It started with a sudden lurch in the stomach. As if someone had just sucker punched me in the gut. I sat down – on the blissfully cool floor – my head spinning a bit, feeling light-headed. Then the cold sweat began. Mouth dry. Eyes struggling to focus, despite the prescription glasses, on the painfully bright screen. For a moment, I thought that I was having one of those dreams that I get occasionally, where I am still asleep but think I’m awake and feel paralyzed; limbs like lead. But then I remembered that I was sitting on the bathroom floor, the snores of my husband rumbling from the bedroom beyond. I was awake. It was real.
I have felt like this before. When I was told that my mother had died. The nausea. The sweats. The inability to parse even the most basic information. I also know that this disbelief will pass. It will be replaced by furious anger and rage which will, in time, simmer down to a dull ache and, ultimately, acceptance of the status quo.
Self-indulgent? Probably. But isn’t that who we are now?
For the first time, I am keeping my child away from school “for no good reason”. It’s not that she will be affected much, but I cannot bear to wake her from her peaceful, innocent sleep. I will keep her home today and we will watch cartoons and build Legos and play with our kitten and wait to meet the bus that will bring her big sister back from her school trip. Maybe we will feed the ducks in the park. Who knows? All the while, I will be racking my feeble brain for a way to explain to my children that, sometimes, the Bad Guys win. That Monsters are Real and they don’t live under the bed.
I have to try to find a way to rationally explain the irrational. I have to find a way to tell them that as girls/women/female, we are just as good as boys/men/male, when all evidence points to the contrary. How to explain that in the 21st century, an intelligent, experienced, capable woman can be dismissed in favor of a vile, bigoted caricature of a human being. That, despite what they are learning in their social studies classes, all men are not created equal. That having an African American President and a White House free of scandal is an anomaly. That through fear, hate and ignorance the status quo has been returned to its primal, dismal self. That, apparently, a corrupt, morally bankrupt sexual predator is seen as a more appropriate figure to represent this great country than a capable and smart woman.
How do I explain that, unlike those born into the privilege, I chose to become a Citizen of this country because I believe in the core principles of the Constitution – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness? That I left a stagnating Continent, as had many millions before me, to start a new life in the New World, only to find that the darkness of prejudice, misogyny and hate were lurking beneath the shiny surface, restlessly waiting to be summoned.
As an individual with a degree in History and Political Science, I could methodically recall examples of human fallibility; of wars and treaties, of disease and depravity, and man’s inhumanity to man. Of the Evil from which this great nation sprang – the condition that We Dare Not Speak of – and the fact that we are still living with its legacy today. I say “we”, but, of course, as Rich White Folks, we don’t experience the prejudices and hate that affect those with darker complexions, or those who follow different faiths, or who live in households with two moms or two dads.
In our White Privilege Bubble, it is “fun” to learn to speak Spanish without needing to know that those who speak only that language are looked upon as “foreign” and “dangerous” by people who have been lured into believing that their livelihood has been stolen. That the liars and hypocrites who dominate the Ruling, predominantly White, Class, have manipulated and bribed those who feel overlooked and left behind by the very globalization that brought them the technology and amenities that they desire.
How does one explain such things to a child who believes in the Tooth Fairy?
So I sit here. Numb. Sick to my stomach. Waiting.