and facts, and toyed with personalizing the letter by simply ranting and raving that he was destroying democracy, that this isn’t a regime, and he cannot act like a dictator with impunity, and then I realized that my rant wasn’t likely to be read by anyone either.
So, I decided to send a copy of the Constitution, words that aren’t mine or from human rights lawyers, but words he swore to protect and defend with his hand on a Bible when he took the oath of office little more than a week ago.
I had a brief image in my mind of a UPS driver pulling up to the White House gate with a truck full of Constitutions for Trump. And it made me laugh for one brief moment. I have absolutely no illusion that sending the Constitution will do one speck of good. It won’t make it to his desk. It may never even be delivered.
You could call it an empty symbolic gesture.
But, for a brief moment I took an action that I thought of on my own. I felt a flicker of hope as I took a tiny bit of power back into my civic life—I acted rather than reacted. Reacting is what I’ve been doing for months; reacting to every awful thing in the national news that floods my inbox and Facebook posts demanding me to take action now, demanding that Trump and his agenda of hatred be stopped.
Still I cried in the late hours and was unable to sleep without medication last night, something that has become all too common since the election as I grieve and worry over my country.
I grew up feeling helpless and powerless over my own life with a revolving door of parents, and in college over the Cold War and nuclear threat. Those feelings are back in full force.
I know that I cannot save our country. I am not that powerful. Alone. And most of my days are spent alone, thoughts swirling around this predicament.
In some ways, I am not much different than the major demographic that supported this candidate—older, isolated, knocked out of work by the recession. People whose daily interactions with others are limited, and whose perceptions of reality narrow. I know what it is to feel frightened and fragile, by change and the world outside my own experience.
I’ve had to face those tendencies in myself. And I’ve learned, reluctantly, not to believe everything I think.
But I have only been able to do so by faith. And the political climate has contributed to, if not precipitated, a dark night of my soul. I know God exists, but the usual ways I experience that presence have deserted me for now.
This is a time when it would be of great benefit to see God at work in ways that lifted the dark veil, to strengthen my faith, so I can live aligned with my beliefs. Though Jesus exhorted us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, I am not able to pray for this president.
I wish instead for his impeachment and removal from office, the failure of all his endeavors, the loss of all his wealth. And so I sit with my own sin, my own bent toward hate, my failure to live the gospel in the smallest of ways.
Just a week ago I marched with 50 others in a small town gathered to say no to hate. It was the first time I’ve felt more than a glimmer of hope in this rampant fear that clings to me.
I am an introvert, so joining the small crowd was awkward, not energizing, but I knew it was necessary to stand with others. When I saw images of friends at their own marches, and photos of thousands around the world I was thankful to feel that I wasn’t alone in the desire for kindness and compassion to guide our civic life.
And then with each stroke of the president’s pen this week, I felt plunged back into the nightmare.
I stand in awe of those empowered by driving miles to meetings or calling politicians day. I am not one of them. There are days when I cannot bear to make a phone call or leave the house, under the best of circumstances, and this has been true my entire life.
It doesn’t mean I’m not informed, or that I don’t care, or that I’m lazy. Like others who’ve been betrayed by those in power (in whatever form that manifested), I’m ultra-sensitive to suffering. I don’t need to know every fact, every detail to be convinced of danger. I feel it bodily.
When I feel threatened, out-of-control, I want to vanish.
With this current slew of threats, the despair that lurks inside me is poised to feast on fear and urgency. Despair would like to paralyze me and prevent me from taking any action at all.
Despair would like to win. I won’t let it.
Each of us must fight however we’re able, and none of us should judge the rightness or worthiness or quantity of another’s efforts, to question whether they are expedient or effective.
We have no idea what each action costs a person.
When I am quiet enough to quell my feelings of powerlessness, when I am still enough for truth, I know that the very act of acting at all moves us imperceptibly away from the brink and toward the greater good.
What we should be “demanding” now is to treat one another with gentleness and encouragement, so that we can act from love and compassion, not fear and despair.
So celebrate each pussy hat knit, each petition signed, each visit by a Christian to a mosque, each person at an airport bearing witness, each donation to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, each song and video and meme that finds a sliver of humor in this absurdity, and each copy of the Constitution ordered from Amazon.
The president should receive his copy Wednesday.
I’ve been thinking the past few days of a word to frame the new year, an intention to guide me through 2017. It’s a practice I was introduced to just as the calendar flipped to 2016, thanks to my friend, Laurie. And just like last year, I find once again, that rather than contemplating a dictionary full of possibilities, a word introduced itself to me, pulled up a chair in my imagination, and invited me into a conversation.
Or rather fear less.
And wow, do I ever need that word, that concept to draw near, to enter into my psyche and my behavior, to abide in me.
It has felt to me that fear and fearmongering have been the words and experience for much of 2016. I have scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed and spiraled into depression and tears at the articles so many friends post, the sheer volume and repetition of bad news, an avalanche of information and opinion that’s left me too often feeling helpless and hopeless.
My email is full of doomsday appeals. And with each dire prediction of destruction, each instance of hate played out, each threat of political suicide, I remember all too clearly the fatalism and futility I couldn’t shake at the height of the Cold War. Fear spurred me then into action, but action arising from fear did not bring me peace, doing “the right thing” did not stem my worry, joining organizations and volunteering did little to quell my anxiety.
It was only love that broke through the frozen shell fear had constructed around my heart and self, sealing me off from happiness and hope. And that love, when it came to me, was nothing I could see, or touch, or prove. It didn’t come from pleasing others, mastery of facts, activism, or political correctness.
It was a gift. That love came from beyond me, not because I deserved it, but because it had always been there for the asking—for me, for everyone—simply waiting to be discovered and welcomed.
Fear fights for compliance. It uses force, pits us against one another, feeds off our insecurities, and amplifies our anxieties. Fear is the playground bully, the dictator, and the parts of ourselves that believe lies. Fear wants us to stay small and play safe. Fear wants us to resist change and growth, it goads us into believing we can cling to or re-create an edenic life that never really existed anywhere except in our own fantasys fueled by fear’s glossy literature of lies.
I know this because for most of my life I’ve been intimate with fear. I’ve been its daughter, its girlfriend, its champion, its wife, its captive, its prey. Fear has ruled my thoughts and actions; run like a wild dog at my side, snarling and nosing me away from my flock, until I run alongside it, conveniently forgetting the truth of the One who shepherds me always toward wholeness, even on the rocky path.
The Word I want to follow has faced fear and death and remains faithful not by avoidance, or by destruction, but by accompaniment, by walking alongside distress through the darkness, acknowledging fear, but not succumbing to it, and clinging to words that bring life.
I need more of hope’s words, and less of fear’s. I’ve removed the Facebook app from my phone and limited my email campaigns. (I don’t need to know every detail to know we are indeed in trouble.) I look for others to inspire me and to ground me, so that I can act out of love, out of faith, and out of hope, so that I can see fear without being hypnotized by it.
I turn to poet Jan Richardson and her book The Cure for Sorrow:
…how still your fear becomes
as it loosens its grip,
perhaps never quite leaving you,
but calmly turning…
I listen to the songs of Carrie Newcomer, who assures me that “You Can Do This Hard Thing” and that “There’s Help in Hard Times.” I sing the songs of Taize that remind me: “The Lord is my light / my light and salvation / in God I trust.”
I celebrate the abundance in my own life. My word for 2016 was “Success” and it manifested in many ways, including my first real estate deal, buying a waterfront home that my husband and I will live in while renovating.
I take photos of the amazing scenery and wildlife around me, and share beauty with my friends on Facebook. To commemorate the culmination of 5 years in Washington, I put together a 25-minute slideshow of my favorite (mostly) nature photos.
I won’t become fear-free, or fearless this year (or any year for that matter) but I can fear less and trust more; fear less and love more; fear less and sing more; fear less and open my life to more. 2017 asks this of me. What is it asking of you?
I am a writer who, in December 2011, fortified by a new MFA, empty nest, and changes in my husband's employment, relocated from my native California to Washington state to see what would unfold next.