Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Rise, Columbia!

My last post mentioned a drawing I'd been working on to celebrate the election of the first female president. That drawing was going to be of Columbia, triumphant and jubilant, shoving old Uncle Sam aside.

Who is Columbia? An old symbol of America, similar to Uncle Sam, but depicted as a female goddess figure. She originated shortly after the founding of the nation, and was the common personification of the United States through the early 20th Century. You'd see her in editorial cartoons, on government buildings, in wartime propaganda posters, as the namesake of the capital, towns and rivers, and companies like Columbia Records. She was pretty ubiquitous until around 1920, when it became more common to see the Uncle Sam icon. This happened to be the same time that the Suffragist Movement finally secured voting rights for women in the U.S. What a coincidence!

Anyway . . . Obviously, I had to abandon that drawing.

This past week, many of my friends described going through the five stages of grief. But I really only went through two: denial, then anger.

I spent days stewing in anger. Then I was reminded of a philosophy class I took in college, called 'Anger.' Prof. Giles Milhaven had the reputation of being one of the most rigorous teachers on campus, so I put myself to the test. Milhaven's central thesis was this: That anger is good. That it is, in fact, a form of love. Specifically, self-love. Because anger is a reaction to 'an insult to one's excellence,' as I recall him phrasing it. How that anger is expressed can be - often is - wrong and damaging. But having the feeling itself is healthy, because it means that you value yourself enough to object to an attack on you.

And that's how I take this election's result, as an attack on me. And on my wife, my children, my friends. The emerging narrative is now that this election had nothing - nothing - to do with white cultural resentment, even as Trump appoints a White Supremacist with a capital W and S to his staff, and the actual KKK holds a victory march. And even as I try to empathize with those people who voted for Donald J Trump, even as I acknowledge that their own anger is in some way valid, I reject the notion that their expression of that anger in putting forth this racist, xenophobic, retrograde demagogue is anything other than that - a refutation of people like me and mine.

As my funk of denial lead to the heat of anger, that anger spurred a desire in me to get politically involved in some meaningful way going forward. Not just signing petitions and 'liking' Facebook posts, but something substantive. I have no idea what form that's going to take; I'm not a natural activist type. So I'm still trying to figure that one out. Until then, there this: Columbia v.2. Bruised and bloody. But rising up. Because she can take a punch, motherfuckers.

You can read more about Columbia here and here.

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