By Heidi Stevens
“I’m not shocked. I’m awake.”
Those words – novelist Attica Locke’s words – greeted me as I drove home from a TV station last Wednesday morning, fresh off a segment where we talked about healing our divisions after a bitter, divisive election.
I voted for Hillary Clinton. Not reluctantly. Not begrudgingly. Not just to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office. I found her to be inspiring and eminently qualified, and I truly loved her vision for our country and its people – all of its people.
Is she perfect? Of course not. But as loyal Chicago Tribune reader Bob Angone commented to me recently, quoting writer George Eliot, “The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.” (Or women.)
An imperfect man was elected. A man by whom many of us feel demeaned and bullied. A man who has actively threatened the ideals many of us hold dear – freedom of religion, freedom of the press, marriage equality, agency over our own bodies.
But I’m nowhere close to surrendering my faith in people’s goodness.
Recently, I ran into a dear friend whose son overcame cancer 12 years ago. He had a brain tumor, and he bested it. Now, my friend told me, the cancer may have returned.
He’s cautiously optimistic, though, because researchers at Duke University are working on a breakthrough therapy that ever so slightly tweaks the polio virus and uses it to fight recurrent glioblastoma brain cancer, the same kind his son suffered.
This is brilliant.
Inventors and creators
We are, in fact, a country of tireless, undefeatable brilliance. We invent and create and problem-solve. We evolve. We always have – through dark days of wars and assassinations and economic upheaval, and through brighter days of prosperity and relative peace.
Being awake means remembering that. But it also means recognizing that our prosperity and peace have never been evenly distributed. And evolving means making sure they become more so.
Where do we go from here? We keep our world large. We refuse to become insular and shut out dissent. We refuse to surrender to fear.
We raise our kids to be upstanders, so that when they hear words that threaten and demean others, they speak up and say, “No more. Not on my watch.”
We look around at all the good, and we live in a way that creates room for even more.
I recently reconnected with a high-school classmate named Amy. We used to sell shoes together at a local department store, where we’d complain about biology homework and boys.
We share a mutual disappointment in the election results, and I love what she wrote on Facebook on about her own awakening.
“What can I personally do to work toward having a country I love?” she asked. “Here’s my running list.”
It included: “Go see more art, and support artists. Work on getting solar power for my building. Amplify minority voices. Get out into nature more. Mentor students. Raise my kids to recognize their privilege while treating others with love and respect. Read more history. Volunteer.”
What would your list include?
“The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.”
And it shouldn’t have to wait any longer. Let’s get moving.
Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.