‘Pressing on’ amid electoral tears and outrage

Reflections, gratitude, and finding hope

“Pressing On…” is the title my coworker Anne scrawled in ornate lettering on the mixtape manifesto that woke me up to Bob Dylan’s genius. This was back in the ’90s at a South Minneapolis coffeeshop, long before Dylan became a Nobel Laureate.

The mixtape took it’s title from a Dylan song of the same name written during his gospel period, circa 1979. A deeply Christian song from a bard born Jewish. Ever since I first played that mixtape, the song’s extended refrain has come to mind whenever I’ve had to keep moving in tough times (despite the fact that I identify mainly as a religious “none”).

Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

And these post-election days certainly qualify as tough times.

Late on Tuesday night, when I’d had enough of an increasingly somber election watch party, I took a long walk. I take a lot of long walks, but on this night DC was about as quiet as I’ve seen it. It was a quiet that reminded me of a walk last January in the hours just before a major winter storm began in earnest.

Quiet, desolate U Street in Washington, DC after midnight on Election Day.

As I walked U Street, it was impossible not to recall witnessing the outpouring of joy for our first African-American President in 2008 — a moment I had been expecting to see echoed with the election of our first female President. Instead of crowds of strangers from all backgrounds embracing in the street amid tears of joy, I saw only a few people out. Many had damp eyes, weeping quietly as they walked home. Others offered silent glances — perhaps in search of reassurance that things will be OK, that we’re not a nation of monsters who tolerate sexual assault and the demonization of muslims and people of color. That we’re not a nation of people who deny the existence and urgency of our planetary climate crisis.

I want to believe that things will be OK. I know we are a nation of good people on a planet of good people.

I am heartened by the fact that Hillary won the popular vote. But more than that, I’m heartened by all those who are working to address injustices in their own communities in ways large and small.

I want to express gratitude to friends who worked hard volunteering for Clinton in North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere; to neighbors who work for social justice causes everyday here in DC.

I especially want to express gratitude to those who step up and run for public office.

One of those people is the creator of that old Dylan mixtape. On Tuesday, Anne Buckvold’s name appeared several lines down-ballot from Hillary Clinton’s. She ran to represent legislative district 13A just outside of Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

Anne did not win (despite these great t-shirts and her clever “Buck the System” logo). It was an uphill fight in a county that Hillary Clinton wound up losing by 30 points.

Still, I’m heartened because when I look at her campaign’s Twitter account, I see that she built hundreds of meaningful relationships with her neighbors. I know that those relationships will endure and bring lasting strength to her community, no matter what comes next for her and the country. I’m sure it stings amid all the heartbreak this week, but even Obama had huge dispiriting setbacks along the way.

Having worked in national politics in the past, and seeing the pain of this very raw and unthinkable electoral loss on the faces of all my friends, I’m convinced more than ever that the only way we turn this thing around is by doing what Anne did—spending time getting to know our neighbors, by each of us engaging at the most local level with those around us.

It is a tragedy that 42% of the country sat this election out, but it is even more shocking that almost no one votes in elections for city councils and mayors. And yet, this is where our national leaders work their way up from, and where they draw strength from. A senator, governor, or president’s ability to be a strong progressive is contingent on the strength of all the local communities that make up our states and nation.

I don’t want to gloss over the tough times we now find ourselves in. There is definitely a storm of hard truths and maddening policy changes already forming from the next administration and Congress. We have even more work to do to fight racism and misogyny in our culture than we did in October.

Please do what you need to do to cope and be healthy: take a break, go for walks, unplug from media and Facebook. But through it all, stay close to your friends and get to know your neighbors. THANK those like Anne and Hillary who stepped up and built the relationships that will matter every day between now and the next election day. And keep pressing on.

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