When We Feel Safe
When we feel safe, we trust. I no longer feel safe. My country doesn’t look like the country that I believed it was and I am mourning. Hot tears are always close and I am not a woman who cries easily. I am a tough, Italian-American broad and I’ve endured nine surgeries in my life; two bouts with cancer, infertility and one divorce. Not much causes me to weep, but this has shaken me deeply. Something epochal has just occurred. I’ve tried to make my husband understand, but he looks at me helplessly as the tears well up in my tired eyes.
On the morning of November 9, I woke up and found that my legs were unusually cramped in a way that I never felt before. I wondered if my Achilles tendons had been seriously overused which made no sense because the previous day was spent indoors hiding from drizzle and cooking. Quickly I realized that the pain must be associated with holding my toes in a crimped position during election night. Was I that tense? I had gone to sleep before the final results of the election were in because I just couldn’t stand the horror unfolding. Hillary Clinton was obviously losing the election and I desperately needed to close my eyes. When I opened them again, there was a new panorama colored by sentiments that I rarely hear in my normal daily life. My life partner is a man who categorically respects women and who has never ridiculed me in any way. Not. One. Time. Not in the bedroom and not in public. He is gentle and supportive and protective. But on this morning after I knew that he could never protect me against what is surely to follow and that I must now devise a way to protect myself and my sisters from things that I thought were already litigated in the court of public opinion and in many cases, the courts of the nation.
Apparently the U.S. is now officially a country where hatefulness has been given permission to thrive in the sunlight; where a headline says if women feel harassment online, they should simply log off. This is what Breitbart News espouses. Steve Bannon, the President-elect’s chief strategist and the guy that got Trump to the dance, heads up this news organization that also claims that birth control makes women unattractive and crazy; it hinted that perhaps feminism is worse than cancer. And for kicks they add that all liberal women are dykes. When I was thirty this sort of talk would have gotten you laughed off any platform and opened you to severe criticism, if not outright ridicule. We are back where we started and I am sickened by it.
Now we are being counseled to calm down and to give this newly elected President a fighting chance. We are asked to give him the respect due his office, but I cannot recover from the disrespectful words that repeatedly came out of the mouth of Donald Trump himself. Despite his protests that he cherishes women and that he loves us, his actions speak with deafening crescendo. You have to be a ten to rate respect from this fool. I am afraid. I am afraid that during all those years of women of like mind calling for equal rights and equal pay, when I thought we were breaking down barriers, half of my countrymen were seething in resentment against independent and strong women.
I had long ago forgotten about the rants of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh in the early 1990s when he would rail that Hillary Clinton was a “feminazi”. I was foolish to relax and let down my guard. Perhaps it was my own slow maturing; passing menopause and leaving behind those days of being whistled at when walking across a street. I moved on other aspects of my life besides physical beauty, sexism and worrying about what men think about women. Silly me. I should have known better.
And now that I do, I am afraid that a lot of my sisters appeared to have retreated to that indescribably competitive place where women go when there are scarce resources and they feel that they need to fight dirty. It now seems possible that a lot of women didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. If you think me unbalanced, consider that phenomenon that allows women to go after another woman’s husband or boyfriend with no shame. It happens often. I am repelled because I genuinely thought that we were beyond this place as women. I was apparently mistaken and naïve. How could I have been wrong about so much?
From this day forward I vow to be loud. To never let one instance of misogyny or injustice pass without speaking up because if my wrinkles, and gray hair have earned me one thing it is the freedom to speak my mind in what I still believe is a great nation.