Archives for posts with tag: Resistance

Never forget what today is.

Never forget what we celebrate. What we remember.

Not the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where the Minutemen defeated trained British soldiers for the first (and certainly not the last) times.

Not the establishment of General George Washington and his implausible, unbreakable, underfunded Army.

Not the blast of a cannon.

Not the pop of a musket.

Not the trill of a fife setting the marching rhythm for those entering the battlefield.

No.

Today, we celebrate and remember a letter. Written by one man. Edited by a committee of five. Signed by 56 community leaders. 1,337 words long. We do not celebrate the actions today, but the words. Words that simply, clearly, and decisively declared that we are United. We are One. We are Free.

It is of great significance that the day we celebrate as the founding of our nation is not one of battles, military victories, or coups. It is not a day that is stained with the blood of our enemies, or immortalized by classical paintings depicting the sure and brave beheading of our tyrannical colonizers.

The sounds of our Independence were not the deafening volleys of bullets firing across a battlefield, or the cries of men fast breaking the bonds of their mortal coil. No. July Fourth, 1776 was remarkable for its silence. The total, frightened silence that filled the halls of the Continental Congress, interrupted only by the unmistakable scratch of pen on paper. After months of arguing, fighting, debating, and disagreeing, only the silence of terrified resolution remained.

“Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress to subscribe what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants?”—Benjamin Rush

The Founders of this country were scared. They were uncertain. They were largely still in disagreement over the minutia of the daily workings of their own government. But they were united in their resolution. They were united in their belief in the good of the fight. And they used the strongest, most powerful weapon they had available to them. Their words.

Never forget, my dear fellow Americans, that frightening, silent day. Never forget that, when faced with a tyranny so intense as to be unbearable, they stood together in a majority. Never forget that they chose to do so without anonymity. That they signed “[their] lives, [their] fortunes, and [their] sacred honor” away to the cause of liberty. Never forget the active rebellion they undertook as signers, as writers. Never forget that a short letter, barely the length of a freshman essay, made the most powerful man on the Earth blink. Never forget the power of the words. The legacy they leave behind. Long after the signers have been buried, and the echoes of shots have faded on the battlefield, the words remain. They can’t fade.

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Independence Day is, truly, a celebration of writing. Of writing as something significant. Something permanent. Something powerful. Don’t forget that, my countrymen. You carry that power within you. That is your uniquely American legacy. Don’t scoff at this power. Don’t think that, because it is not as loud or impressive as the cannon blast, it cannot possibly inspire true change. I encourage us all to celebrate the birth of our beloved country by remembering the words, written and signed on a sultry day, a bold declaration against oppression and wrong. The signers knew they were taunting the most powerful Army, the most powerful man, the most far-reaching Empire of their time. They knew they would be accused of treason. They would be political pariahs. And they did it anyway. Because they also knew that it was right.

Often, bravery isn’t found in the grandest, loudest gestures. Often, bravery—true, American bravery—is found in the quiet acts. The act of using our words to declare what is right. Damn the consequences. And when we find the words that are truly right, we’ll know. Because we’ll stand with them.

We’ll sign our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honors to them.

We’ll proclaim them in the sunshine.

And we’ll make it last.

“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”—Benjamin Franklin

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Yesterday, I took my daughters to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. While there, we visited an exhibit called “Beyond Spaceship Earth,” about the International Space Station. As the girls wandered through the display, looking at vacuum packed food and tooth brushes “that have actually been in actual space!” I turned a corner, and squealed. Sitting in front of me was the Liberty Bell 7, the craft that held Gus Grissom as he became the second man to ever go up into space. The second human being to break gravity, and pilot a black sky.

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The American space program has always fascinated and inspired me. When I was eleven, my mother, aunt, cousin, and I traveled to Washington D.C. My mom had to meet with Congressmen to discuss funding for the Michigan Primary Care Association, and while she was trapped in committee meetings all week, my Aunt Cyndi took my cousin and me around the city. We walked around all of the monuments, stopped in as many Smithsonian museums as we possibly could, ate hot dogs out of street vendor’s carts, rode in taxis for the first time, yet there was just one place my cousin and I wanted to go back to, again and again. The Air and Space Museum. Still, to this day, it is the gold standard for museums as far as I am concerned. Because it doesn’t just capture the awe, the elation, the victory of man’s pursuit of flight. But also the fear. The uncertainty. The terror. The failing.

The Air and Space Museum was also the first place where I heard John F. Kennedy say those immortal words, “We do these things . . . not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” I heard those words again yesterday at the Children’s Museum. I felt that swell of pride again. That hardening of spirit. That grim determinedness. That feeling, not of success, but of attempt. Of trying. For something bigger. Something grander. Something more important than the self.

And I cried.

When Kennedy spoke about America’s plans to enter and accelerate the space race, he used Sir George Mallory’s (failed) expedition to Mount Everest as an example. Mallory (who would die on the mountain), when asked why he wanted to climb Everest, simply replied, “Because it’s there.”

There is a mountain before us, dear readers.

A mountain of hate.

A mountain of intolerance.

A mountain of fear.

A mountain of desperate myopia and misguided self-preservation.

A mountain of isolationism.

And it’s there.

It is not space. It is not black sky. It is not a snow covered peak. And because it is not all of these things, it can feel overwhelming. Because it is not easily defined by things such as elevation, atmospheric density, gravity, or GPS coordinates, it feels insurmountable. It feels terrifying. Its very indefinability makes it feel impossibly large. Impossibly powerful. Impossibly invisible.

But it’s there. Trust me.

And we can summit it.

It’s hard. It’s been hard, I know. But I’m begging you: Continue to resist. Continue to speak. Continue to fight. Continue to uphold the ideals of humanity, of empathy, of what is right. Because that is what we are. Right. We are right. We who see value in every human, in the flawed, messy, horrible shit show that is modern existence? We are right. We are correct. I know it as surely as I know the Sun will rise. (And the Sun will rise. And so can we.)

Though, of course, knowing that we are right, that history will recognize our collective fight against this current administration as the correct, the true, the just path, that doesn’t make the fight any easier. Like Kennedy said, these things are hard. They are terrifying. They make us afraid, because they should make us afraid. This stuff is scary. And I’ve been afraid. I’ve been afraid every single day for months now.

But the thought of doing nothing has made me more afraid.

We will not break. They think we will, because they think we are already broken.

But we are not.

We are not broken.

Transgender friends, you are not broken.

Women, you are not broken.

LGBTQI friends, you are not broken.

Friends of color, you are not broken.

Friends of different nations, you are not broken.

Friends of all religions, you are not broken.

Ill and disabled friends, you are not broken.

Elderly and infirm friends, you are not broken.

Academic friends, you are not broken.

Suffering friends, you are not broken.

You are not a problem to be “fixed.”

You are not a burden.

No human is a burden.

Say it again.

No. Human. Is. A. Burden.

You are not a cross that some mythic “rest of us” are forced to bear. You are not a deviation from “normal.” You belong.

We are not broken.

And they cannot break us.

It feels like we are outnumbered. It feels like we are out-financed. Out-powered. Out-shouted. Every day. It feels like a terrifying time to be alive. It feels like it would be easier, nicer, cleaner, quieter, to just hunker down, plug my ears to the maddening crowd, and sail through these next few years, hoping for the best. It would be an easy thing to do, given my economic and racial privilege. Easy to just wish it all away.

But I’m not going to do what’s easy.

I’m going to fight.

Because it’s hard.

I’m going to continue to speak here. I’m going to continue to attend meetings and rallies. I’m going to continue to wear symbols of resistance. And I’m going to try to overcome my fears and speak when I see the mountain rise up before me. The frightening, horrifying, invisible mountain that grows without warning, from all corners of my quiet Midwestern life. The mountain hurled my way by a flippant comment from an elderly man at the grocery store. The mountain suddenly dividing me and a friend. The mountain between my family and our physicians. It is terrifying to face the mountain. Even harder to climb it. But being slowly crushed by its weight is surely worse. Hearing the muffled screams of those already suffocating under its mass is surely more impossibly nightmarish than continuing to sleep quietly in my own protected valley. Surely.

I have to overcome my fears. I have to start speaking louder. I have to join those already climbing the mountain. I have to be ready with oxygen for those trying to escape the atmosphere. I have to. We have to.

Not because it’s easy.

But because it is hard.

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