Have I been radicalized?

First, we vote. Then, I cry. (October 21, 2020)

This morning, my husband and I voted early. We submitted our ballots. We walked back outside in the misty, humid air. I took the selfie you see above. We returned to our car. I closed the door. And I cried.

I cried because I want the election to be over, but I don't think it will be over for a long time.

I cried because we couldn't be at our usual neighborhood polling place. I didn't recognize any of the faces and I was afraid to touch the pens, yet for all that a line of people was still forming on a random Wednesday morning to participate in this civic process.

I cried because I remembered how buoyant and hopeful I felt the morning of Election Day 2016, and how drained and fearful I felt today (13 days early, no less) in comparison.

I cried because American politics and politicians with their destructive self-interest, their blatant power grabs, and their hypocrisy are frustrating efforts to create a loving and just world, and I feel powerless against them.

I cried because the yard signs for Virginia's Amendment 1 ballot initiative have literally the same message -- "Vote YES on 1 to end partisan gerrymandering" vs "Stop gerrymandering and vote NO on 1" -- which captures the confusing spirit of the entire debate and makes me question how much one vote can actually make a difference, now or in the long run.

I cried because I'm an observant Catholic convinced she is voting in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church while also knowing many other observant Catholics convinced they are voting in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church and yet somehow we are voting the exact opposite way.

I cried because I have made only five phonebanking calls so far (though I have mailed 85 notes).

I cried because I took a week off and it was glorious and I want to live in that rested, restored mode forever.

I cried because I'm afraid to feel hopeful. Or maybe I cried because I've forgotten how to feel hopeful.

I cried because I can't control the outcome.

I cried because I'm not God.


Becoming a parent two years ago broke me open in a way I didn't expect. It manifested my vulnerability in a separate, distinct human body, a new soul with his own thoughts, discoveries, and wounds, and awakened in me a desperate, visceral hunger to keep my body wrapped, womb-like, around his to ensure his safety.

The slow-drip trauma of 2020 has shifted these emotional tectonic plates further. Now my hunger extends to everything I can't control and to everybody I can't protect. Systems, politics, ideologies ... the jobless, the homeless, the hopeless ... refugees, protestors, patients ... the collective wails, chants, and labored breathing ... our communal suffering overwhelms me, and I grieve for all who feel bereft of their belovedness.

I have always appreciated that the root of the word "radical" is, in fact, root (radix in Latin), which makes it all the more curious (and ultimately poetic) that in the political sphere, "radical" also tends to connote "extremism." Because as multiple forms of pestilence -- virulent illness, insidious racism, capitalist greed, environmental degradation -- duke it out right now for the most casualties, I am increasingly on board with burning it all down. Starting over. Not just reforming but re-imagining our shared world.

For our world has always been shared. It will always be shared. Our roots are the same, and they run beneath our marching, stomping, dancing feet whether we acknowledge them or not. So if recognizing and revering these connections is now considered revolutionary, then more of us need to revolt.

I will surely cry on future Election Days. Such is my wont. But in these not-too-distant years when I do weep over my ballot, let it be from joy. Let it be from gratitude. Let it be from a love so embodied, so grounded, that it arrived at the polling station on its own two feet, hands flexing, ready to start the real work of fixing things.

Prayer #361: Enloven

Stretch my limbs

Straighten my back

Fill my belly

Expand my lungs

Harden my soles

Soften my heart

Mingle my tears

Broaden my mind

Unleash my tongue

Plant my grief

Harvest my love