Beards are visceral. If you grow a beard, it is a persistent fixture on your face, but ephemeral at the same time, not as permanent as a tattoo. Beards cannot be ignored, either by an observer or the wearer.
For the past 18 years or so, I have been growing my beard for New Year’s (even with the embarrassing and dated historical record, I don’t remember exactly when I started or why). Every year, I begin at Thanksgiving, grow out a full beard, and shave it off for a clean start on January 1. It’s been a way for me to mark the New Year in a way that’s hopeful, symbolically shedding the vestiges of the last. This year, I was distracted and started late, so I didn’t get a satisfying conclusion, which seems fitting. My wife suggested that as an alternative, I could grow a protest beard. Apparently I am not alone.
I don’t like Trump’s agenda, I don’t like any of it, and this is an outward gesture I can make that I won’t stand for it. I believe that climate change is a real problem that needs to be addressed. I believe that many but not all corporations cheat in pursuit of profits when not subject to external oversight, and that cheating often happens in ways that are undetectable to the consumer, sometimes until it’s too late. I believe that cooperation is the only way to address the many problems that humanity faces as a species in the near future. I believe that kindness is important. I believe that world stability is a key factor in enabling scientific progress. I believe that scientific progress is important. I believe that publicly funded research belongs to the public. I believe that I don’t care who you like to fuck and that people should be allowed to designate any one or maybe two people of their choosing to be granted the legal benefits we currently reserve for spouses. I believe that I don’t care what god you like to worship, if any, as long as you don’t try to force other people to follow your beliefs. I believe that respect for women as equals is so obviously a given that why are we even still discussing this?
A beard is certainly a symbol of masculinity, and I’m comfortable with that. It is a symbolic gesture to demonstrate my assertion that the concept of masculinity espoused by the recent election is repulsive, and here, world, is mine – that respects women and cooks and cleans and raises children and likes to play with toys and respects intellectual achievement. Obliquely, a beard is also solidarity with the Muslims in this country. I’m an agnostic but still spiritual Jew, I oppose profiling and discrimination on the basis of religion, and I think it’s shameful that our country is even considering this.
I’ve been growing my beard since January 20 of this year, and the plan seems to be to keep it until Trump is out of office, at which point I will hopefully breathe a sigh of relief, and we can all begin again with a clean slate.