Never Forget

I met my husband David on this day, 14 years ago. The occasion was a progressive dinner party called (yes this party had a name) ‘Farewell to Jesse Helms.’ Jesse Helms was a senator from North Carolina who had recently retired, and who was known well for his opposition to affirmative action and to reproductive and gay rights, among other things. So one could say David and I met at an event celebrating the end of an era of bigotry. What a happy day that was!

November 9, 2002

November 9, 2002

A few years after David and I were married, when Obama was first elected president, I remember how, caught up in the wondrous surge of hope, I (half-kidding) exclaimed, “I think we can have a baby now!” And we did! Today that baby is in first grade. This morning he and his classmates were discussing what country they were going to flee to in light of this new upcoming presidency. Parents were hugging each other. Some of us cried together. The school principal sent an email to the parents, informing us that additional counseling services are available to the students in the next days and weeks. That in school today, teachers had to create activities that ensured and emphasized for the deeply distraught children that they are safe, and that they will always have access to education regardless of religion, race, or documentation status. In other words, they were in crisis mode, in fallout mode, because the children were so upset by the results of this election. Imagine that.

When we google the words Never Forget, we see they are basically synonymous with memorials in honor of the 9/11 tragedy. So many of us remember it as the most calamitous, most devastating day in our country’s entire history. And like many of you, I believe the results of this presidential election will likewise be remembered as one of the worst moments in our history. The disbelief is raw. As is the grief. We haven’t told our son about 9/11, just haven’t had the heart to. We’d figured, what’s the hurry? This morning, on the anniversary of the day we met, David and I held each other, utterly heartbroken, asking ourselves and each other, “How do we tell him?”

Never Forget can obviously be applied to many other human tragedies as well. Slavery. Segregation. Homophobia. Women literally dying, in shame, as a result of illegal abortions. Genocide. And I think one big reason why this election is so indescribably soul-crushing for me personally is that I feel like this happened because too many Americans fucking forgot, AGAIN, the consequences of electing an unstable, bigoted tyrant to office.

When you think about it, we all forget, all the time. We forget we’d resolved to be better. To eat better, to exercise more, to be more punctual, to read that book, to write that book, to yell less, to be kinder. Kinder to ourselves especially. And I believe this is what our country has done this week. There’s been a collective forgetting, a cataclysmic forgetting, that we’d resolved to be better. (Don’t think I don’t know there are some straight-up fucked up hate-filled bad seeds out there—I’m not talking about them or to them.)

hopeobama

Hope. Never forget the hope.

But Never Forget is also evocative for the patriotism it conjures so unequivocally and invariably. You see, I will never forget the power, the sheer force, of the auspices of hope and equality under which I met my husband 14 years ago tonight, and which partly inspired us to become parents 8 years ago. Now, more than ever before, I will remember to remember exactly what that felt like. And know that one day it will feel like that again. Because the arc of the moral universe does bend toward justice, even when it feels like the world’s turned upside down. After all, it does kind of feel like, after an agonizing decline in our cultural and national consciousness, we have “finally” hit bottom.

yorktown

Today I feel like the staggering “fallen foes” in this musical number from Hamilton, except I am most definitely not retreating.

So what do we tell our boy? Well, it’s a complicated conversation we’ll be having for years to come. For one thing, we are not going anywhere. We will grieve. We will go deeply within and broadly beyond ourselves, and ask some hard questions. We will love each other hard, and continue to revel in life’s joys and pleasures. We will work our asses off in peaceful yet assertive protest. And we will rise up, not in arms, but in love and peace.

David and I met while celebrating the end of era of bigotry. And I know that we shall one day, through our hard work, through invoking love and light, be celebrating the end of this unimaginable dark time in our history. This is a call to action. We will not be silenced. We will not give in to fear. As Michelle Obama said in her speech at the Democratic Convention earlier this year, let’s get to work. P E A C E.

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