We had planned to go on a hike over Memorial Day with some friends. It was optimistic of us: not just because all six of the kids might run in deeply different directions, but because the weather just hadn’t been cooperating that weekend. Nor did it on the intended day of the hike: science museum it was!
As we mounted the rather impressive steps up to the main entrance, I realized we hadn’t been on those steps in quite some , not since we’d stopped there en route to the Women’s March back in January. For a second, I got lost in memories of how much fun we’d had, how powerful we’d felt and how much my kids enjoyed their “hate won’t make us great” signs. They’ll still march around the house chanting that now. I smiled to myself.
Then I stopped smiling because…actually, no they don’t. They haven’t chanted that in a while, I realized. They hadn’t chanted anything in a while. And why would they? We hadn’t been at a protest or rally in a while. A long while. Too long a while.
It was a cringe-worthy, white privilege-laden, painful-but-funnyish trope for a while that protesting was the new brunch. It was, simply, what we did with our weekend mornings. We’d load up the signs, grab some snacks, and head out. On Saturdays, we’d go after shul, the synagogue being a nice halfway point to rally central in Philadelphia. On Sundays, we’d just go. And then it became: okay, we’d go if the weather was nice, if there wasn’t a birthday party, if something wasn’t baking in the oven, if no one was melting down. And then maybe just I’d go.
And then…we stopped going.
I sort of knew it was happening. (C’mon, let’s be real here. I totally knew.) I felt that immediate grip of exhaustion, of constant fear, of the sense of living through something impossible-but-possible, lessening. I was sad about it, and in its own way it scared me (because of course, this is how it happens. This is how fascism takes over. Not at the rally, but while we are making breakfast, going to birthday parties, dealing with meltdowns, dealing with life.) but I was also a bit relieved. Being angry all the time is exhausting.
How nice for me. How nice for my family, that we get to choose not to be exhausted right now. How nice for us that we get to let the grip of constant fear lessen, because it is (still, but who knows for how long) safe for us to walk through the streets and not be scared. No one is shooting at us, or attacking us, or making things difficult for us, or kicking us out, based on how we look. Not right now. So we get to relax a little and live in the moment.
What a luxury. What a privilege.
We are the problem. Because even as my fear lessens, for many people out there, things are getting worse. And even though I’m not sure the rallies and protests did much for anyone except the people who were there (which is something, certainly), not being there at all does no good for anyone.
I admire, deeply, the people who have not relaxed and are still fighting, the people who get that while some of us have the choice to be less afraid, others don’t, and that brings with it obligation and responsibility. And I’m embarrassed that I stopped remembering to act on that.
I’m embarrassed that my kids have stopped chanting—because it means that I have stopped chanting.
Of course, you say, I have to live my life. I have to work. I have obligations. I put them on hold, the way a lot of us did, for a couple of endless, exhausting, invigorating months early this year. I can’t go back to that, not right now.
But at the very least, I can start chanting again. Everything we said then is as true if not more so now. Hate still won’t make us great. My kids love saying that. It’s time to remind them what I stand for, so that they can remind me.