And whether she’s in the cash line at the supermarket, at the library,
Long before I worked up the courage to step through the doors of First UU Toronto, I started reading the sermons. The one linked above is several years old now; it's one of the first I found, and it sticks with me. It clings particularly hard, popping up in my head in moments of silence, during weeks like this.
I intended to write something lighter this week. I had notes on TV shows piling up that I was hoping to pull into something coherent before Sunday afternoon, but it just didn't happen. While the moments here and there of puppies and laughing babies have been welcome distractions, it hasn't been long enough to be able to sit down with distracting thoughts. They keep wandering back to what now? and how do we live here? and what is the right balance between hope and fear? Between giving people room to grow and not giving hatred a pass? to which the answer, I expect, is that growth should, in most circumstances, be demonstrated. In these calls for caring and kindness I do not mean we ought to let things slide. I mean we should let things be fixed by those willing to fix them and do what we can to join in the fixing.
The others aren't as easy to answer. We don't have the information, yet, to really answer them, but they're churning in a lot of minds and a lot of minds have come up with lists upon lists of things to be afraid of. Many of the things in those lists are more than possible, but for now, at least, they have not happened yet. Some of them, no doubt, will not happen. But others likely will, and we don't know which ones, and so we're afraid. Fear is a reasonable first response when you and people you care about are under threat. Anger is a reasonable first response. These should not be the last responses.
In an uncharacteristic plot twist, I've found myself driven outside rather than in this week. I'm not entirely sure why, if I'm honest, but I've found that these fears in particular are best managed by going out and watching people go about their lives. I walked uptown (where it was quiet) and downtown (where it was not). I rode the train and the bus and the streetcar. I greeted strangers on the street and tried to find ways to silently say not I'm watching you but I see you. I cried in church and accepted comfort. I feel almost addicted to these moments, to being around others, to giving myself opportunities to remember that these and these and those are my people.
I'm in Toronto, so most of those people didn't vote for Trump. But because I'm in Toronto and we have a bunch of Americans here, I also know some of them did. I know there are Trump supporters in my city. I know there are people who believe the things he believes. We have Jian Ghomeshi, we have Kellie Leitch, and we have the people who killed Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby and Michael Eligon and Reyal Jardine-Douglas and O’Brien Christopher-Reid.
But we live here, together. I wrote a few weeks ago about taking responsibility for my people, and I'm going to continue to do that. These, and these, but also those. I am responsible for the ones who need protection. I am responsible for the ones who need care. I am responsible for the ones who need to be heard. I am also, perhaps most importantly, responsible for the ones who are wrong. I am more or less safe to do the work, and so the work is mine.
I'll be honest: I'm not sure where to begin. Like most people, I'm well-versed at debating the minutiae of nuance with people who already agree with my basic premise, but less equipped to debate the premise itself with people for whom that premise is a theoretical exercise rather than a life-or-death plea. These, and these, and those.
So I've started by going out, by being a listener and a watch-keeper. I know how to keep watch. I know how to bear witness. For now, I'm leaning into that. I am safe, and so I need to be brave for the people who are not. You, and you, and you are mine. I have a duty.
“All witches are selfish, the Queen had said. But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine. I have a duty!”
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