October 22, 2019

After the Election, A Day of Hope

It’s been a week since our national election, and I feel up to making sentences and putting them in writing again. For what it’s worth, I’ll be following up with posts discussing various aspects of the election and its aftermath—today, the personal will be political.

A non-majority of my compatriots elected, to be president, a man who bragged about assaulting women, who called for the registration of all adherents of a minority religion, who questioned the qualifications of an American judge due to that man’s ethnicity, who promised to lower taxes for the rich and cut assistance to the poor. There will be no waking up from this. I felt in my body the same detachment I felt when my car was slammed, on the freeway, by an out-of-control van. Reflexively, I did what I could with the steering wheel and brake, but mostly I hunkered down, bemused and silent, as my car hit the center wall.

From Tuesday, November 8 until Friday the 11th, I wandered in disconnected states of varying natures: a fog of nausea that persisted long after my unsuccessful experiment with post-election alcohol, successive trances of rage and grief, relieved by a numbing daze.

Friday was the first day during which I achieved real clarity.

That morning, I met with my interfaith group, a collection of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian women who meet to study text together and make art. This month, we’re embroidering, making samplers based on texts. As women have done for years: “Bless this house,” “ יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ”  , “بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ”   I was skeptical about that project at first. Embroidery is a picky, exacting, repetitive art that requires some advance planning before a piece is even begun—not a medium that chimes with my personality. One thinks of ladies in drawing rooms or young women in sweatshops bent over ill-lit tables.

But as we sat and sewed and spoke, laughed and cried, voicing our vulnerability and caring and our commitment to mutual protection, a kind of energy bubbled up—not overly precious, not delicate, but sharp like our flashing needles, vibrant, bright and various as our unique creations made from color and words, beads and thread. I’m not the sort to romanticize this kind of thing, but there we were: a circle of sewing women, making bubbemeises magic, stitching a web of friendship and commitment that will hold us in times to come.

Then, we acted. Several of us went to the Islamic Center of Southern California, where other Jews and Christians had already arrived, forming an honor guard on the steps to shield worshipers, holding signs declaring that, in Los Angeles, we will defend freedom of worship and the glory of our world city.

After the Friday afternoon Jumah service, our Mayor, Eric Garcetti (a Jewish Latino) addressed the congregation, saying, “We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters…there’s not ‘you and us’ there is e pluribus unum: out of many, one…people of every color, who speak different languages, who come from every continent…this is the face of Los Angeles.” As a former Navy man, the Mayor said, on that Veteran’s Day, “What we put the uniform on to defend is right here.”
This is Los Angeles. This is our home, where the majority voted to secure housing for the homeless and jobs for the unemployed and rapid transit for everyone. Where we voted against bigotry and hate. Where, as the Mayor said, over 200 languages are spoken and people of every shade and size, from every continent, worship—or choose not to worship—as their conscience demands.

As it does every week, Shabbat arrived. The blazing hot November day (yes, climate change is still real) gave way to the sweet relief of evening and our cathedral in time. There is a great deal to protest and much for which to be grateful.