I still love you, America. I love our ideals, and I love that I have the freedom to call out the many ways that we fail to live up to our ideals. You – we – are far from perfect, but I can hold my little girl’s hand as I walk into a local school to vote. And for that I am grateful.
Two passages of Scripture are on my mind this Inauguration morning, from the Psalms and from Isaiah:
“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry…
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted…”
“God has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
God is Love, and we are here to do Love’s work, to bind up each other’s broken hearts, to do good, to seek peace, to work for freedom. Let’s do this. Also, let’s give out a lot of hugs today. I am pretty sure Jesus said that, too. The disciples just forgot to write it down.
Received this Hillary sticker in the mail today, a (little late) token for my HRC campaign donation. The same day the electoral college has officially voted for Donald Trump to be our president.
Oh Hillary, what is 2017 going to do to us?
I am an activist who feels dissent and resistance deep in my bones. But there are moments when I see no beauty in the resistance. There are only sick people without health insurance. Black and brown people without access to the vote. Women with bodies subjugated to the judgment of men who know nothing about us.
Sometimes we – or at least I – need to sit with that. Sit as still as we can be, not fighting the grief with optimism or qualifications. There are moments in which we have the sacred obligation to witness the world that is.
* * * * *
And I just finished reading Lindy West‘s memoir Shrill, and it concludes thusly:
“Fighting for diverse voices is world-building. Proclaiming the inherent value of fat people is world-building. Believing rape victims is world-building. Refusing to cave to abortion stigma is world-building. Voting is world-building. So is kindness, compassion, listening, making space, saying yes, saying no.
We’re all building our world, right now, in real time. Let’s build it better.”
The tears that just wouldn’t stop last Wednesday began to scare me when they still weren’t drying up by the time I put our girls to bed around 8pm. I realized that I was reacting as if someone close to me had died.
That seemed preposterous, but it was how I felt. I am old enough and finally wise enough to know that the only way through feelings is… through them, so I sat with how I felt. And I invited a friend over, because Mike was at a work dinner, and it was too much to sit with alone. As we talked and I cried some more, I realized that what died was a hope that I had, an expectation that I was going to wake up and there would be a woman president-elect. A hope that millions of women were going to be vindicated by seeing our selves in one of the highest places of power that exists. That I was going to be vindicated.
In the days since, I’ve begun to name other things that died, or that it feels like died.
Stephen Bannon has been named Trump’s chief strategist. Before joining the Trump campaign, he was best known for being the executive chairman of alt-right Breitbart News. Headlines for his stories on the Breitbart website are stomach churning. One of many examples: “Does Feminism Make Women Ugly?”
I grew up in an environment where feminists were often jeered.
It took everything I had to pull my self out of there.
Two days after my fifteenth birthday, yet another boy at church made yet another comment about my weight. I was too chubby. The next day, I stopped eating. Within eight months, I dropped from 145 pounds down to 70.
The boy’s comment was the tipping point, but it wasn’t the whole reason for the anorexia. I had been too big for a long time. I took up too much space. I had way too many opinions, and I insisted on defending them. Obviously, I ate too much, when other women were able to contort their selves and their bodies to whatever thoughts and size were acceptable. To not take up so much damn room.
I couldn’t be a real woman until I could do that, too. So I did it.
A year or so later, I overheard adults at church talking about feminism, how shrill those feminists were, how wrong. I went home and wrote a poem that included,
“I am beautiful
Though I do not believe it myself.
But I must be,
for God made the stars
and they shine, and I know
His hand made me.”
Along with the crystal-clear message that I was taking up too much space as a woman, I had also internalized the message that God loved me and made me. We humans are so messy, capable of holding contradictory beliefs.
Thankfully, as I was perilously close to permanently damaging my health, the latter message won out. When the choice was most acute, I had just enough faith that God’s love made me worthy of being alive that I started eating again. It was even harder coming to a place where I owned my own thoughts and beliefs, without apology. It wasn’t until I was 25, living in another country and working on a master’s, that I would say I owned my self. All my choices, all my mistakes, all my responsibilities.
To do that, I had to let go of religious beliefs about women’s places, which I had been told were essential to the salvation of my soul. Women being pretty and pure and deferential were a big part of that salvation, reinforced by cultural mores.
I threw off the patriarchal mantle under which I had been born. I married a life partner with whom I am an equal. I made my own choices about my body and life. I gave my little girls my own last name.
What has died this past week is my belief in how much of the mantle’s reach I had been able to throw off in my own life. There is more of it, and I cannot stand it. I remember it. It makes me feel like my throat is choking. It is that against which I would expend every cell of my body to fight off from overtaking my children. It will not cover them. It will not. I will work against it until my dying day.
“Fat Shaming Works”
“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive & Crazy”
“Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer”
“There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews”
These are just some of the headlines of Breitbart News, and just examples of the sexist ones. There are also the racist, anti-Semitic, and nationalist headlines. And now the man behind Breitbart is chief strategist for the President of the United States. His power to shape policy and thus the every-day lives of Americans is real and potent.
Thus, I grieve.
(Don’t worry, I’m going to get to work, too, but first, grief and self care.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ~Andre Lorde)
The suffragette roses I bought on Monday night have grown into the most beautiful bloom. I wasn’t expecting that. After Tuesday night, I forgot they were even on the table. But all along, they were blossoming, because that’s what roses do. May it be so.
Yesterday the temp was going to be high, so after our Election Day photo op, my oldest daughter took off her long-sleeved Future President shirt and said she’d wear it the next day. It broke my heart to see her put it on this morning. I am so sorry we couldn’t get it done, couldn’t shatter that ceiling.
I don’t have any fight in me today. I am tired. So damn tired. I’m going to be ok with that. Tomorrow, or maybe in a few days, I’ll be ready to fight again. I’ll be ready to be, as Glennon Doyle Melton says, a Love Warrior. Today I’m a Love Puddle.
At least I am not alone. When I first identified as a feminist, I was the only feminist I knew. Now I have a wealth of soul sisters. Who have taught me grace and fierceness and compassion that knows no end. Love is forever tries, to again quote Melton. Give me a few days, and I’ll be ready to keep trying.