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I’m Not Cheering

“Smile,” she said, “no one wants to be in the company of someone who’s sad.” She performed happiness confidently, although once during lunch at a crowded café, she looked at me, began to cry, then loudly said, “Cancer is so fucking terrible.” Her son died in 2006 and when I met her in 2009, she was grieving, like me. I was Brailing my way, wondering if anything ever would be normal for me again after my husband’s death. She and I became friends.

And e-pal P: We engage in exchanges about a world that’s gasping to survive. We worry. We worry about the future of our planet for the children, what we’re leaving the children. Pesticides, rising sea levels, nuclear meltdowns, nuclear war, lead-based drinking water, pervasive corruption, the latest wrong that’s often ignored by establishment news outlets but easily accessed online. Yet she sends the “laugh of the day.”

I discuss horrors with my best friend who almost was banished by her family at Thanksgiving for being such a downer. She, at the dining table, enumerated what they should and shouldn’t eat. She knows her toxins. Has become an expert on glyphosate. When she told me, we laughed.

And I’m trying not to yammer endlessly to my children who see forests where I see wildfires. However, I slip. Sent an email yesterday to son J, father of Mr. Poop-adore, with subject line: do not move to Los Angeles. I’d just seen that this city has the worst air quality in the nation. I resisted sending a link about super head lice (no effective treatment), but I still remind them, when they travel, to check mattresses for bedbugs. My anxieties about Zica and microcephaly would require too many paragraphs.

Last night I read an article about a Clinton win, winning only because her Republican opponent is unelectable. Sure, the “vagina voters” worship her. (Kudos to my Facebook friend J who used this term in a comment.) We know these voters, the “liberal” and “progressive” women who say, “It’s our time.” Despite Clinton’s record.
I’m repulsed by Clinton, her war lust, the disingenuousness attempts to convince the oppressed that she feels their pain.

I imagine scenes, the off-camera moments where she’s blowing up at the husbandator because he said something he almost apologized for later. And another in which she asks, “How dare that wannabe challenge Israel, challenge me?” Because during the Brooklyn debate Sanders said:

If we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.

These 35 words are prominent among the thoughts playing bumper cars in my head and probably not for the reason you think. For stating the obvious, that Palestinians are human beings, Sanders was lauded. Astounding. Because praising what’s clear serves to highlight the hideous acceptance that Palestinians don’t deserve empathy.
This is something I’ve questioned. When anyone acts from a position of moral responsibility, why is it necessary to reward with applause? Is it that we rarely see politicians display integrity and when we do, we’re startled—startled enough to cheer?

I’m not cheering.

That said, I’m weighing little pleasures, larger ones, family time, friendships, and motivation from people who tirelessly promote justice against all that inches or leaps toward ecosystem collapse. I can’t offer hope if I’m hopeless. I can’t participate if I think it’s already too late. Here’s just one incentive to remain engaged—the work of a 20-year-old Baltimore woman who “inspired a multigenerational struggle.” This makes me smile.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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