Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures may be a perfect movie. It was certainly the perfect movie for me to watch today, a day I started out heartsick, enraged by the Republican senators who last night voted to destroy the healthcare of veterans, children, mothers — over 26 million Americans of all kinds. People will die because of this.

I ended the movie inspired anew by the courage of so many who fought for civil rights, who put their lives and fragile bodies on the line, who spoke up, knowing what it might cost them. Some days the only thing that lets me move forward is the hope that this election will wake up and energize a host of Americans, that it will fuel a new civil rights movement, a new wave of civic engagement.

Like many, I have been focused on my own family, my own mostly comfortable life. Too often, I have been complacent and lazy, trusting that others were doing the necessary work. We have come so far, but right now, we are being dragged back decades.

I know activists who have serious concerns about Democratic party machinery. I know Democrats who get frustrated by activists they see as mostly getting in the way. I know people who think the best approach is to spend lots of money supporting politicians who share their views; I know others who think that entire approach is corrupt and bound to failure, that the path to a better future has to come from the people who are most affected by the problems, the marginalized precariat, speaking up and taking action for themselves.

Sometimes it seems like these approaches are diametrically opposed, but I believe that we can come together, we can work the problem from every angle — from within the Democratic party and without, from the top of the economic ladder and the middle and the bottom. We can make phone calls and make posters and put our bodies out there in marches and rallies. We can show up to local community meetings, put our minds to the problems that exist in our neighborhoods right now. We can make art that inspires, write letters to the editor, do everything we can to restore the voting rights that have been so gravely eroded in the last decade. We can even talk to Republicans, and find the ones who share our goals, even if right now, they disagree with how we get there.

We’re not all going to work the problem the same way, or come up with the same solutions. That’s okay. Even on the local level, at the Oak Park candidate forum last night, I saw what a diversity of opinion there was even among the library board candidates. But we’re all reaching for the same dreams — a stronger community, one that welcomes and supports all of its inhabitants. Neighbors who care about each other, and take care of each other.

What exactly are the best methods to achieve those goals? We’ll argue it out along the way. The main thing right now is to show up.

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