Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country…
It was 1991. Inside our 24′ Prowler Travel Trailer house I sat at the kitchen table that turned into my bed and typed that sentence over and over and over and over and over again. Nearly a century before, in January 1889, Frank E. McGurrin, an expert on the early Remington typewriter, used it in demonstrating his touch typing abilities. Now, it’s offered as common drill when learning to type.
The sentence was meaningless to me at the time. Just a goal. Letters to type faster. But today, it landed with a thud and inspired dormant (or just scared) citizenship and activism in me.
My 10 year old daughter is ever at the root of so many awakenings and she has a small role here too. She abandoned her ‘own’ room in favor of moving into my room recently. It’s regression by all normal standards, but we have had the smoothest bedtimes in years. So I surrender. We need each other. Fuck the judgement. We are living our best life and going where the love is.
As a result, we now have a spare small room. Which I delighted in claiming. I moved in
a little loveseat, a weighted blanket, soft pillows and voila. It’s a serene quiet calm room bathed in natural light, fresh air and inspiration. I’ve found myself there early every morning doing my meditation and devotions and if the kids are still sleeping, the inspiration to write is spilling out. There’s a tiny writing desk in the corner, in perfect view from my loveseat perch. After sitting one morning, I stared at that spot and it begged to be a little inspirational ‘writing’ vignette. The interior designer in me got right up and grabbed the old Smith Corona Typewriter we discovered at the Goodwill six months ago that the kids have tired of. I placed it in the vignette, loaded in a sheet of fresh white paper and instinctively pounded out ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country‘ to test it out.
Whoa. Seeing the faded typewritten letters on the white paper gave me pause. My past, this unprecedented moment in time now and our collective future collided together.
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.
Could that be any more relevant? Now in 2020.
I’ve been living out of America for the past 6 years. Abroad in a far flung country. And coming home has been a great pleasure. I love it here. So much comfort, ease, familiarity, freedom and opportunity for me. As a white middle class woman, I am safe and free. Even without a husband.
But I’m also horrified by the degradation of civility in public affairs. Horrified by the hypocrisy of our leadership. Horrified by the health care system. Horrified by the mental health and addiction crisis that seems to be unnoticeable to most. Horrified by the profound level of consumerism and generally shocked by the sheer quantity of products, services and information available, but the lack of transparency and unbiased truth and guidance. Horrified that so much of modern life has no contact with the natural world at all. Surprised by the weak public academic curriculum and resources. I’ll stop there.
Maybe I’m being super judgmental. Maybe I’m suddenly awake because my kids are old enough to be impacted by this. Maybe I’m spoiled by living like an expat for 6 years. Or maybe, I should be horrified.
From a distance, it all seemed like a funny little phase America was going through, but inside here is a joke. It’s a fucking mess. A bunch of self absorbed narcissist wackos in pretty powerful positions playing some kind of game with the plastic zombie people. The general direction we seem to be headed all around is deeply saddening when I think about how I to raise my kids. But the worst, is how I’ve just gotten sucked right back into all of it, and been complacent, in the year I’ve been home, or better yet, for the past 20 years. Shame on me.
It all sounds especially harsh, as I see it on paper. The outer and inner critique. I’m tempted to delete it. Veil my opinion more gently and be nicer. The need to please is strong.
I clearly vacillate between being grateful for what is and expecting more. I think the ‘expecting something more is useful at times. And I know I can’t be alone with the bubbling under the surface of disgust. And the challenges are so big and so complex and run so many generations deep that the band-aid reactionary short term gain style of fixing things is making everything worse.
I just want to scream. Again, I usually veer toward peace and settle for just shaking my head and saying I don’t know. But I feel disgusted with myself now!
I’ve heard myself say out-load in conversation, that “I just don’t know WHAT to do.” But that’s not really all that true. It’s just another escape. A way to bury my head in another book, or article about what is happening. Any way to keep the inquiry going on longer so I can avoid what is necessary.
What is necessary is to be exposed. Not that my voice needs to be in the mix so much as my skin needs to be in the game. And that’s scary.
I was selectively mute as a child. I’m not now, but there is a deep river of fear that runs in me. Some deep conditioning that keeps me quite.
For my whole life I’ve had this experience of being talked AT, not with or to. Mostly men, but women too. So often, I’ve had the experience of being underestimated (and using it to my advantage often). I usually just politely nod and listen.
I was about 8 or 9. My father sat me down one day to tell me about being a ‘follower’ and how that was dangerous. From his perspective, I was a follower. His voice droned on and on as I gazed past the window to the landscape beyond. I had just come in from playing with my friend in the sandbox. I was running THE sandbox restaurant for God’s sake. He had no idea how bossy I was. Inside my head, I was thinking: you have no idea, do you?
Being a good listener was revered and I was quick to note that compliance wins in my household. And that worked for the most part and even seemed to be rewarded, so I carried on.
“Girls and women…want to be liked. We want to be trusted. so we downplay our strengths to avoid threatening anyone and avoiding distain. We do not mention our accomplishments. We do not accept compliments. We temper, qualify and discount our opinions. We walk without swagger and yield incessantly. We step out of the way. We say, ‘I feel like’ instead of ‘I know.’ We ask if our ideas make sense instead of assuming they do. We apologize for everything.” Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
I had a friend in middle school. She was popular, wore makeup and had sex way before I ever did. She was in public high school. I was homeschooled. We met at the karate studio a couple times a week. When I confided in her that I wanted to go to public school, she laughed at me. Then her friend, who was also in public high school joined the assault. They assured me I would have SUCH a hard time. Socially and academically. They made faces and were sarcastic and condescending. I played along. I allowed them to explain to me all the reasons why it was so hard. Inside my head, I was thinking: you people have no idea. A few years later, I was a straight-A, honor society student with no problem making friends.
As a female entrepreneur for over 20 years, the frequency with which I play clueless or dumb is utterly embarrassing. The amount of mansplaining I’ve sat doe eyed for is nauseating. The times I’ve bitten my tongue entirely or presented my thoughts as a timid question is innumerable. How often do I take responsibility for something that I know damn well was not mine just to keep the peace? Every single day.
I’m outed now. And its embarrassing.
“Playing dumb, weak and silly is a disservice to yourself and to me and to the world. Every time you pretend to be less than you are, you steal permission from other women to exist fully. Don’t mistake modesty for humility. Modesty is a giggly lie. An act. A mask. A fake game. We have no time for it. ” Untamed, Glennon Doyle
So, really this is just a pep talk to myself and anyone like myself. Being mute at this point, selectively or not, is not an option. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.
“I was diagnosed with selective mutism. That basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary. Now is one of those moments.” — Greta Thunberg, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, in her TEDx Talk Stockholm, November 2018[1
Not that we all have the gift to be an activist like Greta Thunberg and talking isn’t so much required as just doing the work. I’ve been a staunch advocate for the inner work for years. I tell myself that counts.
“Modesty is a learned affectation. You don’t want modesty, you want humility. Humility comes from the inside out. ” Maya Angelou
On health. My nervous system and my immune system are my responsibility. And so are my children’s. If we can’t fight off basic germs, we are super screwed. If we can’t regulate our nervous system under stress, we will be dis-eased before we know it. So, there is that. Much of my work is in feeding my mind, body and spirit (and my children’s) exceptional nourishment. This is a long game. We need stamina. We need steadiness in the face of despair. Stamina and steadiness come from within.
On religion, spirituality and divinity. Do to others what you would have them do for you. That sums it up for me. Putting this into practice is always the work.
On race and racism. I honestly don’t know and this is new inner work for me. I like the work of Resmaa Menakem. He is a Trauma therapist and author of ‘My Grandmother’s Hands‘ talks honestly and directly about the historical and current traumatic impacts of racism in the U.S., and the necessity for us all to recognize this trauma, metabolize it, work through it, and grow up out of it. Only in this way will we at last heal our bodies, our families, and the social body of our nation. So, I’ve read the book and am in a white-body-supremecy group to help unravel the bits that lie in me. I also like the heady approach of Sam Harris – Podcast #207, Can We Pull Back from the Brink? That one proposes quite a few uncomfortable suggestions that we are falling into a trap of hysteria and hype and by giving racism so much attention, we are validating its existence.
On Parenting. Beyond helping them build good physical, mental and emotional habits, I think my job is to keep my kids awake and aware. To have a good childhood filled with generous amounts of play and the luxuries we are privy too, but not shielded from their own suffering or the suffering of others.
So great job Dorcas. You do a lot of inner work. Lots of mindful contemplation. But today, I can see thats not enough. Or maybe it’s served it’s purpose AND its time to advocate.
Ibram X. Kendi—the number one New York Times–bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist, Stamped from the Beginning, and Antiracist Baby—is a historian of change and speaks on the Goop Podcast about Building An Antiracist World about this.
“(It’s important for people to) recognize we need transformed people in order to transform the society. Its critically important that we do do the personal work, but only so we can clearly see the problems, only so that we can clearly see the origins of those problems. only so we can see the policy and powerful forces that have caused those problems.”
I still can’t see the problem with perfect clarity. But I do see part of it and that lies with me. The inner work is never done, the activism and citizenship is like that too. It’s never done. Living in community with other humans has responsibility to oneself and one another.
I have been staring at this quote for many, many years. It moves me every time I read it. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking and being ruled by fear.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
Thank you Ivy for needing to sleep in my room. It freed up space our home for a quiet space to create and birth and connect dots. Thank you boredom in 1991 for forcing me to learn to type. Thank you mother for being a closet writer the fastest typer ever. Thank you typing for helping me free my muted soul. And thank you life for being so good to me.
I have no idea what I will do with this awareness and willingness to participate more in outward work, citizenship and activism, but if it is meant to be, the work will arrive. Did you hear that universe? I am open.