A message to my ladies: keep calm and stay engaged

We were not, it turns out, headed for the Hollywood ending we thought we were owed. Hillary is not going to be president and we’re in shock. If we’re honest with ourselves, we were blindsided. We didn’t see this coming not because we believed too much in the polls or even pay close attention to polls. We’re reeling right now because we’ve only known one storyline: progress is marching aggressively forward. Nothing can stop that march. A woman will be president.

For a lot of women my age and younger, the most definining aspect of our lives is that we have lived a good portion of it (for me nearly a third of my life) with the Obamas in the White House. They have come to embody everything millenials respond positively to: they’re super smart, they have a good and equal marriage, they’re so funny, they’re kind of “adorkable,” they know how to use real-person language when they speak, especially on the stump. They are totally on top of the memes we’re all laughing at and sharing too. OMG when they show up on comedy shows am I right? They’re great. With folks like them at the helm, who needs to be all that dial-ed in to politics?

It’s painful to flash back to over a year ago and think about what we didn’t know. We weren’t really told that this is a “change” election. That, in general, when a party has been in power for two presidential terms, voters are far more likely than not to bring in a whole new party just to mix things up. Maybe we were told that but there is so much noise in our lives right now that hitting that message at high volume is hard. But the truth is we should have been gearing up for the fight of our lives and instead we were complacent because we thought the fight of our lives was in 2008 and again in 2012.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to my friends who feel discouraged and frankly, panicked. What is worrying me is that this panick can easily be a gateway drug to complacency all over again. We should avoid this. Those of us who do not work directly in politics should find ways to civically engage and take a direct hand in shaping the future for ourselves, our daughters, our sons and we should do so in honor of our mothers and our grandmothers and all the women who came before us. We should reflect on what we truley value. We should reevaluate our time commitments and carve out the space in our lives for volunteering, making calls to elected officials and contributing our voices, money and influence to the causes we care most about. We should make more time to engage in our local communities to build the kinds of towns and cities in America that make us proud. We should recognize that building the future we want for this country will require personal sacrifice.

Here’s the lesson I’ve personally learned: history is long and the powers that be are powerful and deeply entrenched. When you think you have made great strides forward, never ever take that for granted again. Don’t ever assume victory is in the bag. It’s never in the bag. The struggle has been taking place long before we were born and it doesn’t end in any one lifetime much less eight years. The struggle doesn’t respect boundaries or national boarders. If one person is not free, no one is free. Let’s never forget that again.

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