Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. - Nelson Mandela

Looking through social media, it appears there are still a number of people who don’t seem to understand why some of us are afraid of what the new presidential entourage means. Now, first of all, I just want to say that there is a part of me that is happy for you if you can’t work out why we’re scared. I hope you never feel the sense of hopeless vulnerability that we are experiencing. At the same time, however, I’m deeply disturbed by the lack of empathy, and hope against hope that your children never have cause to feel this way.

Have you come across, or even shared, this little gem:

“I keep seeing people post on how they are terrified, or scared? Well.. what are you scared of exactly? War? Because that's happening. School shootings? Because that's happening. Pipeline? That's been happening. Terrorism? Definitely alive and well. Going broke due to health insurance? Mm yes. Corruption throughout the system? Already there. Police officers being murdered? Yep, that's happening. Bullying? Check. Loss of jobs? We've got that on lock. A tanking economy. Yep. Being discriminated against for your religion, political views, sexual orientation, race? That's been going on. Rape, murder, violence, riots.. all going on and has been.
So tell me, what are you scared of that is not already happening basically everywhere? This isn't a Trump problem, this is a people problem. Y'all need to reevaluate your own selves..
Maybe America is a little too scared and a little too easily offended.
Quit being scared, crying around, offended by everything.. step up and do your part as an American, no, as a damn human being. Treat others with respect, help and encourage one another, raise your kids right, be a contributing member of society. Make sure your hands are clean, that's your job. Burning the American flag? Get out of here with that crap, how about you do your job to make it a better place.
But right now, all I see is hate. It's disturbing, and the ones with the most hate are being exactly what they claim to be against.”
Maybe America is a little too scared and a little too easily offended. Quit being scared, crying around, offended by everything.. step up and do your part as an American, no, as a damn human being. Treat others with respect, help and encourage one another, raise your kids right, be a contributing member of society. Make sure your hands are clean, that's your job. Burning the American flag? Get out of here with that crap, how about you do your job to make it a better place. But right now, all I see is hate. It's disturbing, and the ones with the most hate are being exactly what they claim to be against.” Maybe America is a little too scared and a little too easily offended. Quit being scared, crying around, offended by everything.. step up and do your part as an American, no, as a damn human being. Treat others with respect, help and encourage one another, raise your kids right, be a contributing member of society. Make sure your hands are clean, that's your job. Burning the American flag? Get out of here with that crap, how about you do your job to make it a better place. But right now, all I see is hate. It's disturbing, and the ones with the most hate are being exactly what they claim to be against.”

Apparently written by someone under the name Scott Strader on Facebook. Isn’t social media liberating?

Ok, so let’s see if we can break this down, shall we? I’ll keep it as short as I can.

War, school shootings, terrorism, corruption, loss of jobs. Yes, all that is happening, and will continue to happen, and if you’re not the least bit scared about how normalized they’ve become, then you are definitely part of the problem. Besides, do we really want a man who has filed for bankruptcy six times? Ok, possibly not every case was entirely his fault, after all the casino business hit a rough patch. Sort of like a country that’s been in a recessionfor a few years.  Has anyone informed him that filing a chapter 11 for America would be a very bad idea?

Health insurance. Do you truly believe that a man who refuses to pay his bills actually cares for the common person? He is big business all the way, and that means the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies have an ally to support them as they continue to bleed us dry.  Obamacare is anything but perfect, but millions of Americans rely on it to insure themselves and their families. And yes, that’s just one of the many things Trump has backed down on it, but it remains a fact that the threat was very real, and very scary, and remains scary, to a large number of at-risk people.

Pipeline. Yes, we’ve been fighting the pipeline that is endangering the lives of Americans and threatening the sanctity of the environment. The fact that Trump received a sizeable bribe donation from the CEO of the company that wants to rape the land endanger lives install a massive, dangerous pipeline despite the ongoing issues with the line already in place, is just one sign that he doesn’t mind selling off ourchildren’s future. Another sure sign that he is completely out of touch with environmental concerns is that he appointed a person who sounds more like a conspiracy theorist than a profession as the head of the EPA.

Police officers being murdered. Sorry to say, but without comprehensive gun reform, this will continue to happen.

Bullying, rape, discrimination. You just described the newest leader of our country.

But honestly, we’re not afraid of Trump. I’ve never met a President, and I don’t intend on starting now. It is a frightening thought that he will be shaping policies that will affect us for decades to come. Looking at who he’s appointing to his cabinet, the threat of loss of civil rights that have been fought for over lifetimes is all but ensured, and that’s not good news either. But the terror that is filling so many Americans isn’t entirely about him.

So what are we afraid of?

We are afraid of a world where school children chant, “Build the wall!” While their classmates cry and the teachers don’t do anything to stop it. *

We are afraid of a country where a black woman, filling her car with gas, is accosted by three men who pull a gun on her and tell her they could “kill her right now and nothing bad would happen because she’s just a piece of meat.”*

We are afraid of a place where two school girls can get on a bus and tell the blacks they belong at the back of the bus because Trump’s President now. *

We are afraid of a society where a white woman jogging on the morning following the election passes by a group of men and when one yells out, “Who owns your pussy now?” no one says anything. *

We are afraid of people who think it’s perfectly acceptable to send a Mexican man a terrorist note made out of letters cut from magazines and pasted to a piece of paper telling him to leave the country. *

In a word: You. We are afraid of the people who are either so self-centered, or downright malicious as to have the gall to ask that question. We are afraid of the people who voted in hatred, live in hatred, and continue to treat the rest of us like we are the ones that forced this horror on our country. We are afraid of people who saw a sexual predator and decided he would be a good role model for our sons and daughters.

You gave hate a voice. Now we all pay for it.

Yes, there are riots going on right now, and that needs to stop. Did you know that in many cases it started as a peaceful protest, a way of supporting each other while we process what has happened, when some people who saw an opportunity for chaos descended? Did you realize that the vast majority of protests are remaining peaceful? The only hate crimes I’ve seen are those by people who loudly support Trump. By people who name Trump as the reason they can hurt others without consequence. There are bad decisions on both sides.

So right now, we are organizing, we are filtering, we are supporting. Right now we are planning to stand up for ourselves and those who cannot. Right now we are doing our job to make America a better place by not sitting idly by while racism, bigotry, and misogyny rips away at our core values.

If you are so offended by our honest and visceral reaction to this, then maybe you need to try being honest with yourself. Maybe it’s you who have not been “keeping your hands clean.”

To my fellow citizens, by brothers and sisters who have been united by this ugly situation we’re in, stay strong. Fight with love and tolerance no matter how dark the night. We stand together, we stand strong.

*All of those stories are firsthand accounts I read through a supportive group. This is what people are truly living through. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Childhood's end

It was a wonderfully warm, but not too warm, day when my parents broke the news to me that Santa wasn’t real.

I was 8 years old and I think it was sometime in early November, but I can’t be certain. I think it was after we’d had a simple lunch at the table. I only remember a slight feeling of shock, then, upon seeing how much they struggled with the words, I decided to think more about it later and said the words I thought would make them feel better, to stop their frowns. I remember being acutely aware of people, especially adults, that Christmas season. Trying to make sense of this new world that I’d suddenly been plunged into. A world where magic didn’t exist.

I rejected that thought. Magic was still real, and I saw it all around me once I cared enough to look.
It was years later before my dad took it all back. “Santa does exist,” he told me, “it’s just… different.” He didn’t need to. “I know,” I said, “I’ve always known.”

When it came my own child’s turn to hear that magic was fake, he got a wholly different speech: “Santa is not some dude that flies around the world delivering presents to good kids, it’s the spirit of peace and love that inspires people to be better to each other. That spirit that inspires us to help the less fortunate. Santa is real; he’s just not a jolly fat guy in red. “

It’s the spirit of tranquility that makes adults not hate each other quite as much as usual. Bring on the Christmas season! We need it now more than ever.

I’ve been struggling with this election. I’ve tried to close myself off from the world, because the world is an ugly, dangerous place right now. I honestly did not expect my own reaction, but the fear that has gripped me since Tuesday night has been intense. I thought it wouldn’t really matter to me who won, who our next President was, I just wanted the campaign over.

How wrong I was.

I think it’s because I truly believed that America was better. That we still had enough human decency to not elect such an obviously dangerous person.

My family is not on the front lines, not entirely. We’re “white,” so that’s our protection. We’re not Christian, my son and I have mental illnesses, my husband and step-daughter are immigrants, and I’m not strictly heterosexual. We’re not on the front lines, but we’re not far back.

I’m scared. I’m scared of what could happen. And I can’t trust anyone.

People I thought were my friends, people I thought cared about my family voted against our safety. They voted, almost with fanatical relish, to put my family in danger. That is something that I can’t forgive, and it’s going to take a long time before I can be nice again. It will take a long time for the resentment to ebb. Probably until I know we’ll be safe, which may be never. We may never again feel safety, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

I’m trying not to hate these people; people I thought of as friends. People I thought I was protecting by voting for the lesser of two evils. People who fed me to the fire. So far, you may have guessed, I’ve failed. Hate is filling me so entirely that I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I haven’t done either properly since the election. Food tastes bad, sleep is filled with monsters. I’m waiting. Waiting for the next threat to show itself.

And every time I see the face of our new dictator, all I see is my own demon- the one person who’s very thought still sends me into a panic attack nearly 14 years later. A few weeks ago I sat in a lawyer’s office trying to explain, and completely lost control. I sat there and sobbed, humiliated at my own weakness. Trump is a trigger to many of us survivors. The fact that he’s a self-confessed sexual predator isn’t really the issue- there’s plenty of them around. The fact that he’s a self-confessed sexual predator in a position of power isn’t even the issue- there’s plenty of them, too. The issue is that so many of our neighbors and supposed friends said that it doesn’t matter. That we don’t matter. They agree that women are there to be objects, that we don’t count. That we somehow asked for this. That complacency is the issue.

I saw a comment stating that not all Trump supporters are racists. Not all Trump supporters hate women. But does it really matter? You voted for a man that gave the scum of our country carte blanche. It’s all ok, because our President does it!

It’s not ok. It will never be ok. It’s as far from ok as you can possibly get.

There was a woman in my co-op who absolutely horrified me. She claimed she was voting for Trump because she had to vote with her conscience.

It’s your conscience to rape women?

It’s your conscience to torture innocents?

It’s your conscience to kill people that look different from you?

It’s your conscience to deny every ideal we’ve based our country on?

It’s your conscience to plunge the earth into an environmental disaster that we may never recover from?

If that’s true, I’m not sure I want to share the same space as you. This isn’t about politics anymore, it’s about humanity. People who have put their humanity on hold because some demagogue has promised them the holy grail. It’s about the fact that your conscience includes the mass destruction of everyone who doesn’t believe the same overused tripe you do.

For those of us who have lived our lives on the edge of outright dissension, it is terrifying that one manipulative megalomaniac can wield so much power over our disenfranchised populace as to put us into actual physical harm. The world may not be ending, but it has certainly changed, irreparably, for the worse.

So what now? A lot of people are asking that, but nobody seems to have a very good answer. “Keep fighting,” seems hollow when everything we’ve been doing has failed. “Do more,” is even worse when we’re so tired from the battles we’ve waged over months and ended in the message that we are worthless, we don’t matter.

The thorn? Clinton won. At the time of this writing, the votes are 99% counted and Clinton is in the popular vote lead by 395,050. That’s a lot of people who have had their voices ripped from them.
So let me share another story.

I did not vote early because I didn’t know who to vote for. I didn’t like any of my options. At 2pm central time on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, I “forced” my son to go uptown with me to vote. I grilled my immigrant husband, who is much more politically aware than I am since I’ve never tried to pretend that my vote actually matters, who he thought I should attach my name to, knowing full well that I hate Hillary Clinton and everything she represents. I headed uptown, braving rain and flooded creeks, still not sure who I should attach myself to. I’d read accounts and seen photos of women voting for Hillary Clinton in tears because the thought of a woman president was so incredible, so life affirming, that they could not contain their emotions. It was a powerful message that they believed in so strongly that their emotions over flowed unchecked in our patriarchal world that disdains from such shows of weakness.

I voted for Hillary Clinton. And I nearly cried. But not for the reason you’re expecting. I felt the tears threaten as I selected her from the list, because I didn’t want her as my leader, but she had a better chance than most at beating Trump- and anything is better than Trump. Present tense.
I was not and am not proud of my decision to kowtow to popular demand and vote for someone I didn’t truly believe in- but let’s be honest, I didn’t really believe in any of them, I was only voting against the one I couldn’t live with in the strongest way I could. Not that it mattered. I could have written in Cthulhu and it would’ve counted as much.

Because I don’t matter. Message read loud and clear.

Just for the record, I don’t support the anti-Trump riots. I don’t think that’s the way out of this mess. I don’t what is, but I certainly don’t think that’s it. But I understand it. When you take everything away from people and leave them without any acceptable way to defend themselves and their loved ones against hatred and injustice, they tend to react in violent ways. It’s fear that fuels that reaction, and I hate to say it, but it’s not over yet. The elites think people are easy to control when they’re denied basic rights, but actually, when they have nothing left to lose, people become as untamable as any jungle. There is no stopping the will of survival.

I have struggled my entire life with people interrupting me when I speak, because I don’t matter. I try to limit my words, obviously not easy for me, just to try to avoid people talking over the top of me. And yet, I have literally been interrupted when saying, “Hello.” One word, unfinished, because someone is so much more important than I am. And I have been forced to accept that out of politeness. It’s what good girls do.

But it’s very difficult to combat racism, sexism, bigotry, and hatred when your voice has been taken from you. When no one will give you the opportunity to speak. When every effort to force your right to speech is met with sexist derision.

So, this is my declaration. If you are afraid, so am I- we can be afraid together. If you are angry, so am I- we can be angry together. If you are confused, so am I- let’s figure this out together. If you have forgiven, please teach us how, because we are struggling.

And if you voted for Trump, please try to understand that right now we’re trying to find a way to forgive the betrayal, contempt, and outright hatred. We’re trying to understand what is so offensive about wanting equality. We’re trying to find our footing in this new world where hate is encouraged, and intolerance is expected. We’re trying to decide how to teach our daughters they’re still strong and our sons they still need to show respect when the adults in control have shown the absolute opposite.

I don’t know how or if we can move forward from this. I don’t know that I want to. Everyone I look at is an adversary; everyone I have to deal with is plotting my downfall. Maybe it’s paranoia, but they just voted to put it into action. Trump just kicked over that domino and I simply don’t know who to trust. So, right now I’m trying to keep to myself and not piss too many people off. But I am hurting, and it’s not going away any time soon.