When I began creating the Ms. Millennial project, I inhabited a world that had been set on fire by the election and inauguration of Donald J. Trump. I found myself suddenly surrounded by passion, utterly dizzying passion. My voice was one of millions, foreseeing the direction in which this nation would travel, and shouting against it.
So many of those voices have since fallen silent, for reasons I don’t know.
I can only account for my own speechlessness: I have been heartbroken.
I have experienced grief over the life and death of a woman I never met.
Her name was Heather Heyer.
Heather Heyer was murdered in the street on August 12th, 2017.
Heather Heyer was murdered in the street on August 12th, 2017 by a fellow American.
Heather Heyer was murdered in the street on August 12th, 2017 by a fellow American, an emboldened neo-Nazi.
Heather Heyer was murdered in the street on August 12th, 2017 by a fellow American, an emboldened neo-Nazi, who committed an act of terrorism.
Heather Heyer was not the only victim in Charlottesville, VA. But in Heather’s eyes, I see my own. Filled with purpose. Determination. Compassion. In her willingness to peacefully march, to use her privilege to defend the worthy, beautiful lives of her sisters and brothers of color, I see love. In the example she set for her children, I see hope.
In her death, I cannot see. There is only darkness.
As with all modern tragedies, the wake of Charlottesville brought with it its own set of hashtags, filling social media feeds with #PrayForCharlottesville #PrayForAmerica. Yes, by all means, do. Think happy thoughts, send good vibes, wish on shooting stars that we’ll know peace. But when the hashtags are no longer there as a reminder, when memes and dog videos take priority again, please don’t stop there.
There is more to be done than #PrayForAmerica.
Vote for America. Call your representatives for America. Legislate for America. Attend council meetings for America. Pay attention for America.
Talk to your racist relatives for America. Educate your homophobic or transphobic friends for America. Learn the value of DACA for America. Respond to “Black lives matter!” with “Yes, they do!” for America. Practice understanding for America.
Get your news from reputable sources for America. Collect all the information you can and form your own intelligent, thoughtful opinions for America. Find love in your heart and spread it to your neighbors (your Latino neighbors, your Muslim neighbors, your Native neighbors!) without expectation or justification.
Be more for America than our current leadership suggests is necessary. Be better for America.
There is darkness now. We can become the light. Dazzling, and bright, and very, very loud.
P.S. If you checked out and didn’t care as much as you should have that white supremacists took to the streets with weaponry last month, it’s time to own that. You have to care. It’s imperative. Here’s a free 22 minute documentary by VICE about the events. Parts are extremely hard to watch, therefore it’s extremely important that you do not look away.
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Photo by Chip Somodevilla