ACLU and Other Orgs Light the Way Through Dark Times

ACLU is a beacon
The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, SPLC, etc. show us the enlightened way forward.

I had planned to dedicate the entire month of November to truly giving thanks. I wanted to write thank you notes to people who have helped me or inspired me this year and tell them how much they mean to me. I wanted to savor every nook and cranny of my fast-growing kids’ every single day. That was the plan—until the eighth of November. That night, election night, as the thing I worried about for months came true, I felt like a character in a Harry Potter book, shuddering at the thought of what the world will be like, with the second coming of He Who Must Not Be Named. If you’ve never read the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, his name is Voldemort and he’s bad, bad news.

First, let me say I am not writing this piece in order to judge those who voted for the winning candidate, or against my candidate. A couple of my close friends voted for the now President Elect, and they are wonderful people. They had their reasons. I’m not even trying to judge the President Elect himself in this post.

I won’t move to Canada; I will help sort out this mess.

However, it seems undeniable that this campaign and our new President have unleashed and normalized behaviors and thoughts previously universally understood as unacceptable. While it’s difficult to definitively determine whether there has been rise in hate crimes nationally since the election (because of gaps in data from previous years), this Quartz article reports that New York City has seen a 31% increase in hate crimes since last year at this time. The hate crimes against Muslims more than doubled this year. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence, given some of the rhetoric in the President Elect’s campaign.

Story continues below.

As a proud naturalized American—someone who has gained citizenship through a lengthy application process which included a written test and an interview—I had thought that we were all slowly, but surely, evolving out of racism and sexism, or at least that we were striving to do so. Even though I respect a full spectrum of political and social views and opinions, racism, homophobia, sexism and misogyny are absolute deal breakers to me.

But this election has forced me and many others to see all the “bad stuff” that has been simmering just beneath the surface of our country all along. It is now cracking open, and it feels gross. I want to look away. But I know that we who believe in equality for all and refuse to tolerate discrimination can’t just push this stuff back underneath the rug, or shove it in the closet, or stuff it in the dark corners. We have to open it all up and sort it out. Do the work. At least that’s what occurs to me as I write this now. Perhaps it is time for the world, but more importantly for each of us in America right now, to see the ugliness and the hate and everything that we thought no longer existed in the hearts of our neighbors but has been festering all along. Perhaps only after we have cracked open as a nation, hit what feels like rock bottom and rebuilt something else, do we have the hope of the healthy, beautiful society we deserve.

A movement reaching out for more light.
A movement reaching out for more light.

In general in life, in the truly dark hours, bright spots shine even brighter. In response to the darkness that has been springing up since the election, I look for those bright spots and shine my own light, my goodness and kindness toward others, even more. If we are not yet ready to step up and actively do something to stop the intolerance and brutality, we must feed and support the goodness around us and in our communities, like adding oil to a lantern or fanning a flame.

We must volunteer for the causes that speak to our hearts as much as we can, bring people together as much as we can, and if there is any money to spare, we must give generously to those who are stepping up as beacons of shining light.

Post election, as I have tried over and over again to find some level of inner peace so that I could find the best angle from which to start shining my own light, I have noticed many a bright spot. The following are the people and organizations that have been doing this kind of work all along, and began emitting powerful light for all as soon as the Election results were in. These are the folks I want to support with my actions and my money this year. These are the people and organizations I am thankful for.

I thank the ACLU for its brave full page ad in the New York Times promising to sue the new President Elect in court if he follows up his campaign promises in violation of civil rights, including deportation of all undocumented immigrants and registration of all Muslim residents. I picture the people of the organization mouthing these words with their fingers pointing at their steely unblinking eyes: “I’m watching you.” I will support them.

Story continues below.

I thank Planned Parenthood for being the resource and support for women seeking reproductive health and choices. I will support them.

I thank The Southern Poverty Law Center for monitoring and speaking about hateful activity, and for providing tolerance education and litigating to seek justice for the exploited and other victims of discrimination and hate. I will support them.

I thank the advocacy groups for immigrants, the disabled and others who are powerless against abuse, such as Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network: GAIN in Atlanta and Gideon’s Promise, ArchCity Defender or Equal Justice Initiative. I will support them.

I thank the brave men and women standing up despite great adversity at Standing Rock. I will support them.

Support important advocacy.

In a time of what feels like complete darkness, I am finding light and hope in these bright spots and feeling a quiet strength building in my belly. It is this strength that I need, that we all need, in order to start helping and maybe even becoming beacons of change in our own ways. I won’t move to Canada; I will help sort out this mess. Our country is worth the work. So I give thanks for the bright spots in these dark times, and I encourage you to find the people and organizations who are inspiring you the most right now, and to get involved in their work in some way.

Which bright spots are you thankful for? Please share in the comments.