Back in 1968, after Lyndon Johnson dropped out of the race on the Democratic ticket and his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, took his place we began to hear something strange. There was this talk about the “politics of joy.” It almost felt like we were living in some sort of tone-deaf country. Hadn’t we just lost Martin Luther King, Jr. just a few weeks earlier? Weren’t there riots in the streets and cities literally on fire? Weren’t thousands of young soldiers dying halfway across the world? We weren’t living in a world – let alone politics – of joy. We were living in a world of impending doom.
Take a look at that shiny new smartphone you have, or maybe the big screen TV you have at home. Pretty sweet, right? You’ve got these great commodities which you worked so hard for and now that you have them in your life you should feel happier, right? You now have what you worked for. It’s in your life now, and you can take pride in it.
As our sesquipedalian Cheeto-faced orange of a president states so eloquently: Wrong.
And none of us are innocent. So long as we stand on the sidelines and remain bystanders to the hate, ignorance, dishonesty, and apathy we will remain guilty. Our society is the way it is today because of the inability for us to stand for what is right. It’s a hard truth, but sometimes those truths are the most necessary to wake us up to what is going on around us. Sometimes we need that fall from our comfortable bed to the hardwood floor to wake us up from the figments of our imagination we’ve envisioned around us.
The hardest part, though, is the waking up.
No one deserves to suffer. From birth to death, every moment you live should be free of that awful burden of suffering. Whether it be that child in poverty going to sleep hungry because their family can’t afford dinner, the family ripped apart because of living in a war-torn country, or someone with a disease or disability they never asked for.
Those who suffer are the ones who grow up to feel more. They maintain that sentiment of what it means and feels like to suffer; and it’s those who you usually see working their hardest at nonprofits, NGO’s, within city, state, or the federal government who have suffered the most throughout their lives. They believe in the simple principle that no one in need should go without it and that at any moment they could find themselves in that same place of need.
Unfortunately, we live in highly complicated times where suffering does occur. Utopias only exist in fairy tales. Instead, we’re left with those who care less for others than they do themselves. They look to either line their pockets with more money than they know what to do with, or they’re seeking more power for themselves.
To those I say: look around at those you ignore. Look at the backs you are breaking to give yourself a lift up above them. Those you stand upon to gain whatever it is you want will always be stronger than you will ever be. They, the ones who go to bed at night unsure of what the next day will bring them, in every literal sense of the word, are the bravest souls you will find.
They will not be forgotten or disappear. Instead, they are the face for what you fear the most: progress, because when those suffering see others suffering they will band together and stand on your back to make themselves known. You cannot erase their suffering or the troubles they faced throughout their lives, but you will awake a sleeping giant unlike any you’ve ever known.
Robert Kennedy knew this before any of us, especially when he spoke in South Africa in the midst of apartheid. He knew what those who suffered could accomplish if they banded together, regardless of your skin color, ethnicity, age, gender, or whatever it was that caused the suffering. They would carry each other, even when broken and battered, to that mountaintop Martin Luther King, Jr. said he’d seen right before his assassination.
Instead of a mountaintop, though, Bobby saw those little ripples of hope we each could be in enacting change anywhere in the world. In each of us, in all of us who suffer, there is a little ripple of hope we can become even in the darkest of times, and when we merge together we can become the largest of waves powerful enough to wash away any injustice or hatred.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
All it requires us to do is work together instead of live divided, as we do today. Families in this country are torn apart simply because of their political views when we should be cherishing the fact that we can each have our own views because in many countries around the world that right can get you arrested, exiled, or killed.
Bobby understood that we are all one human race, regardless of what you look like or what your social status is.
And as one human race, we suffer together.
So as one human race we should work together to ease the suffering in our world instead of picking fights with each other based on superfluous things.
We must love one another or we will perish.
So, once again, to those suffering: the child going to sleep hungry in what is considered the “shining city on a hill,” the Syrian refugee fleeing the only place they’ve ever known for their lives because their entire village was destroyed by fire from the sky, the black man or woman who is afraid to speak up for their rights to police officers because they’re afraid of the response being the barrel of a gun, and every single person who suffers in ways I may never understand or know of: I love you and I will fight the rest of my life for a world where we can sing a requiem for the suffering you’ve faced head on and succeeded in conquering.
Believe me, you will have feelings of anger, sadness, and despair. You may think the mountain we are about to climb towards racial, social, economic, and environmental justice is too high and may want to turn back. I know the anxiety facing my own heart when I think of the difficulties we face due to the next four years, but I’m asking you from the pit of my heart: do not give up.
This is a bump in the road. A rather large one, yes, but nothing more or less. I still go into fits of rage when I think of how our country could take one step forward and two large steps backwards with this election, but I know if we all hold true to our beliefs and what we know this country truly stands for one where we treat each other equally, with compassion and love, we will eventually gain those faltered steps back and march forward towards the progress we know our country is destined for.
There is no easy path to this success. It requires us, for lack of a better word, to get off our asses and get to work. Maintaining an eye on legislation being voted on in your local community, state legislature, and in Washington is essential. Stay educated, contact your elected officials, not by letter or email, but by phone, because believe it or not they fear those phone calls more than anything. I’ve learned this from person experience. We have more power in this government than we give ourselves.
99 of you have decided to take a stand a ignore the inauguration with dozens of elected officials who feel that same fire within to keep fighting. That’s just the beginning.
Download the app Countable to learn about bills going through Congress. This app will keep you informed about what is the chaos of Congress, and don’t be afraid to call your congressperson or senator to let them know how you feel about it.
Stay organized. Join a group nearby you working within the Indivisible Organization, a grassroots organization with groups formed by people like you who want to enact change.
Absolutely want to resist Trump and don’t know where to start? Read this beautifully created manual by activists like Deray and myself to know what to do.
You are not alone in this dark time. And while they may be dark now, I know we can rid the skies of the clouds blocking out the garish sun and once again make this country one where we can all feel safe and understood. We are a compassionate and empathetic society underneath all the garbage currently floating around in this country. I think it’s about time we all picked up a broom and got to work to clean it up. What do you say?