I’ve been thinking a lot about bubbles. The Oxford-English Dictionary defines “bubble” as “A thin sphere of liquid enclosing air or another gas.” The San Francisco Bay Area is a bubble. 85.3% of voters in the County of San Francisco voted for Hillary Clinton. In San Mateo County, it was 76.3%. In Alameda County, it was 79.5%. Contra Costa County–68.8%, Santa Clara County–73.3%, and Marin County–78.9%. Overwhelmingly, Bay Area residents voted blue. That’s not news. We are a liberal people with progressive values. We, as a whole, ALWAYS vote blue. Collectively, we were disgusted and outraged by the candidate on the right this year. “Clearly,” we thought, “while Trump’s supporters are vocal and getting a lot of attention, the nation as a whole would never put that bigot megalomaniac authoritarian in the White House.” Looks like we are full of air and/or gas. And our thin sphere of liquid enclosing us is much thinner than we realized.
So what do we do now?
In November 8 years ago, I was diagnosed with vocal polyps. I had to stop singing immediately, and according to my voice therapist at the time, I also had to stop lifting weights and give up teaching singing to kids. Giving up lifting weights wasn’t a problem. I found yoga because of that. But giving up teaching…? Not only was it my livelihood, it was also my greatest passion. She told me that I was obviously doing everything wrong with my voice, and that I was therefore toxic—that I would spread my vocal toxicity to my students. I was deeply depressed. But somehow in that darkness, I came up with a mantra: FEAR DOES NOT MAKE MUSIC. I feared that I’d never sing again. I feared teaching my young voice students, worried that I was damaging them. I feared losing my ability to make a living. I feared that I was following the wrong path. I feared that I damaged myself irreparably. But I knew I couldn’t give up completely. Music is who I am and who I have always been.
I would repeat the mantra to myself daily as I would cry desperately, unable to sing. At first, it did little to quiet the hate/shame spiral in my mind. But bit by bit, I started to believe the truth in it. That mantra saved me. It’s not that I suddenly stopped feeling fear. Fear is strong; it doesn’t just disappear. It’s that I knew I had to fight against the fear, or I’d die. So I needed some tools. I asked myself, “How do you fight fear?” I came up with a few answers: Love. Knowledge. Empathy. Structure. And then I asked myself, “Where can I find all of those things?” In Art. I fight fear with art.
We as a community must be now more than ever resolved to stand firm for our values. If we want the progressive values of the Bay Area to get beyond the bubble—and as those values are equality and dignity for all human beings, then by definition, we want our values to get beyond the bubble—then we need to rally around those values and broadcast them to the world. Being the reliable blue block out west isn’t enough any more. We must designate ourselves leaders of this charge.
We need to tell our stories. Bay Area stories are stories of overcoming acute and life-threatening political adversity. They are stories of acceptance and inclusion. They are stories of conflict, and of paradigm shifts, and of the aftermaths. They are stories of triumph and loss, and stories of heroes and villains. They are stories of deep wounds and even deeper healing. We need those stories right now.
I have heard a lot over the past few days that we on the left need to listen. But I think listening only gets us so far. When the message is “bigotry and misogyny will not be tolerated” then we need to shout. We need to belt it out at the top of our lungs.
The bubble has burst, friends. We can’t hide here anymore. We were shaken by the results on November 8, but it’s time to rally. Now more than ever, we must be resolved: FEAR DOES NOT MAKE MUSIC. Metaphorically and literally, we must make music. We must make it together, and we must sing it loudly for all to hear. Instead of giving up, we must double down. We at FOGG Theatre are resolved. We will fight the fear with our art. Please join us.
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