“We’ve come to take our government back.”
Senator-elect Rand Paul
I live in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, birthplace of bourbon and home of Rand Paul. It’s been a frustrating election, especially if you aren’t sporting a “Take back America!” bumper sticker on your SUV. As a descendant of people who lived here generations before the Star-Spangled Banner was composed, the slogan fills me with fury.
Last night, I was upset and paranoid. There are many campaign signs in my neighborhood supporting the candidate who opined that perhaps the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went too far. Is our country poised to lurch back to the good old days? The days of separate drinking fountains? The days when my mother could buy a dress at a store but wasn’t allowed to try it on, much less return it once she had? Should I move somewhere else like Guatemala? Antarctica?
Reactions aren’t always productive but they can often be useful. They allow us the space and time to absorb shock and recover. It’s our responses that make the difference. I gave myself an hour to rant and scream. Now, it’s time to respond.
I draw strength and inspiration from the resiliency of my ancestors as they fought against unjust laws and policies in times more dangerous than ours; when reading was a crime, when they were taxed without representation and fought for a country that refused to recognize their humanity. They were tenacious, never giving up regardless of how bad conditions were or how favorable they appeared to be. And they survived.
Now it’s my turn. I must commit myself to action in support of what I know to be right, tenaciously work towards justice for all and maintain vigilance in the face of those who seek to return to the “good old days”. If I want to look back at those days, I’ll read an historical novel. I choose to look forward.
(But there are a whole lot of folks in my neighborhood that I may not be speaking to anymore. Bless their hearts.)
Sheila J. Williams is the author of four published novels including Dancing on the Edge of the Roof. She teaches creative writing for UCLA Extension. Her current project is a memoir of her family history from the early 1700s to present day. For more information please go to http://www.sheilajwilliams.com