I’m taking a moment to not write about writing and to write a little bit about something else instead.
Once upon a time…
When I was young, sometime between six and 12 years old, I was heavily influenced by what felt like so much conflict around me. The Vietnam War was on TV. People (including my grandparents and parents) were still watching documentaries on World War II. I’d also read lots of history stories and biographies written for kids. Edith Cavell (a nurse from WWI who was killed by the Germans for harboring Allied soldiers), Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Marie Antoinette (that one made me too sad, I only read it a couple of times), Joan of Arc (another sad one, but I always felt victorious after reading it) and the British Blitz (WW II bombing of London) were just some of the topics of those books. The whole we’re-gonna-die-any-minute-in-a-bomb-blast-or-a-catastrophe thing was also highly influential (Cold War mixed with a handful of disaster movies like Towering Inferno and Poseidon Adventure helped with that).
I also remember being acutely aware of how mean people were to each other for various reasons (Side note: I had no idea why people were being mean to Nixon, but I felt sorry for him. Later, of course, I didn’t. But as a child, it felt like everyone was picking on him and I felt sorry for him). Race, gender, and denomination or religion were only some of the obvious reasons people entered into some kind of conflict. On top of that, I hated how it felt like girls were treated differently than boys, excluded because they weren’t boys — it felt like I was always shrugging something off of me, or that I was constantly trying to prove myself. Plus, I was one of those kids who was bullied at school as well, so I knew it wasn’t just adults, it was everyone.
In the middle of all this, I craved unity. I wanted so much for everyone to get along. I wanted good stories and beauty and creativity and lots of musicals with singing and dancing (Okay, I admit, I still want lots of musicals with singing and dancing). I used to draw pictures of huge buildings built out of large pine logs (I was a Laura Ingalls fan) in the middle of flowery meadows on a sunny day with an American flag on the top (I was a patriotic child). I called them “non-denominational churches” that everyone was invited to attend, to be in, to be accepted in. I was sure that would solve the problem. If we could just all love each other and feel loved and accepted then the world would be a better place. That’s one of the reasons I became a Christian as a kid. Love and acceptance.
By the time I reached my 20s, I realized that the church (at least the one I was attending at the time) was not about love and acceptance after all. It took me at least 10 years and the reading of Stealing Jesus, among other things, before I felt like I could accept my faith back into my life and heart. The Jesus I believed in was not exclusionary. As Bawer in Stealing Jesus pointed out, everyone deserves a place at the table.
I’m not sure where those pictures are anymore, if they’re stored away in a box or now only exist in the attic of my memories, but back in the 90s when I first read that book, I figured I would have create my own all-inclusive table, similar to that all-inclusive church, if I wanted it to exist for me. Every once in a while it felt like society was getting closer to this idea, but every time there was forward movement, something happened to snuff it out.
Today when the delegates were casting their vote at the Democratic National Convention I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt that hope again. I had felt that hope, that feeling of being part of history, when President Obama was first elected, but after eight years of all his progressive goals being continuously blocked I had forgotten what it felt like. So when the delegates from Vermont and Sen. Bernie Sanders cast the votes and requested Hillary Clinton be accepted as official presidential nominee of the Democratic party, I cried. I cried from relief that at last this was happening. And this time it’s herstory that’s happening, and not just history.
Then I saw this video clip and bawled and bawled (in a good way).
Despite all the other stuff (insert all the things and links and stuff you’re going to post if you are cynical or don’t like Hillary Clinton or think there’s some grand conspiracy etc., etc., etc.), I am happy Hillary Clinton is the official presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. I want to hold onto this hope. I want it to last. I want things to move once more toward that better, inclusionary place from my childhood that I daydream of — that place where we all have a seat at the table.