How are you? But, really. We asked The Fold Editor Nora Gomez-Strauss to share her thoughts on what's next: a mixture of healing and hope, of cautious optimism and tempered jubilation—like so many of us.
On Tuesday morning my 6-year-old son took a big breath in, exhaled, and said, “New president tomorrow!” I smiled as I listened to his excitement about the inauguration but it also saddened me to see the sense of relief in someone so young, to know he will likely remember the tragedy of the past year—and tragedies of the past four years—for the rest of his life. I wonder how my 2-year-old daughter will remember this, if at all.
Yet, there is hope, and we have ourselves to thank for that. The new presidential administration and the new majority in the Senate are thanks to everyone who took the power of their vote into their hands. Everyone who rallied, protested, organized, wrote, called, (ran!), this is yours. After four tumultuous years, we deserve a moment to celebrate and take in the joy (I write this as we prep for our Inauguration Day party for four). However, as a parent yearning for a more equitable future for her children, as a human yearning for the earth to survive more lifetimes, I hope we can remind ourselves that the work does not end here. Things do not magically reset because we have a new president (although many things will swing toward improvement rapidly).
This era we have lived through has shown just how fragile democracy is, and how much we have to care for and cultivate it to ensure it endures. If the riots of January 6th were a preview of how some are reacting to this change, we have a hard road ahead of us. It is no coincidence that on the same day Democrats took control of the Senate (in large part thanks to Black organizers and voters), white supremacists violently attempted a coup and laid siege to the Capitol.
The Obama years, while not perfect, brought much promise and happiness. They also resulted in white resentment and we should not forget the racism President Obama and his family faced. That resentment and hatred brewed and then exploded when our country’s leadership not only gave it center stage, but also encouraged it. And that not only refers to the insurrection—a word I never thought would be part of my daily vocabulary—but the bloodshed that has taken place the past few years in forms of police brutality, racist murders and massacres, children dying in detention centers, and a global pandemic (which has not affected all groups equally). So many lives lost and so many who do not get to say we made it through this.
When this post goes up, the inauguration will have taken place, and I hope it was a peaceful event. I hope that hateful voices will go back to not being welcomed. And I hope we all find ways to continue keeping this delicate idea of democracy intact, holding our elected officials of all parties accountable, working to ensure that everyone’s right to vote is protected, supporting the causes that matter to us, and not remaining silent when injustice takes place.
We must uplift the BIPOC community, and for non-Black people of color, we must continue to show up for BLM, because when our Black brothers and sisters succeed, we all succeed. And, we must guide our actions and words with love, knowing true love involves respect and the quest to be better.
There will be a lot of talk of “unity” and “healing.” Why is it that it’s only one group that is asked to “reach out to the other side” whether we win or lose? Is it because we have more empathy? It’s that empathy that drives our desire for healthcare for all, equal access to quality education, economic equity, protection for the environment, immigration reform, racial justice. There is no finite amount of justice—economic, racial, social, environmental justice are all intertwined, and there is room for everyone. And empathy does not equal foolishness—there is no true healing without justice.
I write all of this with no authority to ask anything of you, just a parent pleading for a better tomorrow. As a nation, we have gone through a collective trauma that will be difficult to process, the keyword being “collective.” We have each other, even while apart. Look at what we’ve achieved even in the middle of a global pandemic—now imagine what we can do next.