A Bit of Needed Perspective

Author’s Note:  This column was published shortly after the presidential election in 2016, but with the current controversy going on with the Kavanaugh nomination for Supreme Court, it seems like a good time to revisit the subject.

If you told me when I was younger that someday I’d be writing about politics in the local paper, I would’ve laughed in complete disbelief and thought you were daft. I was never very interested in politics, and I still don’t think I can speak intelligently about it, but as I get older what I think is important becomes clearer all the time, and that alone can make you pay attention to what’s going on in the political world. And so, I will gingerly step out onto the political tightrope and try to make some useful observations about what’s happened in the past week … don’t hold your breath.

Yes, I cried.

She wasn’t my first choice, but he had said and done things that were worse … in my book anyway. Please don’t call or write with lectures. If I hear one more person tell me to “get over it,” I’ll go nuclear. That comment just illustrates how badly people are missing the point. Obviously Republicans have won in the past. I’ve certainly known the disappointment of seeing the candidates I support lose. This is nothing new.

It’s not about that. It’s not about party lines. It’s about … the man.

Let me explain a little bit about something that half of the population may or may not realize or understand. A woman starts getting unwanted attention from the time she’s around 11 or 12 years of age. She doesn’t even realize it at first, because it’s so new. So foreign. But suddenly, people she’s known for years seem to change and act differently around her. She feels uncomfortable but doesn’t understand why. What’s changed?

I remember a party in a classmate’s garage one winter’s evening when I was in sixth grade. The boys were taking the girls one by one out into the woods and having their way with them. When it came my “turn” to go, three boys came at me while the rest cheered them on. They grabbed my arms tightly and tried to pull me out the door. I fought frantically with everything I had. I didn’t want to go outside, but I knew my opinion didn’t matter to them.

I knew they were stronger and would eventually win for sheer strength, and obviously I was outnumbered. Somehow, they gave up before the inevitable occurred. They had a hard time believing I really didn’t want to go. They thought I was just playing hard-to-get. It was a game to them. In truth, I was terrified. I left the party as soon as I could and didn’t attend any parties again until I was a junior in high school.

The fall of my junior year at high school I remember a well-loved counselor seeing me in the hallway for the first time after being gone all summer. His comment had something to do with how much I had “developed” over the summer, and the look on his face made me feel … gross.

I responded with something polite, since he was a member of the faculty and thus to be respected, but quickly made my way down the hall away from him and avoided him for the rest of the school year.

Throughout my life, variations of these scenarios played out over and over. I could just go along, or I could fight back. Each time I fought back, I was called terrible names and sometimes worse. And even now, it continues. A few years ago during an attempt at online dating, a gentleman messaged me. I didn’t respond, as I wasn’t interested. It’s a common thing to do when not interested even if it’s not exactly polite, as many men take any response, regardless of content, as a green light. After a week or so, he wrote another message. This time he was very angry and told me I should “go whore myself out in a bar.”

Yep, you read that correctly. A complete stranger thought he had the right to speak to me that way. And I did nothing to deserve it. He knew nothing about me. Well, he sure got a response that time. But this is how women are treated all their lives. They might not talk about it, but they’ve experienced it. And they’ve been experiencing it since they were very young. You learn a few tricks about handling it after a while, but the scars left behind are always there.

So here is a man who talks about controlling women by grabbing them by their labia. A man who wants to be our president. A man who quite frankly looked like a kid who had been sent to the principal’s office during his first meeting with our current president. Is it really any wonder that women are having a rough time adjusting to this new reality?

“Get over it” doesn’t even really begin to cover it. It’s more of the same, and now he’s about to hold the highest position in the country. Set examples. Change laws. Control lives. Is it any wonder women are scared of the potential of damage that’s about to occur? I’ve never heard the word “scared” used so many times to describe how people are feeling after a presidential election.

Are the protests effective? It’s hard to say. They aren’t useless. Protests bring awareness to things that need to change. Will the protests change him or affect his decisions? Hard to say. But we need to be heard, and he needs to hear, as does the whole country, that this behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

We don’t know what will happen. Rarely are things ever as bad as they are predicted to be. Will there be damage? Probably. Definitely. How much is yet to be seen. Will he bother to listen, to change? We’ll see. It will be a very interesting time in our country, following one of the closest presidential races in American history. Half of us feel one way, half of us another. And if she had won, things probably wouldn’t be much different. There would still be protests, riots, violence. So why isn’t there more understanding?

Yes, I cried. I was deeply affected for quite a few days. But I’ve been through darkness before, and once the adjustment period is over, you gather yourself, make a plan and fight. You don’t just lay down and accept it. I had to find the good. I had to find the light in all that darkness. It took me awhile, but I eventually found it.

Awareness is a great gift. Not all people seek it. Sometimes it takes something terrible to realize something wonderful. Sometimes a bad thing can make you understand how much you love or want something else in your life. It can also make you realize how strong you can be. Without the darkness we would never know this.

Every good story has a villain, that’s what drives the story. It’s what gives our hero or heroine a reason to rise up and fight for what they love. Without this duality, we would never be able to appreciate a lot of good that we have and want in our lives. The darkness brings an opportunity to push the light forward, to find the path and follow it.

So I say, BRING IT.

Bring us the hate. Bring us the darkness. Because for every move this man makes to pull us backward into the blackness, he stokes the fierce fire of thousands more pulling us forward into the light. In fact, it’s already begun. People are reaching out to love, comfort and embrace those who are scared right now, and it’s not only women. It’s really sort of amazing.

The threat of darkness has brought it all forward. And this is just the beginning. The opportunity is here to teach a whole new generation how to stand up and fight for what they believe in, love and want to protect.

It’s a great time to be alive.

 

Originally published November 18, 2016.

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