We are living the darkest days of the year. Today in Washington, D.C., the sun rose at 7:21am and will set tonight at 4:48pm. Only 9.5 hours of light. As we inch toward the Solstice, darkness will grow and then we will make a turn toward the light. We will make a turn.
At least in our skies. Our earth is reliable in its orbit and its openness to the sun. We can predict it. We know it will turn. This is one of the reasons early Christians chose late December to commemorate Christmas. More light comes into the world.
But these days before Christmas and the Solstice are dark. Most of us get up in the dark and go to bed in the dark. If we work indoors, we lose the little exposure to sunlight these days can offer. Here in Washington, D.C. where I live and work, we’ve had a remarkable cloudy December so the sun seems long gone. While I love a few rainy and grey days, I recognize how little light we’ve seen lately.
This year, as 2016 comes to its end, the darkness feels, to me at least, more than just atmospheric.
Here, in the United States, we concluded a vicious presidential campaign, resulting in the election of a person whose behavior was nothing short of despicable. He mocked and abused women, minorities, Muslims, the handicapped. He encouraged violence at his rallies. He sowed distrust in our basic national institutions. He behaved in ways none of us would tolerate from our children. So it’s hard to see the coming political year as anything but darkness. Our country will quite likely retreat from leading the efforts to slow global warming, we will probably loosen regulations on corporations and industries. We will most likely expand the deadly gap between rich and poor people. We will most certainly not face, with any kind of thoughtfulness, the violence brought down on people of color and poor people.
Once again, it is up to us to live and act justly, regardless of the weather. We must tell the truth and not normalize hateful language, just because it comes from the highest levels of our government. We must insist on competence, especially when some of our institutions lack it in their leaders. Just as I struggle sometimes to find energy and passion on cold, grey days, I must think, listen, and then raise my voice. Whether in my American Literature classes, my Creative Writing: Poetry classes, or my own writing, I must insist on reason, truth, kindness, justice, and love in all my interactions.
If I have learned anything from my country’s recent election, it is that my country is more racist, more sexist, more cruel, less thoughtful, than I thought. Perhaps this was my blindness. Regardless, the outcome shows me a more accurate vision of my country. I do not like it. But I must engage it.
This will probably require dusting off the protest boots. This might very well require knowing what anthems to stand for– and what anthems need public opposition.
We live in dark times. But I know light. I know too many people whose lives are nearly all light. Together, we can foster creative collisions between darkness and light. I know the earth will cooperate once the Solstice has passed. I promise to make my life cooperate too.
Photo: Clock Tower at dawn, December 2016, Gonzaga College High School, Washington, D.C.