Last night, watching the election return results, a feeling of despair grew in me. A heaviness descended over the room as Micah and I tried to wrap our minds around a country that had just voted in a man who spent his campaign saying deplorable things about "the Other," as David Remnick said in his piece for The New Yorker. We watched people weeping on the TV screen because they understood, with Remnick, what this moment meant: we now have "a President whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact, to say nothing of simple decency, has been repeatedly demonstrated." I find myself lost in a world that no longer makes sense. In my longing for something good to cling to I recalled a story I read recently. It reminds me that was has been lost in this election can be found again. And that the way back is often the simplest.
This true story from Barbara Kingsolver's book Small Wonder takes place in the Lorena Province of Iran. A mother and father return to their village after working in their wheat fields. The teenage girl left behind to watch over their infant child delivers the horrifying news that he's gone missing. They search everywhere. He's nowhere to be found. Soon the entire village is looking for their son. The search party expands to include the rocky outskirts. They find nothing. Days pass and still their son is missing. The father convinces some men to go with him up into the mountains to search the caves. It doesn't make sense. How could a child get so far? But in his despair the father will do anything, go anywhere. They make the ascent and begin searching the caves. In the darkness of one of the caves they hear a cry. It's a child. They also smell bear. Slowly and cautiously they move deeper into the cave until they come upon a sleeping bear. She's curled around the boy, holding him as any mother would, keeping him safe. "He was alive, unscarred, and perfectly well after three days - and well fed, smelling of milk. The bear was nursing the child."
After Tuesday, it feels as though something very dear and beloved to our country has been lost. Call it decency. Call it integrity. Call it an abiding belief in the dignity of all people, regardless of race or religion or gender. Like grief-stricken parents some of us find ourselves searching frantically for that which has gone missing. Panic grows inside of us. We feel afraid for our future and worry about the most vulnerable among us. In this moment I hold on to a story that says it is possible to find innocence and beauty, unharmed and perfectly well, in the darkness. Despite all evidence to the contrary, we cling to the hope that love can unite us. (Love is a force so strong it crosses the divide of species and defies conventional thought). This love isn't about sweet ideas or high ideals, it's as basic as a mother's milk. Food for the hungry. Shelter for the homeless. Working for the safe-keeping of all children (at home and abroad). These are the most basic acts of love that transform the darkest of places into dens of safety.