On this day, and all the days to come

Some images, sounds, and words to lift darkened spirits and bolster the courage we’ll all need in the days and years ahead. There may be occasional updates. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments.

“We the People” Protest Art
By Shepard Fairey, Jessica Sabogal, and Ernesto Yerena, for the Amplifier Foundation. Download hi-res versions and find out more here.

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Thea Gilmore, “Start As We Mean to Go On”
A song of joyful resistance.

Beyoncé, “Superpower”

Staceyann Chin, “Racism”
The spoken-word artist delivers a blistering call to arms.

Ursula K. Le Guin, always necessary, offers a meditation:

A Meditation

The river that runs in the valley

makes the valley that holds it.

This is the doorway:

the valley of the river.

~

What wears away the hard stone,

the high mountain?

The wind. The dust on the wind.

The rain. The rain on the wind.

What wears the hardness of hate away?

Breath, tears.

~

Courage, compassion, patience

holding to their way:

the path to the doorway.

And from her famed National Book Awards speech:

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries — realists of a larger reality.

We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.

Rebecca Solnit, from “Hope in the Dark”

Anything could happen, and whether we act or not has everything to do with it. Though there is no lottery ticket for the lazy and the detached, for the engaged there is a tremendous gamble for the highest stakes right now. I say this to you not because I haven’t noticed that this country has strayed close to destroying itself and everything it once stood for in pursuit of empire in the world and the eradication of democracy at home, that our civilization is close to destroying the very nature on which we depend — the oceans, the atmosphere, the uncounted species of plant and insect and bird. I say it because I have noticed: wars will break out, the planet will heat up, species will die out, but how many, how hot, and what survives depends on whether we act. The future is dark, with a darkness as much of the womb as of the grave.

Turn your head. Learn to see in the dark. Pay attention to the inventive arenas that exert political power outside that stage or change the contents of the drama onstage. From the places that you have been instructed to ignore or rendered unable to see come the stories that change the world, and it is here that culture has the power to change the world. Often it appears as theater, and you can see the baffled, upset faces of the actors onstage when the streets become a stage or the unofficial appear among them to disrupt the planned program.

Stories move from the shadows to the limelight. And though the stage too often presents the drama of our powerlessness, the shadows offer the secret of our power.

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The case for optimism, cont’d: Even today

Trying really hard to make that case today. Josh Marshall tries too:

There is a lot of fear. I know. I feel it. At such a moment I come back to a thought I’ve told family members at times of stress or grief. Optimism isn’t principally an analysis of present reality. It’s an ethic. It is not based on denial or rosy thinking. It is a moral posture toward the world we find ourselves in. If everything seems great, there’s no need for optimism. The river of good news just carries you along.

We need optimism now more than ever. Perhaps it shouldn’t be called optimism. Perhaps it’s simply the grim strength to get up and do what needs to be done. Day after day after day.

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Incredibly, today is also Carl Sagan Day

Shell-shocked from the election results, and I need something to believe in right now. Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech has been my touchstone all throughout the writing of this blog, and I have to believe his vision is still one that can inspire and sustain us, even if — as on days like this — its fulfillment still feels heartbreakingly out of reach.

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Aftermath

America, what have we done.

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VOTE.

I’ve been quite remiss in updating this blog, and I’m not sure how many folks still follow it. If you do, I’m grateful, and I hope you’re all well.

If you live in the US, I just wanted to add my drop to the bucket of messages I’m sure you’re already getting, urging you to get out and VOTE. I haven’t written anything about this endless and endlessly horrifying political season; it seems that everything has already been said, and I’m as sick as you are of hearing all the arguments. Nevertheless, this IS an important election, not just on matters of dry policy but on the fundamental questions of what we value, what we look for in our leaders, and what kind of country we want to be. To stay home from the polls today isn’t a protest vote; it’s a silenced voice, and we need ALL voices to decide who we are. We need YOUR voice.

So vote. Please. If you don’t know where your polling place is, find out here. If you need help carpooling to your polling station, or if you encounter and want to report voter intimidation, check out the information here.

And if EVEN NOW you’re undecided and need a little convincing, well: My vote is for Hillary Clinton. Which is to say: my vote is for experience, intelligence, competence, feminism, respect, decency, compassion, service, and a hopeful vision of America that embraces everyone who actually LIVES in America. It’s also a vote against the other candidate’s bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, ignorance, empty bluster, compulsive dishonesty, laughable business incompetence, and terrifying disregard for all the principles that uphold our fragile democracy. America is an idea, and it only endures if we agree to live by it.

But whatever your position, VOTE. It matters.

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Just a spark, enough to keep me going

An unexpected death hit me hard a little over a year ago. I had just discovered Paramore and was listening a lot to this song at the time, and it became a sort of anchor in my grief. I find myself turning to it again.

Thanks to Hayley Williams and Paramore for keeping a light glowing, against the dark.

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Luis, cont’d

And now I’ve rediscovered his old music blog, which I’d stopped reading when it seemed he stopped updating it. But it turns out he started posting again in 2014, after we’d lost touch. The entries were more personal this time, and more painful — about the loss of his mother, about his deteriorating health, about being sick and tired of it all. About wanting to die.

So much sadness and pain, and I knew none of it.

What kind of friend have I been? And how much of his personal struggle did he leave unspoken even when we were in touch, exchanging music recommendations and pleasantries? What clues did I miss? How much more should I have worked at digging beneath the bright surface of things?

I shouldn’t feel guilty about this, but I do. Friends drift apart. We weren’t close at the end. Perhaps he hadn’t considered us close for a long time.

But we were close once upon a time, and it’s that Luis — the kid I poured my heart out to in teenage conversations about everything and nothing, the kid whose regard and respect and friendship I held onto like a talisman as I started my new life — it’s that Luis that I feel I’ve betrayed. He did so much for me, perhaps more than he knew. And I failed to repay him, and now I never can.

I want to call out to him and say that I’m sorry, not for anything I’ve done, but for all the things I haven’t. For not being a friend he could count on. For thinking I could afford to lose touch. For being oblivious to his pain. For not doing more.

Too late now, of course. But I’ll keep saying sorry anyway.

It will never be enough.

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