We have it in our power to begin the world over again. -Common Sense, Thomas Paine, 1776.
Something broke last week and a deep grief set in. I was surprised by the heaviness of my mourning. Hillary Clinton’s climactic denouement and Donald Trump’s decisive rise to power has left me spinning in an emotional tidal wave. I wake up in the morning and my limbs feel heavy. My heart hurts. My brain races and runs. My instinct is to throw the covers over my head and hide away, to play soothing music and close the blinds and sit in darkness.
I’m not surprised, I’m not shocked. But I am sad. Tears bubble up again as I relive watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. To be a young woman watching her stand with poise and grace under the most unimaginable emotional duress, I was inspired by her bravery. I sat there broken by the realization that very idea of a woman running the country could be so divisive and elusive. I watched her standing tall and I was deeply moved by her as she spoke about dedicating her life to public work and challenging all those young women watching to do the same with their lives. To fight for what is right.
Yet—it is hard to bounce back from watching a woman come so close, yet still be unable to attain the highest-office, the symbolic house that equates the highest power in our world. It is with this heavy heart that I went to Beit Jala this weekend for a continuing seminar with the women activists of Combatants for Peace. I was emotionally burnt out and exhausted, yet I knew I had committed to the process and so I went.
Sixteen of us arrived: Palestinian and Israeli women ages ranging across multiple generations. Speaking no common language, we picked up our headphones and tuned into translations of Arabic and Hebrew and English. We were shy at first, reserved. We have already met once as a whole group, and other times amongst our “national-groups.”
Those meetings have been, interesting but uneventful.
This weekend was different. We worked together to make a timeline of the history of the conflict, we shared our personal timelines, and we discussed what makes a moment important. We discussed how being a woman colors our experiences, we discussed how being women could be a strategy in resistance; we discussed what leadership in the movement looks like and could look like. We opened up, we laughed, we shared cookies.
But most important, we marched. Every month, Combatants for Peace organizes a march alongside Rte. 60 (I have written about it before here). The march fell exactly during our weekend workshop, so we went. The point of this group is to plan actions amongst the women in the Combatants for Peace organization and to highlight the role that gender plays in conflict. As a group, we said, “Let’s do something special at the march…” but we didn’t know what to do.
We arrived at the meeting point. The march began as it normally does, the crowd mills around. Signs are handed out and passed around. Friends say hello and hug. The soldiers pace back and forth.
But as we actually began marching, suddenly it clicked. We found each other, linked arms, and pushed our way to the front. We led the crowd. Women standing together against the Occupation. We held the sign of Combatants for Peace: “There is another way.” We held the front. We chanted cheers, and as the routine phrases were shouted through the microphone we feminized them in Hebrew and Arabic. We picked up the megaphone and led cheers, lending women’s voices to the hullabaloo.
I shouted with all of my heart. I screamed with all of the emotions that this week has left me: desperation, fear, hurt, anxiety, anger, confusion, and determination. I was lifted up this weekend by the voices of the women. I was healed by our conversations, our kindness, our dedication, our indignation at injustice, our work. Women have a role to play and we will not be silenced.
The fight for justice is one that rages every single day all over this planet, from Israel and Palestine to the United States. The great experiment that is the United States is not yet finished—we are living and breathing and actualizing it every single day.
We are the people we have been waiting for. We are the voices of our time. And the time is now.
So what do we do on a day like today? A day that feels dark and foreboding and full of tyrannical elimination of freedoms that the generations before fought for? A day that feels as though the very pillars of our illusions of democracy are crumbling? A day that feels out of control?
We return to our core values. We find strength in our local communities. We re-read those documents that inspire, bring strangers together, and bind us to a shared destiny. We re-read the Bill of Rights. We re-read the Constitution. We stand by it and awaken to protect it. We support those who do (like the ACLU).
Something broke, so now we build.
Let’s get to work.