As the sun rises on another day of the new Administration it feels timely to raise the issue of our collective exhaustion. We are all feeling it. And why not? We fought for a free and fair election, by leveraging all our might, and we won. Really. Regardless of your rooting interest in democracy or demise, the electorate arose from its latent power to cast 159 million votes in the US general election. Despite the fearmongering, modern day poll taxes, multilingual disinformation campaigns and the amplified threat of the global pandemic, mismanaged for maximum harm. Black women, along with every single community fighting for justice made a stand at the voting booth, and cooked meals, provided carpooling, activated phone trees and confronted the intimate nature of “kitchen table organizing” to get us there. And it made ALL the difference. As it happens the democracy asked us for more of the same before any one of us could rest, and we pulled out a win in the Senate for a fifty/fifty split that looks just like the county, bruised and purple.
In the run up to the election we spent countless hours making millions of phone calls, writing op-eds to prioritize demands for a climate President and the end of the status quo and its concentrated harms, as a pre-condition to the contest. For my part that meant giving up my hair, and any hope of a healthy sleep regimen to build a strong showing of climate people in the polling numbers. In many, many conversations, webinars, and zooms I fought along-side a multigenerational coalition of fed-up folks and pushed our short list of requirements to explicitly include Black people, the disabled, the chronically poor and underserved and with special attention to the places where those identities overlap. And set the table for equity, for care are repair, rather than just diversity.
For our efforts we won the narrative! And along the way we sharpened or at least aligned the public consciousness on fossil fuel harms to people and planet. We manifested plans to act on the climate crises from every viable camp and candidate. Hell, the candidate elect’s policy proposals spoke directly to white supremacy as a national pastime that erases our potential. In his very first address the newly inaugurated POTUS said the words, doubling down on his commitment to fight racial equity, immigration, Covid-19, economy, healthcare and for return of the national reputation. By all accounts the left of center has shifted the popular discourse, with a great deal of help from extreme weather, fire, flooding and the reality of a weakened government failing at the speed of compound crises.
So, it’s a bit ironic to ask why we are all so tired?
I know why. You know why. We are mourning, the loss of too many souls to the pandemic, and the loss of whole areas of work that rely on the everyday interactions we grew so accustomed to. We are separately and together mourning the loss of our sense of freedom or roiling in the collective realization that many of us have felt fatigued for much longer. Intersectional identity means reckoning with the nuances of privilege in some places, (work, education, race or class) all the while other parts of us are unwelcome. Hidden within that nuance was a strange form of relief that the harm of the old ways was surfaced over the last term; in systemic, legislated and publicly acceptable lies of race, supremacy, of merit and of wealth as virtue were dusted alongside emergence of a very fragile democracy. So, in the win, the election of the climate decade, we are presented with an early start and another chance at a national response on a livable future, and international citizenry. Also present in the win is a low-level dread about whether we will return to the silent and violent status quo or carry through with the redesign we fought for. It’s exhausting just to think about it.
In the first day of the new, new normal our 46th POTUS unleashed some thirty kept promises, with tear inducing attention to the harms of the years past. Climate folk now have a whole day of climate action on Wednesdays each week and watch as our friends and allies move into formation to make good on the commitments. And tired as I know we all are, I see a pathway to a future. But first, we rest.