We all know what happened. The mail-in ballots were counted, and Biden was declared the winner. But that election night as I lay in bed, tossing and turning, unable to sleep because of the acid churning in my stomach, I decided I was done. I was too tired to continue. Even though Biden won, the constant barrage against democracy and the Republican efforts to overturn the results of a fair and free election and commit sedition continue daily, and they are exhausting. I am too tired to do this anymore.
How tired am I?
- I marched with candles to protest the Vietnam War and canvassed door-to-door for the “Peace” candidate, George McGovern. And I stood with Women in Black to protest the Iraq War. Yet here we are, where peace still eludes us and the military/industrial complex reigns supreme. The United States spends over $700 billion a year on the military.
- I participated in twelve Take Back the Night marches to protest sexual assault and support survivors and marched in fourteen candlelight vigils that protested domestic violence and remembered all those hurt and killed. Yet here we are, where the majority of Senate Republicans vote against continued funding for the Violence Against Women Act that would support survivors, and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania tells women that marriage is so sacred, they need to stay married even if there’s violence.
- I held a protest sign in 1996 while Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed a bill that ended welfare benefits and plunged more and more women and children into poverty. Yet here we are, where nearly one in nine women – or 13.9 million – and more than one in seven children – nearly 10.5 million – live in poverty. Elderly women, women of color, women with disabilities, and families headed by unmarried mothers all face even higher rates of poverty. Women were 35 percent more likely to live in poverty than men in 2019.
- I canvassed, fundraised, and fought for LGBTQ rights. I remember drinking champagne to celebrate a milestone victory when Marriage Equality became the law of the land. Yet, here we are, with SCOTUS looking at re-evaluating those decisions and Republicans making targets of gay and transgender people in the culture wars they’ve started to energize their base and distract from their lack of policies.
- I supported the vote for the ERA in Wisconsin to work for equal rights for women. Yet, here we are, with Roe v Wade overturned. Women are losing more rights every day, rights I believed were long secured, only to see them stripped from us again.
So where do I go from here? I’m tired, so tired, I sometimes think, why bother? Why even try? I’m old now, and I can just focus on myself, on living my best life. I’ve put in my time, after all. I’ve done my part. After Roe was overturned, I debated going to a march. Why bother? I thought again. What’s the point? But I dug out my “Keep Your Laws Off My Body” sign and joined the protest. I saw lots of us oldsters marching for the zillionth time, but the youth caught my attention.
There were hundreds of them, and their energy filled the space. Bright and engaged and funny (the signs were hilarious), they inspired me and filled me with hope. I remembered a quote from Jane Goodall: “I do have reasons for hope: our clever brains, the resilience of nature, the indomitable human spirit, and above all, the commitment of young people when they’re empowered to take action.” I felt her words in my bones when I saw the faces of those committed young people at the march, and I knew I had to continue to do my part.
Then I reflected on Elizabeth Warren’s attempts to read a letter from Coretta Scott King into the Senate record during the attorney general confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions. Mitch McConnell stopped her from completing her reading. He said, “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
That’s what I need right now. Hope and persistence will give me energy once again. They will be my focus as I fight the fear and exhaustion and make every effort to continue my part to build a better, more equitable world.