When I started the Republica Unicornia blog, I never dreamed I’d be talking about fascism on the regular, but here we are.
It’s a Sunday morning and for the first time in a long time, I almost wanted to go to church.
It’s been a total violent shitshow this week: bombs sent to leaders who have dared to be critical of the current occupant of the White House by an outspoken supporter of said occupant, and then, yesterday, the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. I am even struggling to write those words for so many reasons—I’m a former clergy person, for one, so this obscene violation of the sacred space of people of faith rattles me deeply. Eleven beloved children of God gunned down in a place of worship is heart-rending.
But also—I grew up in a predominately Jewish community north of Chicago and I can say, without a moment’s hesitation, that who I am as a human being was formed and molded by the lived values of Judaism that surrounded me in Highland Park. I learned about empathy and social justice and the importance of civic engagement from my community. I also learned a healthy does of fear of fascism—I went to school with kids whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors. The public school system did an outstanding job of teaching us historically what the rise of violent, totalitarian regimes looked like, not only in Western Europe, but also in South America. When I went to college to study Spanish and Latin American Studies, I delved deep into the military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s, in part because it was a reminder that the rise of these regimes was not something fully buried in a distant past.
Let me say, unequivocally, that the current climate in the United States: the bombastic rhetoric and the rallies, the complicity of political leaders with an increasingly unhinged leader, the daily acts of violence, the voter suppression, the demonization of the free press—all of it—all of it—is textbook fascism. And this rattles me deeply because I know how this story goes. It’s not inevitable, to be sure (VOTE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT BECAUSE IT DOES), but the United States is going further and further down a dark path.
For years, it was my job to take the horrible things that human beings do to one another and stand up in front of hundreds of people and put them into the context of what is the good news of Christianity—that the bastards might be winning now, but in the end, they won’t. The tricky part (this is where faith comes in) is believing that last part even as if feels like the bastards are on a long, long winning streak. And dear God is that part getting even trickier. I’ve felt despair steadily creeping in over the last several years, and it is starting to seem that all of my worst fears are coming true.
How do we hold to hope when hope just feels like being delusional?
I don’t know, to be perfectly honest. I think the key might be to hold on to both hope and despair at the same damn time.
It’s tempting to go one way or the other.
I want to bury myself in the lovely things that are happening in my personal life, like the knitting and the yarn and my family, to turn off NPR for weeks on end and pretend that the whole world is the Republica Unicornia. My little bubble is safe, filled with kindness and cozy things and seasonal baked goods.
And then sometimes the opposite happens—I’ll get so deeply wrapped up in the relentless news cycle that I’ll have NPR and MSNBC on at the same time while also reading the Times. (This happened during the Kavanaugh nomination process and I’m still reeling from it). I struggle to find any good in the world and lose interest in things like food and knitting.
Holding the good and the horrible together isn’t about balance: about having equal parts knitting and rage time a day so you don’t lose your mind. It’s the paradox at the heart of being a human being: things are beautiful and wonderful and also totally fucked, all at the same time. Our hearts are whole and broken, and this is what it means to be a human being. And sometimes being a human being hurts like hell but we are still here, which means hope isn’t lost.
Be a full human today—ugly cry your way through your breakfast burrito and love your people and fight like hell. Be whole and broken all at the same damn time. (And please, for the love of God, vote November 6th.)
PS: I really want to take away my nonviolence disclaimer about not actually stabbing fascists with your knitting needles, but instead of that, why don’t you pick up an enamel pin so I can give money to the SPLC who will kneecap said fascists using the legal system?