I was recently asked by a colleague how I was doing; a question that, in my circle, took on a new form after the 2016 presidential election. Gone are the days of saying ‘fine’ and ‘great.’ It’s just not that simple anymore because it just ain’t true. Things are neither fine nor great.
Feeling both raw and numb, I took a minute to collect my thoughts. “I don’t know if the sense of stillness I’m feeling within is grace or rage.”
I’ve replayed the conversation dozens of times. In each version, I build on our dialogue. I share that feeling raw equates to being exposed in a way that reveals the intergenerational scars of my ancestors of color. Through those metaphorical marks once bled the life force of my enslaved black African and disbanded brown Native American families. I am the product of both their pain and perseverance.
I also hold the blood of white French and German descendants. The polarity of the power of my genetic makeup holds me firmly in its grips. In a world filled with a sea of specifics, a move in this moment is one in favor of generalities. Nuance and complexity fall on deaf ears in times like these, and sides are taken whether we know it, want to, or otherwise.
I move deeper within me. The spaces where grace once abundantly resided are now mostly consumed by something wholly unexpected. This is fear.
There’s a fire burning within. Grace would present as patience in the face of all. My fear presents as a short fuse. This is Cannon’s flight in living color. Personal triggers include white males in positions of overt power. Period. Followed by white men in positions of political power boasting of their political success. And white men publicly explaining the impending demise of the Unites States of America — and how to ensure one does not miss the signs of fascism because the rest of us must all be too dense to arrive at this intellectual understanding unguided — in the wake of this presidential transition. At best, it’s well-intentioned whitesplaining. At worst, it’s a complete lack of awareness and empathy by the messenger.
There’s an icy coolness in my feet. Grace would spur them on the path. My fear paralyzes. No one action for warding off the deluge of life-devaluing actions by the president-to-be appears great enough to overcome the urgency of now. There is a massive car wreck in my midst, and I cannot stop it nor avert my gaze.
There’s a muting of my tongue. Grace would present as the intent listener. My fear presents as a muddled inner mind that has lost its connection to its outer voice. I find myself not wanting to, trying to, nor able to make articulate meaning of the sociopolitical context evolving in my midst. Stuff is hitting the fan, but like a bad dream, I can’t shout for help.
My fear does not frighten me. My fear awakens me. I am reminded that feeling fear is a part, but not the essence, of my being. My fear will not be ignored, suppressed, or shamed. The memory of this presidential cycle’s existence may be permanent, but its meaning is permeable. There are many perspectives on what has happened and its impact on this nation yet to be uncovered. Fear is a necessary stage through which I must cross on the journey of meaning-making.
I’m moving through fear the only way I know how: I am writing. I write to prove to myself that my fire still burns brightly, that my energy can be utilized for justice, and that my voice will not be stifled. I write in the hopes that speaking of fear makes it possible for more people to acknowledge and address their own fears as a result of this presidential election. I write to give a face to a feeling that left unnamed appears much more menacing than for what it deserves credit. I write to find grace in the face of fear.