#MatteredToMe - August 21, 2020: Leading from the Ground Up
Well, despite everything, it is still Friday. So, here are some things that mattered to me recently:
- Layli Long Soldier's poem "Obligations 2" is made to have many readings. I think the one that hits me the most deeply is reading it straight across.
- I was catching up on my podcast queue this week and listened to an episode of LeVar Burton Reads from back in March, reading Toni Morrison's story "Recitatif." How it utilizes reader expectations to do what it does is, I thought, quite amazing.
I also wanted to break format for a bit and talk in a bit more depth about something else that mattered to me recently, if that's alright:
As I'm sure you must know, the DNC was this week, wrapping up with Joe Biden's acceptance of the nomination last night. I hadn't really watched the convention—I've already made up my mind to what I can to support the Dems and Biden in particular, and I didn't see what watching the convention would really add for me. During and after Biden's speech, though, I started seeing people praising it, and him. NYT columnist Jamelle Bouie said on Twitter, "my initial thought was that biden was going to give a merely servicable speech but while not a piece of oratory, this was very well done. the speech of a confident, veteran politician who has been waiting his whole life to do this one thing." That may seem calm, but from Bouie it seemed like fairly high praise. One of J's friends was even more effusive, texting her to say that it was the one of best speeches she'd ever seen.
So I looked it up later and watched. For the most part it just seemed like a speech to me. It was serviceable as a campaign speech, but as I passed the halfway point it still hadn't struck me as particularly impressive or moving. But then toward the end, I did find myself getting a little emotional. It was when he was talking about Charlottesville, and the line where I got a little teary-eyed was this: "Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it?"
I didn't understand at first why I was getting emotional. But then I realized that I wasn't feeling proud or moved or motivated by Biden. I felt proud and moved and motivated by the people he was talking about. The ones who had the courage to stand against hate. That is what this moment is to me, and it is what this time will always be when I remember it in the future. It'll be the time when people of courage took a stand.
A bit later he said this, and again I found myself welling up a bit: "America's history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we've made our greatest progress. That we've found the light. And in this dark moment, I believe we are poised to make great progress again."
I know that some people watching this speech were comforted, even moved. And who could blame them? After four years of watching things get worse than we could have imagined, and then continue to get worse, it makes sense that many of us would look to a speech like this and see an appeal to our better angels after four years of ever more violent calls to our most base and selfish instincts. People, many of them, saw leadership and vision. But that's not what I saw.
What I saw was an acknowledgment of the leadership that has already risen all over this country. We have seen dark times. In the past four years we have seen struggle and sacrifice and even death. And because it's been so bad, it has also been the occasion for real heroism as ordinary people step up and take action, some for the first time in their lives. To me, that is what is inspiring. Not the words of this man who we must elect—who, indeed, I and many others have pledged to help elect—but rather the words and deeds of all of the people who have found their courage and taken their stands. These are the ones doing the work, the ones leading. And I am comforted and inspired by that.
If we are to prevail, not just in November but in all the days and years ahead, it will not be because of a President, not even a good one—and I do have hope that Joe Biden can be a good President. But, no, if we prevail, it will be because of the real leaders, the ones here on the ground, who have pushed and fought and struggled for every inch. I believe in them, and I believe in you.
As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I know that there is so much going on. Too much. But if you can, please consider donating to the Monterey County Relief Fund or the Food Bank for Monterey County, to help the communities affected by the River Fire, the Carmel Fire, and the Dolan Fire.
Thank you, and take care.