Friday, November 11, 2016

Embodiment and Election

I moved to Massachusetts to feel more at home. But part of my heart is from the Midwest. Cornfields stretch to the horizon and time moves differently. Distances are farther but you can get there in a straight line. Between the towns, the clouds look higher.

I learned a lot about humility from people living in the middle of nowhere. But it was also exhausting. It felt uncomfortable, surrounded by so many whose perspective veered into bigotry. I felt implicated in prejudice when other white people said, "I won't Jew you down," and "I think we have enough black people in our neighborhood," and "Glad to meet you, especially since you never know -- your next door neighbor could be a terrorist."

I'm moving through stages of grief about this election. Today I am depressed and wondering if it's a good thing to live so comfortably. I moved to a "more enlightened" community -- but now I see the full depth of our ignorance. I've sought willful ignorance of what it's like to live in the rest of my own country.

Hate raged through this election, and rages on through communities, battering LGBT people, ripping headscarves off of women, scrawling swastikas on bathroom stalls. Hate is unruly and powerful, but those who commit acts of hate are in the far minority. Hate is a just a distillation -- the purest form of our lowest daily instincts: fear, self-protection, the hunger for power.

Hate's favorite target is the bodies of women. There were so many women's bodies in this election. Melania Trump's naked body, spread across a fur coat. Bleeding bodies, tampons for Trump, the carnage of lost abortion access in Western and Southern states. Battered women's bodies, fat women's bodies, the bodies of grandmothers groaning with pain as they walked a mile to vote for a woman President. Hillary Clinton's body, and what she wore on it. Her clothes, her health, her smile, her brave shimmy. Our knowledge that her body had borne a child, and her daughter's body brought her two grandchildren. So many bodies. Not enough votes.

Listening to women of color in my neighborhood and online, the outcome of this election was no surprise. This is how the world is - it's just how it is. They're pissed at us white women, and I don't blame them. We've all given up on the white men, they're just not on our side. Sure, some of them stood with us, but far more of them did not. They voted for Trump or third party, and then told us what it is that we just don't understand. It was for our own good.

But I don't blame the election on men. Blame is a search for absolution -- and we're all part of this sin. This country is racist. Our culture hates women. Poverty and hard work coexist, and unfairness and pain can be soothed by a good scapegoat. Our country wages wars and murders children with drones. War comes home to our country through terrorism, and we hand it a gun. It's every man for himself, and we bask in denial as our planet grows hot. Crocuses bloomed this November. Even our flowers are confused and burn themselves out.

Here's what I know about mothers. We know how to clean up. We will solve the crisis and patch up the wounds. We're not afraid of blood. We're not afraid of tears.

Everybody, stop speaking! Listen to the mothers.

Mothers: what is your pain? What are you afraid of? What fear brought you to a man who promises to separate mothers from their children? What terror persuades you that another woman's body should not be her own? What hurts in your marriage, that you think the love of two men or two women could possibly threaten it? What do you need? What can be done?

Never mind about the men. Let them do their thing. But if mama's not happy, nobody's happy. What world would we live in if mothers knew only hope?