Photo by Raphaël Cauhépé-François on Flickr
It is the end of Day 1 of processing the news that T (I cannot write his name) will be our next president, and I am on the subway ride home from work.
I started the day unable to fathom the idea of working, of thinking about anything other than THIS, but I had an all-day meeting and people were counting on me. I arrived late with tears in my eyes, and spent the day going back and forth between feeling unbearably sad, heavy and withdrawn, and being grateful for the distraction of working with my team to design something new. New is good. Creativity is good. Fellowship with other people is good.
Now, on the subway, rushing back to my neighborhood to pick my daughter up from school, I am filled with longing to be in her sweet presence. I look at the other people on the train, calculating that most of us are scum as far as T is concerned: Women who don’t look like Barbie dolls, people of color, immigrants, likely a number of people who aren’t straight. I feel, increasingly, like I’ve been living in a fantasy land, thinking I have power in this world.
For a long time, I’ve been struggling to feel powerful as a woman, a mother, an artist — all roles that are outside the male, capitalist framework of success that continues to dominate our country. But today, I feel more vulnerable than I ever have before. All day I’ve been pulling the hood of my sweatshirt over my head. I want to feel cocooned.
Instead, I feel menaced. I feel unsafe.
“Do not catastrophize,” a life coach advises on Facebook, urging her followers to take deep breaths and ground themselves in what is real, here and now — how our bodies feel. My body feels terrified. It feels sad. When I tell an older friend that I fear for myself and my daughter, she says, not unkindly, “That seems dramatic.”
“Let’s take one day to grieve, then get ready for action,” a number of my friends suggest on social media. While I appreciate the spirit of their messages, I feel strongly that they are wrong. Grief cannot be contained to a single day. We should not ask or expect this of ourselves. We can grieve and feel all of the messy feelings we need to for as long as we need to, AND begin to take constructive action. We can, and should, do both.
But: What action do I take? I can donate to all of the wonderful organizations whose staff members and volunteers work tirelessly every day to protect the people and ideals that T has sworn to attack. Is that enough? I continue thinking about how I might be involved in creating large-scale media transformation…
But in the meantime, staying in this country feels like implicitly endorsing and accepting the “leadership” or authority of a madman who is violent towards women. Between the election and the horrible gun violence in this country…what is the logic, really, of choosing to raise a child here, when there are safer and more progressive countries in the world?
My first job is to keep my daughter safe. To help her thrive. While I hate the idea of moving (as some of you know, my family has moved cities twice in two years), and hate the idea of being further from loved ones, and love living in Brooklyn, I also begin to feel like a crazy person choosing to raise a child here rather than, say, the Netherlands, where my brother- and sister-in-law and baby nephew live.
I do not necessarily imagine that with T as president (I truly cannot bring myself to type his name today), violence against women and girls will increase within a 4-year time span, but I don’t know. None of us know how much the fabric of everyday life in this country might change with such a radical, unpredictable bigot in highest office. But even just knowing he’s in office makes me feel physically unsafe. It’s the same feeling I experienced while watching the second debate, as he stalked the stage. There is violence in the air. There is the abuse of listening to a “leader” talk who has shown such blatant disrespect for women.
And then there is a more existential fear. A fear of living in a country where my life does not matter to the people running it — not just him, but people (straight, white men, mostly) in all three branches of government who devalue women’s and girls’ lives. How do I raise my smart, vibrant, beautiful daughter in this country?
I fear today for all of us who are not straight, white men. I fear most of all for Muslim Americans. And I want to be part of a solution, part of healing this country and building a new way forward, but in the meantime there is the matter of raising my child.
As always, the stories we tell ourselves about what our choices mean often matter as much or more than the choices themselves. Do I want to tell myself that I chose to stay and live in this place? Or that I put my family in safer circumstances and worked to create change from afar? Is leaving “dramatic,” or practical? Does it matter?
All that matters really is what feels right for us. Last night, what felt right was sleeping in the same bed as my daughter. Holding her close. Today, what feels right is writing this, and continuing to talk with Jordan about where we go from here.