When Your Government Doesn’t Recognize The Honor And Dignity Of Each Person, You Have To Resist The Status Quo

Gage Skidmore
Gage Skidmore

I’m mad. I’m mad and I’m a woman. That doesn’t make me a mad woman.

Since the election results, I’ve been wrestling with the juxtaposition of listening to others encourage us all to come together in peace vs. knowing that following their advice violates my own intuition.

I’m grappling with the question: Is the best answer for us to unite? I think it’s obvious that #im with her, and have been since the primaries. She’s encouraging us to unite, Obama is encouraging us to unite, people I trust are encouraging us to unite.

But I can’t get on board because my institution feels disconnected and fearful. It is one thing to unite when the path forward has solid, smart footage—even if I disagree with it. I respect the democratic process, and if a smart, able-minded conservative Republican would have won, I would go forward united with a smile on my face. It’s not the politics of this election for me; it’s the soul.

I’ve never been a traditional rebel. As a girl, in fact, I was taught to defer to the male leader, to shrink instead of stand, to be pale and pretty and dressed in pink. In fact, in my current job as a public services librarian, I’ve been trained to be professionally non-partisan and to not express a personal opinion. But my inner life is rebellious, and I’ve been cultivating by rebel now for a few years. Yes, it is vital to listen, but it’s also vital to speak.

When our governmental system doesn’t recognize the honor and dignity of each person, I have to resist the status quo. Isn’t resisting the status quo the very roots of America? Our country was founded on rebellion in England, when people listened to what didn’t feel right. Their realities weren’t life-giving, so they sought a new awakening in a new land.

When some Americans had a wake up call about the innate racism of slavery, there was a brutal fight. A Civil War. The fight created change. We’ve rebelled against sexism, homophobia, unlawful mandates against our bodies. Rebellion is weaved into America’s history. Rebellion is happening in numerous countries now—Somalia, for example, has been in a brutal civil war for two decades because neither side can defer, can give up. Rebellion is in the Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, it’s in Luke Skywalker and Dumbledore’s Army and Gandolf—these heroes are rebels.

In 2012, I was raped. I was raped by a white man with a college degree in a conservative Midwestern town. I was 26 years old. To be frank: it was a first date rape, he grabbed me without asking, kissed me without asking, and threw me on a bed without asking. He had sex with me while I was fully clothed; all he did was lift my skirt. I still had my shoes on.

Yes, I said no. Yes, I fought back. I cried the whole time, there was blood on his white sheets, and my hair was torn out and spread on the bed. It was rape in the “old” sense where fault is black and white. In fact, I had only ever had sex with one other person at the time- a committed boyfriend of 4 years. I say this not to provide evidence that what “type” rape matters, but that I tried it all—fighting, crying, saying no. I tried giving up and giving in; I still got raped. I didn’t have an answer. And I don’t have one now.

I want to want to unite. I don’t want to fight; it’s not in my nature or in my heart. But I can’t reorient myself to unification when my leader feels like my rapist. When the last time I let myself stop fighting, someone forced me to unite in a way that was soul stealing. That landed me to have to quit graduate school and live in an eating disorder treatment center for anorexia and PTSD.

When I was at that treatment center, I learned to trust my own outrage. I learned that there is a huge difference between anger and rage. I learned that when you are angry, it is because something inside feels wrong. Anger protects; it helps to not tolerate situations that don’t feel safe. Rage, however, is irrational, misdirected, out of control, dangerous. When you are around a rageful person, you feel fearful. At the time, I thought that if I released my anger, I would slowly become an Angry Woman. I worried that the more angry I felt, the it would turn into rage.

It’s actually the opposite. All of us are capable of outrage- but the antidote isn’t to not express anger. The more our anger feels it has a voice, the less it needs to go to rage. So, the more I let out the anger, the less rage I felt. The more I let the steam out slowly, like a balloon, the less likely I felt like I was going to pop, to explode with rage. And the more I placed the blame where it was originally transgressed upon me, the less I put my anger into myself or into others who didn’t deserve it. Anger didn’t erase my love; it didn’t make me bitter. It just made me free. I let myself hear my anger. I kept an anger journal. I threw rocks off the side of a cliff and hit trees with sticks. I detached from people who didn’t feel safe. My anger’s requests didn’t seem unreasonable—they just wanted me to change.

So how can I go forward with Donald Trump as my president? How can I be wise and accept this reality? How can we have redemption and transformation here? How am I supposed to shape myself in this new standard that feels foreign, dysfunctional and completely toxic? How can I unify with my brothers and sisters, and still be an activist?

I feel paralyzed. Plunged into deep sadness. Completely unrobust. Like I can’t find my true North. “Keeping the faith” and “Being positive” and “Uniting” feel simplistic and flattened out. They don’t comfort me right now; they make my heart feel saccharine. Sometimes, in the past 24 hours when people have pushed unification, I’ve felt strong and sinewy. Like, “Yes! Uniting is the thing to do!” Other moments, I feel like a wild animal, like my soul is being hacked, and I want to march to Washington like Katniss and truly disrupt the system. But I don’t want to be labeled a “sore loser.”

The brilliant scholar Parker Palmer says, “The discerning community invites it’s critics into the tent.” In order for a movement to occur, it needs to stay vulnerable to critics, because they are the ones that can pop the bubbles. They are the ones that see differently. Otherwise, we will become fascists; fascists kill off their critics.

So tell me, my friends and my critics: are there other answers besides rioting or uniting? What do I do? Please tell me what else I can do, we can do, to hold these binaries and hold the space in front of us. Tell me what I can do to fill these holes, and feel whole again. TC mark

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