Posted on November 9, 2016
I’m writing this in the early hours of Wednesday morning, watching the final pieces of this election fall into place. At no other moment in my life have I felt so uncertain about the future of our country and the world. I was planning for this post to talk about taking advantage of the opportunities that would open over the next four years, and strategies for rapid integration of the trauma informed paradigm.
Instead, my focus shifts to wondering what will happen to all the gains made over recent years. What will happen to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion? How will HIV funding be impacted at a time when we seem to be winning critical battles against this evil virus that has destroyed so many lives and communities? What happens to all the fragile progress we were making on criminal justice reform, housing, and building mental health and substance abuse infrastructures?
We might have voted yesterday as “white educated men,” “Latinas,” “suburban women,” “black millennials,” “evangelical Christians,” and yet today we wake up as Americans. I hope that this still means something, and that we have not boxed ourselves in so much that we have lost our capacity for compassion and empathy for those whose perceived label might be different from our own. This is a fleeting hope tonight, but a hope nevertheless.
In this new reality, we stand in a familiar position. Voices in a wilderness, finding strength in our passion and sense of justice. Being a lone voice in the dark is lonely, frustrating, and often futile. But we are not alone.
In every community, there are teachers, social workers, medical professionals, people of faith, and compassionate citizens. I have come to see that our greatest weakness and barrier to change is our isolation. Trying to accomplish so much with limited resources, we find little time or energy to reach beyond our natural silos.
Unless this is all a bad dream, those with liberal, compassionate views on health care, criminal justice, social services, LGBTQ rights, and poverty will be the minority in both the House and Senate. In this reality, we can’t afford to operate in silos and in isolation. Throughout the history of our country, great change starts at the local level. It is here where we must organize, and work hard to advocate for those who are at risk to feel the greatest impact of this political reality.
If we are defeated by what happened on Tuesday, our clients and ultimately our communities lose. If we withdraw, we allow injustice to take hold, and we lose the ground we gained due to our hard work, the courage of our clients, and all those heroes in our fields who have laid the path for our success. There will be opportunities mixed in with the hardships, and we must have the energy to organize and take advantage of the doors that open – and knock down some doors that might attempt to be shut.
Physics teaches us that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. We might need to fight to survive for a few years, but things will swing back, and likely swing back in a powerful way. Our goal should be to minimize the negative and position ourselves in the best way possible for the inevitable correction.
We know what is at stake. Policies can save or destroy lives. It is our time to rise and find a collective voice with our partners in compassion. Let’s come together, start to strengthen our partnerships, and build new ones. I often say at my trainings that we need a revolution in thought, knowledge, and empathy, and if I’m going into battle, I would want no other army than those hearing (or reading) these words.