January 15, 2017. It was a few days before the Trump inauguration and my worst nightmare was about to become the worst 24-hour reality show in history. I finally understood what it meant to be “beside myself.” Which is why I decided to go – with two dear friends – to a “counter-inaugural demonstration” at the central Boston Public Library on Boylston Street.

“Greater Boston Writers Resist,” had been organized by 30 local sponsors ranging from Beacon Press to The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advisory Coalition, Harvard Books to The Center for Arabic Culture. Similar gatherings were held being in 50  cities across the country in order to, “re-inaugurate our shared commitment to the rights and values essential to a democracy.”

It would be a lot of speeches — too many of them, for sure. But the point of going was mostly to be in a crowd of like-minded and deeply shaken people — a kind of secular ritual to reassure ourselves that we were not alone. Also, to challenge each of us to hold the line against what turned out to be worse than anyone could have imagined.

The three of us got to the library early, but the place was already mobbed and since there were no more seats in the auditorium, we decided to leave.

 

Walking through the lobby on the way out, I noticed a woman sitting at a card table with an old-school typewriter at the ready, and a red/white/blue banner that said, “Inauguration Therapy.” Julie Ann Otis, a social practice artist, (www.julieannotis.com) invited us to talk about our thoughts and feelings about the election, which she would cull and shape into this instant poem, type it up and hand it over.

Day by day

A cup on the roulette table

Betting on things turning out well

One morning

Padding down the soft wood stairs

To get a cup of tea

There

In the middle of the living room

The entire gambling table upended

All the chips stolen

The TV too – taken by robbers

Here I stand

A woman in her bathrobe

The world still turning

Continuing into the kitchen

To put the kettle on for friends who will arrive

momentarily

We’ll craft a recipe for

Impeach pie

The poem turned out to be semi-prophetic. Many of our chips and much of our TV time was stolen by the Trump administration and its enablers. And one of those friends got very good at fashioning the word “impeach” out of pie crust.

The poem was also a kind of therapy. Or at least a reset button.

As Otis typed, I looked around the lobby of the Philip Johnson wing of Boston’s central library, which I hadn’t seen since its renovation.

The dark, forbidding façade I’d known for years had been replaced with floor-to-ceiling windows. The grey, grimy entrance was now bright, colorful, and wide open with room for all the people – every age, race, and class — coming and going, checking out books, studying interactive displays, or seated at one of many public access computers. There was a nice human hum to the place.

It was the public square at its best, paid for by tax dollars, organized by civil servants and volunteers. Not a nefarious deep state, but a beloved public common, free to all, and worth fighting for.

It is four years later, and I will watch the 2021 inauguration at least as exhausted as I am elated by the outcome of the election. I am beaten down by 48 months of outrages, one piled on top of another, and then the riot at the Capitol — further evidence of America’s metastasizing and increasingly brazen fascist movements. And lest we forget, the Biggest Loser sent 13 people to death by execution on his way out the door – just because he could.

One good thing I’ve learned during the Covid lockdown is the notion of a “gratitude practice,” also known more cornily as “counting your blessings.” Thinking about the good in your life or in the world interrupts negative thinking patterns, which have been linked to depression and a sense of powerlessness, which is one of the devil’s most insidious tools. Because the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for us to do nothing.

So, I give thanks for Stacy Abrams, John Lewis, Jon Ossoff, Reverend Raphael Warnock, Kamala Harris, the Movement for Black Lives Matter and the BLM marchers – in small towns and suburbs as well as big cities. Thanks for Black women organizers and the diverse cadres of millennial and Gen Z leaders fighting for climate justice, racial justice  gender equality, disability rights, voting rights, health care, and gun control.

And then I imagine myself eating two slices of impeachment pie, with a double scoop of ice cream.

 

2 Comments

  1. Susan Galler on January 19, 2021 at 9:17 pm

    I love the idea of impeachment pie with JP licks lactose free vanilla icecream on top!

  2. Laura Mack on February 1, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    I just finished reading A Boston Girl for my book club. I listened to it on Audible. I loved the book and wanted to learn more about the author, so I found this website.

    I enjoyed the book partly because I recently (at age 59) discovered that, through an Ancestry DNA test, I am half Jewish. My parents were not Jewish—I was raised in the Church of England. We lived in Canada when I was growing up, and moved back to America when I was 10. My parents were married for 70 years and had 3 children. They were happily married. They died within weeks of each other in 2011. I did the DNA test in 2014. I also had my sister and brother tested. My sister is also half Jewish, per DNA, but my brother is not. My brother is the only biological child of the man who raised me. My sister and I have different Jewish fathers. I now know who my biological father was. My mother worked for him and talked about him often. She taught us about Jewish cultures and traditions. I ended up going to law school at 38 and getting my law degree at 43. I worked for a Jewish law firm.

    I have always had an affinity for Jewish culture and people. So I was thrilled to discover I am half Jewish, if only by DNA. Your book made me feel what it must be like to be raised in a Jewish home. Thank you.

    By the way, I am now a retired district judge, and am thinking about writing a book about my DNA experience. What do you think? Also, I agree with you 100% about the political climate. I was horrified by Trump and still horrified by Qanon and the ignorance of the extreme right.

    FInally, would you consider saying a few words to us at our book club meeting? It’s Monday, February 22, at 7:00 p.m. – Eastern Standard Time (Michigan), via Zoom. We’d love to have you attend, even if it’s only for a few moments.

    Your fan, Laura Mack

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