This morning I spied the fog is rolling in, just like that the sky has turned from crystal blue to opaque whiteness. Mine is the last residential street in Oakland, edged off by an unsightly freeway ramp. The other side the hubbub of a bustling port transports clothes, shoes, food, cars, oil, and electronics. One side of the block is under construction, all plywood and slab—luxury living at ¼ the size but three times the price of a modest home in one of the elusive battleground states. My neighborhood is a contradiction. The other side is speckled with wonderful Victorian row houses, a reminder of a time when this was a solidly middle-class neighborhood, where families thrived before red lines were drawn and redevelopment came crashing through. Further down a shanty-like network of lean-to’s, tents, tiny homes and sheds create a safe haven for our unhoused neighbors who are wedged against chain link fences waiting for the world to take notice and help.
Words like bubble, inner city, hell, gentrification are the descriptors for this street, but this is my neighborhood, I live here with my family, just like so many other decent humans. In this past year, I’ve put my energy towards acquainting myself with the politics and the community, both of these are a challenge but worth the time. There is no single word, no demographic term that accurately describes my little space on this Earth, monolithic we’re not, rather a complex community, in need of specialized services and a new form of progressive development that will require leadership that is sorely missing in the bluest city, in the bluest county, in the bluest state. I can’t stop thinking, still reeling from this election, trying to parse out what has gone wrong, why I wasn’t heard, who I wasn’t listening too. For the first time in a long time I feel our politicians have abandoned us on so many levels, party politics has left us in the lurch and I see clearly that the change we wish to see is within us. The time is now, no more waiting around. There are no heroes, no symbols or catchy slogans that will save us. Just our solidarity and resistance.
Since election day the weather has been unseasonably warm and quite literally the only bright spot that was hard to overlook during these very uncertain times. I started off 11/8 filled with optimism, and proudly stated to my friends online that I love my city, my job my country, my family and friends and those feelings didn’t dissolve on 11/9. But optimism is replaced with resolve. I’m trying to dig deep because mistakes were made, I feel duped, misinformed, and mistaken. My critical eye has re-focused, I no longer trust the same sources of information that spoon-fed me comfortable doses of anesthetic in the form of snarky satire and refreshable data feeds. To be frank, it’s not all that important to cling to the same sources that threw us off our game. But I do expect more from the campaigners and politicians who let the wolf into the henhouse and implore they do as much soul-searching as their constituents. But I have my plan, I’ve replaced podcasts and radio news with music, comments online with in-person conversation, and mainstream media with history.
The weekend after the election, tears still well up, my stomach keeps dropping, another musician has left us. If there was ever a time for poetry and music it is now. Emotions are hard to contain as Leonard Cohen’s gravelly baritone rolls out poetry so apropos it feels like another punch to a bruised soul:
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
It’s through this process of grieving, hearing words strung together with a marksman-like accuracy, that I start the process of healing. I’m not moping or wallowing because I need to stay energized. Of course, I’m unsure, not fearful but on edge, anxious but resigned. I’m filled with concern for the vulnerable and the foundational freedoms of my country that is once again struggling with its legacy of inequality. The reckoning has arrived and it’s not in the form we’d expected. But I’m still here. So are you.