Stories can change the course of history

President* Trump,

As I was not falling asleep last night, I realized that part of why I felt so dang tired at the end of the day yesterday was because I didn’t have work to distract me or to help me feel like I was doing something instrumental that was tilting things in a positive direction. I realized in a non-intellectual, in-my-face sort of way that it’s really, really hard to sit with all the horrid shit you all are doing without some serious buffers, and since I don’t watch TV except for the occasional Queer Eye episode and don’t drink much, work and art have been my go-to buffers. So right now when work is pretty much on hold and art consists of embroidering hundreds of little letters, which means I’ve got tons of in-my-head-time, I’ve needed to reckon with reality in a more full-on way than usual. It’s quite unpleasant.

I noted yesterday the painfully obvious fact that railing at you doesn’t change jack so I’m going to try and refrain from doing much more of that. In line with this, my offering for today is a bit of a crazy quilt of ideas gleaned from wise women. The first scrap is from poet Krysten Hill and her description of her piece Nothing, which was the featured poem-a-day poem (https://poets.org/poem/nothing?mc_cid=c3e275c074&mc_eid=03fcdf422b). This is part of what she had to say:

“This poem addresses that there are whole histories and complicated truths in the things that I swallow daily for the comfort of others. Silence is its own kind of hell. Inaction can be its own harmful protection. As a black woman, there are ways I’ve been taught, directly or indirectly, to mask my feelings into a response like ‘It’s nothing’ when, in fact, everything is wrong. Something is very much on fire. When truths come to surface, they are their own kind of ugly-beautiful. They are not ‘nothing.’ There is something very much living inside of them. They are necessary.”

The second piece came from Rachel Louise Snyder’s WP article about Lacy Crawford’s new book Notes on a Silencing (https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/lacy-crawfords-notes-on-a-silencing-is-a-haunting-exploration-of-the-systematic-ways-assault-victims-are-ignored/2020/07/05/7a44b462-bc63-11ea-8cf5-9c1b8d7f84c6_story.html). At the end of the article, Snyder quotes from Crawford’s book and shares the following:

“….she writes, stories and power “are not the same things. One is rock, the other is water.” And water, Crawford says, wins every time. “What I want to know, even now, is: how?””

The third piece comes from an interview with Zerlina Maxwell about her new book The End of White Politics that HP reporter Emma Gray conducted (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/end-of-white-politics-zerlina-maxwell-interview_n_5f034a5cc5b6acab2853ea2d). The whole interview is fabulous, but the tiny bit that I want to stitch in with the other two pieces of literary fabric is this:

Gray: “So do you think we’re beginning to see some white people really become partners in the dismantling of white politics?”

Maxwell: “Yes. I think people who really understand intersectional feminism understand that if you center the most marginalized, then everyone benefits.”

It was Maxwell’s reference to intersectional feminism and how it signals the need to hear lots of people’s stories, the need to center the “ugly-beautiful” truths of those on the margins, that gave me the idea that with enough rocks in the water we can divert the water’s course. Seriously, if the rocks (stories) are even loosely organized and supporting each other, it’s not inevitable that the water (power) will wear them down and dictate the course of history. Yes, the water will visit some wear on individual rocks, but there are so many stories being told now (and heard and seen) that the old power structures can’t hold, the water can’t keep doing it’s thing unchecked. The damn is going to break and power is going to be redistributed based on new/old stories no matter how many sick-ass racist rallies you all hold.

People can brace themselves and fight it or they can let go and see where the currents take them, but either way, we will all be moved from where we are now.

May we be safe to tell our stories.
May we be willing to tell our stories even if we aren’t safe to tell them.
May we know we are stronger together.
May we accept and trust that stories can change the course of history.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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