It was a hard year for doing business as usual. The election cycle overwhelmed the media, veering from every well worn political path and exhuming issues that had not seen daylight for many years, if ever. For women who have felt silenced, or those who have been abused, watching Hillary Clinton be ridiculed, threatened and insulted was a painful and persistent reminder of that personal history. For immigrants and people of color, very real fears were validated.
Don’t talk about politics, right? I did not hear a peep about the election until the morning after it ended. We politely avoided the ugliness, the controversy, the discomfort. Then suddenly, everyone was talking. From moms at school pick-up to my office, people were grieving, debating, expressing fears, researching policy. Many in Massachusetts mourned that their candidate was not elected, but Trump voters lamented their inability to celebrate their win without being accused of violence.
In a brilliant, heart-wrenching final act, Leonard Cohen conceded his battle with leukemia the day before the election. His death inevitably left us poring over his poetry, and as the election results came in overnight, his words framed our reflections. The most resounding echo, an excerpt from his song, Anthem, read:
I can’t run no more with the lawless crowd
While killers in high places say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned up a thunder cloud
And they’re going to hear from me
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Indeed, there is a crack in everything. Every day I see the connection between community and individual health. Women whose skin conditions or GI problems can’t clear up until they leave abusive relationships or work conditions. Men whose blood pressure normalizes once they quit high pressure jobs or see their kids through stressful times. Fertility that improves when the diet is cleared of environmental chemicals from the food industry. Children who develop headaches and fatigue in despair over bullying. We woke up feeling like we had lost so much more than just an election.
But we woke up talking. We loudly reexamined racism, xenophobia and sexism. We woke up to how our politeness around politics and our assumptions about what people believe had failed us. We woke up knowing we had failed to listen. We are waking up to the task ahead, and the reality of our role in protecting the people in our community and the values we hold dear.
Many of us know more now about the Electoral College, cabinet appointments and policy than we ever have before, but those interests may fade. Getting back to daily life does not mean that we have disengaged or accepted unacceptable new normals. Finding our way to a strong and inclusive future will not play out exclusively in the halls of government. Change will come through food choices, intentional kindness and participation in our local communities. Our health itself is now a vehicle for change.
Naturopathic Medicine is political because the practice of Naturopathic Medicine is not yet licensed in many states, including Massachusetts. My career, my ability to access patients, to accurately assess their health is compromised by lawmakers and pieces of paper that very, very few people will ever read. I have worked on licensure for Naturopathic Doctors since 2008. I cannot point to one tangible victory from those labors, but I say this with sincerity: the landscape for Naturopathic Doctors has changed dramatically. Lawmakers know who we are. Patients look for Naturopathic Medicine because they see it for what it is- empowerment medicine.
This atmosphere didn’t change overnight. The change came one conversation at a time. Those conversations with patients and lawmakers, that examination of exactly what we need to do our job and what we will sacrifice for it would not happen if we had been gifted federal licensure. The process of talking, of showing up every day over years, in spite of bitter and powerful opposition, have made us a stronger, more resilient field.
We, who see the connections between the political and the physical body, who recognize that our lives create our health and the vibrancy of our earth and our community dictates the capacity for each person to thrive, now recognize our opportunity. Our gift is that a well world is not being handed to us, but must be earned.
We must ring the bells that can still ring. The world will change and we will guide a gentler course. We don’t need to stand on a National stage, but we do need to stand up. Be present. Be mindful. Listen. Take the opportunity to connect with neighbors. Refuse to accept intolerance, injustice and inaction in our own lives. Choose health.
There are so many cracks in everything.
And the light is going to pour in through every single one of them.