Monday, January 23, 2017

Subconscious Activism

Last night, I woke from a nightmare.  There were fires in the trees right next to a what my subconscious mind had created - a combination of my son's high school and the local state university. I somehow sensed that arson was to blame, but there wasn't time to dwell on the cause. I knew that the fire threatened the buildings and the people inside.

I ran in, but all the fire extinguishers were spent, missing, or broken. I pulled the fire alarm switch, but it came off in my hand without any effect. Panic-stricken, I searched for a solution. I discovered a tool shop, and found an old pump-type extinguisher. I quickly popped the lid and filled the large tank with water. Acutely aware of the precious time ticking away, I grabbed a rusty hand cart and lugged the huge heavy canister outside.

The flames were climbing higher into the branches and licking the sides of the buildings. I pumped the handle and sprayed from the nozzle at the conflagration until the stream dwindled, then pumped again. The heat was like nothing I've ever felt. I had to be close or the water wouldn't reach. It felt as if I would melt. The flames seemed indifferent to my efforts.

I pumped and sprayed, pumped and sprayed, My muscles began to cramp, but I couldn't stop. I was so relieved when people joined in, taking turns pumping and spraying. The progress was painfully slow, but we began to make some headway. Our combined efforts were diminishing what was once a seemingly unstoppable conflagration. We turned that destructive force back. Even though the trees were damaged, a botany professor in the group thought they could be saved.

When I told my wife a little bit about my dream, she said with a hint of sarcasm, “Really, so you had that  dream? I wonder where that came from?” She's brilliant, and she saw it for what it was. I was too close to see the allegory of my subconscious mind.

My daughter gave away the other seven hats she made the week before the march.

On Saturday, my wife, my daughter, and many of our friends participated in our city's women's march. I was excited and grateful to participate. The feeling was electric. The message was life-affirming. So many people were demonstrating how much they cared about each other, and the world we share. There was anger, too.

People have devoted their lives to advance causes of equality and the environment. Turning back the clock on the progress they have fought for is a goal of those in power. Our institutions are being threatened. Cabinet picks are so averse to the functions of their posts that the great John Cleese compared the nominations to “Assembling the crew for a pirate ship.” Science and facts are disregarded in favor of inflammatory campaign rhetoric even in a “presidential” inaugural speech. The arson has reached the branches of the trees begins to threaten the core structures of our system.

People reacted. They came together in the largest nationwide protest in the history of our country, but it transcended borders and oceans. This is a global phenomenon. It is inspiring to be just one small part of something so important and historic. The key, is the power of one. The numbers are impressive in size, but would not exist without each and every individual who participated, and it is a demonstration of the sheer number of individuals who will be acting as one.

We'll be watching, demanding accountability, and contributing to those individuals and groups fighting along with us to turn back the destructive inferno roaring before us.

We have the old reliable tools that still get the job done like rusty carts, antique fire extinguishers, editorial pages, local organizing efforts, and postcards and letters to representatives. There are comparatively new tools as well such as email campaigns, social media, and even the seemingly ancient form known as the blog post. With a concerted and consistent use of these tools a committed group can win the day and prevent disaster. Trees, buildings, and lives can be saved. We can protect a community, a culture, and a nation that values knowledge, diversity, and equity.

My subconscious didn't create a perfect analogy, but this is an incredibly imperfect time. There is always room to strive for a more perfect union. It feels like there's more room now than there has been in a very long time.

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