Last night I received a remarkable email, forwarded by the editor of Vox Populi, the online journal that reprinted my little essay "Letter from a Red County," first posted here a few days before the election.
The email was from a psychology professor at a Pittsburgh university, who, like many teachers around the nation, spent most of this past Thursday talking about the election results with his students. "To prime the pump," he began by sharing with his classes two Vox Populi essays about contrasting ways in which progressive voters have tried to deal with their relationships with Trump-voting friends. One of those essays was about locking horns with an old college friend over the issue. The other essay was mine. The professor wrote, "Almost half my students reported that they had lost Facebook 'friends' as a result of the election, and several reported acute conflicts with family members and real friends." The essays, he believed, helped them begin to "[talk] about how they had negotiated these conflicts, what feelings they were left with, etc." The kicker is that the email was addressed not to the editor or to either of the essayists but to all of the colleagues in his department, with the suggestion that they, too, considering reading them and using them as the basis of classroom discussion.
Freedom of speech. The power of conversation. A terrible head cold. The sweetness of Tracy at the town garage, who washed my filthy car windows without being asked. The sweetness of my friend Sue who wrote to thank me for being brave when I thought I was just being careful. The sweetness of my husband, who slept on the couch so I could hog the bed and cough all night. The sweetness of a famous poet who told an editor at a London journal that I am "a wonderful American writer and poet" and encouraged him to publish my writings about the election aftermath. The sweetness of being an American. This is our country, goddammit. Let's keep singing.