where life's not empty, it's restless.

At the Edge of the World

img_2785            This is where I am: on the sandy, foamy, whitecapped edge of America. Last time I visited this beach, I wrote about the epidemic of earthquake fear then sweeping the Northwest, following the July 2015 publication of ­­­­­­­­Kathryn Schulz’s New Yorker article, “The Really Big One.” Maybe it’s just as well to be out on the wide-open Washington coast when the big one hits, I speculated. It would all be over pretty quick: one big, obliterating tidal wave. Boom.

And here I am again, feeling like the Big One did just hit us. It didn’t wipe us out. Yet. But it shook us to our core; challenged assumptions we’d held for months; changed the way we see ourselves and everyone else. Now we’re all rummaging through our psychic wreckage for salvageable scraps of energy, optimism, drive. We’re sorting useful anger from destructive anger. We’re demanding of ourselves that we learn to understand the people we quite recently referred to as Haters. We’re exhorting each other to eat, sleep, exercise, hug and read about a hundred articles a day.

I have been reading a lot, and I’m sure you have too. Here are a few post-election essays I’ve found really useful: Dame Magazine’s Don’t Tell Me to Calm Down, by Heather Wood Rudúlph ; Rebecca Solnit’s essay in The Guardian, Don’t Call Clinton a Weak Candidate, and, for when you’re ready to stop keening and take constructive action, New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof’s A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-elect Trump.

But I’ve also been thinking often of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the human being. Not the superhuman political candidate, but Hillary. She’s too strong to need our pity. But what about empathy? What about taking a few minutes to think about what it must be like right now to be her? That’s what I’ve been pondering. I’m glad she has Bill and Chelsea; I’m glad she has dogs to walk, woodsy paths to walk on, grandchildren to cuddle up with. I’m glad she has time, although it must feel utterly strange to so suddenly have it. I’m sure time was really the last thing she expected to have right now.

On Wednesday night, Hillary gave us a brief public glimpse of what her life has been like since the Big One hit. Long before the election, she’d been invited to speak at a gala for the Children’s Defense Fund, the organization where she worked as a young law student. She admitted that she had been tempted to stay home. Instead, she showed up for her long-time mentor, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, and gave an emotional speech about the need to protect vulnerable and nonwhite children from hate talk and hate crimes; about how all of us must “believe in our country, fight for our values and never give up.”  17clinton-master675

My hope for Hillary is that someday soon, she can have a good laugh at this crazy cosmic joke. I don’t mean that she—or we—will ever be able to laugh it off. The stakes are too high; vigilance must be our default mode. But the kind of laugh where you just howl loudly, saying to yourself something along the lines of —this is so insane!—that kind of laugh can be cathartic. It can actually break through the torpor and sadness and make it possible to eat some toast and start your day.

After all, the only way the Republicans could beat her was to run an evil clown instead of someone who could in any way be construed as her peer. For a while, we all thought it really might be some crazy joke. Until it wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a break from fundraising, organizing, marching, volunteering and vigilance and laugh, now and then, at the absurdity of it all.

Go for it, Hillary. You deserve it.

Want to send Hillary a card or letter? Here’s her address: PO Box 5256, New York, NY 10185. 

HBBfinalcoverA final note: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine were the only candidates who ever talked about the importance of funding Alzheimer’s research (which WAS on the agenda for the December legislative session, until Congress signaled its intent to wait on appropriations until March 31). Just another reason I’m grateful to her. 


Single Post Navigation

7 thoughts on “At the Edge of the World

  1. You explained the inexplicable with “the only way the Republicans could beat her was to run an evil clown…”

  2. Ann, this is so hard. I keep trying to understand. I’m so far removed, physically, from it all, but it still affects me. There is so much I want to say, but I’m exhausted from the emotions. I’ve cried so many tears. I look at my girls and am so grateful (selfishly) that they are too young to understand and not living in the US at the moment. But then I think of all those who are old enough and who go to school each morning, and I start to cry all over again.
    When did our definition of progress splinter?
    I read this article recently… I’m in the depressed phase of grief, I think, and so I don’t know how to emotionally catalogue this information at the moment. Anyway, if you’re interested.

    • Oh Natasha, I’m thinking of you and your beautiful girls. Thanks for the link to Matt O’Brien’s essay. Is it the end of history as we know it? 1914 all over again? Chilling. But we can’t just shove these thoughts away. Meanwhile, hug your kids, be their mom–they’re so lucky to have you.

  3. I too have thought a lot about Hillary the human being. I am in grief that she will not be leading our nation. So much of the tripe lobbied against her was false reporting and/or double standards because of her gender. I’m stuck between “there is nothing I can do, so I might as well stop wasting my time and quit paying attention” to “I’d better pay attention, so I won’t have to say I did nothing to stand up for those who are more marginalized than I.” Thanks, Ann. I’ll be standing in the rain at Green Lake today to link hands to show my solidarity.

  4. After a few days of feeling stronger, today I fell into grief. Again. Yesterday Mike and I were in Yakima. Went to the Yakama Native AmericaThen n Museum and read about all the misdeeds done against the Yakama people. on to the Yakima Museum, where there is a wonderful/sad exhibit about the Japanese-American people in the Yakima who were sent to internment camps and never returned to the area after the war. Chilling. Chilling in its banality. “I keep thinking that it can’t get that bad again. We are better, smarter people now. That Trump was elected by such a small percentage of the American people. That history won’t repeat itself. But maybe it can. Maybe it will. A combination of Reagan and McCarthy. And, in my darkest moments, Hitler.

  5. Abby: “Chilling in its banality:” yes. And I feel like we’ve been seeing a lot of that this week. Gaaahh! My hope is that we will all be hyper-vigilant. And remember, Trump was NOT elected by any percentage–Hillary won the popular vote by, so far, well over a million. He just got lucky and eked it out in several key states.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: