By Brooke Larsen
I’ve been walking in a haze. In the initial hours I went from disbelief and shock to fear, sorrow, and rage. When my friend woke me up with the news, I couldn’t believe it until I opened my computer and found a map drenched in red.
Processing the election in Morocco at the UN climate conference is intense and confusing, for lack of better words. I’m struggling to find words right now. I’ve been watching the rallies and protests back home via social media. I feel like I should be with you all.
At our post-election action, we unveiled a people’s to-do list, our way of affirming our power over his. Youth from across the world mourned with us and shared what this means for their home country. U.S. imperialism is tangible.
Global leaders dwell in the reality that the U.S. has just elected a climate change denier. Reactions span the spectrum of outrage to indifference. In some rooms the election is all anyone can talk about, in others it’s like it never happened. Some want to talk numbers, can we really stay below 2C without U.S. mitigation? Will China become a new leader? Others remind us that their island nation is already drowning. They don’t have time for politics.
Today, for what seems like the first time in eternity, joy fills me and I hold on tight. I want to tape the corners of my mouth so they stay up. I want to forget, slip into intoxication, and listen to stories from my new Moroccan friends. But their horrors are connected to ours, and U.S. imperialism just got a new face drenched in orange with waving hands that grab without consent. I can’t forget, and I fear the joy will fade. If it must go, I hope my rage sparks fire and my tears help me rise. More than pain, I fear numbness.
When I return, will you help me feel?
Your Soul Sister
How are you doing? I’m worried about mom. I wonder if they’ll get a divorce. This is not just any other political disagreement. She must feel so lonely. Will you check on her for me?
I hope you’re taking care of yourself. I saw your Facebook post about your panic attacks, the nausea and trouble sleeping. Our bodies express what our words can’t. Multiple people here have the flu. I started my period today, two weeks early. I’ve been on birth control for seven years now. The only other time I’ve had irregular periods is when Jake and I broke up. We will feel this in our bodies.
You also seem empowered, though, with a renewed drive to become a teacher. You’re right, our children need educators who make school not just a place of knowledge, but a place of compassion. You will build empathy, something we so desperately need. I’ve seen the articles since the election reporting bullying and attacks at schools over race and ethnicity, religion and sexuality. Heartbreaking is an understatement. I can’t find adequate words, at least none I learned in school. When our schools are no longer safe, when learning is no longer safe, what happens to democracy?
Thanks for checking on mom. Please also check on yourself. I love you lots.
I’m scared for the Southwest. Did you read that recent study that said if regional warming exceeds 2C, there’s a 99% risk the American Southwest will experience a searing megadrought by midcentury? This means toxic dust storms, mass tree die offs, cease in all agriculture. It means unlivable. Do you think there’s any chance of staying below 2C now?
Where do we find our geography of hope?
Part of me just thinks resist, resist, resist. Lay our bodies down. Monkeywrench. Disrupt.
But we don’t act alone. We find hope in one another. I don’t think we can measure wildness in terms of solitude any longer. I think it must be measured in community. How do we create community in unlikely places?
Your Coyote Sister
Your mom sends me the beautiful poems you write. I’ve read one of them at events and gatherings and to friends and family. I always take a few deep breaths before I begin to read, “Wind in the sun, you hear the things that don’t make sense, but in a way we see the hope and beauty in them.”
Half way through the poem my voice usually cracks, and I notice tears streaming down others’ faces. You speak truths that adults try to ignore. It shakes them when I say the writer is only nine years old.
I feel the pain you feel for a hurting world. You understand so much and love this earth with such intensity. It’s not fair that you are inheriting poison.
You have always loved animals. You would run after the neighbors’ dogs when they walked past our front yard, and sobbed when they left to continue on their walk. Now you’re quite the animal rights activist—becoming vegetarian and sewing “peace purses” out of reused materials to raise money for the Koala hospital. I’m so proud of you.
You’re learning about extinction and slaughter, and question, why, why? I question too. We may never understand. At least not in our hearts.
I know you probably don’t think too much about the recent U.S. election, especially since you’re living in the bush in Australia. But I heard you were angry.
You will learn more and see more and hear more that angers and saddens you. Find the strength to keep your heart open. Your heart is so big and your loyalty so deep. Keep listening to that wind blowing in the sun. Hold on to the hope and beauty you find. When it doesn’t make sense, maybe hold on tighter. Keep singing and dancing, drawing and painting, writing poetry and music. We need you to create beauty, for in beauty we find joy. In joy, we find hope.
And I am here. I have few answers and many questions. But I will create with you. I will hold your hand. I will hug you and cuddle you and listen to you. I love you SO, so much.
We may not be able to begin again, but we can create something new. Your vision will be our guide, and we’ll find strength by walking hand in hand.
Your big sister
I didn’t want to wake you to tell you that a sexual predator won the election. I was supposed to ease your anxiety, not trigger it. I didn’t want to wake you because I knew you’d see in your future president the face of the man who raped you. We held you in a circle while your body shook, chest heaved, face soaked. We assured you that you were safe.
I think about you often and how strong you are. After that lowest of low moments, you inspired so many. Speaking in front of a room full of people at the UN climate conference, you reminded the world that power rests with us, the young people of America who are rising.
Please know, I am always here if the panic attacks come back. Now more than ever we must lean on one another. I hope you visit me for desert adventures soon.
Your adopted big sister
The other day I watched “Virginia Rain”—that speech Obama gave in 2008. I analyzed it for a paper, but of course it made me think of you. How many times did we watch that video while working on the reelection campaign? It always gave us motivation. Watching it again filled me with emotions—from the same mobilizing energy we felt in 2012 to complete dejection. We thought Romney’s “Binders Full of Women” comment was bad. We weren’t prepared for this.
It wasn’t just the contrast of Obama to Trump that made me first say fuck this, though. It was also the contrast between that candidate of hope and change in 2008 to the reality of the Obama presidency. Many beautiful things happened. But ugly things also happened. And a lot that needed to happen never became reality.
Even in 2012 Obama was a different figure than the candidate in 2008. The Obama in “Virginia Rain” spoke before the drones and deportations, disappointments and political drudgery. Maybe that’s why we were drawn back to 2008 so often.
I keep listening to these words: “this young generation that’s out here, the young people of America, understand that the clouds these too will pass. That a brighter day will come. That if you are willing to work for us, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves, if you are willing to lock arms, and march, and talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, make a phone call, do some organizing, let’s do some community organizing…”
We always loved that last bit he emphasized: let’s do some community organizing.
I listen so many times, as if the more times I watch the closer I’ll get to warping time. I begin to feel apologetic. Maybe we could have made his job easier by making it harder. Maybe we didn’t organize enough, mobilize enough, get loud enough. We could have locked arms more.
Eventually my dejection fades a bit, and I find space for gratitude. I am grateful for a president who preaches hope rather than fear, who values science and art, who exhibits kindness and respect, who was a community organizer. If anything, this gratitude helps me see one last message from our departing president: changes happens when people rise.
Remember that saying on the campaign, you came because of Obama, but stayed because of the people? In some strange, reverse way, I feel a similar phenomenon since the election. We now have a common enemy. Maybe we have an uprising.
Thanks for keeping me around four years ago. Can’t wait to lock arms as we march on Washington.
I’m worried we’ve resorted to laughter because we’re too afraid to cry. What if we never stop?
Remember our walk down the streets of Marrakech to COP22 that morning of the election? We had just spent the previous hours grieving and making last minute changes to our action plans.
When we stepped outside it was a beautiful sunny day. You and I held hands and started singing, “Here comes the sun…and I say, it’s alright…”
We sourced joy from music.
Remember standing outside of the UN that same morning, holding hands with the rest of the SustainUS crew, and singing our mantra: We must let the land shape us, let water carve caverns within us. Let the wind build and break us, fire remake us.
I’ve been talking about joy a lot lately. It might just be a self-reminder more than anything. But when people ask me what brings me joy, I tell the story of when we transformed the Oasis space inside COP a few days after the election. When I describe it to people, I always laugh a bit that it was called an Oasis—not much more than a few chairs separated from exhibits and meeting rooms by a green divider reading “Oasis.” As you strummed the guitar and sang protest songs with the Keep it in the Ground sign hanging behind you, people gathered. Some joined in song and dance, others filmed with huge smiles on their faces. We transformed a space normally so sterile. After the election, I felt like I’d never feel joy again. But that afternoon, I couldn’t stop smiling.
So much love for you, my friend.
Walking with you,
The other day you asked if I fall in love easily. I said no, at least not anymore. But I’ve been thinking about it, and I want to change my answer. I do. Not so much in the traditional sense of the term, but I realize I love so many.
I’ve been writing these letters you see, mostly an exercise in my own self-reflection. Who knows if I’ll ever really send them. They’re letters to the women in my life I love, women who I feel I can open my mind and heart to process the most intense and mundane.
If there’s one commonality among all the letters, it’s love.
We’ve been hearing “Love Trumps Hate” a lot lately. I’m honestly kind of sick of it. Do we really have to use his name as a verb?
But I do think our love will guide us.
Love is sacred rage. I think our drive to “fight” for this planet, for our community, for ourselves, stems from love. We are hopelessly in love with the world. Why else would we carry on with no guarantee of winning?
So I change my answer. Yes, I fall in love easily.
With so much love,