It’s the week before our Presidential election in the U.S.
The post I’d planned to send out this week – a post I wrote a few days ago – was about the remarkable ways gender issues have taken center stage over the past weeks. It was about how inspired I’ve felt, watching and reading the feminist commentary from the grassroots to the most prestigious papers, the standing up for women by both men and women, the public airing of what have long been the too-private wounds of all women around sexual assault.
That post was also about how, in light of the then near-certain Clinton victory predictions, we must make sure half of this country doesn’t end up feeling humiliated, unheard, after this election. It was about the gaping wounds this election has brought to the fore, and what we can do to heal what needs to be healed in our country.
But that confident and calm post seems a pipe-dream-world-away to me now, as Hillary’s numbers have been slipping in the polls since Comey’s announcement. This week needs a different post.
The service I can offer you today is not one of a lesson, a conclusion, a helpful insight – what I usually aim for in my writing. It’s more like what I could offer a friend if we were sitting face to face at the coffee shop down the hill from my house.
I can tell you where I’m at. We can commiserate. We can talk about it together, we can feel less alone, and maybe, if we are lucky, we can make some sense of something hard together. But even if we can’t, we will feel better having sat face to face and having had a real conversation about it.
I have written here before that I am a child of a Holocaust refugee. I grew up in an extended family where there were empty places at the table: some people had made it out alive, and some had not. This history has shaped me in many ways, but I have never felt its presence screaming so loudly at me as I have these past months.
That is for one reason: I come from a family for whom everything changed because of who was elected. That family lost their beloved homeland, their community of friends and neighbors, their longstanding, thriving businesses, their financial security, because of who came to power.
And those were just the small things they lost. They lost a basic sense of trust in humanity. They lost any kind of childhoods, or their ability to give their children any kind of decent childhood. Some of them lost their health because of unspeakable physical tortures endured. And they lost each other.
These are the stories that sit with me as I read the news. I think about how our country, too, could change. I think about an America with militarized checkpoints. I think about being in danger for voicing dissent. I think about untold numbers of lives lost because some crazy men across the globe can’t keep themselves from being enthralled with the ability to show their might.
It doesn’t seem a stretch to me to all of that from what I’ve heard these past months – the autocratic approach, the vengeance-seeking, the demonization of political opponents and even of non-ardent supporters.
When I have made my political donations these past months or decided to give up some of my calendar commitments to spend time doing things related to the election, these are the stakes I’ve had in mind.
I know everyone doesn’t see the stakes this way.
But if you believe the stakes are these or anything like these, what does it feel right to you to do in these next few days?
The second thing I want to say is this: it’s a pretty damn rough and tumble ride watching what is playing out in our culture’s reaction to a woman leader now.
On some days, I sit in awe as I watch prominent men in our society saying: “She’s the most qualified,” “I’m with her,” “She’s going to be an excellent commander in chief.”
What a moment to be alive, and how far we have come.
On the other hand, the outsized vitriol and attacks on this woman are hard to watch. And this latest development, in which the vague possibility that something might be relevant to an investigation has changed so many voters’ minds, makes it clear to me how quickly we move to mistrust women with power and women who seek power. It is especially hard to swallow when compared with the relative non-reaction to the many similarly “under investigation” possible crimes of the other candidate.
It is painful to watch, it can be infuriating to watch, and it is deeply grief-inducing to watch.
I think we all need to take good care of ourselves, and each other, as we witness all this. Taking care of ourselves, and taking action too.
Look forward to hearing your thoughts.
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