It's not the first time I've shared this poem with you, though I can't for the moment recall what I wrote about it last time. I've been immersing myself in Ada Limón's poetry this week, having been reminded of it by Rachel McElroy's reading of The Raincoat in the Wonderful podcast. But I stumbled onto this one again, and where last time I read it the last lines were what jumped at me, this time around it's best when it's humbled, brought to its knees, clung to by someone who has lost everything, when it's not a weapon is what hit me in my middle.
We have been grieving so much this year. Brought to our knees, collectively and in so many small individual ways. So much has been lost already, and we're not through it, maybe not even halfway there, although admittedly certainty about any kind of timeline is one of the first things we lost.
I'm worried, very worried, about this election season. I learned things about people in 2016 that I can never unlearn, and I have been bruised by that knowledge. I don't like many parts of what I'm learning this year, either. I don't like learning that people hold so much disgust in their hearts toward other people, don't like learning that they'd rather build a wall than wear a mask. The hardest has been discovering that people I'd always considered instrumental in making me the way I am now despise those things they apparently inadvertently helped create.
Those are the personal hurts and fears, and of course there are many much bigger, but as always the reminder lands in my heart that all of this is about people, and the personal stuff is where it matters. Yes, the policies of the current administration are horrifying, and yes, the manipulation of information and opinion by bad actors on social media is deeply alarming on a global scale, but the reason those things matter is the people. Even if you're never pulled into the criminal justice system, the influence of people who believe violent police forces are necessary is part of your reality. None of this is abstract, or imaginary, or something you can opt out of. You can, maybe, ignore it, for now. But it's all happening, and it's all happening to people. None of this happens only in law books and policy documents.
We are best when we wield the ideal of freedom as a beacon, not a weapon. I may be free to refuse to wear a mask, free to lock you out of my neighbourhood, but those aren't the freedoms I want to have. I want to be free to bring you in, to feed you, to give you shelter, to lift you again to your feet. My friends, hope is better than fear. Let your freedom be a light in the darkness.
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