Change, hope, and santolina

President* Trump,

So many of us are yearning for change, deep systemic change that both meets us where we really are and that will pull us forward into possibilities for thriving that we haven’t yet been able to imagine. I know I can’t actually speak for others, but it seems clear that many of us want to move towards a ‘both/and’ that reclaims the best of who we were (or thought we were) and that shakes things up, makes space for all of us. We want to reinstate decency, empathy, integrity, and intelligent, fact-based decision-making. We also don’t want to settle for the old “comfortable for lots of us and oppressive for everyone else” ways of doing things, recognizing that they’re neither fair nor sustainable. I think it’s basically the Biden/Harris idea of “Build Back Better” – at least I’d like to think of their snappy, hopeful campaign mantra in this way.

I do think the convention made a good case for this idea, that Biden’s campaign and the DNC mostly ticked the correct inclusivity/issue/integrity/intelligence/empathy/inspiration boxes (though I didn’t need to hear from Kasich) this week. I hadn’t expected to feel so hopeful at the end of the whole thing. It feels kind of scary to feel hopeful, though; it ups the risk and vulnerability quotient considerably. Much safer and easier to keep the slow burn of cynicism and skepticism stoked – hard to be disappointed or to feel foolish when things don’t turn out the way you wanted if you maintain the stance that hope is for naïve fools.

In our current situation, if the unthinkable were to happen and you are re-elected, it actually wouldn’t just be feelings of disappointment or foolishness that would ensue. Feelings of devastation, rage, horror, and fear (terror, really) are more like it. But really, if this nightmare scenario were to come to pass, these feelings would hit me like a freight train no matter how much or how little hope I allowed myself in the days leading up to it.

And, just to be clear, the stakes are so high now that it’s obvious that hope by itself isn’t going to cut it. Those of us who oppose you have to vote in absolutely unprecedented numbers to leave nothing to chance or to nefarious bullshit election interference. And those of us who can muster some extra energy need to step up and help with voter registration and active encouragements and supports for voting – we can’t sit back like many (most?) of us have in the past and take for granted that everyone who’s going to get it already knows how important voting is. It’s not much and I need to (and will) do more, but I had little stickers made from the image of my LOVE/VOTE picture and have been putting them on bus stops, mailboxes, and parking sign poles around the neighborhood.

When I started today’s letter I was thinking about the changes that Melania made to the Rose Garden. I was challenging myself to not be so negative about her uprooting the lovely crab apple trees and the colorful bulbs and the santolina (a favorite of mine – have you ever rubbed it and then smelled your fingers?) in favor of a staid, monochromatic design. I was thinking about how so often change is hard for somebody as I tried to give the new garden the benefit of the doubt. I honestly didn’t get very far since I think she didn’t build back better and actually wrecked something that was really beautiful and that was an enduring legacy of the Kennedys’. Plus, don’t you all have better things to attend to these days? (The World-o-meter has us at over 180,000 COVID deaths and we’re rapidly approaching 6 million cases – kind of, sort of seems like addressing the virus should be an all hands on deck, including Melania’s hands, sort of deal for your administration…. Duh. I shouldn’t even bother pointing such things out).

May we all be safe as we weather change and reactions to change.
May we be willing to focus our energies on efforts to support the common good.
May we have the strength and grace to acknowledge that my desired change may be your nightmare.
May we accept change (after all, it’s inevitable).

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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