One Thing to Say

Today I said that I had no words or that, more accurately, I had too many to post, but I lied. I have one thing to say this day-after-election, something that struck me during my hard workout--the only thing I could do to quiet the clamor in my head by keeping my body moving under the blasting music and joining the mob-mentality of a large group class:

A woman I'd met previously asked how I was doing (it had to be pretty obvious that I wasn't doing well) and I said that I had been up last night watching the election results. She smiled and waved her hands as if to say, "No big deal." Later, after class, she caught me and said, "Look. I'm 68. I voted for the first time when I was 18. I've seen a lot of presidents and we'll get past this okay." And I swear that my first thought was, "Are you a white, heterosexual Christian who is able-bodied and neurotypical and so are all of your family and friends? Because if so, you might not understand what I am feeling right now."

But I didn't say it.

And that was the moment when it hit me: by my not saying it, I'd helped cause this. I was responsible for the silence and the permission and the space to be ignorant or unkind and I had to own that. And it hurt. Maybe worse than this sick feeling I've had since last night.*

True to what @absurdistwords is saying right now on Twitter, this feeling isn't new. It's what I have always felt every day outside my home, being raised with mantras like 'Never Again' and the warnings of my elders with numbers tattooed on their papery forearms, scars on my knuckles when they were smashed by the neighbor boy calling me a "stupid kike bitch," that creepy tingle while I was hunted/cornered/groped/stalked as a single female outside her home in a world of men or that sick loathing that lingered after surviving my attacker--knowing that this could happen any moment, even here in America, if we as a nation were not careful...and now here we are.

This woman might not understand how I worry that, whatever happens next, the culture has shifted to accept what I consider unacceptable and how it will menace those I love and cherish most. How I worry my daughter may be viewed as a piece of lesser meat, how my son may be shuffled aside and locked away to be forgotten, how my parents might suffer without their health care or savings, how my husband and I might not be safe in our town, how I may never be able to protect my friends and family and neighbors who are judged "different" because of how they look, how they dress, how they pray. (And would they be able to protect me?) By all appearances, she is a white, Christian, heterosexual, able-bodied and neurotypical person, but that's just based on appearances. What do I know of her heart? Her family? Her friends? Her life?

She might not understand...but maybe she might. I didn't let her have the chance to tell me and I didn't take the chance to let her know.

* The word "upset" has never been so appropriate.


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