The 2010s felt like a massive pendulum swing from a government I could get behind to one I didn't recognize, and right in the middle, it stopped to enshrine my right to marry the woman I love.
I’d be much happier if I could cherry pick events of the 2010s and leave others behind—far behind. When the decade began, Barack Obama had not even completed his first term as President of the United States. Do you remember those days? Those were heady times.
The first sign that backlash loomed appeared when Republicans retook the House of Representatives in a 2010 election landslide. After that, very few on either the right or the left believed Obama would be reelected in 2012. But he defied expectations and sailed to victory, winning the majority of both the Electoral College and the popular vote.
The excitement from his re-election didn’t last long though. Mass shootings, a terrorist attack, and police violence soon took center stage, starting with the shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater a few months before the 2012 election and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a month after. Those were followed by the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon, law enforcement murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, and so many others, the white supremacist attack on Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the attack on Pulse (a gay nightclub in Orlando), and the killing of high students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
And it didn’t stop there—a synagogue in California, a municipal building in Virginia, and a Wal-Mart in Texas all fell victim to this epidemic of mass violence. Sadly, the incidents occurred too frequently to list them all.
Amid this horrific violence across the country, two events of the 2010s brightened my life—the 2014 Virginia Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Virginia and the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized it nationwide. Wendy and I were married in our church in 2010 and legally married on October 7, 2014, the day after the Virginia ruling. The highlight of my professional career with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) came when I had the privilege of announcing the Supreme Court decision to a packed house at the national General Assembly in Portland, Oregon. What a thrill!
ut then another kind of disaster struck our country—one that I believe has forever changed our democracy. I had planned to drive to Memphis on Thursday, November 10, 2016, for a Living Legacy Pilgrimage, a civil rights tour I had helped organize. However, when I woke up on November 9, I checked my phone certain that news I had gone to bed with would have been reversed overnight—I felt confident that Hillary Clinton would be declared the winner of the presidential election. Anything else would be a nightmare. When the nightmare followed me into my waking consciousness, I could not get out of bed. I could not even open the blinds. The day did not deserve light.
The only action I could take that day involved planning how to cancel the upcoming pilgrimage. How could we study the lesson of the Civil Rights Movement when our country had just elected someone I perceived, along with many others, as a fascist. Teaching a group of strangers about the struggle to obtain voting rights seemed pointless.
Thankfully, by Thursday morning I found the inner resources I needed to get in the car and drive to Tennessee. We asked the participants to stay away from the news as much as possible and instead spend the week immersing themselves in the history of the Movement. It ended up being the most healing thing we could have done. We left the pilgrimage no less devastated but much more empowered to work as hard as we could to increase turnout and contribute to turning the tables in the next election. We actively cultivated hope.
By the time the 2010s came to close, our culture had embraced Instagram, TikTok, the Broadway sensation Hamilton, and, at the same time, witnessed the power in the simple act of kneeling in protest during the national anthem.
As for me, at least partially thanks to the creative energy and support of my wife, Wendy, and a financial gift left to me in a dear friend’s will, I deepened and expanded my commitment to writing in entirely new ways. No longer content with technical writing, I pursued a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, and when I left my job with the UUA in 2015, I started working as program director for a local writing organization, James River Writers. It’s been a powerful journey and one that I’ll always be grateful for, in part because of the incredible women I met through it, some of whom you’ll get to meet in upcoming posts.
I also had my first encounter with the c-word, i.e., cancer, during this decade. I only mention it because I learned a lot about the value of good doctors during this time, and I will share with you what they taught me.
But I start this decade with a woman who taught me the sacred act of saying goodbye.
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