Been hard to concentrate round here, what with ‘political whiplash’ as one friend put it. But drawings get done in between staying informed and active. Our friends in Hamstertown are ready to welcome new friends from away who have traveled far and long and have worked so hard to make the journey to a new life.
Meanwhile, this tweet gave me a chuckle, and is quite how I feel about working just now. But I work anyway.
Yesterday here in this fair Queen City of Cincinnati, Ohio, we marched. I must remind my more conservative readers (if you are even still with me here) that this river town is not an ‘elite coastal city’ which some claim are the only places in which marching and peaceful protesting are happening. We are an average blue city amidst the VERY red state of Ohio. And like many citiesaround the world we marched en masse in the thousands. It was remarkable and emboldening.
And here is why we marched.
We marched because this election was so much more than Democracy gone awry for our ‘side’. Shear human decency was pulled through the proverbial ringer this past election season and we did not come out of it the better for our efforts. Many were shocked. But some of us saw it coming down the pike. And now here we are.
We are, it would seem, in a very strange ‘interactive virtual reality project’. And so we marched. On the shoulders of giants.
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
– Maya Angelou
Protesters crafted clever signage to carry along the route.
This day was billed as a day for ‘Women’s Marches’ all around the world. But, as the protesters did chant, “Women’s rights are human rights.” The day was more than just for or about women. We were protesting everything the Trump administration stands for. Black Lives Matter activists were present and marching in solidarity, as were those standing up for the rights of Muslims here in our community, and the rights of those with disabilities. Those who are worried for the future of public education under the person nominated for Education Secretary were there as well with their concerns and signs. Entire families were present. My own included three generations. There were tiny babies and the elderly in wheel chairs or with canes. We all helped each other along the cobblestones of Over The Rhine. It was beautiful.
“The thing about “snowflakes” is this: They are beautiful and unique, but in large numbers become an unstoppable avalanche that will bury you.”
We marched this day to build one another up for what will be four years of chipping away at the rights of many, in favor of lining the pockets of those already too rich for normal people to even conceive.
Just last night I attended a musical birthday celebration and in the wings we whispered about the success of the marches around the world, while simultaneously lamenting the changes already affecting those most vulnerable in our community. One friend, a physician, works with many immigrants and desperately poor folks on the fringe who are frightened to even show identification to their medical caregivers under this new administration. Her office is mostly federally funded. They may not even be present to give care if the promised cuts come along. Another friend, recipient of an FHA loan to purchase her home was emailed that very day of an increase in her mortgage of $150 per month. With a swish of a pen stroke, Trump signed away Obama’s 1/2% tax break, meaning many families will have to scramble just to pay for their homes now. $150 is a ton of money for a working family. But what would Mr. Trump know of such troubles as a billionaire, eh? Sadly, many folks who voted him into office will get a similar email. I wonder if they can make ends meet.
Which leads me to my original question. What comes next? Marches are all well and good and definitely were a shot of desperately needed hope for many of us who lean toward the progressive end of the spectrum. But they are not enough. We have a lot of work to do. I will not say that marches don’t make change. I believe they do. And so does Rebecca Solnit. I recently read her book Hope in the Dark and in it she makes a case for the fact that even the smallest acts of protest can go on to have lives of their own and spark other action elsewhere which we may never witness. Yesterday’s protests may possibly not yield the large benefits we all envision until generations from now, but we mustn’t sit back and wait and see. There are things we can do here and now – ways we can ride this wave of rebellion.
Local government is where seeds of change begin to unfurl and grow and so we can begin there. We must also stay on our national and state level representatives to remind them we are watching their every political move. Post cards, phone calls. Conversations with our neighbors. We must continue to rise up as one voice in defense of the defenseless.
When you’re living on your knees, you rise up
Tell your brother that he’s got to rise up
Tell your sister that she’s got to rise up.”
~Lin Manuel Miranda
And through all of this, we artists must continue to find balance amidst this chaos in order to tend to our own quiet work, equally as powerful in making change as all the political actions. In recent days, two of my past Taos Workshop participants told me that taking my sketch journaling class had literally changed their lives. I don’t share this here to brag or even to market the class, but rather to marvel. To remind myself how important the work is. To remind myself, and you dear readers, how crucial our individual voices are in this tumultuous time. Even if they feel small or quiet.
“I also wanted to write to let you know, ( months after the fact) how your workshop in Taos last summer transformed my life. At the risk of sounding corny, it lifted me out of the cocoon that I had been hiding in for so long. After coming back from Taos, my sense of adventure and joy was restored. I’ve got to tell you how major this is especially for a girl who struggles with depression and anxiety. You are making a difference. You certainly made a difference in mine. Your workshop is so reinvigorating and life giving to the soul. Friends and family have even taken notice of how I’ve taken flight after the workshop. It fed the starving creative in me which is who I am in my deep core. Fast forward four months, I finally quit the job I hated and decided to go back to school full time to pursue my dream of becoming a web designer and user experience guru. Butterfly effect much?”
~2016 Taos class participant. <3 quote used here with permission.
So go forth and doodle. go forth and write your poems of love and rage. go forth and run for local office. go forth and get to know that Trump loving neighbor or family member, and if they are open to it, (and you can stomach it) engage them in conversation. go forth and build this great nation (who is still, “young scrappy and hungry” compared to most of the rest of the world) with liberty and justice for all.
Last night, like many of my fellow Americans, I watched and listened as our president bid us a formal goodbye. His speech, like his presidency, was full of hope and notions of the hard work ahead. Amidst a circus of strange tweets and trendings happening elsewhere online with regard to the next guy in line for his job, Barack Obama was graciously reminding us to roll up our sleeves and get involved.
I awoke this morning to read an excerpt of a poem, posted by a lovely instagram feed which shares a poem and an image each day and I feel it captures the end of this amazing man’s presidential legacy perfectly.
A Psalm of Life (excerpt)
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and wait.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
We must beware in the coming weeks, months and years, not to fall prey to the circus that is this incoming administration and Republican led Congress. All of the hoopla the president-elect stirs up with his childlike online ranting, is merely part of the smoke and mirrors behind which changes are already being called for, chipping away at the very foundations of the social safety net upon which our most vulnerable citizens rely. We must be vigilant about keeping our eyes open. About getting involved not just nationally, but locally as well.
Thank you, President Obama, for your class, your nerve, your kindness and open-mindedness. Thank you for your service to this country.
ps. I’ve been listening to a lot of Hamilton lately, steeping myself in the early days of our country’s story as a palate cleanser of sorts to what’s happening now. Below is President Washington stepping down after two terms as president, creating a pattern of a peaceful transfer of power to the next president.
Today I have taken yet another day to do things slowly, to allow a plethora of new medicinals to take hold of this winter’s cold symptoms. I stumbled upon a Keith Haring quote on the instagram page of Sketchbook Crafts which I know to be true and which I jotted into my own book, even as I chased the colors around my own sketchbook, doodling my magical canine beings.
Of late, I have pondered the notion of activism. What can we do in the times ahead which are shaping up to be very different indeed. There are those who will march together on the day following the Inauguration of the vile new leader of the free world. (Alas, I am signed up to take an art class, but my heart is with the marchers here in my town, and in DC.)
And there are those who use their fame and cultural influence for good (unlike some.)
The mere act of making some art feels like activism to me. As does teaching it to people who may think art is not theirs for the doing. Open up one’s heart to their own making and there is no telling the sea changes which can occur. In the coming weeks I am taking some remedial Spanish classes to re-learn a language I once spoke as a child. This too feels like activism. The class is in preparation for another trek down to Guatemala to do some sketching and exploring for future workshops there (stay tuned!!). But I also would like to do more volunteer work in my community with folks who might not know English yet. Small things, yes. But perhaps they can stem the tide of where the election seems to be taking us.
So today, I do what I can do. Everyday the light returns, as does my vim and vigor, and with that, some hope for better days.