may Violence NeverTrump Stories

I did two things today of which I was immediately not particularly proud.

The first was that I flipped off the sign reading “Donald J. Trump State Park” on the Saw Mill Parkway on my drive into New York City this morning. The second was that I Had Words with the national public radio station.

This was slightly out of character for me – the flipping off part. (Not so much the Having Words part – I always seem to have words. Too much so. Except for when I don’t, which is inevitably when I wish for them the most, such as in certain social occasions when a suave, smooth flow of witty and eloquent and not-at-all obnoxiously loquacious or seemingly show-offy words rolling seamlessly off my tongue and pooling throughout the room, bubbling and rippling in bits of delighted laughter at my humor and insight would be most welcome. This only ever happens for me rarely and in isolated, imperfect, brief moments, if ever. Fragmented. Scattered. Unpredictable. Ah, to be able to channel this! One can dream.)

I was saying, giving the bird to anything, even Trump’s name, is out of character for me, though strong reactions to things political, social, and personal certainly are not. Two other things prompted by this:

  1. I don’t know what the heck that man’s name is doing desecrating what I’m sure is a beautiful part of this beautiful New York State, but I don’t like it, and I want it gone, as I want the man himself completely gone from the public eye and the political stage. It’s odious. And laughable.
  2. I’m feeling more uncertain than ever about what Jesus meant when he taught that his disciples should love their enemies, though I’m fairly sure this includes at least refraining from flipping them off – which, it’s also just occurred to me, can be understood as an act of violence. Strike against me. I’m also reminded (again) of Shane Claiborne’s frequent and piquing play on the main anti-Trump hashtag by posting multiple tweets, etc. about letting Fear #NeverTrump Love. I’ve thought of that a lot this campaign season.

You might (rightfully) expect a body to this post a little more developed after that opener, but that’s about all I’ve got in this direction for now. Except for a few more rambling notes – such as how, also on the road to the city today, I saw an old Subaru up ahead of me not long after I passed that sign (we need not go into all that again), and was reminded how every time I encounter another Subaru on the road, I want to raise my fist in a salute: Soo-Baa-ROO!! Sisters of the Road! Although a part of me also knows that my slight fascination with Subaru’s is just another form of that all-pervasive consumerism and our cultural obsession with our individual identity being based on our possessions – I know that owning and driving a Subaru can be a less-than-innocent status symbol just as much as having a BMW. Or whatever.

…Then again, to play devil’s advocate on myself, what’s so bad about that? We’re all social creatures after all, us humans, and acknowledging and showing our own status symbols is a way of participating in that, and perhaps can even help remind us (if we are mindful) of our shared identity, and how we are all really so much more alike than we are distinct and different, us sisters and brothers of the road and the world (including non-car owners, whom I also thought of during my drive this morning) — One Human Family — as the bumper sticker on the back of my own Subaru Outback proudly reads.

Which brings me back to fellow Subaru owners, which brings me to my dear friend Susan, who blogs here, who I wanted to give a shout-out to on here the other day while quoting (rather extensively, I’m afraid) from a chapter (“Steinbeck Country”) in the book Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. Only I never got around to it. Just go read the whole chapter – it’s not that long, and it’s worth it. But to sum up, its the account of the author’s participation in an “emergency read-in,” in which she and several other writers and actors and artists take steps to save the public libraries of Salinas, CA from being shut down, and the chapter turns into a beautiful celebration of libraries and their central importance to accessible education for all citizens (legal and otherwise) and thus, ultimately, to the perpetuation and existence of true democracy.

{So if you were looking for some more continuity in this post (as I clearly must be), there ya go – we’ve gone from Trump to Champions of True Democracy. Polar opposites. We can work with that – at least pretend it was an attempt at some form of semi-skilled artistry or intentionality in this post. :)}

Quite appropriately, April also happens to be National Library Month, or something like that. Or maybe it was that last week was National Library Week. And this Saturday is World Book Day, so whatever way you look at it, lots of book-related celebratory themes going on in April.

Susan fits into this whole picture because, in addition to being a member of the Subaru clan (we really should come up with a chant or signal or something), she is a librarian, of whom Anne Lamott has this to say in her “Steinbeck Country” chapter:

We were there to celebrate some of the rare intelligence capabilities that our country can actually be proud of – those of librarians. I see them as healers and magicians. Librarians can tease out of inarticulate individuals enough information about what they are after to lead them on the path of connection. They are trail guides through the forest of shelves and aisles…

I feel like this should go here:

So, to my Subaru sister and (more importantly) friend Susan, and to all other literary trail guides and healers out there – thank you. Don’t be discouraged. Carry on with your good, healing, deeply necessary work, whether your tasks of stewardship and guidance seem mundane and unimportant to you at times, or thrilling and ecstatic. To be honest, I have also encountered the (unfortunately in my experience, not-overly-rare) stereotypical grumpy librarian, which I mention here chiefly to 1.) try and give a fair account, avoid false sentimentality, and not over-romanticize libraries; and 2.) note that even these sad creatures have not, in the end, killed my hunger for books or the hunger of untold numbers of other readers, and that even in spite of this trope, the existence and important place of libraries here in America, and of the ideal behind them, still persist. And there are exceptions, such as my friend. Perhaps it is they who are really rare – and then again, maybe not. As Anne Shirley delightedly notes when she’s a little older than the orphan girl who first arrived at Green Gables, the Kindred Spirits she once thought so rare in her youth and sought avidly are now, she is learning, to be discovered everywhere – So, not so rare after all. (Lucky for us in such a highly-mobile society!) But no less precious for there being many.

And no less precious (though I’m afraid I will start to sound silly and sentimental somewhat here – I’ll risk it) are the books, and even more so, the stories (the souls of books) themselves, and the people working as healers who first imagined and created them.

God forbid that there ever be a presidential library unfortunate enough to bear the same name as that poor park I passed on the road this morning. And if such a misfortune does ever come to pass, God forgive us.

Speaking of which – I thought about trying to find some protesters to join at Donald Trump’s rally in Poughkeepsie this past weekend. Instead, I did an even more radical thing: I went to the public library. I sat down, I opened my yellow, spiral-bound notebook, which I had rescued from the cellar stock of surplus school supplies from back in the day, and I copied down these words from the closing of the “Steinbeck Country” chapter:

A bunch of normally self-obsessed artist types came together to say to the people of Salinas: We care about your children, your stories, and your freedom. Something has gone so wrong in this country that needs to be fixed, and we care about that. Reading and books are medicine. Stories are written and told by and for people who have been broken, but who have risen up, or will rise, if attention is paid to them. Those people are you and us. Stories and truth are splints for the soul, and that makes today a sacred gathering. Now we were all saying: Pass it on.

And now with Lamott I’m saying, too, for you too, now, to remember this, share it and your own small stories: And carry on.

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