(Edited version originally posted at Moms Clean Air Force)
This is difficult time for our country. Our nation is in turmoil and our democracy is at risk. The news is one constant sea of trouble– pulling many of us under.
It is hard to do anything else but watch. It is hard to know where to possibly begin.
We feel alone in our houses, our bodies, our feeds. The assault is every time we pick up our phones. Every time we turn on the news. It threatens to pull us under. This is the way of gas lighting– the bait and shifting– lying and blaming–the politics of fascism. With so many things to understand, to keep up with, to act on, it is easy to get overwhelmed and turn off. Easy to turn away.
We can’t do this. We must not do this.
Make no mistake, this is a dangerous time. The very health of our families is at risk. When the mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment, and its very exisitence is called into question, we have a serious problem. When the leader of our country denies the sound and certain science of climate change, we are on a long and difficult road.
Yesterday, David Slack (@slack2thefuture) tweeted:
“Remember sitting in history, thinking “If I was alive then, I would’ve…”
You’re alive now. Whatever you’re doing is what you would’ve done.”
This is our civil rights era. This is Silent Spring. This is the time when our kids will look back and say, “What did you do?” History will record this as a time of sea change in our country, recording the movements and actions in response to the rise of fascism and divisiveness in our country. How will you be remembered in this moment, and how can you use your voice to affect change, without falling down into a sea of daily despair?
Find your brave.
Whenever there is a global tragedy, when my heart is breaking, and I am thinking about how on earth I will explain this to my daughters or my students, I re-read the wise words of Fred Rogers. He said:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
And today, just like Fred Rogers said, you will see them. If you look around, you will see brave moms all around you.
On Monday, Sally Yates, mother of two, was the latest woman, in a long line of women, who risked her job to speak up against hate, bigotry, and racism. She spoke up to protect the vulnerable and to protect the founding values of this country. For this, she was fired. But that is not surprising, or what speaks to me. What speaks to me is her bravery, deciding to speak out now, to declare her unwillingness to follow the directive from the White House. She did this when it was extremely uncomfortable and likely terrifying. When is anything ever the right time?
This past weekend, we had more bravery, and from another history making woman. A federal judge, Anne Donelly, a mom of two, blocked part of Trump’s executive order banning refugees and travelers from 7 predominantly Muslim countries. She granted a temporary stay for refugees detained at U.S. airports because sending them back to their home countries would have done them “irreparable harm.” She stood up to power in support of vulnerable people fleeing violence.
Brave is my friend Paige Wolf, an activist and mother, who goes to her Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey’s office each week in Philadelphia. She goes there, with hundreds of others, asking him to represent the needs of all of his constituents. This weekly meeting, Tuesdays with Toomey, has grown into a movement for the people, by the people, and has expanded to his other offices as well. They go to fight for human rights, for clean air, and for strong public schools. They will keep showing up for as long as it takes to be heard.
Brave is Native American moms working to stop the development of the North Dakota pipeline. They showed up day after day to protect their sacred lands and waterways. When the snow flew, they stood. When the tear gas sprayed, they stood.
Brave looks different for all of us.
Brave could be joining Moms Clean Air Force, and educating yourself on the issues that affect the health and lives of families across the country.
Brave could be explaining to your friends why you joined, and why you are concerned about the future of the EPA.
Brave might be starting a no idling policy at your child’s schools to support clean and healthy lungs. It might be calling parents you don’t know– especially ones who might not agree with you.
Brave might be calling your state senators to see what they are doing about climate change. In this new administration, states need to lead the way, because change will not likely come from the federal government any time soon.
Brave could be organizing with your fellow moms every time a regulation that was designed to protect health is threatened. Develop your own rapid response team. Make calls. Write emails. Show up at offices. Write op-eds. March in the streets.
Brave could be supporting the environmental organizations you care about. Making a pledge to send money as often as you can, to get involved in local chapters, and to share what you are doing with others.
Brave is leaning into discomfort, challenge, and difficulty. The next 4 years will be full of it and every single one of us will need to be brave to protect the health of our families and environment.
But we can’t always be brave, not every second. This takes enormous energy and we must take a break. The constant assault of our new reality requires that we are brave in focused, short spurts. If we try to be brave all the time, we will forget to eat, forget to sleep, forget that there are trees, babies, and stars. I think that is where many people are right now.
So, #findyourbrave. What does it look like for you? Decide, each day. Then pick your time. How much brave can you give? When you are shivering and quaking and tired, stop. Then find the things that you love. Do those things. Shut out the noise and find some way to disconnect and refuel. Because the fight will be there. Your bravery will be needed again tomorrow.
Be as brave as you can be without breaking. Be brave to protect kids and families everywhere.
Then we can look back at this time, this tumultuous period in our county’s history, and tell our kids and grandkids how we were brave. How we fought for clean air, clean water, our National Parks, and for a livable climate.
The time is now. Find your brave.