I’ve been thinking a lot about loss.
I spent this spring volunteering for the campaign of Alison Friedman, an outrageously courageous and fierce candidate in Virginia’s recent primary, an election that nominates the Democrat who will run to replace Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock in the state’s tenth Congressional district in November. It was thrilling. I wrote letters to the editors of regional newspapers, penned hundreds of postcards, and organized a meet and greet at the Herndon Fortnightly Library for Alison, where she met with a diverse group of liberal Northern Virginians. My friends and I proudly displayed Alison Friedman for Congress lawn signs and bumper stickers. She and her team knocked on endless doors, went to meeting after event after celebration after meeting after event after celebration after meeting after after after. Campaigning, campaigning, campaigning. They. Were. Tireless. They changed minds.
Alison is a pioneer in the fight against human trafficking, and helped found Slavery Footprint, a brilliant and unbelievably accessible tool that makes modern slavery personal and easy to understand (and help). She worked in the Obama Administration, and has been fighting against abuses of power her entire life. She is intellectual, emotionally honest, and relatable. A single mom (like my own), she has raised an incredible daughter who – at only 9 years old – recently spoke to a crowd of 40,000 at a recent mass protest in D.C. – and we lost. She was an excellent choice, but she just didn’t win. She has been working through it the most, but as a volunteer, it stung hard. Especially after getting to know her personally, this felt unfair, even though it’s – as you know they say – just politics. Her main opponent in a large ballot was Jennifer Wexton, the qualified and very deserving winner of the race. She is an excellent politician and a great champion of liberty and rule of law.
But we still lost. And it doesn’t feel good. And maybe we should talk about it.
Sometimes you just have to stop and allow yourself to feel the loss: the loss of a loved one, the loss of a political campaign, the loss of a country’s dignity, the loss of innocence of thousands of children, the loss of democracy, the loss of decency.
When I watch the news and read the newspaper, I feel like we’re losing everything we thought we had. The clamor of pain that crosses the country and world is hard to handle. One of my scientist friends likes to remind me that “our lizard brains aren’t designed to process mass atrocities.” Whether or not it’s completely accurate, it still rings true.
This is hard. This is bad. Maybe its time to start acknowledging that. There is always hope, and there is always something worth fighting for – that doesn’t change. The people I see at protests and those who take direct (and indirect) action are fighting the hard fight with dignity and rationality. But we are living in a dark place without any indication that it’s letting up soon. We can’t stop, but we can get real. Sometimes I feel like we’re fighting a losing battle. Admitting that doesn’t equate to giving up hope.
I think a lot about Alison’s concession speech at the Beltway Brewing Company lately, and how we all cried together in a big moment of collective catharsis. And I think a lot about how catharsis doesn’t always help.
And, in the end, the loss always remains.