“Having an hour of horror,” I texted a friend one sleepless night. “If they kill Obamacare, I’m back to Plan B. “B” for Belfast.”
Bemused, my friend teased me, “Your beacon of hope is a place most people associate with bombs going off on the street?!”
“Psht! There’s occasional flareups, but it’s fine.” I wrote back. “What you will find are rolling green hills, majestic cliff-faces, affordable graduate degrees and health care coverage!”
We laughed, as if everything were normal. But nothing is normal.
Since the election, my hours of horror have returned, those nocturnal, dread-filled stare-downs with the darkness, when my mind races and worries intensify until I feel like something in me might explode. If you’re human, you’ve probably suffered one or two of these in your lifetime.
And for the first time in years, I am revisiting Plan B, formulated years ago when I could not fulfill basic human rights like going to the doctor or pursuing an education without being plunged into crippling debt.
My reasoning was to kill two needs with one deed. Instead of spending a disproportionate chunk of income on insurance that couldn’t protect me from financial ruin should a true medical hardship befall me (a majority of medical bankruptcies are filed by the insured), I should return to school someplace with socialized medicine, a norm in advanced economies.
But the truth is, despite the universe “tilting in the wrong direction,” to quote another dear friend, I’m not going anywhere. I am worried about a lot of things these days, but my worries aren’t the biggest.
I dread the thought of losing my health care and access to certain rights and protections as a woman over the next four years, but my fears don’t compare to the fears felt by historically marginalized groups like the poor, people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, disabled people and the LGBTQ community.
Today, Plan B is off the table because the stakes are too high. A wave of hate crimes has swept our nation. “The number of complaints about hate incidents since the election taken in by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center approached 900 Monday,” reported USA Today.
Many of these incidents are truly too awful to contemplate. Some have cost lives.
Right now I cannot afford to stay seated. I must stand up and be counted. It’s beyond a question of party or politics, but about working toward a free and open society in which people are safe to exist in the fullness of who they are.
Nine months ago I began working with an incredible group of women at the YWCA Olympia, an organization whose mission is to “eliminate racism and empower women.” Its mission is bold — jewel-like in its brevity and power — and that’s what drew me in.
Working with the YWCA has been one of the richest, most challenging experiences of my life. I jumped in to help expand its racial justice and cultural competency initiatives. Never has there been a greater demand for this kind of work in the community.
I am grateful that at such a critical moment in history I am in a position to effect positive change and heed renewed calls to organize and fight injustice.
The camel hump of deep unease, which I’ll be carrying around wherever I go, will nourish my thoughts and actions. It will push me to think creatively and look for ideas and solutions in new and unexpected places.
And even though a lot of us are fearful and some in crisis, I am hopeful, because society has been cracked open. Life can change in an instant, which means anything is possible.
If Northern Ireland could overcome The Troubles and build a just and hopeful future, so can we.
Michelle Ryder is a freelance writer living in Bonney Lake. She is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.