In the wake of next Friday (if you don’t know what I’m referring to, I guess you will next Friday), I’ve been thinking a lot about the possible changes we could be seeing in the near future. Mostly, I’ve been worrying about what how the “new normal” will affect our children and what messages they will absorb. I’m not extremely optimistic – everything I read triggers that shrill, shrieking voice in my head, “We are fucked. We are so, so fucked.” But while I might not be optimistic, I am ready and willing to stand up for those who might need it and to social injustice if/when it presents itself. I think I’m pretty solidly prepared for the uphill battle – at whatever degree that forms. I’m expecting some lows and setbacks, more teaching moments on tough topics and a few more heartbreaking moments than usual but you win some, you lose some and I’m as ready as I think I can be.
I’ve spent a lot of time irrationally wishing President Obama could stay just another four years (I mean, really, what’s another four years?) or hoping that there’s still a chance somebody is going to jump out of an oversized cake at some random shit show of a press conference and yell “AMERICA, YOU’VE BEEN PUNKED!” (because you know America is watching), so I can laugh gleefully and probably cry tears of relief while I roll around on the floor ecstatically (and possibly get confused as someone who’s seizing? #everybodyhasgoals) – but it’s officially time to put that shit to bed. This week we heard an inspiring and eloquent Golden Globes speech, followed by an amazingly beautiful farewell speech, followed up by a rowdy and unrefined (to be polite) press conference. I think it’s fair to say everything feels extremely fragile right now – in America, in our cities, in our local communities and within our homes. If we’re not walking on eggshells and avoiding the conversation, we’re screaming from the rooftops. And a lot of us are nervous, if not scared.
I’ve felt compelled to share a lot of personal experiences this year in regards to race and prejudices and identity hoping that maybe someone who hasn’t lived those things, but knew me personally, could see that these things that people are so worked up about aren’t gone or rare or so isolated that they don’t deserve attention, but that they are very much right HERE, wherever that may be for you, and that they’re very, very real – they’re in our schools, in our grocery stores, in our workplaces, up and down our streets and in our homes. They exist. Just because you don’t feel them or you don’t believe in them, doesn’t mean they’re not real. We are not the kid in Big Daddy, you guys – there are no invisible glasses and we have got to, especially now, stop living like it.
We HAVE to stop brushing things under the rug – we have to. We can’t say things like “well it’s not like that anymore” or “times have changed” or “no one would really ever get rid of X rights” or “X isn’t a real problem” or “X is just a myth”. First of all, none of these are (obviously) true. Second of all, even if you believe what you’re saying to be true, note your audience – if someone is telling you they’re nervous about losing their rights or they’re telling you about how they’re concerned about the racism – sexism – inequalities – rape culture etc. present in this country, nothing could be more dismissive than saying “Aw, nah. It’s not that bad.” Our lives have become so insular that we blissfully have the nerve to tell people, our friends even, that their very real concerns aren’t real at all. Things have changed. Conversation over.
I haven’t been through anything compared to some and some haven’t been through anything compared to me – this in itself is the beauty of America. We are a country built on diversity and it’s time for all of us to come to terms with our history and embrace it. It’s time for everybody to start listening to what our neighbors and our friends and our friends of friends are saying, to be a little more empathetic and realistic. What are we going to do, build walls around everything? Kick everyone out? We all have our own stories and experiences and it’s pretty amazing, yet we keep shackling ourselves up in these vacuums and pretending everything is perfect.
I see it everyday on social media, in the comments sections and even in real life. People never mean harm but it’s hard not to be hurt by it. And I get it, I totally fucking get it, those conversations can be hard – maybe it’s just easier or maybe it seems helpful to reassure someone, “Oh, but kids aren’t racist like that anymore!” – but I assure you, it’s not. It’s hard to swallow when someone looks you in the face and says, “Things aren’t like that anymore” or “Nobody is going to overturn Roe v Wade or take your birth control” or “I’m a financial Republican, I’m not against all that other stuff but it will eventually work itself out.” You mean, like racism worked itself out? Or like gay marriage, which is always on the chopping block, worked itself out? Oh, you mean the way they’re trying to federally defund Planned Parenthood?
You guys. I’m sorry, but come on.
Somebody somewhere is on the verge of losing their access to birth control. Somebody somewhere is, in this very moment, falling victim to a hate crime. Some woman somewhere is in very real danger of losing her right to a private space to breastfeed or pump at work. Somebody, somewhere is reading this rolling their eyes because their sick of hearing about it. While somebody somewhere else is so disrespected for whom they choose to love or the color of their skin or their gender (the list goes on and on) that they don’t have the friends or family who both care to listen and have the ability to make a difference.
I, however, believe that I do and so I don’t stop talking about it and I urge you not to, too. Because if your audience has a heart and a brain, there’s always a chance they can begin to empathize and maybe it will become apparent just how insular their lives are and how much some of us need them.
In the wake of next Friday, I’m bracing for impact with the very real knowledge that the impact will be different for everyone. All I ask is that you do the same. And like any good liberal (or coach or captain or lieutenant or… person?), I’d like to remind you that we’re only as strong as our weakest player.