I have no words… so I write

There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. — Toni Morrison

This quote by Toni Morrison, one of my favorite, popped up in my Instagram timeline this morning. When I read it, tears already at the surface, once again overflowed. The only thing I know to do when my emotions are too big is to write.

For most of my young adult life, I’ll admit I was unaware and uninterested in what was happening in the rest of the world. Or even in other states. In other communities.

Then I had a baby.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

We are at war. My daughter has been born into a time of war.

It scares me that my little girl will grow up in a world of conflict, a time of terror. It makes me panic, not for me, but for my daughter. My little innocent daughter, sleeping in her crib, and the world is on the brink of who knows what. My stomach turns at the thought of it.

In Baghdad dogs are barking, startled by the bombing. How real that makes it! Here my dog lies, ears perked up at the sound of his fellow creatures on the other side of the world. Dogs and people will be killed.

Please God make this stop, for the sake of all the parents who love their children.

A war anywhere on this planet suddenly felt too close to home. How could I ever possibly protect this tiny, vulnerable being?

But to imagine that war was outside the door every single day? I can’t. I cannot imagine having to live knowing I couldn’t protect my children, knowing everyday could be my child’s—or my—last.

Last night I stood at the kitchen table, tears streaming down my face, telling that now-seventeen-year-old “baby” about the journal entry I wrote when she was one month and one day old. When I wrote it I never could have imagined how that “time of war” she was born into would evolve.

Iraq war. Afghan war. Terrorist attacks, domestic and non. School shootings. Church shootings. Nightclub shootings. An accused rapist elected to the Supreme Court, another to the Presidency, a would-be-king who is emboldening neo-nazis and white supremacists, and glorifies violence. An increase in hate crimes against Muslims, Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, Jews. Children locked in cages. Women’s bodies policed and voices silenced still. A recession. A world-wide pandemic.

And now, cities on fire and peaceful protesters tear-gassed, shot at with rubber bullets, beaten in the streets as they call out the latest murder, maybe the most blatant yet, of an unarmed black man — George Floyd — by a police officer. And in the midst of it a president who calls for their violent dispersal so he might walk to a nearby church for a campaign photo op (holding the Bible upside down, btw).

To say I am horrified doesn’t even begin to express what I am feeling. Anger, helplessness, fear, guilt, sadness, disbelief, rage, devastation… there aren’t words big or complex enough to contain this storm cloud roiling in my chest.

I am writer. For me, this loss of words reflects a loss of hope.

What can I do on a cool, bright spring day in Vermont, where such violence is rarely, if ever, seen? Where, today, there are no fires, or gunshots, or righteously angry people calling out for their rights and freedoms and lives. Where, although threatened as everyone else by a virus that knows no boundaries of space or person, my children are relatively safe. Where, due to the color of their skin, discrimination is not something I need to worry about each time they leave the house.
What can I do? I’ve donated to an organization who knows what to do. But what else?

My words seem pointless, even self-serving, in the huge scheme of things. What do they matter? I truly don’t know. My personal reaction to what’s going on will make no difference at all.

But silence seems a worse choice.

So I speak. To show my support, to send a message into the ether that in my heart I am with everyone who is fighting for their right to be seen, to be heard. For their children not to be killed.

And although I don’t quite understand how my disjointed thoughts and inadequate words help in this moment, I choose to believe Toni Morrison, choose not to be silent, choose to believe that to “do language” is how civilizations heal.

I can’t heal this world for my daughter who was born two years after 9/11 and a month before the longest running war in U.S. history began. I can’t heal this world for those marching in the cities. For those communities who are scared, scarred—grieving for every one of their own who has been harassed, threatened, beaten, killed.

As I cried last night I told my daughter I was sorry there is so much hatred, so much fear, and so much pain. Sorry that the world of war and corruption, of racism, sexism, jingoism, toxic capitalism, and every other kind of ism she was born into is the only one she’s known.

Yes, I was crying for her, but she—thank God—is safe. So I was crying too for every person in our country who isn’t. Every peaceful protester, every reporter, medic, store owner, and bystander. I was also crying for every person who lives with the threat of danger every day of their lives.

And most of all I was crying for every mother, father, sister, brother, friend grieving their loved ones lost to violence, lack of health care, incarceration. And now the pandemic too, shining a glaring light on the disparities between the haves and have nots, those who are served by society and those who serve—and run its registers, and collect its garbage, and clean its hospitals.

And I was crying for this country. This broken country.

My heart is broken too. It has broken so many times over the last twenty years. I have shed many, many tears. But I have never cried so hard as I did on December 14, 2012, November 4, 2016, and now June 1, 2020. These days will live with me.

Where the cracks are, so the story goes, is where the light gets in. When something breaks, we humans look for the meaning, we hang onto the hope that disintegration leads to renewal, to change, to transformation.

But…

Nothing changed after Sandy Hook.

Everything changed after the inauguration, but not for the good.

Will anything change after this?

Can we look for the proverbial phoenix to rise from these ashes? I can’t say I feel very positive right now. There are military vehicles driving into D.C. as I write. But could this be the new 1960s? Are we on the edge of positive change? I hesitate to hope. But that and prayers are the only things I have.

Meanwhile, all I can offer are words of love and support and gratitude to those fighting for change. And a message from my younger self:

Please God make this stop, for the sake of all the parents who love their children.

2 thoughts on “I have no words… so I write

  1. I hope whoever follows your blog will be as moved by your words and proud of you for putting them forth as I am.

    • Oh, thank you. I really didn’t know if I should write anything, so that means a lot. ❤ (I haven't posted in so long, I'm not sure who's even following me anymore!)

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