Yesterday a friend tagged me in a post. “I will be at the mosque in Northgate at 11:30 AM with a sign reading “ONLY LOVE”. Please feel free to join me.” It was 11 a.m. I was hungover: dehydrated, sleep-deprived, and wrung out. Like many of us, I felt traumatized by the image of so many states going red and by the realization that so many in our country had voted for that man — that man who I refuse to call my president. As I lay in bed scrolling through my phone and all of our expressions of grief, rage, shock, fear, and despair, before I knew it I’d passed three hours. I decided to join my friend. I needed to be among other people who were grieving. I needed to get out of bed and do something for myself beyond Facebook and tears.
Just a few days earlier, I’d discovered an old sign in our basement that I’d made in 2003 near the eve of the Iraq war that read “Our Love is Stronger than Our Fear — Unite!”; I’d been ready to toss it. But now, I grabbed it, figuring it applied to this moment as much as ever. My actual mood was more aligned with something like “Fuck the Electoral College!”, but it didn’t matter, I was doing something, I was getting dressed, I was honoring my need to take some kind of action.
I arrived around the same time that my friend did, so grateful that she made the decision to do something alone, regardless of who else showed up. She got me there, or her Facebook post did, her solitary action. Over the next two-plus hours as we stood on the busy intersection, many honked or waved, gave us thumbs up, peace signs. You could see some people slowing to get a better look at our signs, you could feel their apprehension — and then the satisfying release when they realized, Yes, I can get behind this, even as I may grieve or hurt or rage. Our Love is Stronger than Our Fear — Unite!
A Jewish woman parked and came to greet us, to ask if she could give us a hug. Tears welled as we looked each other in the eyes. She said, “I am very afraid.”
A white man with a graying beard delivered a rose to the steps of the mosque behind us. “Thank you for being here,” he said. “It’s got to be such a hard day for them. They need all the support they can get.”
A black woman waved from her car, then rolled down her window. “Are you Anne?” “Yes.” Then after a beat, “Are you Danielle?” “Yes!” My childhood friend from second grade. “Thank you for doing this!” she called out before driving off as the light turned green.
Another friend left me a voice mail saying she’d honked at us, then realized it was me and started crying. A former student of mine also stopped to give us a hug, her eyes red, her face raw. When I mentioned to her how I loved the fact that I couldn’t actually be sure if the people waving at us were Clinton or Trump supporters, she said, “I’m not there yet.” I understood — in fact, I wasn’t sure I was there yet either. But still, there was something powerful to me about holding signs that could only be interpreted as polarizing by the most bigoted, ignorant extreme. Only Love… Our Love is Stronger than Our Fear — Unite!
After two hours my friend had to leave but I was tempted to stay. What would it feel like to stand here on my own? “Do you want to keep my sign?” she asked. It was bigger, easier to read. ONLY LOVE. Yes. I would stay. We hugged goodbye. I called out, “I love you,” as she turned to leave. I don’t even know her that well, but it just came out. In that moment, in these times, the wall between us becomes thin.
I stood there now, alone, with two signs — one aimed in each direction so that as I faced the heaviest traffic with ONLY LOVE, those on the other side could also see what I was standing for. I turned my sign towards pick-up trucks with men who looked like contractors, towards school buses, towards cars filled with people in headscarves, towards anyone who would look, anyone who would meet my eyes, anyone who was willing and needing to engage in some kind of person-to-person exchange. ONLY LOVE.
I stood there for another hour alone. It felt more vulnerable, yet in that vulnerability — even more powerful. I had looked that morning online for a protest that I might join, but usually these happen at times of day that are hard for me to get to — and as a mother, I am hesitant to bring my young child. But I also miss and need this kind of collective action. This kind of getting out there on the streets, off my phone, out of my bubble, into the world of people who may not have the same kind of online networks filled with community giving each other sustenance, solidarity, hope.
I stood there alone and met the eyes of what I guessed could be a lesbian couple in their car. The woman in the passenger seat held her hand over her heart. I nodded at her and my tears brimmed again. I let my tears fall, openly. For the next few minutes, I stood behind my sign crying, unapologetic — allowing myself to stand exposed with a straight back and open chest, crying, seen by those who drove by. It felt like performance art in a way — only this wasn’t a performance; this was real life. This was a true emergency.
I see you, my country. Not the part of you that voted out of fear and hate. I see you, the majority of you, the popular vote , the greater you — all of us who seek a life of love, safety, community, and belonging.
We suffered a terrible blow this week. We are still suffering. But our love is still here. Our work is still here. Our ability to take some small action is still here. Whenever you are ready. Even if you are just one person holding one sign.