Next Monday, August 21, most of us here in the US will be able to see the effects of a solar eclipse - a rare occurrence, at least on such a wide scale. As the moon obscures the sun and the sky darkens for those few minutes during the middle of the day, we’ll be confronted with nature’s awesome and timeless power in an absolutely irrefutable way, for despite all our technologies and advances we can not yet control the movement of the solar system.
It’s impossible to ignore the parallel between the impending solar eclipse and the current social and political events here in the United States. It feels like a shadow is moving across this country, a shadow born of intolerance and anger and unrest and dissatisfaction and fear surrounding the Trump Presidency. The events in Charlottesville, Virginia a few days ago are a real and potent reminder of what happens when hate is unleashed. Earlier that day, I had been working on a blog post about light and darkness in our own lives, how acknowledging the “dark” emotions we wrestle with helps us build bridges of compassion for others as well as ourselves. How our individual heartbreak is closely related to the broken-heartedness of the world. But after what happened at the rally in Charlottesville, after seeing the images of the demonstrators carrying Nazi flags, hearing their ugly chants, watching the entire thing devolve into violence, and finally, most horribly, seeing that car barrel into the crowd, killing a young woman, anything I had written about myself that day seemed incredibly small minded and useless.
There are cycles to politics and social behaviors just as there are cycles in nature. We have been through tumultuous times in this country before, of course we have. I came of age just as the Civil Rights movement began to change the course of race relations in this country. Naively, stupidly, I thought that battle had been won. Obviously there have been enormous forces of hatred still simmering below the surface, mostly kept hidden but now feeling empowered to come out of hiding and spread darkness over the land.
The difference between the past and the present is that I always felt we had leaders to guide us, to steer us in the right direction, to keep us from splintering into a million pieces. Now, I can’t even begin to feel that way. As one of the Republican Senators being interviewed yesterday said: “We are a nation without moral leadership.” It feels dangerous and scary, at least it does to me. Because without someone to provide a consistent reminder of strong guiding principles for us as a people, someone with a good grasp of history and human behavior, someone with a clear sense of right and wrong, someone who can effectively and honestly express themselves with integrity - without that, how can we hope to keep this unruly mess contained?
I feel a very large sense of responsibility these days, but I also feel there is little I can effectively do. I know I can NOT be silent and wait for it all to pass over, because, unlike the solar eclipse, we don’t know whether there is light on the other side of this darkness or not. I am in my 7th decade and I have hostages to fortune out there I love very much, one of whom is biracial and a potential target for the kind of hate being spewed by people like those demonstrating last weekend. So perhaps my fury is fueled by the “Mother Bear” instinct, because what threatens the safety and happiness of my children will not stand.
Here is where I see vestiges of light: In the voices of writers who continually and bravely publish the truth. In the organizations that continue to work for freedom, law, order, and justice. In corporate executives who step away from powerful positions in protest. In the millions of people who did not vote for this last November 8. In the voices of the Resistance, mine included.
These are my leaders now.
And we will not be eclipsed.