Still a lot of work to do

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Throughout the community one question seems to dominate personal interaction: “How are you feeling?”

I’ve been asked by people I see each day and those I only have occasional opportunity to speak with. Convenience store clerks, local members of the clergy, co-workers, neighbors, transit riders and drivers and community activists of all stripes are curious, some perhaps morbidly so, on my and their other neighbors’ state of mind.

So, how are you feeling in these first post-election days?

I am, of course, disappointed that the nation has not finally elected a woman to its highest office. I’m especially concerned by the years of misinformation and sexism that led to undeserved backlash against Hillary Clinton, and a campaign with an overall anti-women tone. More than shock at Donald Trump’s public disrespect of women, I remain confused and disheartened by the women who stood behind him — especially those clad in T-shirts inviting groping.

None of that, however, diminishes that women took one more major leap forward, moved one step closer to equality. I have faith in the hundreds of thousands of young women who went to rallies and polling booths alongside their mothers and grandmothers.

Protesters hug after attempting to cross the North Wabash Avenue bridge in downtown Chicago on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Protesters hug after attempting to cross the North Wabash Avenue bridge in downtown Chicago on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

I’ve also absorbed some of the legitimate anger and fear expressed by friends who are Muslim, black, Latino, gay or a part of any other group that was sacrificed on this year’s alter of politics. My heart breaks for them as they face the tough job of reassuring their children and themselves of their value to this country and our society.

Their worth and importance were never in question for me, and I’ve recommitted myself to fight for the civil rights of all people.

I’ve found solace with the Libertarians, who woke up Wednesday morning urging now lame-duck President Barack Obama to use some of his last vestiges of power on behalf of non-violent drug offenders.

I’ve found hope among the environmentalists, who have kept steadfast focus on resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline and advocacy of renewable fuels.

I’ve been elevated by the joy and love of the LGBT community as they continue to avail themselves of the right to marry, pledging their solidarity as couples and as a community.

I’ve celebrated alongside our Minnesota neighbors, who elected Ilhan Omar, a former female refugee, as their state assembly’s first Somali-American Muslim member.

People in Linn and Johnson counties — and I’m guessing in counties across the state — gathered in the wake of this election to continue work on tough tasks. They’re still aiming to end homelessness, combat opioid addiction and reduce racial and ethnic disparities. They’re looking for answers to hunger and poverty, and want to ease the burden of globalization. They want to revitalize rural America, increase access to higher education and clean our air and water.

Their optimism for a future that benefits us all may be bent, but it can’t be broken. These are fights firmly rooted in a quest for progress that withstand even hurricane-force political winds of change.

This is the innate beauty of America, what the rest of the world admires about us. We are known for doing our best work in our darkest hours, no matter who sits in the Oval Office or rests their head in Terrace Hill.

And, yes, we get fearful, frustrated and sidetracked. Our anger sometimes leads us to lash out indiscriminately and inappropriately. It wasn’t international terrorists that bombed the Oklahoma City federal building, assassinated our past presidents or murdered Martin Luther King.

How am I feeling? Shaken and stirred. Grateful. Dedicated. Refocused.

No doubt I could use a few more hours of sleep, but I’m headed to work nonetheless. I’m ready to battle the ongoing “high blood pressure of creeds” and “anemia of deeds.”

This column by Lynda Waddington originally appeared in The Gazette on November 13, 2016. Photo credit: Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS