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.

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