How a year in Trump’s America renewed my faith
As I look back on the long, chaotic, exhausting, infuriating, terrifying year we’ve had since the presidency was called for Trump, one thought in particular stands out:
I’m really proud of us.
I’m proud of all of us who have made calling our elected representatives a new daily habit; who have gotten involved in politics on the most local of levels; who have put their bodies on the line protesting the Muslim ban, the attempted healthcare repeals, white supremacy, the rescinding of DACA. Who have donated more and more of their resources to help support Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, CAIR, and so many other important orgs. Who have gotten trained in bystander intervention, legal observation and community organizing. Who have built new organizations aimed at fighting unjust bills in Congress, recruiting new candidates for 2018, coordinating communities across diverse interests. Who have declared their cities, schools and places of worship sanctuary sites. Who have taken professional or personal risks speaking out against hate and bigotry, because now is not the time to do what is safe and expedient — rather, what is right.
I am proud of us for fighting for a world in which each and every human being’s inherent worth is regarded as a thing of consequence. Every transgender solider. Every Black person in the crosshairs of police bias. Every family in Puerto Rico struggling to find clean water. Every person depending on the ACA for care. Everyone who needs to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks. Every undocumented immigrant.
Each of us, created in the divine image, and valued as such. “What is the image of a person?” Heschel asks. “A person is a being whose anguish may reach the heart of God.”
I’m proud of each of us who heard what Rabbi Josh Feigelson calls the essential human question — “For whom are you responsible?” — and knows that the answer isn’t only ourselves, not only our families or even only Jews, but, rather, all of us, all of us, all of us.
Of each of us who knows that our tradition demands, again and again, that we speak up for those who are vulnerable, that we welcome the stranger and give special attention to those whose place in society put them at unique risk.
Of each of us, responding to the demand of Proverbs (31:8-9) to “Speak up for the speechless, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.”
I worry about us as well — resistance fatigue is a real thing, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the news cycle, exhausted by the relentless pace of harm outputted by Trump and the GOP, frustrated by our limitations right now — the ways in which our hands are in some ways tied around protecting disabled students and poor children, meaningfully addressing climate change, preventing nuclear war. We need to take breaks, care for ourselves and one another, double-down on our spiritual practices, make any adjustments needed to transition from the initial burst of adrenaline and outrage into something that we can sustain for the long haul.
Because as admirably as we have shown up this first year, the work is not going to be letting up any time soon. We need to do everything we can to prevent the passage of tax reform that would benefit the wealthy at the expense of of the poor, getting a clean DREAM act passed, making sure people know that, despite Trump’s slashing of the ACA outreach budget, health care enrollment is open until December 15th, and to continue fighting voter suppression and setting things up for electoral wins in 2018. For starters.
We have a lot of work to do. And though we can’t, any of us, do it all, we can do it all together. We can each invest the time, talents, connections and resources we might have available in service of the needs that call most loudly to us.
This work is holy, the labor to which we are called in this hour. We put God in the center when we put human beings in the center. We sanctify the Divine Name when we work to protect and care for all those who are animated by the sacred spark. We have a long road ahead of us, still, but perhaps today’s a good day to reflect on how far we’ve already come.
Thank you, and yashar koach. Steady on.
Danya Ruttenberg is author of “Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting” and Rabbi-in-Residence at Avodah.