It’s the week of Thanksgiving in America, and so we are going to talk about gratitude.
We are deeply grateful for the many blessings in our lives… our families, the friends that feel like family, the prosperous communities in which we’re living and raising our children. We are blessed, we are grateful, we take none of it for granted.
The trauma of this year’s presidential election – the divisiveness, the rhetoric, the clear division in our country – has been extreme, to say the least. But from this difficult and frightening event has sprung an unexpected silver lining for which we are also deeply grateful: We have found ourselves transformed over the past two weeks. Friends….are you with us?
We both feel like we’ve been physically shaken up – we presently feel a combination of physical exhaustion, mental alertness, and a rekindled devotion to our own core values. This…this is important. We suspect many of you are right there with us, and we very much want you by our sides.
Let’s dial back the clock a bit. We watched social media closely (my dad would say “obsessively”) in the wake of the election. First we saw family and friends posting about their shock, sadness, and disbelief in the results (for the record, almost everyone we know who voted for Trump was polite about it; we know that’s not the case for many people and that saddens us). Then after the initial shock wore off, something special began to happen…
Were you on Facebook and Twitter too? It’s unlike anything we have ever seen.
In those first few days, we were each added to a number of “secret” groups on Facebook. Sounds exciting, and it was… the number of participants in several of these groups exploded in front of our eyes, and the posts came so fast that we found ourselves unable to keep up with all the new information, the brilliant ideas, the whip-smart commentary.
In addition to the drama of it all, those online groups suddenly became places where real people came together, began communicating about their lives and their feelings, and mobilizing to stand up for values that they think are too important to leave to someone else or to another generation. Regardless of politics, isn’t it fascinating to see hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens thinking hard about what the Constitution means to them in real time? About what government means to them? And about how they can meaningfully participate in that government, beyond simply casting a ballot? It’s been like being in the biggest, most engaged town hall of all time – for days at a time.
We have never in our lifetimes seen such a grassroots effort, or such broad-based interest in being part of the democracy… it is humbling.
And it’s not just the organized groups that are encouraging. We’ve seen bravery in individuals as well.
Friends who previously shared nothing but adorable kid pictures and gorgeous vacation photos are now posting about calling their senators and representatives, and encouraging others to do the same. One friend’s husband apparently calls every morning from carpool and his congressional staffers now know him by name. We had no idea, but GO DAD.
This is great stuff. Because this democracy belongs to every single one of us… equally. And even though we are each equal owners, standing up as a citizen and making those phone calls can feel scary. The beauty of the social network is that the more we hear of others placing those phone calls, the more it becomes normalized, and the more our fellow citizens feel emboldened to participate too.
For the cynics among us who doubt whether any of this matters, we’d like to direct you to the great red state of Georgia, where last week a state lawmaker introduced a bill that would have criminalized Muslim women wearing hijabs while driving and in other public places. The public backlash – both Republican and Democratic, locally and nationally – was swift and fierce, and led to the bill’s withdrawal in short order. That’s real, and that’s a real result.
The incident is a nice reminder that our elected officials are, at a minimum, deeply interested in keeping their jobs. And even if that’s their only compass (and we hope it’s not), they will listen to their constituents and the greater public when they must.
In addition to our astonishment in seeing our friends and fellow citizens engage with our democracy, we were also deeply moved on a personal level. We have talked so much about this in the past few weeks – it’s like we woke up on November 9th and could immediately see now how in our privileged, liberal bubbles, we had become blind and complacent. But we’re awake now. And the time for complacency is over.
For us, it’s time to take a deep breath and jump into the fight to build this country into the one we want for our children and grandchildren. That means an America where equality is a core value. We’re talking about the America we know exists, and for which we are thankful this week – the one where immigrants, Muslims, women, minorities and the disenfranchised feel welcome and unafraid.
And it is so very good to know we don’t enter the fight alone. We enter together, arms locked, voices ready.