Why I’m Not Scared

WHY I’M NOT SCARED (Here me out!)
I wasn’t gonna write this! In fact, I talked myself out of it at least five separate times. I said to myself, “There’s just too much stuff out there. Who will read it or HEAR it in the way you intend?” That was before my friend and colleague Annette Marquis from The Living Legacy Project sent this article. After reading it (not much of the info was new, but it still hit home) thousands of heartfelt and anxiety filled comments and posts on Facebook, Twitter and in every other social and political corner available really pushed me over the edge. Each one raised the level, saying how scared, anxious, terrified, nervous, unable to function and close to collapse people are feeling. And I hear you!
But it made me think, “Now you HAVE to do it.” So here goes.

(Sorry about the length but I promise you that I did edit it down as far as I could.)

Tonight I wrote a Facebook post that said. “Take a deep breath, friends. We’re gonna be alright!” Many seemed to think that I was saying “Don’t worry, it will all come out like we want it to. Tomorrow goodness will be restored.” Many responses seemed to indicate that I was trying to sooth nerves by guaranteeing that “ALL WILL BE WELL!” That was NOT my intended message and I’m sorry I was not clear. It MAY go that way. Numbers seem to indicate that chances are good that it will… maybe even GREAT! But I have no crystal ball and I sho nuff don’t trust the “numbers. I am not a fan of polls. No, I was speaking from a source of wisdom passed to me by people who have survived more than 400 years of having to sweat this stuff out, vote for the “lesser choice’ again and again, as the prudent thing and then watch other people be OK when we ain’t OK.

Yes, this nation is divided. Many say that it’s as much on more so as it was at the time of the civil war. And that is all true for much the same reason. Donald Trump and the GOP have classically made race, division and hate the dividing line for citizens to choose a direction for our nation. And just as in that scurrilous time, white people are having to choose which side they are on. For people of color it’s always been about survival. The choice involves other issues of greed, class and “otherness” as well and in truth, Trump has managed to co-op some people of color with his lies and promises that were a staple of the ruling class during slavery. But he has mostly convinced many whites that he is the savior of their very existence and they are flocking to that message in trucks, cars and vans with alarming emotional fervor. So now, as many white people have been stirred, nudged or violently shaken awake, that message has created a situation where they have reason to fear and now realize that with his staunch hatred of liberals and “others” he and his henchies will eventually come for them, to bully, batter, kidnap the “too loud leaders” and push their proverbial bus off the road.

I’m hopeful that this gives more clarity on why I am not finding fear to be useful. And maybe this won’t help you to feel better this week or this month… maybe not even until all the dust settles on this the latest incarnation of political, financial and racist/sexist trauma. Perhaps a ways down the road it will kick in after we think we know where we stand and are able to take a good breath and see a clear path to cleaning up this swamp… for real. Maybe this will help some of you frame your actions in the next phase when the forces of power, greed and hate are continuing their challenge to the very nature of our existence. But one thing is true: Now that you’ve seen what you’ve seen, it will be harder NOT to see it when it shows its ugly head again.

Please allow me to quickly thank all of you who have been at this for as long or longer than me. You who understand that fear and anxiety are tools that the power brokers in the world use to keep the less powerful off balance, occupied and easier to control. Donald Trump might seem like a fool but he fully understands how the game is played. So does Mitch McConnell, Robert Barr, Kevin McCarthy, Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Alexander Putin, Ann Coulter, Lindsey Graham, the Koch Brother (yes, one died) Clarence Thomas and all those greedy 1 percenters (and their wannabee trailers) who enjoy all the privileges while the rest of us feel the burn.

To all of you who have internalize the struggle to the point that you know the rich and powerful are simply never going to give up trying to get their way, (regardless of who wins tomorrow) and have committed yourselves to stay in the game win, lose or whatever, kudos. We all know that they will be as relentless at controlling the narrative as they’ve always been in this nation and that they will try to put a good face on while they organize the next maneuver. Those people are ready to go regardless of the outcome. And they will not consider, in any way, how we feel about it.

Yes, we will be joyful or exhausted, relieved or exasperated, happy or angry, as fits the good or bad news. But just as civil rights pioneer Flonzie Brown Wright, (the first African American woman elected to office in Jim Crow Mississippi years ago) said to us in May in our Living Legacy series on voting rights, we’ve got to just keep on keepin’ on! Asked ”Do you ever get frustrated and just want to quit?” she replied, “You know, (she may have said “Honey!”) I quit this job every night. But in the morning, I remember that I took a vow to work for justice when I was 16 years old. So every day I put on my shoes and get back to work!”

That’s the same kind of resolve and fierce persistence that pushed Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, Jackie Robinson, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, C.T. Vivien, Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Fred Shuttlesworth, Vernon and Ellie Dahmer, John Lewis, and millions of others including Eleanor Roosevelt, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Mahatma Gandhi, Pete and Toshi Seeger and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to walk in the ways of justice.

Yes, friends, I am concerned, agitated, full of righteous rage and fired up and at times, worn down. I’m working the self-care thing too. But I am not scared!

We have seen millions of young people embrace a new energy and create strategies of revolution and millions of people of all races, backgrounds, persuasions and in some cases, political opposition come awake and alive to take to the streets, where many of them still are. They march, tweet, organize, chant, lie down in the streets and say “NO MORE!

We have seen corporations and companies (perhaps engaging in enlightened self-interest) release statements that say Black Lives Matter and state that no children of any background deserve to be separated from their parents or locked in cages. We’ve watched millions who have begun addressing our hate filled and divisive past, including my own family of Wickhams and Hewletts, acknowledging that they… women, children, men, agender, bigender and nonbinary alike are ready to shape a new vision of America. We’ve seen Moms, dads, able-bodied and person of varying abilities willingly face armed thugs posing as authorities and be gassed, shot, illegally arrested and injured as statues and symbols of hate have been toppled to the ground while calling for redress and accountability.

We have all painfully seen our fellow citizens needlessly die as we’ve been isolated and lied to and had our own lives placed in jeopardy by a government that said openly they are willing to sacrifice as many as it takes to help them resume making money without establishing the needed scientific protocols for our safety. We’ve watched athletes and entertainers stop the game and the show and share their time, their money, resources and their platform in support of justice as doctors, nurses, teachers factory workers and first responders have selflessly offered and sacrificed themselves in service to us.

We watched a man kill dispassionately kill another man in eight minutes and 46 seconds and collectively lost our breath. We have seen inhumanity explained away as “normal human behavior.” And we are tired, stress and worn. But I am not scared. I am committed, enraged and disgusted yet also hopeful and ready.

I do not write this because I am confident that things will go the way I believe they should. Donald Trump and the GOP have told and shown us for months that they plan to steal this election. They don’t even bother to deny it. But they’re also trying to steal our will and in the spirit of those who have gone before and the spirit of those who have risen up in the last six months I absolutely refuse to let them own my will or incite my fear. I invite you to flip the fear response and reorganize your energy for the ongoing mission to turn this nation around.

I know that for some of you this will be a new and at times a totally uncertain and frustrating endeavor. I’m with you and I love that you have signed on to ride this train. Feel free to admit that you need some guidance and feel free to let go of the guilt if you just climbed on board. But as Bernice Johnson Reagon and Sweet Honey in the Rock sang, “We who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes.” We’re just getting started. Joe and Kamala will need to hear our voices WHEN they break through. (See, I am hopeful!)

And when you need a break, a supportive word, song or a hand to hold (virtually or otherwise) know that we got your back and your side. But let’s do this in the spirit of Fanny Lou Hamer who said “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!” How bout that for a mantra?

In Solidarity and Song,
Reggie Harris
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