We Will Overcome - A Personal Response to the Election

by Toom Moon, MFT, The Examined Life

As I write on the Friday afternoon following the election, most of us are still reeling from the results.  Since Wednesday morning, I’ve heard one person after another in my office talk about their shock, grief, and despair, their forebodings about the future, their emerging anger.  

A friend in Michigan who has been with her wife for twenty-five years called to report tearfully that the few domestic partnership rights they had, including health care, will now disappear if their new constitutional amendment stands.

Beyond listening and empathizing, I hardly know how to respond, except to say that I have the same feelings.  In the evening I go home and turn on the television, and the world that the networks seem to take as the real one bears no relationship to the world in which I live.  
It was bad enough to put Bush back in office.  It was bad enough to outlaw gay marriage in eleven states.  But when states vote to deny gay couples even such basics as hospital visitation rights – in the name of “values” – how can anyone pretend there is no malice in such an action?  I’m also dismayed that millions of Americans cannot be persuaded to vote in their own economic interests, and I’m saddened to see fear and vengefulness turning America into a country I no longer recognize.  This election is a stark reminder of the depth of the human capacity for irrationality.      

What do we do?   Probably by the time this column is printed, many will have moved beyond their initial shock and despair, and will already be figuring out what to do.  We are resilient people.  For now, some are taking what one man described to me as a “media fast”, temporarily turning off the television, the radio and the computer, and spending time with friends, with music, with what is healing and rejuvenating.  

We have four years ahead of us in which it will be necessary for us to pay close attention, to stay alert, to oppose policies we deplore.  It is now more important than ever that we take good care of ourselves.
For my part, I’m trying to take some time to stand apart from the flux of events for a while to get a historical perspective.  When I take a longer view, I find much for which I can be grateful.

I’m grateful for the great good fortune to have been born in San Francisco, and to have had the privilege to live my life in a city that has been in the forefront of every modern movement for justice and equality.  I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be a “hippie”, an anti-war “radical,” and a gay “liberationist.”  

Above all, I’m grateful to live and work in the gay community, which, while it is hardly without faults, has been my most valuable spiritual teacher, because it has embodied for me the resilience of the human spirit, the indestructibility of hope, and the meaning of compassion.   

One advantage of being an old guy is that I’ve lived through other dark periods in our history and know that this era, too, will pass.  I was twenty years old in 1968, when brutality and hatred seemed to have triumphed, when two of our most progressive leaders were murdered, and the rest were demoralized and disorganized.  

Within a year, in the Stonewall rebellion, those with no right to human dignity were claiming it anyway, and almost overnight it was on – the resolute march out of the closet, by the tens of thousands, of men and women who would never again hide in the shadows.   

I remember, ten years later, walking with my lover in a silent procession down Market Street on the day that Harvey Milk was assassinated, when it seemed, once again, that hatred and insanity had triumphed.  But I also remember the deep solidarity among my brothers and sisters that night, and how, in the years that followed, that solidarity strengthened our community and made us stronger and more powerful than ever.  The seeming victory of reaction is temporary.

The winners in this election stood the term “values” on its head and used it as a weapon to bludgeon us.  But any victory based on bigotry and fear-mongering will, in the long run, prove to be pyrrhic.  

Let us proudly remember that it is we who stand for the enduring values of western civilization:  the values of reason over collective delusion, of modernity over ancient superstition, of freedom over enforced uniformity, and above all, of love over fear.  If the road to a saner society is proving to be longer than we had hoped, if the “values” of greed, hatred and delusion seem triumphant today, let us remember that we have one inestimable advantage.  We have the truth on our side.  

In the long run, we will not merely endure.  We will overcome.

Tom Moon is a psychotherapist in San Francisco. His website is tommoon.net.

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