If You Stick Around (A Letter to Those Wanting to Leave)

Dear Friend,

I don’t know you, but I know something about you: I know you’re tired.

I know you live with demons, ones that are close and loud.

I know how relentless they are in their pursuit of you. 

I know that you spend your days trying to silence them and your nights trying to hide from them—and the hell they put you through.

Most of all I know hard you work to hide it all; to pretend you’re fine, to paint a convincing smile upon your face, and to act as if all is well with your battered soul.

I know that all of this performing has left you exhausted; that you’ve numbed yourself and hurt yourself and starved yourself, in the hope that the voices will become silent, the pain will subside, and you can finally breathe again.

I know that right now it doesn’t seem like that moment will ever come.

I know right now you’d rather leave than live.

And even though I’m not standing in your shoes and even though I don’t know you and even though I have no right at all—I’m asking you to stick around.

I’m asking you to stay; to endure your incredibly painful, totally senseless now because I can see your glorious, blindingly beautiful then if you do.

If you stick around, you will reach a spot that the sadness won’t let you see right now—you’ll reach tomorrowAnd that place is filled with possibility. It is a day you’ve never been to. It is not this terrible day. There, you will not feel exactly what you are feeling right now. You may be stronger or see things differently or find a clearing and life may look a way it hasn’t in a long time: it may look worth staying for.

Tomorrow is the place where hope lives, and I want you to give yourself a chance to share space with that hope; to dance with it, to rest in it, to dream within it—because you deserve it:

If you stick around, you will travel to amazing places that will take your breath away and see sunsets that have yet to be painted in the evening sky.

If you stick around, you’ll eat that cheeseburger; the one that will cause you to make an actual audible noise in public (and you won’t regret it).

If you stick around, you will hear that song that will change your life and you’ll dance to it like no one’s watching (and then not care that they are).

If you stick around, you’ll find yourself in the embrace of someone who waited their entire lives to embrace you; whose path you will beautifully alter with your presence.

If you stick around, you will hold babies and see movies and laugh loudly and you’ll fall in love and have your heart broken—and you’ll fall in love again.

If you stick around, you will study and learn and grow, and find your calling and find your place and you’ll lay in the grass, feeling gratitude for the sun upon your face and the breeze in your hair.

If you stick around you will outlive your demons.

And yeah, there will be other stuff too; disappointments and heartache and regrets and mistakes. And yes, there will be moments of despair and painful seasons and dark nights of the soul you will need to endure. You will screw things up and be let down, you’ll hurt, and you’ll wonder how you’ll ever make it through. 

But then you’ll remember the hell you walked through to get here, and you might remember this letter—and you’ll realize you’re gonna be okay because tomorrow is still waiting for you, to dance and rest and dream within.

So I guess this is just a reminder, from someone who sees what you may not see from where you’re standing: the future, one that will be a lot better with you in it.

This is a plea and a promise, a dare and an invitation.

Stay.
Hang on.
You are loved.
Things will get better.
Trust me.

Cry and get angry and ask for help and punch a wall and scream into your pillow and take a deep breath and call someone who loves you. When you let people in, the demons shrink back, so allow others to carry this sadness with you until you are stronger. 

But for you, for those who will grieve you should you leave, and for the tomorrow that you deserve to see— 

please, stick around.

(Note: If you’re struggling with depression, desire to self-harm, or suicidal thoughts, talk to someone.

Help can be found here and here and here now. You are worth fighting for.)

 

Bending the Arc of the Universe

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

In 1871, Unitarian minister Theodore Parker first spoke these words in opposition to slavery here in America.

In 1958 Dr Martin Luther King Jr. repeated them to a nation still fighting for equality for all its people.

In this day of uncertainty and grief, these words desperately need to be repeated again, though not as solace for weary spectators—but as battle cry for warriors.

We who occupy this space and time need to understand that the arc of the universe does not bend without us. It never has. It never will.

Humanity is the irresistible force shaping the crescent we stand upon together; every single life and every infinitesimal, seemingly unimportant decision adjusts its path in ways we can’t always perceive. With each decision, the curvature changes ever so slightly. It is changing in the seconds it takes me to type these words, and you to read them. Every single moment is a movement, one way or the other.

Friends, this means that we are the arc benders.

We are not passive victims of the difficult times in which we live, we are powerful participants in them; mighty co-authors of the story we find ourselves in, and together we can twist the plot. We can write something redemptive to mark this day on the planet.

With each beat of our bleeding hearts and every breath passing through our scorched lungs; as we speak and struggle, pushback and pray, resist and engage—the universe bows a bit more. With each act of love, each word of truth, each brave step, justice comes a little closer.

Yes, the arc of the moral universe is long, and we may not see all the movement we wish to see while we are here, but make no mistake—it will bend far less severely and far more slowly if we simply wait for it to do so.

And while we are waiting, others may decide that we are bending too quickly toward equality and diversity, and they may move in opposition, arching us away from the progress of our forebears. And if we are not diligent and relentless and steadfast with these moments, we risk leaving those who come after us, a world that is veering off course.

This is why we keep going now. It is why be brave the difficult conversations and the exhausting days and the sleepless nights. It’s why we don’t sit in the comfort of our privilege, and why we face this day with urgency: because people of love will hasten the bending if they choose to. 

And I choose to.

I want to be an arc bender.

I want to live leaned toward justice.

I want my choices in the small and the grand to contribute to the holy momentum of the planet.

I want my presence here to yield more compassion, more goodness, more decency than when I arrived.

I want my abundance and privilege to be spent on behalf of those who have less of such things.

I want to spend the remaining of my days shoulder to shoulder with other passionate, resolute arc benders, deliberately altering the curvature of the universe toward justice, by the sweat of our brows and the defiance of a love that will not cease.

We don’t wait for the Universe to bend, my friends.

We move together—and we bend it.

Blessed are the arc benders.

Be encouraged. 

 

 

Is Ivanka Trump America’s Advocate—or Daddy’s Little Monster?


Image an alteration of original artwork for “Suicide Squad,” copyright DC Comics.

Ivanka Trump is many things her father is not.

She is dignified.
Self-aware.
Articulate.
Intelligent.

Well read.

And in so many ways, she is not her father.

She is measured and thoughtful in her speech.
She knows how to read the room.

She understands bad optics.
She is capable of restraint.
She can finesse a sentence with several polysyllabic words.
She can produce a myriad of human emotions; empathy, sadness, joy.

And unlike her father, she understands how to craft an attractive social media persona; her Twitter feed a brilliant blend of moving photo ops with veterans, elementary students, and national monuments; sassy shout outs to working women, and lots of sugary Ivanka being a mom images. She often talks of the importance of “empowering young women,” and positions herself as a staunch defender of the American family.

But make no mistake—she is also her father’s daughter.

She is his advisor, his confidant, and easily his most effective public mouthpiece, never wavering in her support, always reiterating her father’s platitudes (albeit in a far more palatable and sensible manner), and fully sanctioning every move he has made since assuming the Presidency, no matter how destructive or ill-advised.

Which begs the question: Is Ivanka Trump simply her father in a less alarming, less egregious form? Is she just better at covering her malice with a veneer of humanity? 

Her business dealings are as equally eyebrow raising as her father’s. She’s allowed White House spokespeople and Government websites to shill for her jewelry. She’s shown up at official meetings with foreign dignitaries as a civilian. She’s slipped into a decidedly ambiguous role in her father’s administration, and has essentially replaced the First Lady. She is perpetuating his agenda as well as her own, with book deals and career opportunities and brand building, all at the expense of the struggling families she’s apparently for. Ivanka would have us believe she is an advocate for women and the working poor, while being a champion of her father’s incessant attacks on them. I’m not sure she gets to have it both ways. Nepotism giveth and it taketh away.

Recently the juxtaposition of the Ivanka that is and the Ivanka that we’re supposed to believe and embrace, was on full display. A home video of her having a dance party in the kitchen with her children had gone viral; painting her once again as a dedicated, fun, doting working mom who is one of us. She may indeed be a dedicated, fun, doting working mom but she is not one of us—at least not the 99 percent of us. She is a Trump, and Trumps are privileged, callous, and apparently oblivious to irony.

The day that video popped up on my news feed, was the very day her father had just won a political “victory” that could strip nearly 24 million Americans of their healthcare, and establish as barriers to coverage everything from pregnancy to C-sections to postpartum depression to sexual assault to birth control. 

So as Ivanka danced blissfully with her kids, and the world cooed at the collective cuteness, tens of millions of other families were rightly terrified at the prospect of being financially wiped out by a sickness or accident—as a direct result of the work of her father (and employer and mentor.)

And this is the rub.

Ivanka could afford to dance that day. Her children will always have healthcare. They have a pre-existing condition: It’s called privilege and she is fully afflicted with it. This is why despite clever efforts to appear otherwise, she is likely as insulated and detached as her father; because neither of them has known lack or fear or the sleeplessness that comes when the person who controls the health, safety, and future of your children doesn’t seem to give a damn about them.

She may truly be more decent or compassionate or caring than her father (which isn’t a very high bar, by the way), and she may genuinely have a heart for the working poor and for those who are marginalized—or she simply may be far better than he is at concealing her toxic agenda. She likely may be every bit as malevolent and self-serving and dangerous as he is. She may just be a super-villain without the bombast and noise.

Ivanka Trump can craft an impeccable image of warm sweetness and noble strength, and outwardly build a solid brand of female advocacy all she wants—but currently it rings hollow. As her father and his cohorts mock and malign the likes of strong, capable, successful women like Elizabeth Warren, Sally Yates, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Maxine Walters—she can’t align herself with this Presidency and claim to be about empowering women simultaneously.

She is her own person, of course and she isn’t responsible for the man her father is. I can’t imagine what it’s been like to be raised by someone so devoid of decency, so filled with contempt for women. It’s had to be a certain kind of gaslighter’s hell that’s left scars. However, soon she’s going to have to break ranks with him in fundamental, clear, and very vocal ways on policy or method, or we’re going to have to admit that while less abrasive and less obviously corrupt—that the rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the family tree.

Ivanka seems to be an intelligent, poised, hardworking human being. But this country is filled with such people, who will never experience the world with as little turbulence or resistance as she has had.

She may adore her children, and she should, but millions of Americans victimized by the Presidency she is an integral part of, adore their children too and have far less to dance about these days due to this new profitable arm of their family business.

We surely need more strong, wise women of integrity in the highest levels of leadership of this country. (I and 65 million other people voted for one such leader a few months ago.) What we don’t need, regardless of gender, is someone who wants to play the American hero while throwing so many of us under the bus in the process.

Ivanka Trump may be exactly who she wants us to believe she is. Maybe she has a fully functioning soul and honestly cares for those hardest hit by her father’s handiwork, and is committed to leveraging her privilege for the good of all people. She may be a lone, welcome bit of integrity and decency in this Administration—or she may just be daddy’s little monster, who simply isn’t as brazen and loud as he is about it all. Maybe that’s her terrifying brilliance.

Time is going to tell the story.

 

 

 

White Privilege, White Fragility, White House

Let’s be honest here: our President is not a well man.

To most objective observers this isn’t really up for debate anymore. His frenetic impulsiveness, his propensity toward violent outbursts, his elementary school vocabulary, his nonsensical Twitter rants, his allergic reaction to the truth, his public bullying of judges and FBI staff. If Donald Trump were operating in any other arena—business, education, local government, he’d be called unfit for his position and either fired, arrested, or declared mentally unsound.

But despite mounting evidence of collusion with Russia, and despite a steady stream of irrational Executive Orders, unceremonious firings, and staggering abuses of power—here he sits.

But that’s not the problem we have here in America.

The problem we have, is that it’s becoming more and more clear that none of this matters to a large percentage of white people, who are determined to make this President their noble Moses; the one who will lead them out of the imagined captivity they’d been in for the past 8 years, and on to the Promised Land of their past greatness.

“You’ll suffer now, just like we suffered under Obama!” they say to people of color, or quietly believe now. Whether the former was true or not, is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that they believe it—and this is why they are silent now: they are finally feeling spoken for.

This is the seductive snake oil Donald Trump sold them as he barnstormed the nation last year, appealing to every bit of frustration and fear and perceived oppression felt by white folks who always had a problem with a black President, who believed themselves persecuted for their faith, and who’d been convinced that they were actually the marginalized ones in the nation made to order for them.

It’s why this President is the Great White Hope they’ve been waiting for, because he has a similar gift: to have the deck stacked fully in his favor, to have been the recipient of every advantage the system offers, to be the beneficiary of every shortcut imaginable—and to still see himself as the victim, to still feel attacked. It is this paradoxical notion of the entitled underdog, that Trump has exploited, with a great deal of help from a White Church who’ve owned religion in America for decades—and yet still imagine themselves as persecuted while holding the bully pulpit. They’ve been cruel Goliath to the world, but see little David in the mirror.

And this is the greatest irony of this moment; that to so many white people in America, Donald Trump somehow represents a change from the status quo, a victory for the downtrodden, an advocate for the little guy, (though he is in reality, none of those things.) He is not at all for them, but they seem defiant in not admitting this, intentionally ignoring what their eyes see. Despite the fact that his policies regarding healthcare, education, taxes, and the environment will leave them more vulnerable than ever—they are applauding him for saving them.

For the past few months I, like others, have been pleading for disappointed Trump voters to stand with the tens of million of us who comprise a multiethnic, nonpartisan, multigenerational, interfaith resistance to this Administration. They have largely been invisible. And though some of them have withdrawn from the conversation out of embarrassment over their choice in November, or grown fatigued at being called bigots and racists and homophobes—the lion’s share of the President’s Evangelical, white base is perfectly fine with the world burning. To them, the actual details of Trump’s tenure; any election corruption or unconstitutional political maneuvers, any gross incompetence, or any of his actual words or actions—are all rather inconsequential. He is a symbol, and his substance is of little concern.

He makes them feel like they are getting something back that they’ve lost (regardless of the fact that they’ve never lost it), he makes them feel like they count again (even though they’ve always counted.) For them, Donald Trump is a big, white middle finger to the world they’ve grown to believe has oppressed them—which is of course, the height of privilege; to see any movement toward justice as a personal attack. As beneficiaries of every perk and advantage, the past 8 year’s tipping toward balance has felt like a threat, and though these days are a rapid regression of equality and diversity in America, they’re willfully oblivious to it all. It all feels good.

And honestly I’m not sure there is anything anyone can do or say to change their minds. Facts, data, and objective information are no match for their chosen narrative of an endangered minority, fighting to emancipate themselves from the persecution they’ve been trapped in.

White lives matter. This is what Donald Trump means to them. The fact that white live have always mattered the most in this country is a minor detail. That they have been the power holders since the birth of this nation unimportant.

And this is why we so far to go, to reach the Promised Land that Martin Luther King Jr. said he could see off in the distance—one where all men and women, regardless of the color of their skin or their faith tradition, have equal freedom here.

It’s still a long way off.