January 01

Fearless in 2017

My aspirational word for 2017 is Fearless. I say aspirational because I’m really pretty scared about what this year will bring. I’m nervous for my Muslim friends, my friends who rely on government assistance through no fault of their own, my LGBT friends, my friends with chronic health conditions who may lose their health insurance by the end of the month, my friends and family of color, for immigrants seeking to become citizens, for our environment and for our nation’s security. I’m finding myself at the intersection of wanting to be the positive person I usually am and the pragmatic person who feels that being a responsible citizen entails speaking up when you fear that the country is headed in a dangerous direction and that hate is being normalized.

My only hope is that Americans will at some point this month hear something that disturbs them and that they feel compelled to speak up to their representatives. I am fond of saying that Democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires participation and being informed. It requires sacrifice. It requires that we look beyond our own lives and ask who we are as a country and whether or not protecting the vulnerable among us is part of our national DNA or not. Are we serious about the First Amendment? How about voting rights? Who are we and where are we going? Because the election is over and we have to figure out how to make sure that we are alert to the changes that will be happening around us. Because, make no mistake. Our country is about to go through an enormous and unprecedented change in less than three weeks.

I’ve been thinking in particular about the lessons of Aikido, a martial art in Japan. The principle isn’t to defend yourself with strength but rather to use well-considered leverage to cause the opponent to tumble. It requires practice, level-headed thinking and strategy. It also requires fearlessness. Just as I walked nervously but with determination past the McDonald’s in 8th grade where the class bully Margaret Breeden threatened to beat me up if she saw me, I’ll be channeling all of the fearlessness I can muster in 2017. Those of us who are not in as much danger of losing our safety nets need to band together for those who are vulnerable. It’s a defining moment for our country. Are you ready?