“We will call this place our home,
The dirt in which our roots may grow.
Though the storms will push and pull,
We will call this place our home.”
— “North,” by Sleeping at Last
Since Tuesday’s election, I keep thinking of a quotation from Naomi Klein’s book and documentary, This Changes Everything. Montana goat rancher and environmentalist Alexis Bonogofsky, speaking of the fight of Indigenous people and ranchers to preserve Montana from extraction, says that, ultimately, “it is not hatred of the coal companies, or anger, but love [that] will save this place.” It’s not oppositionalism, but deep commitment, that will save us. It’s the love for specific places, for bluffs from which Alexis can watch the mule deer migrating, or—for me in my Vermont context—love for the secret places I find and forage morels, oyster mushrooms, and trumpet chanterelles. It is the deep and abiding love for a place that sustains us with food and water and beauty, that nurtures the communities and cultures that give us identity. It is that love that sends people like Alexis and the Northern Cheyenne people she serves out their doors to protect their homeland. It is love that gives us the passion and dedication to fight and keep fighting, in some cases giving everything to the cause.
“Let the years we’re here be kind, be kind.
Let our hearts, like doors, open wide, open wide.
Settle our bones like wood over time, over time.
Give us bread, give us salt, give us wine.”
This song is the other thing that has been flitting about my mind for the past two days. It’s essentially a blessing for a new home, a dedication to putting down and deepening roots, to hospitality, to love even in hard times. I’ve decided to take it also as a blessing for my work over the next four years, as a mission statement to direct my priorities. Many people have said that the most encouraging thing in the wake of this election is hearing and reading friends and family members commit themselves to love even in the face of divisive hate: to work for the safety and well-being of immigrants, people of color, queer folks, and religious minorities in a country headed by someone who has said and done things to threaten people in these demographics.
I often felt exhausted during the early 2000’s, with its constant assaults on civil rights, its climate of fear and the racism and Islamophobia that fear inspired. The high points were moments of gathering with others to protest and pray and witness to the humanity of all people, including those we were at war with. Singing, during the Episcopal prayer service before the huge New York protest against the Iraq invasion, “This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine; this is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine: but other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.”
At that moment, the Iraq invasion became overwhelmingly real for me. It wasn’t just about the simple ideal of preventing war, or anger at our current president. It was the thought of a country of children just like our own precious children, families and schools and doctors and artists and farmers just like us. Hearts just like ours, which love their homelands passionately. It was the thought of the individuals in that land, praying fervently for safety, that this disastrous war would be averted. Praying for the safety of their children. And though my heart broke open in that moment, I was comforted by being surrounded in that overflowing Manhattan church by people whose hearts had also broken, reaching out to hearts on the other side of the world we share.
“Smaller than dust on this map
Lies the greatest thing we have:
The dirt in which our roots may grow
And the right to call it home.”
Who has the right to call this place home? Does the refugee, who fled war? Does the Black Lives Matter activist? Does the transgender person? Does the victim of rape?
Who will join me in fighting to protect those whose safety is most at risk because of the election of a man whose campaign promises threatened them over and over again? Those of us who are hurt and scared by this election will never find peace sitting at home and worrying. We will, oddly, only find peace in the struggle, only by gathering together, praying together, protesting and working and singing together. We will find it by falling deeper in love with the humanity around us, with our communities and with the animals and the very earth itself. We will call this fragile place, this problematic country, our home. We will open our hearts like doors.
Ultimately, it is not hatred, or anger, that will save us now. Love will save us now.