Monday, November 14, 2016

I think we can all agree it's been a long week.

It's nearly four o'clock in the morning, on Wednesday, November ninth, 2016.  I'm laying, jaw clenched, tissue in hand, on my brother's couch, where I have been living for about two years, when he comes down the stairs, showered and ready for work. The television is on, playing news footage none of us really thought we'd ever see, and I have spent at least half of the last five hours in and out of tears, in and out of breath, in and out of reality, in and out of potential panic attacks.  My brother sees that I am... distraught is probably the most likely word to use here, and says "I did not think he'd actually get it.

 Are you ok?"

I am not ok. 
I feel like I will never be ok again, because ...
"The man on the TV right now doesn't think that people like me should exist, and the guy standing beside him thinks it's OK to shock gay kids until the 'turn straight';" I look away from the TV, and at my brother. "I think it's safe to say I am not OK."

It has been nearly a week now, a week full of shock and fear and ripples of hatred and bilious outbursts across the country.  It's been a week for graceful concession speeches made by a woman we have all let down, and peaceful marches that 'the other side' calls traitorous and Un-American (there's a word I never thought we'd have to bring back), that even more -neutral parties dismiss as 'liberals having a temper tantrum' and 'your side lost; you've got to put on your big people panties and get over it.'

We elected a misogynistic, racist, Islamophobic, possibly anti-Semitic, homophobic, classist, abelist eugenicist, to be our President. I am not sure this is a thing you get over.

Let me start with this: I come from a place of privilege. I am white; I was raised with enough money to complete both my high school and college education (although not without assuming significant debt along the way); I am not religious now, but when I was, it was the religion that most everybody around here practiced; I was assigned female at birth, and it fit me. I never had to question my gender identity or work with a body that didn't feel like it belonged to me. I know I don't have to live in the constant state of fear that many people do, because of their race or ethnicity, their gender identity, their religious practices,or  their sexual identity. 

My family doesn't know about my sexuality, if only because it has never been an issue: I'm too sick to date, so being slightly grey, being open to more things than they would necessarily assume I'm open to, well: It doesn't come up. I can certainly pass for straight in any situation, because it's not far from the truth.

 My family does not know about my history with sexual abuse or harassment, except that my mother knew that my large breasts made me a target for boys pretty young, warned me more than once about how to stay out of the trouble they might 'cause.'  That those warnings didn't always work, even with people I should have been able to trust? That's something they don't know. 

My family does know I'm disabled, even though I don't tell the whole truth there either.  There are certain truths about living in this body that even those closest to me would not understand, or should not have to burdened with (yes, I am aware that internalized ableism is a thing.  I am also aware that knowing it is a thing is not enough to eradicate it from your own thoughts and behaviors).  They know a lot about the abelism I have faced, but not all. I don't think you could ever tell it all.  I have also had the privilege of 'passing' sometimes there too: I have definitely been identified as a 'good cripple' as opposed to a 'troublemaking' one. (Yes, those are quotes.  They're also completely inaccurate, because I do not know anyone who creates more trouble than me, but people will believe what people want to believe.)

So I recognize that I am writing this next bit from a place of privilege, that there are many people, to whom Trump's election was NOT a startling turning point, to whom the idea that half our country was OK electing people into power who didn't want whole segments of our population to exist, was not a shock, and I want to say how sorry I am to those people. 
I heard; I listened when you spoke; I saw and felt your fear and anger and disappointment; but I didn't know firsthand. 

Even the evils I've already encountered - people who just yell "crippled bitch" at you as you're making your way through a public space, Facebook rants about how people on medicare are "con artists and moochers who deserve to die off", twitter wars and tv spots about the evils of the LGBTQA community (even the fact that the "community" itself allows itself to be shortened down to just the "LGBT" community) - none of that prepared me for the feeling of seeing, in stark numbers, that about half our country could support a man, a party, a legislative agenda, that seeks to delete large swaths of our citizens from the fabric of our country.  Who could talk about sexual assault like it was a joke, and then have people agree with him, that it was something we are able to joke about. Who could lie about and mock people's religion, their history, their families, their sexuality, their appearance, their disabilities, their humanness, and have no one to stand up and say "This is too much.  This is too far." 

I was not prepared for that, and I'm so sorry that you were.

 I'm sorry that being an ally - mostly online, because 1) I am too sick to be in public that often and 2) I don't know where people find the spoons for activism, when they can't find them for things like 'eating food today' - meant that I tried, but I didn't see the whole picture.  I also recognize that I STILL am missing large parts of the picture, because they are not my experiences, and they never will be. 

But I promise you,

I am listening, still.

I am trying, still.

I will do better, as much as I can, in any ways that I can. 

Because that feeling has not left me, since last week.  The one that feels like the world is ending, but not too many people actually care.  The one that sees all the calls for cooperation with a man who just appointed a white supremacist to his council, and wants to vomit, wants to scream that this is not the world we were promised, it is not the world we've been fighting for.   It's a feeling I would have rather spent my whole life never feeling, and that makes me so angry, because I have had the option not to experience it, where so many others have not. 

There are children who have lived their whole lives feeling like this - feeling like nobody cares if they live or die, and would probably prefer it if they died, so long as they did it quietly and with as little fuss as possible. 

There are women out there who have lived with men like this, who have experienced the things he jokes about so lightly, who were looking towards all of us to protect them THIS time, and who have been failed AGAIN.

There are LGBTQA teen,  and adults, and senior citizens in our country who are panicked and petrified that they will lose what little progress they have made towards equality.

There are Jewish people and Muslim people and atheists and non-Christians who are wondering just how much of their belief system will be trampled this time, just how much of it will be used as a weapon against them.

There are hard working people fearing deportment, or afraid that their families will become divided unfairly and unnecessarily.

There are poor people who already know that this government will place them blame, and the burden, unfairly on them. Again.

 There are people who are sick and disabled, mentally ill or physically ill - people like me - ,who know that they will not survive if the social safety net they depend on is dismantled, piece by piece.  Who are already worrying about running out of meds, running out of money, running out of time, running out of life. (For so many reasons.)

There are people of color who have been fighting for survival, for equality, for removing barriers, for their LIVES,  who depended upon the rest of us to protect them with our votes, and have to deal with yet another disappointment at our hands.

I cannot yet express how deeply ashamed I am of the decision our country has made - how I had to explain to my ten-year-old niece that not only hadn't we voted in our first woman president, but we had voted in a hate monger, a race-baiter, an honestly divisive and genuinely bad human being, while at the same time giving her hope (a hope I have to tell you I do not yet fully feel). I let her cry, and I told her that the man at the top is not everything, and that we wouldn't let them get away with anything, and that we were still going to fight and work for what is right.  I was mostly bluffing, because I did not feel like I had anything more than lip service to give, on that morning. 

But it's been a week, and I've read A LOT, and I know that I am not alone, in my fear, in my disgust, in my longing to make this as safe, as right, as possible.  And that matters more than I can explain too, that there are people out there Doing Things.  SafetyPins (with actions behind them); Pantsuit Nation; #WandsUp; #WhatsNext; All time high membership rates in the ACLU and donations to Planned Parenthood in Pence's name.... It's not just me, feeling this way, and some of the other people are going to know the right things to do. 

I'm going to keep listening.  I'm going to keep doing.  I'm going to keep fighting, once I catch my breath. 

I'll see you all out there.  Thanks for staying, for listening.  For letting me learn and know I have to do better. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

In which I return from a LONG hiatus to complain about the election here, so that I don't set my FB feed on fire

Let's talk about the election.  Actually, let's not: I really, really don't want to, but I also literally can't think about anything else for any sustained period of time? I do not know what to do about it, so writing seems like my best bet.  Here's what I wrote to the Fishy today, re: the election.

 Thanks so much; it is ridiculously anxiety-making around here right now, for sure. I'm trying to keep it together, but it is so nice to know that other countries see how completely absurd this whole thing is, and are hoping for the best. I've done my part already, so now I just have to wait and hope that things aren't really as bad as they seem. Deep breaths!  I hope you are doing really well... in all honesty, it's probably my turn for the long email, but since I'm relying on my phone for everything since my computer finally gave up the ghost a few months ago, emails are more difficult than I'd like. (I am not nearly as efficient at thumb typing as I am at regular typing.).  (That is in no way relevant to this post, but I did want you to know why I'm not posting all that much: Phone typing is NOT good for blog production.)

Anyways, huge hugs, and a big thank you for thinking of me. This election is definitely the most anxiety producing one I've ever been through, and that takes into account that most of the time Obama was running the first time I was sure he was going to be assassinated before he could ever be inaugurated, so that tells you how bad it truly is. When a guy who believes in eugenics is one vote away from being the leader of your country- whether or not you are one of the ones whose genes are obviously inferior- I think terrified is the correct response. Now I just have to deep breathe my way through a day that most people agree is going to go the right way, and hope that nobody on our side got complacent and stayed home. Love you! Talk soon!

And I'm having discussions with NephTwo (this is the last presidential election he won't be eligible to vote in, which is blowing my mind) about Bush V Kerry - and how the fact that he got reelected has led me to this point of election anxiety, because I can't trust my fellow citizens to do what's right for the majority of us, the minorities of us, or even individual us-es.  I was 100% certain that Bush would not be reelected, but I had apparently living in some sort of Liberal Utopian Echo-chamber, where I just wasn't hearing the people who thought he was doing a good job? and deserved another term? Because all of the sudden, there we were, in Bush, Term Two.  I still have questions about that, to be honest: I have no idea how that freaking happened.  I went and looked it up, because I could not remember how close it was. 50/48 - that's it... two percentage points (and I don't even think two whole percentage points), and the balance of the world tips. 

Our world has been balanced on chads, on presidential pamphlets, on the media's portrayal of a certain candidates foibles or strengths (who you "want to have a beer with" vs who gets Swiftboated, who can "see Russia from their house" vs who's "never gonna be president now", for example), on demagogues and Supreme Court Justices alike. So, yeah, you'll have to excuse me being a little bit nervous about the fact that a person who does not believe that people like me should exist; who does not believe that - or act like - women are equal to men; who can criticize and castigate an entire race, an entire religion, and entire countries and still think that that has no impact on the greater world around him; who does not believe in equal rights for all people, should be so close to the ultimate position of power in our country. 

Even more bitter is that all the things that I believe should have disqualified him from running, let alone serving, are things that SOMEONE in my country is voting for him because of.  There is someone out there right now who thinks that he's got the right approach to Muslims, and that person isn't going away tomorrow, like Trump hopefully will. There is someone out there voting for him, and they're not bothered by the allegations of rape and sexual assault that Trump is facing. Who doesn't mind the way he's talked to Gold Star families, or the way he disrespects veterans. There is someone out there who thinks "Nuke the shit out of them" is valid foreign policy.  Who thinks "illegals" are group of subhumans, and that they don't deserve to live in the same space as the rest of us.  Who believes that 'Obamacare' is the devil, and doesn't care that it has saved my life - or the lives of hundreds of thousands of others.

And those people are all voting (as they should, although I could wish that they just haven't got the time for it today, right? That's not wishing them ill, so much as wishing them busy, which seems acceptable), and all of those people WILL STILL EXIST come tomorrow morning.  All of those people will still be our country-mates come the day after the election, and that's worrisome to me, because some of those people don't think I should exist, that I do not deserve equal rights, or the support of my government in the form of health care or civil rights.  (For multiple reasons, thank you intersectionality!)

There is some real looking hard at yourselves and your choices that Americans are going to need to do, post-election.

I get that my internet experience is tailored to exist as much in the Social Justice Warrior Bubble as possible, both by choice and by chance, but the facts of this election, and this electorate, are startling to me. (To be fair, I think most of us were actually shocked by Trump's accession, if you can take the fact that both liberal and republican media sources were playing the whole thing off as kind of a joke in the beginning as any kind of clue.) And it's not as if, existing in those spaces online, or as myself in public, I am unaware that all the -isms are alive and well in my country. (The ones I personally experience, and the ones I have witnessed happening to others, which I do understand are not the same thing at all.  I'm just saying, I was also not unaware they existed, just because I did not personally experience them.)
But that someone could rise to power, so quickly and with so little opposition, well, that was a shock to me. That's were my own experiences were definitely not enough, because for however much I've been treated badly by people with ableist attitudes or behaviors, I did not understand the extent to which there were still huge swaths of the country who not only pity people with disabilities, but don't think their lives should be lived. I literally could not believe that a eugenicist was being taken seriously in our election (Granted, he did not come out and SAY he was a Eugenicist, but I think if you look at the definition, and you look at what he believes, you can see how many others and I were able to draw that conclusion.) 

That is an extreme I was not prepared for, in this (or any) election.

I have been listening to other people's lived experiences - the fact that there are violent racists in America is not a surprise to me, for example - but I know that I was not prepared for how ardently and publicly people proclaim things that are overtly racist (or sexist, or homophobic, or Islamophobic, or ableist,), and still don't think that they themselves are racist (et al) .  That they can support a bigot without believing themselves to be bigoted is ... a cognitive dissonance I did not expect, and can not comprehend.  I also have not found more than one or two Trump supporters who can actually give me a reasoned support statement for Trump that do not mention Clinton at all - I get being anti-candidate, because I'm pretty sure I'd vote Garden Hose over Trump, but if you cannot find something in your candidate to support, that's also a problem (Garden Hose: putting out emergency fires since forever. Also, helps your plants grow which is two whole positive things more than I can name about Trump, for example.)

Nor was I prepared for the ways in which this election, and who people support (and how they support them) would impact my personal feelings about people in my life.  It's like Melissa McEwan's Terrible Bargain come to life, this whole thing.

There are people in my life that I depend on, because I have to, whom I no longer can look at as trustworthy, because they didn't see the "big deal" about Trump saying he could sexually assault women and get away with it because he's rich.  There are men that I have befriended and trusted that I now have to seriously reconsider spending time with, because they assured me that it was, in fact, "locker room talk", and not aggressive misogyny.  I know of more than one married couple who are having some really devastatingly difficult conversations now, because they are seeing each other differently in light of their reactions to what has gone on during this cycle.  I've been unfriended myself, because I couldn't refrain from calling out bigotry where I saw it.

 And even though I'm most likely better off, it stung, because I thought I knew that person enough to say "Hey: Not cool. Repeating racist things makes you seem racist, I hope you know." (I am including the word 'seem' here even though I think the correct definition would be to exclude it: repeating racist things makes you racist, if you're supporting them. But I was A LOT more circumspect in my actual FB comment, so know that even this would have been seen as a killer blow to our 'friendship.' )

And I've tried to keep my personal Facebook feed as apolitical as possible (which is not to say apolitical, bc that's impossible for me), and had more than one truly frightening conversation with loved ones about race, class, the economy, misogyny (internalized and externalized), and power than I could ever have imagined having.  Sure, some have been positive, but for the most part, I find relationships are scarred by our interactions over this election - where I am mostly seen as a 'lefty loonie' in our family NORMALLY, now I have been placed in full on 'raving banshee' position, even though I have censored myself  8 times out of 10.

It's not something I'm likely to shrug off either - I will remember every "Oh, aren't you naive" and "that's not why I'm voting for him, but it's also not enough of a reason not to vote for him," I've encountered, you can be sure of that. 

In closing, please sweet baby jesus that I don't actually believe in, could this day end the way it needs to? With hope and community and optimism for our future? With the first woman president of our country, on the cusp of bringing a lot of people together to get shit done? Because I would like that a whole lot. 

On another note, though, my NaNoWriMo writing is going great guys, because I am writing about so many explosions! And history making changes! And life altering political policies! And complete dystopias, because I can't see how else this can end! (I predict M A N Y novels that come out of this NaNoWriMo are going to be Hunger Games-esque, because how could they not be?)