Has it been only two weeks since America disappeared through the looking glass? Forgive me. I’m still getting my bearings. Wonderland is so surreal. I’ve been walking through Dali’s paintings, and my clocks have been melted into the 1930s.
Halloween was only three weeks ago. It feels like a lifetime. It was a Monday that my daughter and I walked the parade at her Elementary School. She did not let go of my hand one time. She was so proud to walk side by side. We were not just Mother and Daughter. We were best friend Suffragettes, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. We’d watched Iron Jawed Angels three or four times a week that month. She beamed her toothless jack’o’lantern grin as she was cheered by the parents, grandparents, and family gathered for glimpses of Iron Man and Elsa. The skirt I’d spent weeks sewing was juuuust too long, and the “Votes for Women” sash was slipping off her shoulder. She didn’t care. That day she soared on clouds of pride. Pride in being a woman. When I asked her what her favorite part of dressing like a Suffragette was, she replied without hesitation, “Inspiring other girls.”
Was it only two weeks ago? The sun was shining so brightly. I waited on pins and needles for my 7 year old to be released from school. Filled with glee we raced home to quick change back to Alice and Lucy. We piled into the car with my parents, and my 15 year old son, for a short drive to the polling place. I did not let go of her hand one time. My fore-mothers whispered in my ear as I signed my ballot, “Go. Be counted. Your voice, and your vote matter.” We were not alone, my daughter and I, in the voting booth. We stood together with centuries of women: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Susan B. Anthony. Hand in hand we cast our ballot, for the first time in my life, for a woman President. Tears of joy and pride could not be held back, and I didn’t want to hold them back.
How could I ever anticipate the red plague that would paint my beloved country? How could I anticipate the despair?
The betrayal smiled smugly, “I told you so.” It taunted behind porcelain veneers and a comb-over.
“I thought you loved me.” I wailed. “I thought you saw what he did! I thought we were opposed to bullies, and believed a man who’d admitted to sexual assault was not Presidential material. I thought you were with me, fighting racism, xenophobia, bigotry, side by side. I thought you understood how fragile our progress has been, and quickly it could all be lost.”
The betrayal only pursed its lips, and crooned. “Don’t be a sore loser. It’s going to be okay. Just give him a chance.”
I spent the day in fits of tears, reaching out to my family, my friends of color, my marginalized community to make sure they were safe, meanwhile:
“But Alice Paul and Martin Luther King Jr.! The tubes down their throats, the fire hoses turned on demonstrators? Japanese internment camps? I thought you remembered! I thought you would protect me from ever having to be afraid again?” I sobbed.
“You’re being paranoid.” The betrayal scoffed. Meanwhile:
Has it been only one week? It feels like an eternity has passed under this cloud of hatred and fear. I have not seen one safety pin in my town. Am I a danger to my children in public? Should I straighten my hair? Should I train the Spanglish out of my vocabulary?
“You just have to wait and see what he does?” Betrayal rolled its eyes at me.
A White Supremacist has been named Chief White House strategist. “David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, called the choice ‘excellent’ and said Mr. Bannon was ‘basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going.'” according to the NY Times.
“But this is not where I want to go!” I cry. “This is not the ideology I thought we all agreed on. I thought we all thought racism was bad, and that David Duke and his friends are the essence of evil!”
Betrayal doesn’t listen. It only crosses it arms, sticks out its tongue, and tells me “Too late now.”
My body now faces legislation. Men will pass laws. Different ones in different states. Ones that tell me what I can and cannot do with it. Someone else will impose their beliefs on my body. I have become sub-human.
“You don’t need those rights anymore.” Betrayal sneered. “Teach your daughter about birth control and you won’t have to worry.”
“But why?” I begged. “I AM A PERSON!”
Betrayal stood up, looming tall over me, its face visible for the first time. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. Faces of voters who gambled my safety on a sexual predator; of non-voters who were too busy to save us; of apathetic voters who chose to use their voice to protest; friends; strangers; family. “Because they chose not to engage. They chose to see only what they wanted. They un-followed instead of hearing the pleas from the marginalized. They looked away, because they thought bucking the system was worth your rights. They didn’t care that the push of the voting button, the tick of a box, was enough to put you in danger.” Returning to the spot Betrayal still sits in to this day, its voice came in a low raspy whisper. “Face it. The world you thought you lived in is a fantasy.”
You’ll have to forgive me, because Wonderland is a terrifying place, and I’m still hoping it is all a dream. Day by day the hate crime toll rises. At the time I’m writing this, Southern Poverty Law Center is reporting 701 since the election. I know now that the only weapon I have is my voice. My gift. The only way home is to join it with the conversation we all need to have. So forgive me for my silence, and for the fury with which my voice returns. Consider me informed and dangerous.
For now, I will leave you with what I told my daughter the day after the election,
“Yesterday we dressed as Alice Paul. It wasn’t enough. Tomorrow we have to be Alice Paul.”