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The long road ahead

Police near Cannon Ball, N.D., fired tear gas Nov. 20 at protesters opposed to plans that would run the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Stephanie Keith/ Reuters

Police near Cannon Ball, N.D., fired tear gas Nov. 20 at protesters opposed to plans that would run the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
Stephanie Keith/ Reuters

Rounding nearly three weeks after surgery to remove a cancer-threatened gland, I appreciate what a long haul this is going to be.

I must relearn patience to recover.

Too often this is merely a fleeting thought. A construct that seems to have been intended for someone else. But it stares me right in the face each day, at every 2 a.m. wake up.

And humility. If I hadn’t know it before I live it now. The repercussions of losing one’s prostate and rebuilding bladder control. While knowing, as many of you likely do, other men, partners and families who have gone through far worse.

Perseverance. It can sound so cliché. Yet it’s another gut check: striving to be whole again. While also trying to support the one lifting me up, who needs self-care herself.

These values will come roaring back.

At the core, I’m learning this involves righting oneself every day when I begin tilting too far to one side.

Perhaps it’s a new application of something I recognized years ago as a teacher in the inner city. When I was spent, having given everything, noticing my students returning to class amidst the dysfunctions and odds that many faced, even just showing up, that was exactly the moment when I needed to dig back for more.

And roar back.

I need that now.

It seems to me that more broadly, America needs some of these same attributes to heal post-11/9. While they may seem nascent, we certainly have them. And while the road ahead appears to be long and tortuous, I believe these values will come roaring back.

Please bear with me; this is not politics as usual. We can do this. By choosing an openhearted path finding common ground instead of one maligned with narrow prejudice.

By acting with intention and without illusions.

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?”

I’m going back outside where voices are shaking,
Water cannons blasting hypothermic protesters of fracked oil
Piped under stained sovereign land
threatening life’s blood,
Dialing the Morton County Sheriff to let them know
We’re watching hatred and
Stand with those forgotten in the shadow of Towers
Turnin’ pages and minds so quickly overrun.

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest.

With my pulse wide awake, my mind a reelin’
In a valley of misinformation, false news squealing’
Pigs in a sty of propaganda acting as sources,
Click bait and misogynists who control a generation
Where the playbook is repeated and the strategy empty
Poisoning minds with collapsed veneration,
I struck a conversation with a man on the other side
Three online rounds, maybe done, he offered his points
I listened, responded, casting arrogance aside

I heard the war of a wave that could drown the whole world.

When draining the swamp is a foul paradox
A crescendo of egos in their late Cretaceous dance,
Cryptic deniers now nakedly exposed
their world fast shrinking
Yet few seem to show
Beware of darkness, a blight that cuts

The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night
.

Reclaim patience,
Stay humble,
Persevere
as you lift others up.

And I’ll know my song well before I start singing.

*****

Note: Credit for the italicized lyrics of course goes to Bob Dylan, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna-Fall” (1963) and George Harrison, “Beware of Darkness” (1970).

Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night. — George Harrison

 

 

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