Wow, 2016. You really didn’t pull any punches, did you? The general mood locally, nationally and internationally seems to be one of exhaustion and woe from enduring the past 12 months, and most people I know are ready for this year to be over.
2016 marked the end of our first black president’s eight years in office. Regardless of your opinion of him, this was a landmark era for our nation. Then we had our first-ever woman nominated for president by a major party—another landmark event, whether you liked it or not. Donald Trump brought the plot of the film Idiocracy to life, and Shirley Caesar issued a legal injunction against a hip-hop heathen for being sinful during the #UNameItChallenge. UGA football had a rough year, and so did that student on PCP who climbed into the back of that garbage truck.
I could go on and on, but the events that stick with me the most are the deaths of Laura Conroy and Jeremy Ayers. I’ve known Athens was a close-knit community, but I really saw it when we suddenly lost two of our own. Although I knew neither of them on an intense level, I saw them plenty around town—at least four times a week. Both were vivacious, visible and active in our community, and their loss is still felt and will be for years to come. They were both kind and open towards me, a person on the periphery of their lives who didn’t look like them or have much in common with them.
I’ve had my ups and downs, and sometimes I’ve imagined a world without me, wondered whether everyone would be grateful if I were gone. But those thoughts simmered down after I saw the outpouring of grief and love for these two people—regrets from friends who worried they didn’t share that love enough before Conroy and Ayers moved on. This year, Athens taught me that time is finite, so I should love myself and my friends, and do it loudly.
I hope to carry that love over into 2017, where I think we’ll all need it the most. I’m not talking about the ineffective liberal rhetoric of “Love Trumps Hate,” a sentiment that does more for the person saying it than for any social movement. I’m talking about the love that motivates us to make moves, make changes. Because honestly, I’m terrified of Jan. 20 and Trump’s America. I’m scared for the Muslims and immigrants in my family. I’m scared to lose my health insurance, which I used this year to get eyeglasses and fund a two-stage surgical procedure I’d needed since high school.
I’m motivated to create safe spaces for people like me and our allies—and this column is one of them. I’m here to commiserate, support and advise, and I take that very seriously in a nation as divided as this one is right now. I can’t prevent hate crimes or stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, but I can be here for those of you who no longer can share the holiday table with your racist families. I can support other women and people of color by calling out racism and sexism, and doing what I can to plant the seed of revolutionary thought in those who might not challenge the status quo otherwise.
It’s important for us all to do what we can, however small. Small acts of resistance and revolution add up and can shift the paradigms of a whole culture, so don’t feel discouraged if the most you can do is write protest songs, make feminist art or demonstrate locally. You might feel like a drop in a flood, but that flood can become a wave. If you are walking around in this red state with a colored, queer or trans body, your existence is revolutionary in itself, and I’m glad you’re (we’re) still here.
No matter how you present yourself to the world, you’re always as anonymous as you want to be here. Know that you have an accomplice in me. Let’s take better care of each other.
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