What To Do With Such Times

Today I went downtown to the huge – 70,000 strong, early reports say – protest against Trump’s concentration camps for kids. It was my second protest this month related to this topic; I went to a small but energetic emergency march the day after those initial reports came through.

I return from the protest energized and hopeful. I have been cynical of late, thinking that Twitter and the internet give people the dopamine rush of being activists without actually engaging in any activism (love David Simon, but yelling curse words at trolls isn’t making any real difference in the world, except as entertainment. Which, hey, we also need). I have seen so many people tweeting variations on “Why aren’t people in the streets?” and I always think: “Aren’t you people? Get in the streets.”

Today they did. It’s so easy to be hopeless, to give in to an overwhelming sense that we are fucked, that we are screwed, but it’s always important to remember that we have a choice. No matter what, we have a choice. Wrote JRR Tolkien:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

I love the wisdom in this exchange. It’s wisdom that comes from a man who lived through the greatest horrors of the 20th century. He understood the truth is that we do not choose the situation we are in, we only choose how we react to it.

We cannot wish for it to be different – this is how it is. We cannot hope for someone else to save us – we have to save ourselves. We cannot wait it out – we have to take action.

Today I saw thousands of people recognizing how it is, making the decision to save themselves and taking action to do so. None of them wished for it to happen in their time, but they all decided what to do with the time that is given them, and they have decided to resist.

We’re not fucked. We’re not screwed. We have the choice to do something special with this time given us.