Your disregard for my safety is an act of violence.
Love yourself in language without “ifs”.
Like the first time oxygen kissed my lungs and I remembered how to breathe,
That’s how meeting you felt.
I am landlocked between ravenous starvation for affection,
An incomparable ache for romantic love,
And a refusal to settle on who gives it to me.
On a treadmill, I ran–breathless–as I watched our nation hand itself to a racist, misogynist. We, the land of the free, elected (of our own will) a man who bragged about grabbing women’s crotches. Our impending leader bragged about the size of his penis, referred to Mexicans as druglords and rapists. He has declared bankruptcy four times. This is who my countrymen revere. Oxygen couldn’t reach my lungs, not because I was sprinting, but because this election was not a surprise to me.
None of this was a shock to me. The Clinton/ Kaine ticket was too confident. The media and vocal masses had assured themselves that America would not choose this guy. The thing is, we are not the progressive place we assure ourselves that we are. Our incoming president is KKK endorsed. He rants about terrorism, while being adored by America’s terrorist organization. Politics is a game in the blood, not the brain. It is emotional and ego. It is not about practicality or experience or political literacy. Why else would the decibel and tone of Hillary Clinton’s voice matter? Why would a women with more experience than any other candidate lose to a candidate with no applicable experience? Because **spoiler alert** the government is not a business. If I am being totally candid– a lot of people in this country resented being led by a black man, by a black man who wanted change. They resented the way the press garnered him. I don’t glorify Obama. I don’t think he’s perfect. But he did enough to take racism in America from a simmer to a boil. Trump is the boil. He is all the gore surfacing. He is every mediocre white man’s come back, and his election is the retaliation eight years in the making. How dare we, the marginalized, tired, sick, anything outside of the mythical norm dare to think we deserved a third term in an office built for white, cis-men.
America is Pandora’s box. It’s exterior is smooth as politicians have waxed verses about limitless possibilities here. Romanticizing the melting pot that really isn’t. Inside, it’s a different place. We, the land of the free, lead mass incarceration. Our economy hinged on the backs of black bodies for centuries. We interned Japanese Americans in WWII. We sterilized Latinas in California. We sterilize women in prison. Our state has the right to kill someone. And still, I love this country. It’s the only one I’ve belonged to.
“Why do you say ‘we’, Marisa? My ancestors were poor immigrants, not slave masters. The concept of whiteness has evoloved over time! The Irish were persecuted when they came to America!” I say we because we say “we” when Simone Biles rocks it at the Olympics. I say we because on the fourth of July “we” is used. We is the first word in the preamble to our constitution. This isn’t just your America when it’s good. You have to claim its sins in addition to its saints because that’s citizenship. Moreover, for all the immigrant groups who were marginalized– we are not a stolen people. My grandparents chose to come here. Black people did not get that choice. Plymouth rock landed on them. American Indians did not manifest their destiny because their destinies were mutilated on their own land. It is not the same, and we, as white Americans, cannot feign equal culpability when we are the beneficiaries of systemic violence. We can’t blame voters of color or tell them how to feel in a system that is intended to belittle and disempower them.
Being a middle-class, white, feminine-presenting, conventionally-bodied, cis-woman, I pulled the second best card you can here. Every woman like me, we failed women of color. We failed them in 1920 when we didn’t insist on every woman in the country getting the right to vote (black women couldn’t vote until the 1960’s in some states), and we failed them yesterday. You cannot shout solidarity and use another woman’s back as your grandstand.
I do not feel safe in this country or this body. My body has been the public property of men before. I have been harassed in the workplace, groped in public–their friends laughing to echo the humor of my humiliation, sexually assaulted, physically assaulted. I navigate the world in a series of invisible crime scenes. Donald Trump is a rapist. He is a misogynist. I feel significantly less safe knowing how many people are complicit in sexual violence. Of the various traumas I’ve weathered, I never formally reported one. I don’t plan to, especially after this. It makes me consider what if the man who tried to rape me we elected president– what would I do? What could I do with the little power I have?
There is a place for me in Trump’s America —if I cut myself down to size. If I swallow all the parts of me that make myself a fully fleshed out person, I could do it. I could write that I am optimistic. I could say I’ll make the best of it. That’s the problem– I have a choice where many don’t. Trump will not come for my religion. He will not come for my employer subsidized (private) health care. He will not come for my white skin or a man I am in a relationship with. He might tell me I’m not “a 10”, and he’s right– my worth cannot be quantified. Mike Pence, too, would have no issues with me– besides being a woman with an opinion. But if I were Muslim, he would call me a terrorist. If I were black, he would not say that my life matters. If I were poor, he would tell me I don’t deserve healthcare. If I were an immigrant, he would deport me. If I were disabled, he would mock me. And if he threatens one person, he can threaten us all. WE. This is our America, and I refuse to walk away because of who they elected. These are the results of the election. I do not dispute them. This is not a tirade on people who voted for Trump. Yesterday’s results are an accurate representation of the ideologies ravaging our nation.
This essay is the rumble and the rally. I will not respect or validate views that oppress others. I will not absolve them. What I will do is persevere. I will donate to Planned Parenthood. I will knock on doors and volunteer, and in 2020, our congress will overflow with politicians who honor the autonomy every woman has for her body, and the civil liberties of all people, and protect those who are being persecuted. I will use my privilege to the advantage of people who don’t have it, as I have a civic responsibility to help. This is not a victory or defeat. It is a call to action. After all, the thing that didn’t escape from Pandora’s box was hope.
Here I am, screaming in plain sight,
and everyone is too busy to notice.
Sure, they’ll miss me, but will they mourn me?