|Public Allies 1995|
First Lady Michelle Obama would later become a Chicago Board Member
The cognitive dissonance is the best that I have to explain Republican educated middle and upper class whites voting for Trump. Choosing to excuse his speech because of a faux familiarity with his billionaire and celebrity status over the last 20 plus years. Those also being a group that have for years and years and years had strong feelings that Hillary Clinton is a liar, untrustworthy, even some to go so far as a murderer combined gave rise to the ability to vote for her opponent despite the racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist and often bizarre words he would say. He was correct, it appears he may have been able to "shoot someone on 5th Avenue and people would still vote for me." What does it take when the leading members of his own party can not say his name, no former Republican President thought he was ready for the task at hand, and all while giving slogans in place of policy. I could understand those who this economy and direction of the world is leaving behind. I could understand holding on to dear life when manufacturing that was the backbone for so many years for a good life now forces people to work longer, for less and often end their days with uncertainty and no pension. I could understand those that don't see our place in the global world throwing a Hail Mary feeling what do they have to lose. I could not understand the arguments from friends or family that are educated and financially stable to take such a gamble; when their own party wasn't willing to.
As I see more and more people getting frustrated at the vocal opposition to the President Elect and declaring don't you dare call me a racist these are the good deeds I do, I pause and the best explanation I have is that they or someone they love weren't viscerally offended by Trumps words. Most of the people I know that are getting very angry with people not "letting go"of this loss are one of or a combination of the following; white, male, attractive female and financially stable. Period end of story. And I realized that they have not been "hit" so to speak. I wrote on my Facebook post when someone told me to "chill out" that the worst thing he said about white males were their "knick names"…"Little Marco (he falls in between) "Low Energy Bush" and "Lyin Ted". The women he went after were much more personal and always went to looks…"That Face" for Carly Fiorina. The most bullying was when he went after Ted Cruz's wife by posting that extremely unflattering picture of her and compared it to his super model wife. Entrenching the stereotype that a woman's value is connected to her "beauty".
I am 44 now, living in a body that has betrayed me. Besides being frustrated with my changing body and lack of muscle tone due to this illness I have come to appreciate my looks for the most part. But I can remember a time when I sobbed that I just had to get a nose job after a male classmate said I "looked like a witch"- and years and years later every time I looked in the mirror all I saw was my ugly nose. I am at a point in my life that I understand where beauty radiates from, the difference between looking at a person in awe of their outward beauty they were blessed with and separating that from defining who they are as human beings. So while the attacks on women's appearances I found offensive- they did not shape my world view of myself. I wonder what do little girls think that heard this, teens and those finding their way…our President Elect has certainly made it clear what female beauty means to him.
When he railed against Mexican Immigrants and then declared his judge couldn't be fair due to his Mexican heritage I sympathized, knew it was wrong but wasn't hit in the gut. Our democracy is built around justice being blind…did he really just say that? When he proposed a ban on Muslims, in AMERICA a ban on religion…this rhetoric frightened me from a historical perspective - how have we lost our way that our country was founded on the separation of church and state, a refuge for religious freedom. However, since my religion doesn't define me by color or creed I didn't feel it the same as a woman wearing a Hijab. I didn't need to fear walking down the street. When he insulted John McCain as not being a hero…well that was so insane I laughed it off. I literally laughed it off. But what about our troops that could be captured, what about John McCain, I doubt they laughed it off - it is and was their reality. All while this man lied about having a high draft number and instead had a bunion. He chose to go after a Gold Star mother inferring she was quiet possibly because of her religion she wasn't permitted to speak. A claim that mother then felt compelled to address and say no her grief not her religion had her speechless. Then in comparison when pressed by a journalist of his biggest sacrifice; he paused and reflected on it being a busy business man. Again, these statements were so beyond my world view I didn't feel his words in my bones. I found them hitting me at a distance; like watching movie.
And then it happened, I had begun to get "hit". First, The Access Hollywood bus tape. I find it to be a cruel irony that NBC found Billy Bush needed to be fired, while America chose to hire. I listened to those words over and over and I thought, this country has been working and working to understand college and acquaintance rape and yet "locker room" talk became the cognitive dissonance applied. I listened and what I heard was what many are finally understanding rape, sexual assault is about Power not Sex. If we ever didn't understand that - now was our chance. I think it is important to read the entire transcript. The power is twice, going after a married woman…seems that was as important as her beauty. And doing it because he is a star. Let us not forget this was a man well past puberty, past middle age and was not in a locker room.
The second time was the mocking of the disabled man. Oddly though it didn't happen right away. It happened after the election was over. When I first saw that boorish behavior fitting of a sad, insecure kindergartener I again just shook my head. But for some reason when Secretary Clinton lost, and my helplessness set in my first thought was the vision of the President Elect mocking that man; and I thought to myself he is mocking you too. I hated that thought, because it forced me to again force the painful reality that my life is not independent anymore. I depend on people to do all of my day to day cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and the list goes on. People may see a photo of me and think "she doesn't' look sick" and have no idea that was a moment in time and everything that it took to prepare for and the inevitable days in bed it took to recover. Secretary Clinton's shocking loss made me grieve my loss of independence in a way I hadn't before. I took stock of my lifetime of achievements prior to this illness and realized we were on some level on similar trajectories. Despite not coming from a traditional religious family, I lived those words, "Do all the good you can, for as many as you can, for as long as you can."
I had early in life, second grade actually, remember first learning about Martin Luther King, and the atrocities of our countries past. I followed a path of service and had every intention after Medical School of returning to the underserved area in Milwaukee that showed me the impacts of health and poverty. I had hopes to going to MU night Law School… I had a plan and the loss of Secretary Clinton stung me in the heart, I did see myself in her. I did look past her faults, because she is human and I saw that none of these "sins" were done at the expense of country. And I reflected that if I was well what would I be doing now? Would I switch paths and begin to get involved in politics? I am young enough - but not able in body or mind anymore. I realized that when President elect mocked that person for something they had no control over - I felt that in every cell of my body. Whether you lose your body to illness, accident or born with disabilities no matter how high your self esteem so many things are taken from you. For me, the daily struggle is to not feel less than, because no matter what anyone says - it is the painful truth. I am less than my former self. Not in spirit, not in grit, not in compassion - but in the ability to act - I am less than. And in that loss, when I at first thought of seeing him mock that man - I felt detached and disgusted. In the moment after the loss I felt rage and disdain.
So I continue to implore those kind hearted individuals that keep asking us to not worry, give him a chance, concentrate on policy. I ask you to please humble yourself and sit with the question did his cruel viscous words hit YOU. Not "your gay friend" or "your black friend" or "I have no problem with Muslims…"did they hurt YOU personally. Did they make YOU feel less than? The same people that are asking me to move on often are the ones that despite 7 congressional hearings refuse to accept the answer that Benghazi was not a criminal act of Secretary Clinton's. That after a FBI investigation, her apology continue to be enraged over her emails. That in all those emails, 3 had a body of the letter "C" classified - not a header. That by all accounts all they found is that she was in words of Bill Maher a "boring political policy nerd." They still play the "I could have stayed home and baked cookies…" as a rally against stay at home mother's rather than her for a moment not being politically correct and instead say - lay off. I went to Law School and I want to work. I ask you to stop forgetting that she was a Rodham before a Clinton and was the first student ever to give a commencement address at Wesley. I ask you to remember she went to Law school at a time when there were 3 woman in her class and she was chastised for taking the space of a man who could then be drafted. I ask you to ask yourself what part did sexism play in her threading a line constantly between emotional and stoic. I ask you to stop pretending she is "different" than other women. To pretend sexism didn't play a role when her pneumonia seemed as big as a headline as Trump not releasing tax returns is a blind eye to double standards she has lived with for years.
Allow me to have my grief. If Secretary Clinton; inarguably the most qualified person to run for the office of the President, had lost to John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio….the list goes long - this loss would still sting but I wouldn't be fearful of its long term consequences. Let me grieve that on a national debate stage when a woman was schooling her opponent on policy he looked into the camera and said "what a nasty woman." Let me grieve for the idea that our country voted for the idea whether the President elect acts or not the suggestion we screen for religion. I felt a bit like Cinderella, not only did she lose her mother but was replaced by an evil manipulating step-mother. That is who won, that in my greatest of hopes will not be who leads.
However, respectfully let me grieve for myself. For the fact that I am not technically, not kind of but actually disabled…so my routes to action are more limited than many of you - I have a computer screen and my words. I have hope I will be someday be well again. I have hope that I can find a trajectory that will have as much meaning as my old path I had worked towards - but I often need to choose. I choose my energy for my friends, my family and my work at healing. It is on one a hand a contrary life to the one I had lead, recently a friend who I don't see often when we exchanged messages said to me the following:
"I think of you so often but don't vocalize how much I worry about you and grieve for the life you deserve"
I thought so much of that statement. What is the life we deserve? The best I can come up with is we deserve to live our truth. This election has taught me much. It has taught me the words my father has said from the moment I can remember, "life is not fair." It has taught me that I am blessedly at a point in my life where respect is more important to me than being liked.
The phrase "Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me." Kept coming to mind and I thought - could we be more wrong? And so I did a bit of research and found the historical context of the phrase is quite relevant.
The earliest citation of it that [ I ]can find is from an American periodical with a largely black audience, The Christian Recorder, March 1862:
Remember the old adage, 'Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me'. True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions.