This is one of those times where what I write from here on out is different than it would have been. Had the election gone the other way. Had she become our president-elect instead of him. A qualified female instead of a bigoted male. Someone who didn’t validate racist, misogynistic, xenophobic behavior. Someone who wasn’t a sexual predator. Most of what I needed to say in reaction as a woman, an active mother of two daughters, and as a loss mom who made a choice the new administration has vowed to once again render illegal, I published here.
I almost didn’t post my reaction—out of fear, but not the kind he has stoked in his supporters. The kind they have stoked in me and in all of us who no longer feel we have safe passage in the United States of America.
Like many of you, I’ve read about 750 articles since election night, drilling down into the hows and the whys and the what nows. We have all come to our conclusions about how and why this happened, some of us before the election, but the majority of us after. Conclusions, I’m glad to sense in many of us, are not enough. We must teach our children to do better than we have done; I think that is always the lesson. We must give time and money to the causes that will be threatened by this administration. We must care about local government. At the same time, I wonder how such a starkly divided country can ever unite.
Recently, my daughters and I were waiting in line for pizza. How “American”! There was some confusion as to which line began where so when two men cut in front of us, I gave the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t react. My friend was behind me in line with her two small children. In formation (thank you, Beyoncé), we were visible. We could be seen.
When another man—middle-aged, white—cut in front of us, I said, “Excuse me, you cut the line.”
When he turned around and claimed he had not, I repeated that he actually had, and in front of babies no less.
He turned, his eyes on me. “Well, you can just bitch about it,” he said, his southern accent more defined in anger.
“Wow,” I said, sarcasm strong, “thank you for ruining my day.”
“You’re welcome,” he huffed and turned back toward the counter.
The teenager working the register, overwhelmed and unsure, looked at me. “I’m sorry,” he mouthed.
Inside, I fumed. Thoughts raced about the example I wanted to set for my children, about how quickly a stranger used such a charged word. The episode perfectly encapsulated the election and its blatant misogyny, attitude, and actions toward women now validated by the elected holder of our highest office.
“You swore in front of my children,” I finally said.
“Sorry,” he said, but it was an angry word, spit at me in much the same way as the others.
No one around us did anything. A man cut in front of women and small children, spoke aggressively, used a loaded slur, and no one did anything. The man then sat down at a table with three boys. He acted like this in front of children in his care, too. This is our country now, people. Forget manners, forget stifled disdain. Outright misogyny has been normalized.
I let that be the last word between us, even though I was boiling, even though I wanted to march over to his table, where he stared down at his phone, and spew anger back at him. But I didn’t want to escalate the scene in front of my children or his. We live in an open-carry state in a starkly divided country. But one state is not all red or all blue. We all have to share space, and I’m very concerned about our ability to do so peacefully over the next four years. Hundreds of hate crimes against Muslims, the LGBTQ community, African Americans, and women have occurred in the wake of Trump’s election. He still has not denounced these actions for what they are. In fact, he recently excused the violence as a tactic for winning. Atrocities around the world right now seem only to reiterate that “force works.”
On a minor yet clear level, I felt some of the viciousness in that pizza parlor. A man so quick to anger with a woman. A disregard for the welfare of children. My anger quick to simmer, too. An establishment that didn’t want to make any more waves. All of us doing the same thing… getting a slice of all things, but really riding such a fine line, brought to such odds by a two-year election cycle on an endless media feedback loop, by a two-sided government that seems surprised our nation has ended up so.
Like many, I’m not sure where I go from here, except to instill goodness in my children, to helps others, to continue to speak out in the face of threats to the legal rights I, with our doctors, had as a parent. Last week, Ohio became the 16th state in the country to pass a 20-week abortion ban, the very kind that are so misunderstood and sometimes necessary to make compassionate choices about lives that are diagnosed as ending at their beginning.
I suppose I could go quiet. The world is a scary place. No, the world is beautiful. People, people are scaring me right now. I could let someone else take up the torch for a while, as I catch my breath and stay close to home. Instead, I did my first podcast thanks to Tiny Giant Losses. I’ve been writing my story, here, for 4.5 years. It was high time I tell it, too. It’s the kind of parent I’ve decided I want to be: one who speaks up.