To write about Valerie’s letter, and then go silent, seems a special type of horror. This week has been a special type of horror. There isn’t, in some ways, much to say.
This isn’t, by the way, about policy. I am not, for example, concerned we are about to return to the Reagan and Thatcher years, as terrible as they were, as desperate and as full of death. I am concerned that we will return to what we thought the Reagan and Thatcher years were, that we will live in the literature and the songs and the films we produced in that time. That things will be like Valerie’s letter.
In the last week, what I have been struck by in moments quieter and calmer, has been a sense of continuity. I asked my father about his father, in case I am eligible for Italian citizenship. His name was Vincenzo when he came here. At Ellis Island it was changed to James. He married, had children, and then went back to care for a sister, before returning here again. We’re trying to figure out the years. We’re trying to figure out if my father – who complained when I moved back to Brooklyn because his parents spent so many years trying to get out of Brooklyn – can help me go back to Italy, if I need to.
So many people I talk to have this sense of return. Of continuity. Of generational wisdom, of the ways we can be buoyed by both children and loss.
If the end result of this political period is simply that I look silly, that I worried for nothing, that it was all just a bit crass and not to my taste, I will be overjoyed. But in the meantime, I am – like so many others – looking to who I once was to figure out who I will be.
We say, easily, that what is happening right now is not normal. In many senses, this is entirely true. In other ways though, we must acknowledge that this moment of uncertainty is entirely normal. Fascism seems to rear its head when we begin to forget its last appearances, and in times of trouble, people look close to home, to their families and their neighbors, in both worry and hope.
Because writing speeches is kind of what I do tonally, this piece should end with a call to action. I can tell you to volunteer, to donate, to speak up against hate, and to call your representatives in Congress. I’m doing all those things, and I hope you will do whichever of those you can too.
But my call to action today is simpler. Smaller. More basic. And vitally necessary:
Trust your gut.