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I am proud to say that I was among them.
I’ve had the edited photos sitting on my desktop since the evening of the 21st. Waiting to be posted, and shared. Waiting to spread that energetic joy and solidarity. I began an effervescent post that day, in my heady, giddy evening, finally thawed and dry again. I was too tired to finish it that night, but this is part of what I wrote:
“I joined what event organizers estimate was 100,000 people who turned out in the cold rain to support inclusivity of all people, and mostly women. I saw thousands of Pussy Hats (on men too!), which I had never even heard of prior to arriving, but soon enjoyed the joke with everyone else. I got totally soaked and my fingers became so frozen I couldn’t even operate the camera function on my iPhone anymore, and missed some good shots, and through it all, I was laughing. And the men and women next to me were laughing. And the police were smiling at us. And the bystanders on the sidewalks were smiling and waving, and some of them were singing to us. Singing! Women’s voices lifted in spiritually bolstering sounds of protest songs.
Downtown Portland was jammed. Shoulder to shoulder, and you-could-poke-an-eye-out with that umbrella, jammed. When it was time to start the march, at noon, the police escort vehicles could not get from the organizer’s stand to the front of the crowd to begin the march. Their lights flashing, they inched forward and people smooshed aside, and we did not begin marching till 1:00pm. There were so many people that when I was all done marching, and in the Jeep running the heater to get warm and dry again, people were still under the Morrison Bridge, waiting for the press of people to thin so that they could begin their march.”
…and on January 22nd, the wind was knocked out of my sails. And I was so angry I began a second post, which still sits in my WP drafts folder, filled with damned good reasons why I’m angry. Because I, personally, have been attacked by my own President (because I’m female, a veteran, mother of a transgender child, a person with disability), and then explaining how all of us were not only ignored the next day, but shown an enormous orange middle finger. Not only was the administration working as fast as possible to repeal a plan to reform our nation’s health care system, but the President’s immediate reaction to our exquisitely clear message (i.e. women’s issues are important to many, many of us, and it is so important that we need our country’s leaders to know it), was to wipe out U.S. assistance to overseas organizations that provide healthcare and counseling to include family planning. Read: women’s health issues.
No attempt to acknowledge that there were millions of us asking for the total opposite. No explanation for why we were ignored. And just to make it perfectly clear, an executive decision that was a resounding slap in the face. “Here’s what I think of women’s issues, and of your opinions, bitches.”
After an event that manifested into so much more than promised, after it spread not only to all parts of the U.S., but to places around the world, our movement should have been undeniable. The polite and democratic – and LOUD – message from men, women, and children of America should have been undeniable. That is, undeniable to anyone whose finger is on the pulse of current events; anyone who realizes that leaders are supposed to reflect the voice of the people. And the one man we were trying to poke doesn’t have those qualities, apparently.
Though I use this blog to post my soapbox rants periodically, that day I didn’t. I was seething, and I do not want to spread that nasty energy out into the world, so I couldn’t post. My anger turned to sadness and disillusionment with time, and I still did not want to send that out. I love you. I want to share my perspective, but I do not want to stir up your darkness just because mine is stirred. Yes… sometimes I do it anyway… but I like it best when I can cool off first before spouting off.
See look, it might be relevant background information to know I just finished reading Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance. Wouk methodically tracked, month by month, the devastating sweep of dictatorship in WWII. The gradual shift from one man’s delusions of grandeur to his psychotic reign of terror. The hesitant but acquiescing actions of first a political body, then a nation, and then the neighboring countries of Europe, remorsefully handing over their citizens because it was easier than pissing off Hitler. I saw how possible it was then (and could be now) for so many people to help him with his goals, and how many of them had facts right in front of their faces, but instead yelled about lies spread by the opposition! I’m telling you, I was freaking out. I sort of still am.
But the people of the world are shining their light and it turned me around. This is 2017, not 1941, and maybe some of us remember history. The day that turned it over for me was January 27th, when the President signed another executive order, banning entrance to the US for anyone from seven specific countries. Almost immediately, lawyers were rushing to airports, actively looking for people in need, pro bono.
I lifted my head and realized that a lot of people were still just as loud about human rights today as they were last month, or in November, or last summer. People are on fire, and the fire is not going out!
There is organized opposition to the confirmation of various people selected to run our government, particularly Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, and Scott Pruitt for Environment Secretary. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates declined to support Trump’s immigration ban. And was fired. When the administration enacted a gag order on the Environmental Protection Agency, halting all action on projects in progress, removing information from their website related to climate change and emissions, and banning all communication with outsiders, memos were leaked, and staff of the EPA began immediately sharing their stories on a personal level to make sure the information got out anyway. Local activists on the city level began using Tea Party tactics as a guide to mount a different resistance. These are just a few stories off the top of my head.
I don’t know the facts of all of these issues, so I can’t endorse the arguments of the opposition but I DO endorse the opposition itself. I am not in the let’s-give-him-a-chance camp. Not one bit. The buffoon has already made it clear that I, Crystal, have no value to him, and so my response is in kind. When my leader proudly announces that he refuses to lead me with honor to the best of his ability, then I owe nothing to that leader. Our job, as democratic citizens, is to watch his every move like hawks. And to come down hard when something is illegal or counter to American values that we are famous for: freedom from religious persecution, equality for all citizens, progress, and engagement. And when we can’t fight him directly like Sally Yates did, then we will have to settle for annoying him and jamming sticks into the spokes of his demagogic mechanisms.
I do have a little hope now. Maybe you do too. Please enjoy these photos from the march. It was *pouring* rain the whole entire time, and it was so cold. If it had been a little colder, it would have been snowing, and then we would not have all been soaked to the core. But despite the wretched weather, spirits did not seem dampened at all! There were thousands of women, and thousands of men, and people with no gender at all. There were people using wheelchairs. And people on prosthetic legs, and people who couldn’t see. And people who didn’t speak English. People who weren’t old enough to talk yet, and people so old they had seen this all before, a hundred times, and were responsible for some of the rights we hold today. People were holding BLACK LIVES MATTER signs, ACLU signs, and people holding signs in Hebrew and Russian and Arabic and Chinese, that I couldn’t read. One in Spanish I could read: Somos Uno (We Are All One!).
Half of them were wearing Pussy Hats, which I had never even heard of before that day. I could tell the hats looked like they had cat ears, and I got it right away, because my President was caught on camera joking about grabbing women’s pussies. When told it is offensive, his response shows that he thinks we’re overreacting. Basically implying that boys will be boys. So it turns out, zillions of people found the knitting instructions online, and made these caps in all colours, but mostly in pink, and men, women, babies, and police officers, and group organizers, and everyone was wearing them. Many people held signs that said, “Pussy Grabs Back!”
Two favourite signs of the day: Babies Against Bigots! It was pinned to the coat of an infant being carried in a backpack on her father’s chest. The other said “I know signs. I make the best signs. They’re terrific. Everyone agrees.”
What did women achieve that day? (And men. Do me a favour and skim all those photos and notice the men in every one) Oh gosh, I just don’t know. What was it all for? Were we only preaching to the choir? At least I spoke up, but it doesn’t seem enough. And I feel too small to do more. But my hopes are up again, and I still have my voice, and I’ll continue to use it.
Like many of you, I’ve been thinking about the terrorist murders in France beginning January 7 and ending with 17 people dead in that country, not to mention the additional deaths spreading out from that epicenter, such as those in Niger. I grieve the loss of life, the radicalization of youths, the culture of fear growing among Jews, the culture of intolerance growing among those of religious faith. My head is filled with distress and questions.
I assume many of you have traveled the gamut of reactions, as I have. Ten days later I am stuck clinging to this pendulum ball, arcing back and forth between believing that every voice should be protected, no matter how heinous the message…and believing that there are clearly lines that should be drawn so that we aren’t complicit in future violence.
I keep tripping over the concept of where the line should be drawn. In one news broadcast someone asked, “Why is it acceptable to ridicule religion, when it is clearly not acceptable to ridicule homosexuals, or blacks?” I am still thinking about this argument; wondering if it’s a valid question. Is it a false comparison? Satirical cartoons are not saying religion is 100% wrong, or that Islam is all bad for example; but rather that there are amusing ways to look at religions from an outsider’s perspective. And to me this action is tremendously valuable: force us to ask questions, to look through a different lens, to constantly challenge our own convictions. If a cartoon is uncomfortable, that means it’s illuminating something important.
On the other hand, the unintelligent among us (and the mouton are in the majority, I fear) will embrace what they believe to be the cartoon’s validation of their intolerant views.
Tara and I discussed this at some length this morning. We asked of each other: If an action is clearly going to offend someone, isn’t it common decency not to engage in that action? Should we not expect an unpleasant reaction? Even the Pope said if his friend were to insult his mother, the friend should expect to get punched! If Muslims believe that drawings of the prophet are reprehensible, then can’t we agree that any drawing of the prophet Muhammad should be banned – much less a drawing in which the prophet is shown as a phallus?
I tried to imagine what kind of cartoon would offend me, and I imagined one portraying women as too stupid to understand a situation. (I cringe at the memory of I Can’t Do The Sum, sung by Annette Funicello in Babes In Toyland.) Wouldn’t this hypothetical cartoon depicting a female simpleton set the equality movement back a step? The answer is “yes.” And should it be banned? No. To react with hostility, threats, arrest, violence….that is clearly the response of someone terribly insecure and too sensitive to be taken seriously.
Only a short time ago I was in agreement when it was announced that no showing of the movie The Interview would occur, in order to protect the public from possible terrorist attack from North Korea. It makes sense: when warned about danger, avoid the danger. However, President Obama criticized Sony Pictures’ decision, indicating that it was giving the terrorists what they wanted. I thought my President was being reckless. I thought we should cave in to the threats.
But since then the scenario has been carried to its conclusion: people in France were killed for their artistic expression that involved ridiculing a beloved leader. And now I see that I was wrong. I was thinking in too limited of a context. If we caved in and didn’t show a satirical movie in a theatre because terrorists warned us not to do it, then what would stop them for placing ever more demands on us?
My limited context was that I was only considering the pinnacle of offense, satire poking fun at Kim Jong-un and Muhammad, and I was subconsciously assuming the line between what is offensive and what is not would be drawn right at their feet. But people allow themselves to be offended about everything. And I’m tripping at that same place again, of where to draw the line. Where to say “ok, that is going too far.”
If the general public were allowed to choose which cartoons to place off limits, there would always be a battle, with each contingent, each political party, each special interest group, in fact, each individual person arguing that their own perspective of what defines “offensive” should the one to use in determining which cartoons are acceptable. What’s too offensive? Making fun of God? Joseph Smith? Abraham Lincoln? Chief Seattle? Can we make fun of mental disabilities? Or albinos? Vegans? People who go to bed early? Fans of Country & Western music? Non-native speakers? And who am I to say -and who are you- that one thing is ok to ridicule, but the other is not?
That line cannot be drawn. I have to concur with Evelyn Beatrice Hall, Voltaire, and the ACLU, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
“The supposed right of intolerance is absurd and barbaric. It is the right of the tiger; nay, it is far worse, for tigers do but tear in order to have food, while we rend each other for paragraphs.” -Voltaire
We cannot agree to stifle our voices when threatened. Put simply, that is in opposition to the very values of freedom for which France and the United States are most famous.
…I’d like to credit this post to someone else. I asked permission to re-blog MM’s post from Multifarious meanderings, and she graciously agreed. Then I thought I’d jot a quick sentence or two for introduction. And look what the heck happened! I swear I cannot keep my mouth shut even in the most volatile of situations. Thank you MM, for being the reason I have spent the last few days deep in contemplation about a situation that is not a French problem but a global problem.