I haven’t publicly shared this story, but I will force myself to do it because the feeling I had then is revisiting me today.
Last night, America chose a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, over-privileged businessman with absolutely no public service record instead of an over-qualified, life-long public servant woman to be our next President of the United States. Last night, as I tucked my two daughters into bed, the America I thought I knew, the America I trusted to honor and protect us voted to put a bully into the Oval Office. A man who uses a numeric scale to place a value on the opposite sex. A man who chronically lies and makes fun of the disabled. A man who incites violence to exclude and prosecute the minorities and dissenters among us. A man who brags about his self-proclaimed entitlement to grope women without consent.
As an American woman, I feel betrayed by my country today, betrayed by the promise of honor and respect, by the American ideal of equality and justice for all. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to wake up black or brown, Mexican or Jewish or Muslim or LGBTQ in this country today. These citizens have been handed an eviction, a message heard loud and clear: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE. You are a stain. And to women: You will be tolerated only if you are pretty and quiet, the way that God intended.
Two and a half years ago, I was evicted from my role as a daughter. I had made the grave mistake of sharing stories of my youth, of revealing that my childhood was not entirely happy, that our home was not normal. I had revealed that the power between my parents was unbalanced, and that my father was, at times, a tyrant in his control over us. I had broken a code, disobeyed the expectation of silence and obedience. I had broken the promise of never questioning a system that is unfairly favorable to the white man in the room.
So I was punished, harshly. No apology, no discussion. You are not wanted here. My love for you was conditional upon your obedience with the unwritten rules, conditional upon your silence.
On the day of my eviction, my father sent me a package that contained all of my childhood artifacts: drawings, stories, newspaper clippings. For me, it was one of the few times he’d ever revealed that he was even paying attention. For him, I imagine it was a message: See how much I cared? Now you are dead.
I can say from experience that dead is how you feel when you have been evicted like this. You curl up into your covers and weep for the love that you thought you had, for the love you thought you deserved.
Of course you deserve that love.
It’s okay to draw the shades and grieve, dear ones. It’s okay to gather your strength. But please don’t despair. In the days ahead, you will come to realize that you are loved, even if not by the body of people to which you thought that you belonged. This country is a crazy patchwork quilt of communities and families stitched together from the most mismatched, unlikely pieces of cloth. There is always a place for love.
Here’s the thing about shunning: for it to work well, it must be total and complete. And the last time I checked, more than half the country disagrees with what we’ve been told America wants. And if you look at the voting results of our youth, you will see that the forces of evolution are still at work.
Those of us who have faced eviction from our lives can tell you that there’s a sort of freedom in dismissal. I am no longer bound by the “rules.” The worst has already happened; there’s no point to my silence now. This is my promise to you, and I hope a promise that many of us are willing to make. Over the next four years and beyond, I will not look away. I will see what needs to be seen. Then speak. Speak up. SPEAK OUT.
Photo credit: New York Times
I am an East-coaster and a West-coaster. I am an academic and a creative spirit. I am an environmental scientist who always wanted to write, and a writer with a nagging nostalgia for the complexities of environmental science. Above all, I am a mother — so whether I’m writing about the natural world, family, or place, I like to consider my work as environmental advocacy in the broadest sense.