by Michelle Jackson Jewell
Many of us are struggling right now. The days that pass offer nothing but consistent, steady triggers. There is no escape unless you sit in your house with no access to television, smartphone, or computer. Otherwise, the barrage is a droning drumbeat of anxiety-inducing, depression-welcoming reminders of that time. Those times. It has become exhausting for most, debilitating for some, this creeping malaise that has overtaken our country.
During the melee that was the latest Supreme Court appointment, I saw a post that likened the unwavering support by the Republican party of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to that of an actual rape. It struck a chord. Spot on. Bullseye. The commenter said that despite all of us who said, “No! Wait! Stop!”, they continued to ram through their wishes to confirm this man. Because it’s what they wanted. It fits their agenda. To hell with those of us who do not consent. You know: US. The people who elected you. The people you work for. Your constituents. Screw us, right? Literally and figuratively.
I’ve been thinking about that post and how precise it was in its analogy of the persistent feeling of discomfort, of anger, of pain that follows so many of us every day and particularly in the last month. That description is not applicable only to Kavanaugh’s appointment. It’s actually indicative of the entire term of this administration.
From the moment the election was called in favor of the 45th president, the will of the people was overlooked. Clinton won the popular vote, but, because of our current system of determining an election, it was the electoral college that mattered. The ones who chose, the people whose votes actually counted in favor of a different outcome were ignored. We did not give consent. It did not matter.
The list of violations of our trust – and by “our” I refer to America – the concept that most people have had of a compassionate, welcoming, prosperous country of diversity and inclusion – has grown exponentially since November 8th, 2016.
There was the Muslim ban; “they’re the danger, we’ll keep you safe”, the legislative equivalent of spiking our drinks to make us more compliant.
There was the “on both sides” commentary. Equating hatred with the opposition of hatred. An attempt to convince us that what we were seeing and hearing and feeling wasn’t real. The gaslit equivalent of being given a pill that makes reality dizzying and blurred. We fight for equilibrium and are met with overwhelming immobility.
There was/is the constant demeaning and vilification of the media. You know, the people who are tasked with giving us facts, with telling us what is happening in our country and the world. Discredit the witnesses, disallow them from recording for posterity was is happening to us. No one will believe you.There are no witnesses.
There was/is the immigration detention nightmare. Families fleeing horror who wind up in a different kind of horror. Children separated from their parents and forced into living situations in a foreign country that are at best like an orphanage and at worst like a prison. Kids are easy pickings, no parents around. Who’s more believable – a kid who can’t even speak English or a government employee? Yeah, that’s what we thought. Move along, nothing to see here.
There is the persistent, pervasive legislative attack on women’s lives – our earnings, our educational opportunities, our bodies. A need to control how we manage our own physical existence. So much easier to take what you want when you have ultimate control. A collective hand over our mouths while our protections are removed and we are laid bare and helpless.
We scream, we fight, we march in the streets with signs and bullhorns – “NO!” “Not Me!” “Not Us!” “Not Again!” We are sometimes successful, small victories in stopping the advances. But, in totality, our screams don’t seem to matter. They never have. They are swallowed up by the righteous conviction of the perpetrators as soon as they leave our mouths. We remain restrained by a system that is managed and run by those who desire to violate us. It feels hopeless, futile, impossible, untenable. They appear bigger, stronger, fiercer, more determined. We are embarrassed that our struggle has not managed to break us free yet; do we actually deserve this? Who will listen? Who will believe us?
Each story begets another and another and another. It isn’t our fault. People will listen. People will believe us. We are teaching our children that this is not acceptable. A newer generation of warriors: more prepared, more determined. We are strong and we outnumber them. It is difficult to have faith in a system that so clearly let us down before. But, we have to be the changemakers, beat them at their own game.. It is time to get up and battle them on their own turf. We can take the power away from them. We can be ruthless, single-minded, hell-bent, too. And we don’t need a gun, or a knife or pepper spray. All we need is a ballot.