Hmmmmm. Hmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmm. . . .
Where do I start?
Where do I even begin?
Yet again, I am back from the US. Again, back in Snowdonia. Again, frustrated and sad and a little bit torn and ragged and lost. Again, happy to have experienced good things. Again, ripped apart by so much of the rest.
It’s no secret these trips fill me with anxiety. Not least because the gap between what the media outside the US choose to paint as ‘life in America’ and the reality of life in America is narrowing at a frightening rate. And, certainly, there’s the growing strain of the knowledge that the place that has always been my safe-zone now feels not only no longer safe but also no longer mine.
All while my current locale turns an entirely similar and different terrifying corner.
I am aware, more and more every day, that there seems to be nowhere for me. No safe space. No welcome refuge. No place of freedom. Nowhere to openly exchange ideas or thoughts or, even, find too many like-minded individuals.
And, I, I am a lucky one. Yes, I’m a woman, nowhere safe or equal or completely fairly treated. But a white woman. A well-educated white woman. A well-educated white women with a fairly reliable financial outlook.
I should be safe. I should be free. I should feel it’s okay to speak my mind. To shout out from the rooftops about the hideous things going on the world around me.
I should feel some control over my life, my voice. I should feel that there is some contribution I can make. Something I can do.
But I don’t. I don’t feel that way at all.
In south Alabama, I go to a restaurant and see, positioned just above a table where a Black family is seated, a “George Wallace for President” bumper sticker displayed on the wall.
“Wow” I say “I certainly would have hoped those would have disappeared by now.” Naively believing anyone in their right mind would agree that this is the type thing that should exist only in civil rights collections as an example of where we never want to be again.
“It’s memorabilia.” Is what I am told instead.
“Surely not memorabilia we need displayed here.”
“This is the South, dear.” The genteel Southerners’ way of saying ‘shut up; do not speak; your opinion is not welcome here’.
Not my South. Not the South I knew. Not the South I remember. Not the South I’ve fought for ages to bring up from the gutter. Not my South.
But, I am wrong.
It is not my South. I will not claim this South.
But, I fear, it is the South.
Heart torn, I am distancing myself from this place.
I did not grow up, I was not ‘raised’, in an environment of hate. I was taught – if in word only – to treat all people well. To respect everyone. No matter what. I was raised to be compassionate.
I always thought, hoped, that if I had been born twenty or thirty years earlier that I would have been a Freedom Rider. That I would stood up for what was wrong. That I would have insisted that people are treated as people. That I would have risked my safety – personal and professional – to demand humanity and civility and fairness and respect within our society.
That is what I hoped.
I tried and, I readily admit, often failed (miserably) to live by this. To speak up when I recognized injustice. To demand diversity in my life so as to ensure a fairness of outlook. To challenge and change myself regularly to avoid complacency. To put myself into uncomfortable conditions in order to better understand the trials of others.
I cannot become another. I can only be me. But I can do my dead-level best to develop an awareness.
And compassion should never be a challenge.
And, of course, there is my voice.
Well, there used to be my voice.
Now, though, ‘shut up; do not speak; your opinion is not welcome here’ is the reply.
No debate. No discussion. Not even, in fact, acknowledgement. Simply ‘shut up; do not speak; your opinion is not welcome here’.
I will speak, though. I will.
Recently, my father publicly defended Donald Trump’s 2005 (taped) account of sexually assaulting women.
I know. I know. What woman should have to live with that? What woman should have to live with the knowledge that her father, on some level, believes it is acceptable for a man to talk about ‘grabbing her by the pussy’? What woman?
Well, apparently, this woman.
I spoke. Or, rather, typed. I tried to explain the pain, the heartbreak for women everywhere, of continually being told this type of treatment can be explained away. Is somehow justifiable.
My father undermined and ignored my concerns and continued his defense of the indefensible, while his ‘friends’ badgered and attacked and warned me that I would always feel “shame” for questioning my “loving daddy”.
‘Shut up; do not speak; your opinion is not welcome here’.
Is this who we are now?
Is this how we conduct ourselves?
Is this in any way humanity?
This is not who I am. This is not how I will conduct myself. This is not what I will accept as humanity.
So, you can continue to tell me to shut up. You can continue to tell me not to speak. You can continue to tell me that my opinion is not welcome.
But I will continue to speak.
That is my commitment to humanity. To civility. To decency.