Complicated Feelings During the 4th? Same — And That’s Okay.

Image by Gretchen Gales

*Note: Cross-published on Quail Bell Magazine.

Growing up in a proudly American small town, I was taught the value of exercising my right to vote and how precious it was that our elected officials were there to listen to our opinions. Today, I’m not at all convinced of the latter, or that our government stands for everyone’s independence.

Like many, the recent election was disheartening…to say the VERY least. I began more proactively sending emails and letters to government officials and representatives. I had no idea where to begin first with my grievances. Perhaps I would protest Trump’s treatment of minorities, women, the disabled, indigenous populations, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. The Dakota Access Pipeline was — at that point — still being halted and I had hopes it would stay that way. There’s still the “healthcare” bill floating around. There’s still plenty to protest about in one form or another.

Due to my anxiety, crowds aren’t my favorite thing. So I organized a letter-writing campaign. I’ve also been signing White House petitions, sending emails, and spreading the word to others just as angry as I am. I’ve hopefully modeled what German activist Sophie Scholl would have done, but instead of leaflets, contributing to and distributing ‘zines. Though I know my efforts aren’t completely in vain, I can’t help but feel sometimes that I am shouting in a void, particularly when it comes to communicating with my local representatives.

My representative is an older gentleman. (I know, very specific.) He says he is proud to be an outdoorsman and a grandfather. I can respect that. But based on his voting choices, I know he doesn’t respect me. He doesn’t respect the right I have to my own body or some of my friends’ right to exist. Sure, I’m currently in a small, conservative town, but even though he boasts about local veterans, he isn’t afraid to take their healthcare away with one “Aye”. Sure, health care for veterans and MANY others has certainly not been perfect, but moving backwards is fatal.

I always heard grumbling that politicians didn’t take their constituents’ concerns seriously (from members of any or no party), but I always want to be somewhat optimistic. But each time I write an email, make a call, or mail a letter, it feels more like I’m shouting into a void and just got duped into signing up for an email list. The auto-responses don’t help dispel my pessimism.

But that doesn’t mean I’m stopping. And neither should you.

I’m never going to stop rejecting that this country is only made for people who look like me. I’m not going to stop saying this is not normal. I’m not going to stop caring about ALL people. I’m not going to stop telling you that you should absolutely care about other people. The fact that I have to say any of these things left me questioning how much I should be celebrating today. But I can’t help but celebrate when a holiday comes around, so even in my disappointment and anger, I wore red, white, and blue. I wore it to celebrate the protesters that recognize their right to do so is patriotic. I watched fireworks that could never be as bright as what we all can accomplish together as a collective resistance. Fireworks fizzle out, but we have to ensure that our right to persist and exist never will.

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