Three days ago, the Republic choked, coughed apoplectically and brought forth an election unlike any yet. Barely half the electorate turned out, and of those the smaller cohort got their way, bringing their candidate in via the Electoral College while his opponent won the popular vote.
I watched the election returns until Pennsylvania was declared for Trump, and woke to find that half of voting America had chosen a candidate who feels justified in grabbing a woman’s crotch and laughing about it with his buddies afterwards. I woke feeling like a second-class citizen for the first time in 48 years; afraid to get out of bed, let alone leave the house, feeling suddenly that my boobs and hips made me a target to hostile strangers. This is what Tuesday’s election has done to me—a white, middle-aged, professional woman—in the midst of my privileged, secure life. I can’t begin to imagine how it feels to be a black or brown person today, or a queer person, or a Muslim or a Jew, or a disabled person. All of us know that millions of our fellow-citizens hate us and are ready to dismantle our rights. The future President of the United States painted a clear, unequivocal picture of an America in which straight, white men would be guaranteed unlimited power over everyone else; just under half of American voters chose to make it reality.
This is not the America I want to live in or to see my children build their lives in. I was wrong to assume my fellow-citizens share my commitment to a nation where everyone’s rights are equally protected. I was wrong to underestimate the anger of those who feel nothing from their government but abandonment and contempt. I was wrong to believe only the prognostications of those who share my worldview. Now my eyes are opened.
There are feelings to experience—grief, horror, betrayal, fear, discouragement, anger. Feel them. There are wonderful things being written right now about how to keep this blow from felling the Republic. Read them. There are people who need comfort and support and affirmation because their lives and families and communities have been singled out for attack. Be with them. And when our hearts and minds and spirits have come through the first clouds of shock, let us lift up our hands and start to change the world.
Myself, I’m not much of a world-changer. Middle-class, white, straight and female, born in the body that matches my gender, I like my gentle, protected cocoon of a life. On Tuesday, though, I watched as our nation selected as its next President a man who embodies everything I hate and fear, and my cocoon was shattered.
It should never have happened, but it did. The armchair analysis will go on for decades, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that millions of us completely failed to understand what was going on, and here we are.
So what next? What do we do now that the die is cast? Here’s my answer.
Today I commit to send a daily hand-written letter to one of my elected officials, voicing my opinion and requesting specific action. Today’s letter was to the newly-elected Senator from Maryland, currently serving in the House. I asked him to pay attention to preserving Obamacare in particular the rules that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and setting a dollar cap on costs. I also asked him to bear in mind the need for a universal, single-payer healthcare system and to work towards bringing that to this country. Tomorrow I will write to my Congressman, to request that he re-introduce H.R. 1232, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.
Today I commit to providing monthly financial support to organizations fighting for the rights of marginalized groups in the U.S. So far I have made pledges to the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center and arranged a payroll deduction contribution to Baltimore Racial Justice Action that will be matched by my employer. I have no control over how this money will be spent; it is my offering to the struggle that is led most effectively by those who know it most intimately, and also much-needed practice in shutting up about things I know nothing about.
Today I commit to the creation and development of this blog, with the explicit goal of making it a podium from which voices unlike my own can speak their truth, as well as a chronicle of my own stumbling, awkward progress as a politically active human. I commit to telling the truth about my own ineptitude, false steps and embarrassment in my journey, in solidarity with others who walk beside me in theirs. I commit to opening this space to those who need to be heard—please contact me via the link above to suggest content or be/refer a guest blogger.
Today I commit to giving my time to the work of being an ally. I commit to reading everything I can get my hands on about the history and experience of oppression by women, people of color, and queer people. I commit to educating myself to the best of my ability, without denying my participation in the systemic prejudice that defines our entire culture. I commit to putting my body out into the world instead of sitting cozily in my privileged cocoon, ignoring the pain of others. I will go to rallies. I will attend organizing meetings, I will hear poets and musicians and writers. Against every fiber of my introverted being, I will put myself where I am likely to be challenged, discomfited, forced to examine myself and my assumptions.
I have no idea whether any of this will accomplish anything, but there’s only one way to find out. What I do know is that inaction and apathy are in large part responsible for what we have landed ourselves in. Warts and all, imperfect and discombobulated as I am, it’s time to step into the fight. Join me!
©Mary Braden 2016