My heart breaks at the news out of Las Vegas. I am sharing the post I wrote about the aftermath of Orlando and a shooting at a dance club in my home of Fort Myers. The words I wrote then remain true today: I refuse to remain silent. I refuse to stay numb. And I am tired of this madness.
This morning I found myself standing in a strip mall less than a mile away from where I used to live, a dozen roses in my hand and more than two dozen reporters in my face.
I was standing on the site of the latest mass shooting in America.
A reporter asked me was why I was there.
I’d thought about this as I purchased a bouquet of small yellow roses at my local Winn-Dixie this morning. (What types of flowers are suitable to leave at memorials for mass shootings? I wondered. This is now a question we have to ask ourselves in America.)
I thought about gun violence as I made the twenty-three minute drive north from my home, driving past my church that only five short weeks ago hosted a vigil for the Orlando mass shooting victims. I thought about it as I exited the…
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The President? The congress? The reasonable republicans? The unreasonable republicans? (Oh Marco, I have you on speed dial but honey I AM NOT WAITING FOR YOU.)
Are you waiting for Bernie? Hillary? Kamala? Cory? The alt-left? (WHAT IS THIS AND I THINK I AM A PART OF IT MAYBE??)
Are you waiting for the mid-terms? Are you waiting for the tax returns? Are you waiting for an anointed leader-of-the-people to magically emerge? Are you waiting for Godot? Are you waiting for Justin Trudeau to hug you and tell you it will be OK? (PLEASE, LIKE YESTERDAY JUSTIN.) Are you waiting for Obama? (WE DID LOVE THAT TWEET.) Are you waiting for Michelle? (OMG REMEMBER MICHELLE???)
Are you waiting to “just see how it all works out?” Are you hiding until it all works out?
Are you tweeting the revolution? (THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TWEETED. BY REVOLUTION I MEAN NON-VIOLENT AND ROOTED IN LOVE MKAY? ALWAYS.)
Are you waiting for permission? Are you waiting for support? Are you waiting for the bat signal?
Are you numbing out? Are you hiding out? Are you making jokes? Are you freaking out?
Are you blocking family-who-voted-for-Trump? Are you blocking family-who-voted-third-party? (BLESS YOU MY MILLENNIAL COUSINS. I FORGIVE YOU.) Are you hiding from your neighbor who voted from Trump? (SERIOUSLY SHE BLASTS RUSH LIMBAUGH AND IT DRIVES ME NUTSSSSS.)
Are you angry? Are you scared? (YES, YES.) Are you defiant? Are you indignant? Are you usually the follower? Are you usually the leader? Are you done? Are you SO DONE you could stick a fork in it?
ARE YOU FED UP YET?
Because here is the thing: American needs you. YES, you. It was always you. (CUE THE ROM-COM CLIPS.)
You cannot do it alone – no. But listen to me: it starts (end ends) with you.
I am here to say, dear ones, that now is the time. To speak. To move. To find your voice.
You are the ones we have been waiting for.
You might also like: Let’s use this fire-breath to bring down the patriarchy! (Or something.)
Jane’s story was largely buried, for to speak of it was to admit it was possibly true and that defied comprehension. Her claim was universally viewed as so outrageous to be deemed a falsehood from the start. But in her fits and starts, her reluctance to speak for fear of life, and her silencing, I saw myself.
Our stories differ in the details, as they always will. Jane Doe was raped at 13 years of age; I was raped at age four. Jane says she was held against her will after promises of a modeling contract and then was raped by strangers (one of whom is running for president of the United States); I was assaulted by a member of my extended family. Jane sought justice in court. My perpetrator is now deceased and was never held responsible for his crimes.
Despite the differences, all Jane Does understand certain truths.
I understand how speaking can be or feels like a matter of life and death. My own memory of being held at my neck (certain I would die) followed by a verbal threat of death if I did tell. Every cell in my body screaming to never. speak. of. this. again. I didn’t for over three decades. Precisely thirty-four years of silence.
I understand the desire for anonymity. My childhood was a practice in hoping not to be noticed. My pre-teen years involved a sexual repression so deep that I endured homophobic slurs.
I understand the risks in speaking. I know what fall-out looks like. In the telling I have grieved the loss of an entire branch of my extended family, its limbs denied oxygen and light and left to wither in my hands.
I understand how others recoil, deny, and turn away. The blaming, the name-calling, the assumption of lies. Or simply the deafening silence. I understand how the act of believing a survivor is a radical act. How it requires bearing witness to another’s horrific, unimaginable pain. To face the shadow side of our families, our communities, our criminal justice system, our notions of masculinity, our religious beliefs. To admit that the people around us—family, friends, coworkers, strangers—could not protect us or did not protect us.
All of this begs the question: in the face of all of this, why speak?
To speak is to evict the the panic and fear that were stored in your cells as part of your surviving.
To speak is to fuel a living, breathing rebirth.
To speak is to transmute pain, to alchemize fear.
To speak is to write your own ending.
You speak for the silenced, muffled, mocked, and maligned.
You speak for the mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers. You speak for the sons and daughters.
You speak to heal family, community, and yes, country.
You do all of this humbly, with the recognition that you are one of the lucky ones. With loving parents. With resilience built into your bones. With white skin, advanced degrees, conforming gender and sexuality. With the love and support of spouse and friends.
You do all of this because the alternative is a repression of spirit and mind and body so extreme it is to watch your repressed truth manifest in disease, dysfunction, or yes, even dystopia.
You speak because if the shadow has been laid bare, then so must our truths.
Thank you for reading. I couldn’t have written this without the loving support of this WordPress community.
This post was inspired by hearing about Donald Trump’s fascination with nuclear weapons.
Nuclear apocalypse tends to invoke a little bit of unease, now doesn’t it. It’s hard not to
flee to Canada react with fear to all the things currently imploding in the world. My husband and I have remarked more than once in the last several weeks that it feels as though things are falling apart…that the center cannot hold.
But I really don’t think the world is quite as doomed as it seems.
When I think about my own life and the times that things fell apart—because they eventually always do, don’t they, like a plant that drops its wilted flowers and goes to seed, eventually dropping those too in order start the process all over again—the most painful and difficult times in my own life were also the times that most healed me and opened my heart. Each time I have painfully put myself together, I’ve discovered a stronger, braver, and more fearless version of myself emerge.
Maybe the same will be true for our nation and world. Perhaps a braver, more fair and just, and less fearful world will emerge after all the turmoil.
But hot damn, the falling apart process ain’t easy. I usually want to retreat under the covers with a bag of Cheetos, waiting until someone gives me the all clear! before I surface again. Unfortunately the call never seems to come. (So ridiculously unfair). The only call I get is my husband when he finds the orange crumbs on the sheets going, seriously, were you eating Cheetos in bed? (Uh yes, and your point??)
Yes, hard times call for Cheetos but also bravery. And self-compassion. And a kind-hearted village, because none of us, and I mean none of us, can do it alone. Warm fuzzy puppies also tend to help (who incidentally sort of smell like Cheetos but you kind of just ignore that about them).
It’s so easy to fall into helplessness, isn’t it? Whether it is the world at large or our own little inner world. I am grateful that I am not currently dealing with any major life upheavals. (Though trust me, there are a few in my very recent review mirror.) The little things I am dealing with now (and they are little compared to nuclear appocolypse) have been frustrating me lately. For instance, I’m trying to start groundwork for making some career changes. It feels like I keep putting things out into the universe again and again and…nothing. I’m talking both intentions and actions. What gives?
I was feeling grumble-y about this recently. Well, lo and behold the other night a huge snail showed up on my window, leaving a long streak in rainy window. As far as snails go, this one was kinda cute. I tend to view odd encounters like this one as symbols from spirit. I asked myself, snail, what are you here to tell me? Slow and steady, slow and steady, and you will get there, immediately popped into my head.
Useful advice for sure. But there is more to snail than meets the eye. I was reading about snails and apparently they are capable of laying dormant for a long, long while but then when the rains finally come, they spring to life. Nothing, nothing, nothing, and then… boom! Movement!
Perhaps the same way in our lives and in our world. Keep the hope. It may feel that small actions are not making a difference. It may seem as though you are getting nowhere. But when you least expect it, cleansing rains of renewal may spring everything to life.
(And my personal prayer for the universe: when that day comes may we all collectively put down our Cheetos and prevent the Cheetos-colored man from ever touching a nuclear weapon, mkay?)