What Comes After Darkness

Yesterday, my wonderful daughter-in-law sent me this You Tube speech by a young woman, an American Sikh lawyer, that–as she predicted–blew me away.

It appears to have been taped at a “Moral Monday” gathering, and it is eloquent and obviously heartfelt.

It’s short–under six minutes–and I urge you to watch it all the way to the end.

The message–the “takeaway”–is profound: darkness can be terrifying. It can signal death, the end of something, a descent into chaos and despair. Or it can be, as she points out, the darkness of the womb, the darkness that precedes a birth and a new beginning.

And as she points out, and every woman who has ever given birth knows, when you are giving birth you do two things: you breathe, and you push.

This lovely young woman reminds us that it’s up to all of us to breathe and push–to use this very dark period America is experiencing as a prelude to birthing a renewal of community, of civic participation and courage, of human connection and commitment to leaving a better, brighter world to our children.

Or we can shrug our collective shoulders and cede control to the looters and influence-peddlers who are currently (and shamelessly) treating American government as their piggy-bank and the rest of us their obedient stooges.


  1. She resents being judged by the color of her skin and resolves that injustice by judging me by the color of my skin. My Quaker ancestors resisted oppression in all its forms across the world and yet I am still lumped in with white supremacists because my skin is white.

  2. Excellent imagery and words. Perhaps a way to reframe this time for ourselves. Breathe and push. Wise.

  3. Using Sheila’s reference to giving birth and concentrating on “breathe and push” brought to mind my thoughts during the natural birth of my last three children. Telling myself; “This isn’t pain, it is pressure” and thinking of the end result being new life helped me through. I like this metaphor but have to ask if we must endure this “pressure” for the next four years before we reach that anticipated “new life”? What will be left after four years of Trump when he has destroyed so many of our hard fought for rights in only two WEEKS and we already find ourselves looking for way to survive the life he is forcing on us?

    The fiasco of the Chris Matthews’ interview with Kellyanne and her reference to the non-existent “Bowling Green Massacre”, which went unchallenged, is a great example of our weakness regarding the media. My immediate thought was Bowling Green, Kentucky, where I knew there had been no massacre and wondered where the other Bowling Green was located. Matthews, who is paid to know, knew no more about the supposedly historical (recent or past?) situation than I did. More pressure applied by one of the spokespersons of our current president who has told us to pay no attention to what he says but see what is in his heart. We DO see what is in his dark heart; that is why we live in fear. Trump’s other spokesperson, Sean Spicer, told us President Trump can say anything he wants because he IS president. Sadly; this is true, there are no legal restraints regarding his freedom of speech (or anyone else’s) and Trump hasn’t the morality to speak the truth.

    Unlike the Underground Railroad which worked mostly under cover of darkness; we are coming out into the bright light of day to protest and march. We are applying our own pressure against that of the current administration; will the resulting “new life” be that of Trump and the GOP or will it be a return to protection of all using the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States of America?

  4. Terry,

    “Ken, quit resting on your ancestor’s laurels and get over yourself.”

    Double ditto. There were approximately 50 Quakers in Nazi Germany. Only one became a Nazi. Quakers are exceptional, but not perfect.

    Trump is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania which was founded by Benjamin Franklin, a Quaker. I attended meetings of the Society of Friends for some time. As a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, maybe I should start a Petition to have him removed from any association with the University, name or otherwise. The University needs to protect its good name just like the those in Great Britain who are protecting their’s.

    Just a temporary return. I couldn’t resist.

  5. Ken, by virtue of being a male with white skin you are automatically at the top of the food chain in this country. You have absolutely NO right to ever claim any discrimination whatsoever. Instead of whining, why don’t you try fighting for everyone else to have the same rights that you have always enjoyed? Rights that you seem unable to appreciate because they were given to you at birth.

  6. Thank you so much, Sheila, for sharing this inspiring, beautiful speech. Ken, I am also a Quaker and understand the long proud history of Quaker progressive activism. I also understand not wanting to be cast as part of a group you abhor. I also cringe when I hear that 53% of white women voted for Trump. As a white man, however, you are in a unique position to influence those white men around you. You can speak to them in a way that women or people of color cannot. This is what my husband, a white man, has discovered. He finds times and places where he can make a subtle or even not so subtle point about sexism or racism one on one with a friend or acquaintance. Shortly after the election, he challenged a good friend of his who voted for a third party candidate because he “just didn’t like Hillary.” He asked his friend if it was possible that he “disliked”Hillary because she was a strong woman who made no apologies for her intelligence and her ambition. My husband made the point that women are supposed to look the part and “play nice” and that maybe his friend has some unconscious bias against a woman who did not conform to this limiting role. It seemed that his friend really did stop and think, and maybe it opened a door to a new perspective. While it’s hard to say for sure, I believe this sort of one to one “activism” is so effective and important.

  7. Just one more comment:

    Whereas it took Adolph Hitler, another Nazi, almost a decade to COMPLETELY ruin Germany’s reputation, Donald Trump has done it in two weeks to ours. As I have mentioned before, he’s “Santa Claus” in that respect.

    Just like in post-war Germany, we can start reconstruction right now. As a gift from “Santa,” we might want to examine the history of that era for guidance; starting with Hitler’s suicide.

  8. Marv – Make your temporary return at least semi-permanent. We need your perspectives, and the fact that we don’t always agree with them signals such need. Let’s hope what is described by others in Sheila’s post today is accurate. Perhaps in the long run Trump will have done us all a favor by giving us a taste of Attila the Hun’s politics of slash and burn in this 21st century. Perhaps. However, such a hope does not substitute for action. We are obligated to fight the Huns, many of whom, inexplicably, go to church every Sunday. Duh!

  9. Some days I think to myself that Donald is a gift to us. He is that spark rekindling a deep seeded fire of passion for justice I have always had in my heart and soul. And on those days when I see him in that light, I think about how awful it must be for him … To be chosen to play the role in this drama we are all acting in The Bad Guy. Some days I feel sorry for Trump, because I truly believe in this beautiful woman’s story line: we as a country are birthing a new beautiful reality. And then on other days, when I am not feeling so good… I curse Donald and wish him nothing good

  10. Just lovely and a challenge we should remember every day. “Who knows if perhaps you were made for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

  11. There were some pretty mean spirited remarks from who I would guess are women, toward white males. Well none of you would have been breathing and pushing if it wasn’t for a man, white or dark. I always thought you were a nice group until today. Irvin an old white man BAA

  12. Gerald,

    In our reconstruction effort, I believe the first step is to give our full support to ACTIVISM ENGINE. The public need to know WHY and WHERE it exists. Without a credible information source, we’re not going to be able to make a move, that is fast enough, to take advantage of the present situation.

  13. Professor, thank you for this. Breathe and push is good advice. I would add that, just as birthing mothers need a partner, so do we all in these days. We need to find a partner or partners to keep us strong.

  14. In the past ancestory was an essential ingredient because it defined for us all our culture. It told us who were those people who we should be like. What was our uniqueness. Who could we count on and who should we mistrust. It was useful.

    Humanity is now transitioning to the next era where what was useful will become impediment because we no longer live within tribes but within humanity. I am informed daily of what all humanity suffers and what all humanity celebrates, what we all fear and embrace.

    I just learned world culture from a brown skinned woman of a faith unlike mine in all detail but fundamentally the same in message. We are one. And that is powerful.

    As she points out we have all passed a major test of transition from the womb to life. Neither without pain nor effort on the part of many. Now we live on the way to the tomb where some other transition awaits, one in which everything we have and are and have done will be left to others.

    Will that better prepare some for for humanity’s next adventure?

  15. Ken, she begins her speech with gratitude to the white male lawyer who selflessly saved her grandfather.

  16. Marv – You are right. The longer we wait to try to reconstruct our democracy from the ruins of Trumpism the more we will have to do. As Barney Google and Snuffy Smith of the old funnies used to say, “Time’s awastin’.” Trump may have unknowingly ignited a hitherto hidden firestorm of sentiment for a continuation of what is left of our democracy and thus have done us a favor. His advocacy of fascism (whether he knows it or not or even cares in his me-me-me world) may be the spark that ignited the bonfire what with crowds of protesters and the federal court’s decision in Seattle as precursors of things to come (provided we vacate our sofas).

    However, Marv, we can walk and chew gum at the same time, so I would recommend that we both reconstruct our democracy from the debris of Trumpism while seeing to it that Trumpism is sent to an early political grave in simultaneous fashion. I will be participating this afternoon, for instance, in a protest before the local sheriff’s office against spending local taxpayers’ money for officers who target suspected illegal immigrants for arrest so they can turn them over to the feds for deportation, reminding him with the sign I will wave that he and I are also immigrants a few steps removed and probably descendants of illegal immigration. We must in my view reconstruct our decaying society while deconstructing the cancer of Trumpism at one and the same time so that we will have less work to do in bringing our society into some degree of social, economic and political equilibrium, and I think finally that this goal can only be attained by a robust utilization of our First Amendment rights such as speech and assembly, so let’s vacate the couch. It’s the patriotic thing to do and your plan to organize such protests is patriotic as well. Let’s all go for it in our respective capacities to excise this political cancer – now!

  17. Gerald,

    “We must in my view reconstruct our decaying society while deconstructing the cancer of Trumpism at one and the same time so that we will have less work to do in bringing our society into some degree of social, economic and political equilibrium, and I think finally that this goal can only be attained by a robust utilization of our First Amendment rights such as speech and assembly, so let’s vacate the couch.”

    As proof above, you can write a lot better than I can. As the head of the Dallas Lawyer’s Referral Service commented to me many years ago, “There are two types of attorneys, the writing and the talking.” I fit better in the latter category. That’s why it is best, as you recommended, that I become only a semi-permanent member of the blog. It’s a much better fit for all concerned.

    I’m much more effective in the “physical” as opposed to the “virtual” world.

  18. Gerald,

    We both need to play to our strengths. You’re highly effective, both in writing and talking. I’m not as well-rounded as you are, so I play to my strength which is, one on one, talking. Both methods of confrontation are needed to deliver the proper message.

  19. While Gerald and Marv talk strategy my thoughts are still unresolved. To what degree is hitting rock bottom required to power rebirth?

    Perhaps there is no choice. Rock bottom will come no matter what we do or don’t.

    Will that wake up call be enough?

  20. Marv – I disagree. You are a fine writer. I tend toward the flowery while you set it out in plain words and I’m not sure that your form isn’t better. In all events, let’s give our fellow commentators a choice of views in addition to writing styles. As for your semi-permanent status as a contributor, all of us are semi-permanent contributors, even some modern-day Methuselah who might take his or her time in vacating the premises, so hang in. You can walk and chew gum at the same time, too, so do it. Hang around, we need your perspectives as long as you can produce them.

  21. Gerald,

    My medicine is hard to take. That’s why I’m hesitant about participating. The plans, modus operandi, and strategy of the Far Right movement, we are all having to confront, originated from an in-house lecture on “Investing in Gold and Silver as a Financial Hedge” that I presented to the owners of the McLendon Corporation in 1969 when I was their in-house General Counsel. The strategies that I presented were turned around and used to create the Far Right movement that we are all now having to face.

    The following is from “The Myth of the State” by Ernst Cassirer, the outstanding German political scientist:

    “…..The great thinkers of the past were not only “their own times apprehended in thought. Very often they had to think beyond and against their times. Without this intellectual and moral courage, philosophy could not fulfil its task in man’s cultural and social life.”

    “It is beyond the power of philosophy to destroy the political myths [fascism]. A myth is in a sense invulnerable. It is impervious to rational arguments; it cannot be refuted by syllogisms. But philosophy can do us another important service. It can make us understand the adversary. In order to fight and enemy you must know him. That is one of the first principles of a sound strategy. To know him means not only to know his defects and weaknesses; it means to know his strength. All of us have been liable to underrate this strength. When we first heard of the political myths we found them so absurd and incongruous, so fantastic and ludicrous that we could hardly be prevailed to take them seriously. By now it has become clear to all of us that this was a great mistake. We should not commit the same error a second time. We should carefully study the origin, the structure, the methods, and the techniques of the political myths. We should see the adversary face to face in order to know how to combat him.”

    This was the dilemma, the Germans faced in the late 30’s. And the rest of the world refused to help them.

  22. We’re now back to the 30’s. The full citation to the above: “The Myth of the State” by Ernst Cassirer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946) p. 373. By the time the book was written it was too late.

  23. You guys, this is not about you. This is about a women that can take your seed and create another human.

    Yes, we need you for a few minutes, but after that, it’s all us. Honor that, but you can’t because then you lose your dominance. Screw you. Without your seed, we can’t create anything, but with it, we can create mankind. Who wins THAT?

  24. AgingLGrl; thank you, this is the perfect place for me to post my favorite Dillys Lainge quote; “Women receive the insults of men with tolerance, having been bitten in the nipple by their toothless gums.”

    A post on Facebook today referred to Rosie the Riveter; the name given to the thousands of women who stepped into factory jobs to replace men during WWII so they could go off to war. When they returned they learned WE had capabilities far beyond their expectations or beliefs of our abilities. I believe that is when they began construction on that “glass ceiling”; to keep us in our place.

    It take two to do more than tango; women have always know that, men are still fighting against the idea. The lovely young Sikh lawyer gave credit to the man in her family for his bravery, charity and honor, and gratitude to the man who stepped forward when he needed help. She stepped up to do the same when it was needed from her; she spoke from her heart and with an open mind. A brave speech when we need it most; at a time when we should be working together to save this country from repeating the internment of innocents in concentration camps or denying them entry into or country as was done to the Jews.

    “Vetting” the incoming cabinet members and political appointees is called “Senate Hearings” but neither the questions or the answers are being heard by those with the least knowledge or qualifications to be in their positions of authority over the lives of others who are deemed to be “different”. Decisions are being made that, like the internment of the Japanese-Americans and denial of the Jewish refugees before and during WWII, can and will lead us to WWIII, but with no winners remaining.

  25. Why is it helpful to be adversarial? I observe the hypocrisy of complaining about judging people by the color of their skin while judging people by the color of their skin and the attacks start. We can solve problems working together but too many of you prefer to Lord your superiority over me rather than enlist my help.

  26. Ken – Why is it helpful to be adversarial? Because we have seen the price to be paid by not being adverarial. Take the Good Germans of the 20s and early 30s, for instance, who let Hitler have his way.

  27. Gerald,

    You still have my vote for President of the mythical (free) United States of America. You had mentioned you might consider me as your Secretary of State. I don’t believe that I would be the right person for that position, however you might consider, in light of the present situation, a new cabinet position that was vital for the UNION victory during the CIVIL WAR; I would strongly suggest that you create a new position: SECRETARY OF WAR which I’ve been preparing for since 1961.

    I believe being confirmed by Congress in 1968 as Deputy Chief of the Office of Emergency Planning [Civil Defense and stockpiling of Strategic Material] and my record of success since that time, qualifies me as the best person to fill that position in hope of preventing what appears to be the unavoidable commencement of hostilities by the Trump/Pence neo-Nazi forces.

  28. Gerald! Because adversarial separates people interested in the same things. I will suggest that the success of this nation is not a function of our diversity as much as it is (or was) the internal drive in immigrants to join the culture. That attitude has changed to the detriment of the country. Unless I share your skin color or ethnicity or number of X chromosomes, there is no place for me in your plight. That is just stupid. If you support causes important to me, I don’t care about your differences, just our common purpose. Wise up and realize that we do not need to be in lock step with one another to accomplish great things. I find much of Trump offensive, but because I am a conservative white guy, I’m too stupid and bigoted to participate in problem solving. Fortunately, I don’t feel the same about you.

  29. 53% of white women did NOT vote for trump. Only 50-some percent of people of voting age VOTED. Perhaps of the women who voted and who are white over half voted for Lord Dampnut. (Anagram alert!)

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