Professor of Music
As I worried about shifting polls in the presidential race a few weeks ago, I came across an article about a self-sufficient island off the northwest coast of Scotland for sale for $2.3 million.
In a playful mood, I posted the piece on Facebook asking, “If you-know-who wins the election, who will sell all they have and go in with us on this? I’ll teach piano and will be self-proclaimed governor. Just kidding – we will have a proper election, entirely unrigged, before I become governor. What would be your role?”
Over 100 responses came in, and before long we had a progressive, sustainable and thriving utopia planned. We had accountants, musicians, chaplains, teachers, foodies and alternative energy experts. We had farmers, playwrights, carpenters, health care providers, beekeepers and librarians (for some reason we had a lot of librarians). We had quirky roles covered such as island hermit, resident cat brusher, and feng shui consultant. It was a fun exercise that made me laugh a lot and feel sustained by my friends in the midst of anxiety.
This last week a few friends have written to me and said, “So about that island….”
It’s tempting to think about running away. But to my surprise the island option no longer interests me. Early in the morning after the election, after a completely sleepless night, I wrote another Facebook post. It started out, “I feel my energies and priorities shifting…I feel a list coming on.”
The list included allowing space for myself and others to grieve, noting that I have experienced plenty of election outcome sadness before, but this feels quite extraordinary. I wrote that I want to figure out how to support those who are feeling levels of vulnerability and fear I cannot know, that I would fight the normalizing of sexual assault, racism, bullying and xenophobia.
I committed to protesting policies and laws that threaten social and financial stability, that endanger lives and defy basic fairness. I said I would read writings of beauty, reality, anger, determination and redemption and listen to and make music, see art and theater that does the same. My list ended with a promise to pray that we learn from this without too much pain.
I’ve since identified two items that are missing from my post-election cathartic list-making. First, I must talk more regularly with people whose politics and/or life situations are different from my own. Second, I need to watch my assumptions and avoid rushing to judgment. I know good people voted for Trump. I hope they will seek to understand, and not dismiss, why so many are so very concerned. I hope I can have the grace to try to understand, and not dismiss, their motivations as well.
I do feel something shifting with me. I do not know what this is yet, but I know I’m not going to buy an island and build a perfect society with only people who share my politics. I will stay in my country and be part of whatever holy peaceful movement comes next.