On November 4, 2008, I was in love with the future. I was eighteen, nearing the end of my first semester in college, and I had just voted in my first election for a man who embodied grace and optimism. The night that Barack Obama was elected, I gathered with hundreds of my peers in an auditorium on Reed College’s campus while the CNN projections played out. When it was announced that Obama would be our forty-fourth president, we all rose to our feet in unison and began to cheer and hug one another. It was the most profound sense of unity I have ever felt in my life.
Eight years and some odd weeks later, things feel very different. I am nearing my five-year mark out of college, working for an hourly wage (and thus entirely dependent on the ACA for healthcare), and deeply disillusioned with the future. Trump’s election symbolizes a regime of white supremacy, misogyny, and capitalistic oppression that I thought we had been in the process of dismantling. But in an age of internet trolling, fake news, anti-intellectualism, and strong opposition to fact, it is no surprise that America sought refuge in a bully’s fist.
Hope, like most things, is a construct and its permeation around my life and the lives of those around me is not something that can be given. It is also not something that can be taken away.
As devastated as I am, however, I often think of what might have happened if my side won, leaving some of my most fundamental ideals unchallenged. I might have continued on with my life, not recognizing the myriad injustices occurring in our “progressive” society; I might have been comfortable sitting back in a continued state of relative apathy; I might have not returned to an active and participatory model of citizenship; I might have not opened up the blank document.
I am fearful for what lies ahead and in these past few months, it has been difficult to access the same optimism that enabled me to feel secure and in love with my future at one time. But I now realize that hope, like most things, is a construct and its permeation around my life and the lives of those around me is not something that can be given. It is also not something that can be taken away. And so, I look around to the things that still motivate me: the ticking clock, the blank page, and the looming and ever-present reminder of the work that is yet to be done.
I hope you view this and all of the blank pages that have been filled–now and in the future–with the same solace and skepticism that will ultimately act as the vehicles for authentic and irreversible human progress.
Nightingale was founded by a dear friend of mine who endured several sleepless nights in November thinking about what work she could do, what change she might affect. I was and continue to be inspired by her efforts, despite her demanding and often distressing lifestyle as a nurse, and her initiative made me realize that I spent much of the last eight years being too comfortable and willing to let other people do the work for me. I am no longer excused from participating.
I hope you view this and all of the blank pages that have been filled–now and in the future–with the same solace and skepticism that will ultimately act as the vehicles for authentic and irreversible human progress. May our future selves look back on this moment and see the products displayed in Nightingale as labors of love and proof of perseverance in the face of adversity. May the sicknesses of the world be healed with dedication and humility.
Stay radical and always be kind,