I’ve felt pretty guilty since the inauguration.
I’ve watched the crowds of people cheering for #45, I’ve felt their pleasure in my bones. I’ve listened to their incomprehensible belief that 45 is the best thing that has ever happened to the US. My stomach has twisted with growing apprehension as hard red faces get tighter and meaner. I know what those faces mean. I know what’s coming.
And I admit, I’ve spent more time since the election and especially since the inauguration feeling scared, overwhelmed, defeated. Even though I’ve been to multiple protests/rallies, and even for the very first time ever, I had my family ask to come with me (rather than what usually happens: me packing everything up and saying, get in the car, we’re all going to the march now. Cue groans and eye rolls.). Even though marches have been bigger than anything I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to marches on Washington and anti-war protests and anti-Patriot Act and pro-immigration and pro-choice marches for well over two decades. Even though the place I spent much of my childhood, Conservative Religious Evangelical USA, had thousands of anti-Betsy DeVos protestors out in the main square.
There are people ‘resisting’ that I never expected and never would’ve imagined could. And I know I’m supposed to feel joy. But it’s been hard to even see these faces of ‘resistance.’ All I see is the sweaty red heat of anger and the squirming tension. I know what’s coming.
I know I’m supposed to feel joy–but I’ve spent most of my post-election time just being depressed. And for lack of better word, nihilistic. There’s nothing we can do to stop what’s coming. There’s nothing we can do to fix this. We’re all screwed.
And so the guilt swirls around me, picking at my depression, grinding it up and spitting it out. While so many inspirational amazing and frankly overwhelming actions and solidarity and love has sprung up around me, I’ve been chewing the ‘yeah, but…’ my tongue has been trying to fling all over the love. I keep eyeballing my Actually Pants I keep in the corner of my room, ready to pull them on once I just can’t take the determined hopefulness anymore.
Actually, this is all bullshit, actually, we’re all fucked, actually there’s nothing we can do I don’t know why you’re bothering, actually these white women are back stabbing assholes, actually nobody really wants change they just hate 45, actually actually actually actually actually.
I want to spit all over everything before it even gets started. I want to burn to ashes the trust required to even hope that any of this ‘resistance’ is real.
Because just as I know the sinewy tautness of those hard red faces, I know the bland dismissal of the hundreds of thousands now marching in the streets. I know their ferocious level of allegiance to keeping everything just as it is. Liberal reformist, they said with pride.
My body was one of those bodies thrown to the heap by the red faced bulldogs, with the apologetic help of those marching now. Violently attacked as ‘criminal’ by the bulldogs, blandly dismissed as ‘not practical’ by the reformists.
I know who these people are who write about ‘resistance.’ I know what the whiteness of their eyeballs when they roll up into the back of their heads, I know the maddening ‘patience’ that they used to type out their email defense of doing everything exactly as it’s always been done. I know the pride they wore ‘practical’ and ‘common sense’ in the face of my ‘rabid’ warnings about immigration regulations and DHS goals and Detroit and Michigan and emergency managers.
I’ve felt guilty, even as I get up and march, even as I keep talking talking talking with confused friends protesting for the first time, even as I sign my post cards and call my Congress people.
Guilty because I don’t trust any of this. And I know what’s coming. And we’re all fucked.
I ran away from the place I grew up in. Was (re)birthed by a new city into a new worldview. I ran away because I couldn’t take the abuse anymore. I couldn’t handle it. The new city that claimed me gave me love. Freedom. It didn’t pray over me or try to change me or love me and hate my sin. Acceptance. I ran away, as so many of us have done, to freedom.
Then that city that I grew up in got bigger and took over my state. And then the election happened and 45 took over, and I figured out that there’s no place left to run. That I’ve been standing on the plank, the noose tightly wrapped around my neck all this time. And now that people are finally marching and protesting and ‘resisting,’ I don’t trust their ‘resistance’ anymore than I trust that the red faces will ever stop savoring my death.
And I feel guilty because what I have to offer to this ‘movement’ is not what’s needed right now.
So I decided to just rest. To just rest in all these feelings and feel them. Because they’re so overwhelming I can’t see anything else. I can’t even see a way out.
I rest in these feelings and admit that I can’t handle seeing even the names on tweets of some of those liberal reformist marchers any more than I can handle seeing or even saying 45’s name. I blame them as much as I blame 45. I don’t trust what’s going on and I don’t know if I ever will.
And that’s ok.
The basic rule of thumb for organizers is that you start where people are. You don’t ask anybody to be anything but what they are, and you go from there. But far too often organizers don’t give themselves that same acceptance, that same grace from the universe. Start with where you’re at. We’re the ones that are supposed to be the ‘leaders,’ the ‘experts’ at what we do now. We’re supposed to know what to do, where the resources are, how to move forward.
We’re not supposed to be so bitterly hatefully angry that all we can do is glare and try to not punch all the liberals who are all of a sudden embracing punching as an organizing strategy. Do they know how much I’d love to have punched them in the faces all these years? Do they know the urge was almost uncontrollable in me during the ‘punching nazi’ debate?
I feel guilty for even typing that. But I’m not going to delete it. I am going to instead just relax. And accept that this is where I am right now.
I didn’t punch a liberal reformist today. It is a good day.
And that’s all I can ask of myself.
A common mantra right now is that this isn’t a skirmish we’re dealing with, it’s a war. And to be prepared for war, you have to be prepared for the long haul. Eventually I may be more able to push and shove and meld all these conflicting issues in my body and mind into a new shape, and I’ll be ready to negotiate the world with that new body. There’s time, hopefully. But even during wars, sometimes the world stops and you just can’t move forward until you recognize all that’s been lost, all that will never be the same again.
And right now, I’m there. The world has stopped. I can’t run away–there’s no place left to run. Things will never be the same again. Which means we’ve already seen the first casualty of this war.
And I need some time before I can move on.
Vicki BarkleyFebruary 5, 2017
Yes to all of it. I’m a white woman. I protested with Occupy and BLM. I made political paintings that got censored by conservative city councils. My family, friends, colleagues, and students have all tired of my political art and causes. A good friend told me 25 years ago that she preferred my Goddess paintings. Well, who wouldn’t? But my demographic, white women, stabbed us all in the back. So my anger has to mind its manners. But to my siblings and my lover, I’m honest: we’re all going to die.