Or, I went to Bali...and Then I Came Back.
I spent the month of October in Bali, pursuing my 500 hour advanced yoga teaching certificate. Sounds like a dream come true, right?? Well, it was!! Even so, the month was long, intense, and challenging on every level: physically, emotionally, and mentally. As rewarding and enriching as the experience was, truth be told, as the month drew to a close, I found myself becoming more and more anxious to get back home to Chicago.
And then I remembered that culture shock is always worse on the way back.
I landed in Chicago on Saturday, October 29. Anywhere else the country, it was probably just a typical Halloween weekend, but in Chicago, Halloween revelries had taken a total backseat to the bigger headline: The Cubs’ first appearance in the World Series since 1945, a year in which they apparently got on the wrong side of a billy goat and were cursed to never win again.
The energy in the city was high, bordering on frantic. While I was sifting through piles of laundry, sleeping off my jetlag, and trying to correct a month’s worth of island-induced constipation, the rest of the city was losing their damn minds. I returned to work on Wednesday, November 2—the very day the Cubs battled their way through a nail-biter Game 7 in Cleveland, clenching the world championship for the first time in 108 years. If you’re going to break a record losing streak, it makes sense that you’d do so on the most yogic number possible.
Chicago rode the wave of victory through the weekend. The victory parade and rally drew over 5 million attendees, making it the seventh largest gathering of people in the history of the world.
Having lived in New Orleans when the Saints won the 2010 Super Bowl, I was witnessing the incredible unifying power of sports for the second time in my life. It was a difficult time to get back to work, but an exciting time to be a Chicagoan.
If baseball is America’s greatest pastime, then voting is our greatest responsibility. No sooner had the dust settled on the Cubs’ victory parade than it was time to bring the most bruising, controversial campaign season in our nation’s history to an end. Maybe it was still the post-Cubbies high talking, but for a time, I thought, “I don’t even care who wins at this point. Let’s just get this election over with, so we can all move on with our new reality.”
Given my mission of perpetuating inclusivity in the yoga community, I have always done my best to avoid publicly discussing politics—even on my personal Facebook page. This probably seems like a reasonable policy, but it has at times made me feel like a watered-down citizen with nothing to say. And that’s a shitty feeling. But now that the shit has totally hit the fan, I might as well come clean:
I’m a liberal feminist. Duh. Not only that, I genuinely like Hillary Clinton. I didn’t have to “hold my nose” to vote for her, or pick from “the lesser of two evils.” I voted for her over Sanders in the primaries. I loved her experience on the world stage. Yes, I found it exciting to vote for a woman for president. And you know what else? I liked that she was a little bit sketchy; a “career politician.” I liked the vague stench of playing dirty. I wanted a scrappy candidate who knew how to play the game.
Not that I thought her victory was a sure thing. On the contrary, I was dubious. Third terms are exceeding rare, so I knew history wasn’t on her side. And I knew that millions of people really hate her with an ire only matched by those of us who hate Donald Trump.
Still, Donald Trump had been caught on tape admitting to grabbing the “pussies” of women who had not given him permission to do so. Shortly after that tape was released, dozens of women came forward with accusations of sexual assault. (Even being half a world away in Indonesia did not insulate me from news of this particular scandal.) Hillary was constantly dogged by vague suspicions about her “emails,” but Donald was as much as an admitted rapist.
And that’s to say nothing of the flagrant racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and ableism he displayed throughout the entirety of his campaign.
Donald Trump has never held elected office. If you want to get into politics as a second career, that’s cool, but the first office you ever get elected to should not be President of the United States of America. You should at lease be a governor of something or a mayor of something or a congressperson of something. Or, I don’t know, even student council would probably count. Anything. You can’t just wake up one day and suddenly decide you want to be president with absolutely no relevant experience. (Except, you can, apparently.)
Donald Trump was born rich and has lived in Manhattan his entire life. He has built a reputation of a renegade outsider, but he literally lives in a golden tower. He got elected by galvanizing a base of rural, poor, white, disenfranchised voters simply by saying a bunch of racist things, and because of that, they think he “gets” them. Newsflash: He doesn’t get you. He doesn’t understand anything about your life, your world, your needs, or your frustrations. He only gets that you’re racist, and he used that to exploit you.
So you can imagine my dismay, then, when election night went into extra innings, and I awoke on Wednesday morning to find the world burning to the ground in a giant Trumpster fire.
No, I wasn’t really all that surprised. But I was shocked, and above all else, disappointed. And even ashamed. One week ago, it was a great time to be a Chicagoan. Now, it felt like a terrible time to be an American.
On election day, I taught Eagle Pose—a pose I often teach around July 4th, or any other time I’m feeling particularly patriotic. The rush of the democratic process and the seemingly realistic prospect of our nation’s first woman president got the best of me. I was excited!
On Wednesday morning, when I felt we were barreling down a path of destruction, I taught Crow Pose, harbinger of death and war. I was devastated.
Two birds in two days, representing the two polarities of my feelings about this great country of ours.
Sounds dramatic, I’m sure. And honestly, I don’t think Trump will be that bad. He already seems to be equivocating, likely because he has no idea what he has actually gotten himself into, and he probably feels the need to steel himself with as much support and approval as he can possibly get. Which makes me wonder how his wildly right-wing base will feel if he ends up chickening out of all the promises that got him elected.
And tempting though it may be, I won’t be swapping eagles for maple leaves anytime soon. I believe in the democratic process, and it is our right and our responsibility to stay here and fight to make this place better. Even if the next few years are going to be a tough (and embarrassing) slog.
So I’ll keep teaching Eagle Pose to remind myself and my students of our responsibilities. And if Crow Pose happens to make its way into the rotation from time to time . . . .well, try not to read too much into it.
I like careers that involve wearing comfy pants. If I weren't a yoga teacher, I'd try to write full time for a living. Join me here to see what's on my mind, and share your thoughts with me!