Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Who Are We Fighting?

I'm trying to avoid war metaphors this morning. And failing.

How is this not the same battle I've been fighting ever since kindergarten when someone called me a girl? Or 5th grade when a bunch of boys called me a queer because I liked art class? I barely remember a time before it was me against some bully, some asshole, some idiot, until I got older and learned that it was actually me and a bunch of similarly marginalized and infinitely more interesting and usually kinder people against a whole raft of assholes and their institutions built to keep us out.

I didn't ask to be left out, but, if I had been, it's the tribe I would have chosen. Life was always more creative, more loving, more loaded with possibility, at the margins. I was not uncomfortable as a dissident.

But, in the last several years, big changes began to roll through, practically unannounced. Queer lives became more visible, less threatened, more normal. I got married, and my conservative Southern in-laws cried and danced at my wedding. Hope was palpable. I was not without hope before, but it was always distant and abstract. So though I know that all these struggles are not identical or even always aligned, the easing of persecution of queer people ran, to my eyes, parallel to the easing of persecution of other minorities, and it began, not even really consciously, to seem possible to be fully who I am and also welcome and safe in much of the larger world.

It began to seem possible.

All the solemn testimony this morning that it's time to come together, "reach across the aisle," recognize our common humanity, strikes me as willfully obtuse. This election was about a large segment (a little less than half) of the American population telling us explicitly that they do not want to come together. Some of them I'm sure would bristle at that characterization and insist that everyone is welcome in their new world order, and that may be true, but only in their bullshit "love the sinner" sense. They have set the terms under which we are welcome, and those terms are unacceptable.

This morning I feel paralyzed. This rage against a bigoted, ignorant majority feels like putting on my favorite sweater, but what's different from before is that I don't know exactly who the enemy is. It's not just the 5th grade boys anymore, if it ever was. When I look at poll data that shows significant percentages of every demographic group (men, women, people at all education levels, minorities of all kinds, all age groups) supporting a racist woman-hating demagogue for president, I realize the enemy could be almost anyone. Maybe that's the first task, to find out who they are.

In the meantime, all 3 branches of the federal government will very soon be controlled by the party that created and either sincerely or cynically (does it matter which?) campaigned for this authoritarian bigot who wants to burn the house down. So I won't be reaching across the aisle. I'll be doing what I can to offer love and comfort to my tribe. And I'll be watching my back.

Monday, November 7, 2016


Mom raised me to know that we were the kind of people who read the newspaper every day. Or, I should say, we were not the kind of people who did not read the newspaper every day.

I was going to say that lately I've been thinking of Mom every day -- meaning, because of the election, etc. -- but I was already thinking of her every day, so... What is new is that I've been craving her take on what Barbara Kingsolver called "this misogynistic horror show."

I miss her company, our constant, wide-ranging, and now unfinished, conversation.

Just out of high school, Mom was working as a secretary when she and my dad got married. She stayed home for the dozen or so years when her kids were small (I guess you could say she chose to "not work," if by not working you mean running the whole damn show) and got a job again as soon as my sister started school. There were many brilliant, talented, dynamic women in my life as a kid, but my mother was an up-close every day example of why women should be in charge. She was and is my touchstone for almost every question I've faced. We didn't always agree, but I always knew she was wiser than I was.

Her spirit is especially present these days as we negotiate this minefield of woman-hating. Some moments I feel deeply depressed that we still have to live with this bullshit. Other moments I feel motivated that it has been so starkly revealed what work there is still to do. You have to drive the cockroaches out of the wall so you can kill them. But always I thank the Fates for the lessons my mother taught me about women.

I don't want to say that it feels unfair, because what does fairness have to do with these things?, but it's very hard for me to accept the fact that Mom died just short of being able to vote in this election. My mother, who married at 18 and never went to college but taught me nearly everything important that I know, who taught me how sexism works and why it's bad, what feminism is and why it's essential, and who instilled in me a reverence for the act of voting.