February was a blur. The 10th marked two years post surgery and reconstruction, a thing I just couldn’t imagine acknowledging in any way this year. When I think back to my experience with breast cancer, when I focus on the details — the 12-hour surgery, the long and challenging recovery, the worry and frustration — I have to quickly look away, change the subject in my head. I don’t know if I will ever stop worrying about recurrence, about roque cancer cells silently waging war inside my body, but I have learned to live with the uncertainty, and today, my mind is focused on so many other things.
A week ago, James and I went to a town hall meeting hosted by our congressional representative. While she spent close to three hours answering questions and discussing the climate in Washington, two moments stood out for me. When she introduced a Planned Parenthood representative, the room rose to its feet. I thought in that moment about all the women who receive early detection cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics, women who now have access to healthcare, who don’t have to show up in the emergency room because they feel a lump in their breast. I thought about how lucky I was — how lucky I am — to have insurance and access to incredible doctors. But I also thought about the cost of that access. If I told you what my family spent out of pocket during my first two years of treatment, you would not likely believe me. And that’s in addition to our monthly premiums.
The second moment that stood out for me was when our congresswoman expressed her thanks for a free and independent press. When she asked the audience to continue to support investigative journalism, the room exploded in applause. The truth is, we owe the media right now — and I’m not talking about pundits and talking morning show heads, I’m talking about investigative reporting teams at the Washington Post and The New York Times, at Politico, Democracy Now, and The Nation — we owe these people an enormous debt of gratitude. These investigative journalists are digging and doing the hard work of holding a hostile administration accountable. These reporters are heroes. And while some of you may not like what these teams are reporting, you may prefer to stick with Fox News and Breitbart and the president’s own Twitter feed, I will settle for nothing less than news that is fact-checked and double fact-checked, and reported through organizations widely respected and known for being fair and impartial.
This place we find ourselves in, this shadowy place where truth is willfully ignored or shoved into a dark corner, cannot become a comfortable, familiar place. We have to resist the temptation to think of what’s happening around us as normal. It’s not normal. I’m not going to tell you what to think. I’m not even going to hope you come to the same conclusions I do. I’m simply going to beg you to educate yourself. To accept nothing at face value.
The world we are living in demands active participation — no matter which side you are on. Remember, decisions are made by those who show up. And that’s my plan. I’m showing up. I’m getting actively involved. I’m thinking globally but acting locally. Because if this election and its outcome have shown me anything, it’s that I love this country more than I ever knew possible. And yes, it’s flawed. We are flawed. But we have come too far and made too much progress to take a step back.
During its time, the Civil Rights movement was very unpopular. Polls from the 1960s indicate that a majority of Americans thought sit-ins at lunch counters and Freedom Riders were a bad idea. An overwhelming majority of people polled thought mass demonstrations would do more to harm the movement than initiate progress. We are seeing a similar backlash today. When people question the relevance of the Women’s March or the motivation behind A Day Without Women, they are essentially saying, “we do not approve.” So, while many of us (remember the popular vote?) are in favor of social justice, human rights and equality on every playing field, others prefer to support an administration that chips away at those things under the guise of “smaller government.”
I don’t know where this is headed. I don’t like the fact that I barely recognize the world I’m living in. But I’m not going to sit on the sidelines. You won’t see me running for office, but I am already deeply entrenched in the hard work necessary to right the course. I am joining and organizing and mobilizing and donating and calling and writing and marching. I am showing up. And that, my friends, is what enables me to sleep at night.
I know we are going to lose some of the time. There will be bills passed and policies set that benefit no one but the wealthy and the privileged. Healthcare, the environment, rights to privacy, international relations — these things are already taking a big hit. But eventually, we will win one. And then we will win two, and soon the tide will shift and a sea change will be upon us. Because I don’t doubt for one second that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. And I plan to be one of them.