By Yuliana Kim-Grant
The one hundred postcards with pictures of pretty Japanese cherry blossoms I had ordered online sat in a pile on my lap. Trying to muster up my best handwriting skills, which is hard work for me on the best of days, I wrote a simple message to encourage each recipient to vote for the candidate running for the Senate seat in their state. I alternated between blue and black pen, trying to make something monotonous slightly more creative or, at the least, slightly more entertaining. I had one eye on the TV, which was tuned to a British dramedy about a chef, the complications of adultery, and the resulting family dysfunction. As I finished writing each card as carefully as I could and put on the stamp, I felt a tiny bit more empowered.
I have a B.A in International Politics and follow politics closely. So it's fair to assume that I was more politically active beyond simply voting and sending money to candidates. My rudimentary engagement was not due to not caring, apathy, or cynicism. Instead, my laissez-faire attitude was the result of my firmly held belief that no one candidate could do irrevocable damage to a country set up with a system of checks and balances. Pictures of tanks rolling down streets, facing off with fellow countrymen and women protesting unfair policies or the tyranny under which they felt they were living, were images of other countries with fragile, sometimes shoddy political systems.
As a child born in the late 1960s, I am too young to have lived through the tumult and social unrest of young people protesting against a war being fought in a foreign country thousands of miles away. Kent State is something I studied, certainly not something I can remember personally. As the presidency swung red or blue, I was confident in the bureaucratic systems keeping our country running without too much disruption, regardless of the president’s political party affiliation. Yes, I have sometimes disagreed vehemently with certain policies, but these disagreements never felt irreparable.
All my previous somewhat naive beliefs that our country and our democracy were never in danger have been blown apart during these past three years in ways that I could never have imagined. As the child of parents who survived a civil war, one of whom fled communism, I believed in the idea of America as a country where norms were too impenetrable for any one person to destroy. It was as I watched the very norms I had blithely assumed indestructible being toppled easily and without much argument that my own naivety got ripped into shreds. What I finally understood was that democracy, our democracy, much like a yoga practice, is a living and breathing idea kept alive by each person in this country. Like any living, breathing idea, it is just as susceptible to extinction if each of us gives up on keeping it alive, or worse, if each of us gives up and believes that what we did to keep it alive was irrelevant.
This revelation is what has turned the urgency of this moment and this election into a clarion call for me to take up arms, or, for the moment, take up my pen. As I wrote out my one hundredth postcard, my fingers slightly numb, my one eye now watching a Scandinavian detective series, the British dramedy long finished, I again felt a little less helpless or powerless. I made plans with a friend to vote early in my state, setting up a date of sorts. I decided to vote early in person since I had been hired as a poll worker, working on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of the week of the election.
Once I finished with the batch of addresses I had been assigned, I texted the bot to get more addresses. As I did my small part for this election, I realized that this work was now my personal yoga. Yes, I still get on my mat for my daily practice, but the volunteering and engagement with the election is my full yoga practice for now. I have moments of absolute doom and terror about the potential outcome and possible unrest, all of which I have to fight in order to prevent dropping into the cauldron of hopelessness and helplessness. Will I be outraged if the outcome is contested, or worse, feels as though it has been manipulated? Yes. Will that be a different clarion call for me to take up arms? Yes. But I will arm myself with a pen, my feet, my voice, my body, and my heart to help keep our democracy alive for all of us.
Yuliana is a yoga teacher, author, wife, and mother. Find out more about her at https://www.yulianakimgrant.com.
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