I had a therapy session at 8:00 am on Wednesday, November 9. I had barely slept. In therapy, I tried to put the heartbreak and fear into words. This felt visceral. This was in my bones. In my DNA. The overwhelming feeling that my family, my friends, my communities, and I were told we shouldn't exist. I could feel my therapist’s emotions in the room too. It was when we talked of girls, of her daughter, of telling her daughter that Hillary isn’t the president. That this unqualified, pussy grabbing, Mexican hating, race baiting, LGBTQ bashing, fat shaming, Islamophobe, an utter repulsive (and dangerous) bully, somehow cheated his way into the White House, that she and I started to sob. Although I didn’t see it at the time, that shared raw emotion was the beginning of resistance.
Since then, I have had the deepest, most feminist, political, openhearted and beautiful conversations of my life. Often, these are random conversations with strangers or acquaintances. A shared humanity of choosing not to normalize what we know to be against core values of human decency. So we speak and we march. We knit and crochet. We make phone calls and we write postcards. We make art. We laugh and make jokes. We say over and over again- “I can’t stay silent.”
This administration wants to instill fear and to confuse. Bombard us with so much that we don’t know where to turn. They want us to turn inward with that fear and isolate from each other. That Saturday when the Muslim ban went into effect, I felt punched in the gut. I thought of my grandparents, father and uncle as refugees in 1938. I thought of my mother and her green card, her Ecuadorian passport scrutinized. It was a political move right from the “how to set up an autocracy” playbook. They want us to believe that words don’t matter. Actions don’t matter. Science and facts don’t matter. Judges and laws don’t matter. That love doesn’t matter.
We know that isn’t true.
Yes! Caring for others and ourselves! Giving love a chance! Connecting to our humanity and seeing the humanity of others. Recognizing that when they say trans people can’t use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender expression is about safety of women and girls, we call them out. It is just as false as separate drinking fountains. It is about reducing trans people to their bodily functions, it is dehumanizing. The same when they try to ban refugees from the unfairly and prejudicially chosen seven countries. Call that out. Loudly. And when possible, with humor. The 45th hates it when we laugh, especially at him. (Check out Samantha Bee’s segment on Scotland’s resistance.)
When the election heartbreak lessened, when I could lift my head out of the fear, something changed in me. I feel badass and tender hearted. I have never felt so proud of being of mixed heritage and complicated queerness. Felt so much like an artist. A maker of poems and pussyhats. Someone who loves deeply and cares. Who finds joy in cooking for (and with) my friends. I come from a lineage that not only survives, but acts. My father literally got in fistfights with fascists, before my family fled a mere few months before the nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. My sister and I pushed my mom wearing a Jessie Jackson t-shirt in her wheelchair at a disability rights march in 1988. My spiritual tradition, Shambhala Buddhism, has its roots in escaping the brutal Chinese repression of Tibet, Chögyam Trungpa leading a large group over the Himalayas to India. And to quote my teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: “We descend from the clan of human decency.”
Today is the Tibetan New Year. This year is the Year of the Firebird, which feels auspicious and personal. My paternal last name, Vogl, means bird in German. In Buddhism, the firebird is seen as feisty and tenacious, determined, and built for hard work, sometimes impulsive. Seems to be exactly what we need. Just call me FireVogl.