Bits and pieces of Katie Couric’s Yahoo! interview with Betty White have been floating around on Facebook. I haven’t seen the whole thing, but what I have seen included Katie questioning Betty on her thoughts about Trump’s election and the current state of our nation. Betty’s response was a great reminder for me, of the decision I made the weekend following the election.
While it seemed to me (and pretty much everybody else) that Katie was trying to coax some disparaging soundbites about Trump, Betty, a self-described optimist, really wasn’t giving her what she was looking for. Instead, she said:
“Instead of saying ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ or ‘Oh, he’s terrible,’ just think, ‘Alright. There is nothing I can do about that right now, but I can do the best in my little circle. So if I do that, maybe you’ll do your best, and we’ll get through this.’”
See here’s the thing. I think what is going on in this country sucks. It just does. And it’s not just because the person I voted for and thought was the best choice to lead or country lost the election. It’s not just because I disagree with the President’s stance on pretty much everything. It’s not just because the President seems to want to overlook the importance of our judicial system and a free press. Although, those things rank pretty high.
To me, what is the most disturbing is the way we are turning on each other. The way we are judging one side or the other based on the extremes of both. The way we are all so defensive of our positions that we don’t seem to even want to listen to the other side. All of the name calling, the insults, the distrust, it’s doing nothing to strengthen and unite the country.
It’s also disturbing and sad to see how much fear, racism, xenophobia, and just downright hatred still exist in our country. How can we have come so far, yet feel like we’ve gone nowhere? I know I was naïve not to realize there were still so many problems in this country. Issues that didn’t show themselves in mainstream of America until a man like Trump started his run and gave it a voice.
I was one of millions around the country who went to bed on November 8th feeling heartbroken, defeated, and completely confused. I have to admit, there are many days I still feel that way. The weekend following the election, I sat outside on the back deck – my happy place – trying to figure out what MY next move would be. What was I going to do to feel like I was doing something? What could I do, or say, or write, to make some kind of a difference, no matter how small?
I’ve never really thought of myself as an activist. It really isn’t my strength, and I figure it’s better to allow those who thrive and shine on activism to do their thing. But then what was my “thing”? I felt like just sitting there doing life as usual, not using my voice, was almost like giving my permission and approval for the things I saw wrong. I felt like I couldn’t just let my “privilege” numb me to what was going on, only hoping that things would get better on their own, or because of others. I had to do and say something.
As I listened quietly to my intuition that morning, I decided that my “thing” was to do what I could within myself, within my home, and within my community. To educate myself on the issues that meant the most to me, to educate my kids on those things as well, to be vocal about my support for others when I could, to show as much love and kindness towards others as possible, and to show grace to those who I don’t necessarily agree with. (That last one is a lot harder than I thought it would be.)
That’s why, on January 21st, my daughter and I headed down to Washington Park here in Kansas City with our signs (“Together We Rise” and “I March for Education”, respectively). We stood shoulder to shoulder with a couple thousand women, men and children, all voicing our concerns to the new administration, supporting those who feel marginalized and voiceless, and showing love and kindness for complete strangers.
That’s why the very next day, I took my daughter to see the movie “Hidden Figures”. To show her what life used to be like not that long ago (she was shocked to see the separate drinking fountains), and why what we are fighting for today is so important. Also, to show her that as a woman, she can be strong, powerful, smart, brave, and challenge the assumptions that are made about her, fighting for what she believes in. I also thought it was important to show her that, whether its showing up for rallies and marches with thousands of others, or more quietly and subtly in smaller groups, we can help change the world!
That’s why I have decided that, while it might upset or annoy some of my friends on Facebook, or outside of Facebook, I will speak about the things and beliefs that I am passionate about if I feel I need to. I know so many people are sick of politics and negativity, and I get it. I don’t have any plans to turn my social media into a political playground, but I will no longer be afraid to share or write about something that I feel is important or that touches me, because I’m afraid someone will unfriend me on FB or in real life.
And that brings me back to Betty White’s comments. There is nothing I can do about “that”. Trump is President for the next four years, whether I like it or not. But I can educate myself and those around me. I can show kindness towards those I come in contact with, and teach and remind my kids daily (and I do) to be kind. Kindness matters, now more than ever. I can speak up in my community for the issues that mean something to me when the situation requires it. I can support those who feel hurt, or lost, or invisible. And maybe most importantly, I can love my people and myself fiercely! Loving me means not feeling guilty or shame for shutting off the negative and turning off the political news when it’s too much and my heart just can’t take it and my anxiety levels begin to rise. Sometimes it’s just better to shut it off for a while and think about other things. Self-preservation is key, because if I haven’t replenished from the inside, I will have nothing to give to the outside.
So, thank you Betty White. For reminding me of the decision I made that morning in November, for your light, and for your eternal optimism. We should all just do our best and maybe, together, we just might get through this!