Duplicity out. Decency in.

I recently held my sobbing husband in my arms as he choked out these words, “I think he’s going to win.” It was the first time I’ve seen him so desperately somber, so utterly broken by this tyrannical climate in which we’ve been living…and dying.

My husband became a North American son on April 19, 2016. After taking the Oath of Allegiance, he held our newborn child in his arms and cried tears of joy, feeling that America had fully opened her arms and heart to him, while knowing he now bore the privilege, responsibility, and weight of United States citizenry.


Like others upon which citizenship was conferred that spring day, my husband was not a rapist or a murderer. He was not the bottom of the barrel of his native Brazil. On the contrary, he was like the millions who came before him–millions who believed the American Dream could be their dream. Millions who believed their time, talents, and enterprise could grow this nation and lead to their personal versions and visions of success.


Sadly, the joy that bookended that momentous day waned as Election Day grew near. And we, along with countless others, watched tearfully horrified as Donald Trump was announced the next President of The United States of America. Though, at that time, I could never have imagined the sinister depths to which he would sink or the brutal inhumanity he would both show and sow, I remembered Thomas Paine’s fateful words:


“THESE are the times that try men’s souls.”

The American Crisis. by the author of Common Sense Thomas Paine “These are the times that try men’s souls: the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country…”. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2005694599/.


The last four years have been a struggle for so many. Inflammatory rhetoric and blatant abuses of power and privilege have punctuated our daily lives, while giving rise to the most hateful and baneful among us. All spectrums of relationship have been tried, tested, and, oftentimes, terminated, due to nonsensical belief in and adherence to the MAGA regime. People have taken to the streets in peaceful protest, only to be met with force instead of protection and apathy instead of empathy. Families have been separated at our border and children forced to live in barbaric conditions, incongruent with our moral and ethical principles as a country and people. Black and brown Americans have had life squeezed from their very lungs by those set apart to protect and serve. And while thousands died unnecessarily and alone (and continue to), the occupant of the Oval Office remains unmoved in heart or deed to be anything less than an apex offender of everything our democracy embraces and holds dear.


These are factious and heartrending times.


These are times that need to end.


My husband; and the countless who hope, pray, and work for a better life in America; deserve to once again feel the warming rays of civility, grace, and kindness on their skin. They deserve to believe that the choice to leave their country of origin in exchange for the promises of an adoptive one wasn’t a bait and switch scheme. That America, though temporarily cloaked in indifference at its highest levels, still remembers the latitudes and longitudes of its beating heart.


This election is so much bigger than politics.


This election is about personhood.


Whether your ancestors came to our shores freely or as enslaved persons held against their will, whether you were born in America or America was born in you, whether you lean red or blue or somewhere in between, we are all worthy of better.


This is not a call to arms or civil unrest, but, indeed, a call to communal awareness and civic responsibility. If we, as citizens of this great nation, do not hold it, and those entrusted to govern it, to a higher human and moral standard, tell me: who will?


At the 1976 Democratic National Convention, the keynote speaker, Representative Barbara Jordan, said this:


“A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good. A government is invigorated when each one of us is willing to participate in shaping the future of this nation. In this election year, we must define the “common good” and begin again to shape a common future. Let each person do his or her part. If one citizen is unwilling to participate, all of us are going to suffer. For the American idea, though it is shared by all of us, is realized in each one of us.”

Jordan, Barbara. (1976). [PDF].
https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/PDFFiles/Barbara%20Jordan%20-%201976%20DNC%20Address.pdf


The 2020 Presidential Election is six days away. Six. And if you’ve made it this far, I will have to tell you: my heart can’t take four more minutes, let alone four more years, of the pathological dishonesty, emotional absenteeism, ill will, and moral erosion that has both characterized and defined the current administration.


It is time to turn a deaf ear to the reckless ravings of an emotionally-bankrupt conman and turn our eyes and hearts toward hope.


No one person is going to save us, but we can certainly vote in decency and civility and, in that, perhaps save ourselves.

Want What You Already Have, Be Who You Already Are

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My mother-in-law is here from Brazil. Her mission is two-fold: take care of me and make me better. So far she’s done well. She’s been tough when she’s needed to and soft when she’s wanted to. She’s made parmesan potatoes and corn soufflé. She’s made beds and folded laundry. She’s washed dishes and hung curtains. She’s sat with me, pretending to understand American TV. I’ve sat with her, pretending to understand Brazilian politics. She’s made me laugh. I’ve made her cry (good tears). And sometimes—just a few times—she’s made me crazy. Those moments fade though…

My love for her never does.

We have a quiet understanding. Our hearts’ songs are the same. I was reminded of that last night as we chatted in the darkness about life and love. Hope and dreams. Betrayal and forgiveness.

She told me her greatest deceptions. And I told her mine.

She reminded me of her childhood. How she was nursed by a maid because her mother was too busy with her siblings. And how she never formed a bond with her afterward.

How her father, a handsome German who saw life from the bottom of a bottle, fired his pistol into the night sky to scare his children into submission. Or scare himself into sobriety. She wasn’t sure which.

How she led a small army of children through Criciuma, setting tires on fire and climbing impossible trees. How she played Hide-and-Seek in the caskets lining her mother’s funeral parlor and once saw a dead child there, thin and fragile like an eggshell. How she snuck off to visit the gypsies—she loved their skirts and scarves—and learned to eat glass and swallow fire from the traveling circus performers.

How her mother all but sang, “When I catch you, Estela. Oh, when I catch you.” And what happened when she finally did. She should have been scared. Really.

How she married too young, became a mother too young, was traded for another too young. And how she spent four years in bed grieving a marriage and a life that never was.

A person she never was.

And how finally…

she. woke. up.

At nearly 70, she answers to no one, which, according to her, is both a blessing and a curse. She wishes her marriage had lasted. She wishes to have someone with whom to share dreams, a bed and a homemade chicken dinner.

Because alone is lonely. She reminds me of that. And in the same breath tells me marriage is a flower that needs the sunlight of hugs and kisses; the pruning of patience, kindness, and forgiveness; and the water of love and respect.

Then she tells me my heart seems lighter and asks if I’m truly happy. I tell her I am. And I realize it’s not a readied response. I mean it. And I love that I do. Because every day I remind myself to want what I already have and be who I already am. Not to wait for greatness, but to make it. Not to fall prey to the idea that I’ll be happy when…

I have an L-shaped couch,
thinner thighs,
OR
a baby in the nursery.

Because those days might never come. And maybe (although I can’t see it) it’s to my benefit that they don’t.

Maybe it’s a horrible lie that: If you want it badly enough and work hard enough, it’ll be yours.

Maybe the truth is: Some dreams aren’t meant to come true.

And what if you wasted all your time, thoughts and tears on the illusion of “when”? What if you rented out all the precious space in your heart and waited…

and waited…

for your happiness to simply (or not so simply) show up?

My mother-in-law did. For a long time. And I think we all have, in one way or another.  We have all been plagued by the gracelessness of dissatisfaction, the deep pit of discontent.

So now, in those heart wrenching moments, I imagine my mother-in-law as a child, climbing the towering trees and dancing with gypsies.

I remember my own past: playing baseball and Kick the Can on Tiverton Court, catching fireflies and praying for the streetlights to sleep just a bit longer.

I also remember my present: deeply loved and richly blessed.

Period.

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