Last Sunday, writers and activists gathered at Writers Resist, an event held in over 100 venues in cities across the nation to commiserate and find ways to respond to the unthinkable turn of events from last November 8. In Portland, about 600 people came to the Aladdin Theater to see Cheryl Strayed and other local luminaries. Tickets were $30 plus $20 for a poster signed by all of the participants, one of which I snapped up before the ink was dry, and the proceeds went to several local organizations crucial for the battles soon to come. Adding to the adventure was the remnants of a blizzard that had hit Portland several days earlier, with packed snow converting most of Portland’s streets to a skating rink. I drove at a crawl through town coming and going to the event, and my car still shimmied a couple of times upon hitting large patches of ice. It was the most nervous I’ve been behind the wheel since leaving Chicago two decades ago, but for the luxury of wearing my politics on my sleeve for an evening without fear of recrimination, it was worth it.
The two-hour event will be posted in two podcast installments next Friday and the Friday after on the WBUR Dear Sugar website. In addition to prepared readings from the visiting writers and discussions led by Strayed and her Dear Sugar partner Steve Almond, there were a couple of songs by Colin Maloy of the Decembrists and, at the invitation of Lidia Yuknovich after a count of three, an audience-wide scream of rage that made my ears ring. The show had the feeling of a rally encouraging the faithful, and everyone who spoke emphasized the need for those in attendance to go out and put their beliefs into action. The impact of their urging remains to be seen, but the evening brought in over $15,000, so in that sense it was an unqualified success.
Freedom isn’t free. We’ve all heard that phrase, but it will take on meanings for the next four years in ways we scarcely could have imagined.