And How Was November for You?
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
- The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot
Well so much for November ….
What a time this has been- an entire month of doubt and second guessing. First, second guessing the possibility at all that there may be a vote – as early as June I have been playing out scenarios in my head where ballot boxes and voting machines would be confiscated; or that Minneapolis and other cites would taken over in Martial Law. Then the second guessing of the voting system: Do I mail in? Do I vote early? Do I risk it and expect the polls to be open and safe? Do I trust in the system at all? On Tuesday November 3, the stomach lining chomping surrounding the counting of ballots, the Red Mirage, the statements at 2 am that the election was finished, holding and praying that the counts would change and rise as a more complete count was completed. After that- what about violence during the count? The excitement of watching Philadelphia lead the country in both preparedness and de-escalation as the count was completed. That moment more than any surprised and heartened me. I was so very glad of a friend's video of the dancing in the streets- not as celebration, but as de-escalation. Genius, and empathetic, active, and agency driven. That was really morning when I felt most alive again. When I thought that there may be some opportunity that the scale of our Hope was greater than the scale of the Noise that is/was out there.
Still, even that has vacillated during the month. Each and every attempt at discrediting the election counts, or the process of balloting and voting, or the very nomination of Electors- each one of these steps has been under attack from a firehouse of lies and misinformation. I think that the pieces which got me through it were the steps leaders like Brian Sims, Josh Shapiro, John Fetterman, and Joe Biden took to send out consistent, calm messages of “relax, and trust that the system actually will hold.” That more than anything allowed me to get through the last month. That the gyre will not spin us beyond the centre of what holds us together.
Trust that the system will hold.
I would have never thought that those would be the most reassuring words I could hear in the darkest days I have known of our nation’s history. I was raised to, and always viewed the “system” as something large and uncaring; something designed to keep an order in place which did not benefit change, growth…or frankly, me. The System was something to fight, to challenge, to question. I still do of course- but to see that it also has enough stop gaps built into it to a at least forestall its complete overthrow – well I never thought I’d be glad of that.
But I am.
And I can see that if it is built to withstand, that it does so because it believes wholly that there is something to protect. Protect private ownership of land and property, of valuing order and security above private safeties, perhaps…but also to protect the ability to question and speak; the ability to challenge and even overthrow. To a whole that keeps us together more than separates us. To protect me.
That is what this come down to for me- the sheer terror of feeling unprotected. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
· Self-Fulfillment – growth, change, self-actualization
· Psychological – Esteem and self-worth; belongingness, friendship, community
· Physical – Safety; food, water, warmth, rest
Safety is near to the bottom of that pyramid; it is a basic need of simply surviving, not building or connecting. Unless I am cautious, unless I defend my own rights and abilities to rise above that level and dream, aim, build, and achieve the higher levels of the Pyramid, well I will continue to be knocked further and further down. As King Lear says:
O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars Are in the poorest thing superfluous. Allow not nature more than nature needs, Man’s life’s as cheap as beast’s . . .
“Man’s life as cheap as beast’s.” That is a frightening thought- to be so removed from my own connection to how my survival is connected to everyone's, to be so terrified that I defend only and do not look outward- divides us from our opportunity to grow and change. By removing any empathetic urge to build us together, and leave us to scrabble for the basics of need, leaving our lives “as cheap as beast’s.”
As we move into this season of light, and into these darkest terrifying days of this pandemic, that is the call and prayer for us all. To move ourselves from the terror of isolation; and from the haunts of scarcity and perceived privation, and recognizing that in building our muscle to care, connect, and nurture others- we foster our own ability to not only survive, but to grow.
To grow a System- something larger than ourselves, and something that may outlast us.