Ways of Seeing: Kate Gridley, All must stay focused on truth

The days are getting longer.
I relish the lengthening light for painting in the studio. A late afternoon slant invites reverence: at the end of Trump’s first week in office, when the sun managed to stripe beneath a dark cloud in the west to light the ice on the trees, I realized I needed to look out the window more often and take a deep breath.
And yet —
The days (and, I am afraid, the nights too) feel darker than any I have known in my sixty-year span as I witness the chaos unleashed by the new administration in Washington.
My friend Abi said it would be easy to write a column this week when there is so much to write about.
But that’s the problem.
There is so much to write about, so much to ponder, so much to decipher, I am gob smacked.
Which is, I suspect, a point: keeping us over-whelmed, whip-sawed, off kilter, makes it easier to exert control. When folks are confused about what the truth is, to the point where they become unsure of what they think and what they know — in some cases to the point of mistrusting their own judgment and sanity — that’s called gas lighting, folks. Our country is being gas-lit.
Fear begets hatred. Stay alert. I am afraid it is in all of us, like it or not, and we are being played.
I find myself careening back and forth mentally: should I spend the day reading every publication I can in order to discern truths, determine what are the facts, not “fake or alternative” ones, understand a different world view, make sense of what is happening to our country; should I spend the day taking action, writing, talking to people, questioning, marching; should I do my own work back in the studio; should I volunteer more? Should I stay calm or should I rant? What is most important? What is most effective?
The morning after the election, I wrote on my Facebook page “Instead of a wall, I will build a bigger table.” I mean to build that table by which I mean to feed others, listen to others and act. Where to start? I could tell you one wonderful story with real facts:
About how I was planning to march in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21 with high school and college friends who were coming great distances to support The Women’s March. I had transportation, a room and a plan.
But then my mother, an eighty-pound four-foot-ten-inches-tall package of high energy, who spent most of last year recovering from a fall on ice, then a broken leg, then four months of antibiotic resistant infections, called to say she wanted to march in New York.
The woman who almost died last September wanted a pussy hat.
And she wanted to make signs.
“Take the train in from Vermont. New York will be too crowded for parking. I’ll get the poster boards, if you bring your pens.”
“Can you believe what is going on in the world?” she continued. “Reproductive rights, equal pay, human rights, all the racism… I simply can NOT believe I have to march AGAIN!”
So we went to New York and I was proud to march with my eighty-seven-year old mother with over four hundred thousand human beings of many genders, colors, backgrounds and ages. We marched for the things that as a little girl I had naively thought would be resolved by now.
We marveled at the signs from the logical to the creative: “We won’t go back,” “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance,”  “Lord of the Lies,” “Warning: Predator in Chief,” “Immigrants: We get the Job Done,” “We are the granddaughters of the witches you wanted to burn,” “So bad, even introverts are here,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Marching for ALL Women,” “Make Compassion Great Again.”
Commentators have since criticized the marches (the largest peaceful march in history adding up the attendance of all the sister marches that took place around the globe) as not being inclusive, as being too white, as being too this and not enough that.
But like it or not, it was a beautiful big broad peaceful statement marking yet another beginning.
It needs to be built upon
Since then, a move to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no replacement plan in sight, the removal of women’s healthcare rights, arrests of journalists, more harassment of the press, shock events like the immigration ban, the commencement of Trump firings, and a tiny circle of white racist men running a presidency that has zero interest in checks and balances. We have had letter writing campaigns, the commencement of lawsuits, phone campaigns, the formation of indivisible groups, arrests, marches, riots and protests across the country from tiny village squares to international airports.
I want to do it all, though there are not enough hours in the day. But mostly I want to build that table for anyone and everyone to sit at. I want to know what you are thinking and feeling. I want to connect. In person. Make empathy great again.
This is our time.
Fear and hate?
Chaos or community?
Let’s help each other with now.
Kate Gridley is an artist residing in Middlebury. She is currently working on a new series of paintings, “An Iconography of Memory.”

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