Seeing the devil.

What begins to happen when you see the devil in that seat is strange. People will mock, but you know he’s the devil. You know from the way a small lock of hair falls out of place. You know from the acidic bile he spreads across the earth. You know from the quiet, white death in his eyes. You have seen it before. On top of that, you know your history.

The switch flips, and though the circumference of empathy in your mind matches that of the earth, the circumference of empathy in your heart becomes very small. The focus of it only large enough to fit around two small humans, humans not of your body, but most certainly of your flesh.

Your mind says to fight, so you do. You stand your ground. The letters, the calls, the streets. Attempts at reasonable arguments. Trying to win hearts and minds. You’re fighting for all, not just your own. Your mind grasps for some thread of optimism.

Your heart no longer cares about optimism. It turns instantaneously and completely to flight. Leave, run, don’t let anything get in the way. Get them to safety. Panicked, cyclical thinking about how, where, calculating resources, steps to prepare. Can’t sleep, need to sleep. The nighttime is worse. You regret every moment you didn’t save, every moment you weren’t getting stronger. You gain a deeply flexible morality. You know you can do anything to save them. It is worse when you see them, but you never want to let them out of your sight, out of your arms.

You invoke God, the gods, science, poetry, anything to just make it all stop.

In the waking hours you straddle a line. On one side you are fighting, struggling to keep your empathy wide and looking for ways to banish the devil. On the other side, you sit very still, staying vigilant and attempting to calculate how to recognize the moment to run.

Two Dear Friends I Cannot Agree With

This week, two dear friends said things to me that I feel I need to respond to. Not directly to them, but to the world at large.

Both of them expressed concerns to me about the Women’s Marches that were happening today. I have no doubt that the Marches that occurred today will be written down in the history books as both epic in their proportions, and a pivotal moment in understanding.

The two concerns expressed by my friends amounted to this:

  1. A frustration with the people that seemed to be extreme in their views, and proclaimed to know that the future was doubtless very dire.
  2. That having these marches and demonstrations the day of and the day after the inauguration shows lack of respect for the office of the President and the process of the peaceful transfer of power.

Admittedly, both conversations caused me deep frustration.

I am known to both these friends to be a woman of strong convictions and a deep sense of fairness. They both know I have a history of activism in many forms, from philanthropy to civil disobedience. I believe both think me a patriot, thoughtful, caring, and responsible. Yet, in both cases, I felt as if I was being told that I think incorrectly or support thoughtless causes.

I want to describe my friends to you, but I don’t want you to use my descriptions to vilify them in your head, merely as a reference for how different perspective can lead to different conclusions. They are both thoughtful, caring, responsible, etc. They have both gone through challenges in their lives. I’m sure one of them would take a bullet for me. The other one would at least take a long fall for me. Both of them have supported me when no one else would, and on the whole have allowed me to be my whole self in my interactions with them.

My friends have some similarities. They are both men. They are both white. They are both middle class. They are both property owners. They both have some level of a post secondary education. They are both straight and cis gendered. One regularly puts his life on the line serving in the military. The other works in the technology industry.

Before moving on to the next part, I have reread, in their entirety, both the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States.

 

Disagreement Number One:

A frustration with the people that seemed to be extreme in their views, and proclaimed to know that the future was doubtless very dire.

From even a very young age, I was fierce, loving, protective, sought the justice that lies in the truth, and was outspoken. I believed it when we sang “Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I believed it when I was taught, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I am 42. Through some very hard lessons, I have learned you need to believe someone when they say they are going to do something. I have learned not everyone is in a privileged enough position to fight for their rights, or even be able to care for themselves or their families. I have learned when anything is done through fear, hate, greed, or ego, the results will not be good. I have learned that when you don’t raise your voice, almost no one will advocate for you. I have learned that humans, by their very nature, are bound to repeat history. I have learned that tyranny fills the void left by hate, greed, and fear. I have learned we are all fallible, and mostly short-sighted.

I have spent my entire adult life, in one form or another, fighting for social and environmental justice. I have done this with great pride, joy, and gratitude that I live in a country in which I have the agency to do so, in a country where I have the freedom to take this responsibility. I have taken this on knowing that a just society will always be more productive and fruitful than an unjust one. I have taken this on knowing that our natural resources are not infinite, and cannot withstand unchecked growth or greed.

So, when I am faced with a new Administration that says they will not protect all of my fellow citizens equally from injustice, an Administration who has threatened to open up the national and public lands to those who will see them as a field to be harvested, and an administration who says they will begin to dilute the laws that protect us from tyranny, I take a lesson from history and believe them. History has taught us how tyranny prevails, and everything I see before me tells me that is the path that has been chosen for the next four years.

Lest you think I think any of the previous Administrations were fantastic, I haven’t. Both the previous Administrations and we as a people, have yet to escape, fear, hate, greed, ego, or the tyranny that comes along with them. The depths of injustice and inequitable privilege are heart rending.

To the charge of people can’t know the future is going to be dire, I think if you don’t think tyranny has arrived, if you don’t fear for your fellow Americans, if you don’t think much more harm than good will come out of this administration, you haven’t studied your history close enough.

 

Disagreement Number Two:

That having these marches and demonstrations the day of and the day after the inauguration shows a lack of respect for the office of the President and the process of the peaceful transfer of power.

I want to start by saying that every person who took to the streets to peacefully demonstrate over the last two days, was legally doing so, was well within their constitutional rights, and well within their rights as laid out by the Declaration of Independence.

When you define patriot you find: a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.; a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.

What was happening on the streets the last two days was Patriotism. Americans were exercising their rights, and attempting to protect the individual rights of all Americans. It is in no way disrespectful to do so, even at this time, perhaps especially at this time.

It is both true and a blessing that in our 240 year history, we as a people, have managed to have remarkably peaceful transfers of administrations. For that I am ever thankful. I don’t condone violence. I don’t think it moves us forward. I am thankful that it seems that there was almost zero violence among the millions of people worldwide that marched for social and environmental justice over the last two days.

As to the respect of the office of President, up to this point I have had tremendous respect for the office, even when I was vehemently opposed to the policies or personal values of the person holding the office. Whoever holds this office will live with the concern that they, and the members of their family, live under the threat of physical violence for the rest of their lives. The President will always know the worst of the worst of the atrocities humans visit upon other humans. Most importantly, the President has the almost unimaginable weight of the responsibility of attempting not to destroy life as we know it.

That doesn’t mean I have to have respect for the person holding the office, and often haven’t, regardless of party affiliation.

I’m sure you’ve seen this quote already, but I want you to read it again. It is from 2005.

“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

It wouldn’t matter who said that, the person is describing sexual assault.

It is however, a quote from our current President. It is one sample of many that demonstrates he has little to no respect for the rights of other human beings, the rights of the American people. He has demonstrated repeatedly that he does not care for the rights accorded by the Constitution, but instead cares only for how he and his allies can profit from his current position of power. I can never, ever respect this man as a President. I do not see him as a Patriot. I do not believe he is capable of respecting the responsibilities or duties of the office he now holds. I suspect most of the people that have been peacefully demonstrating for the last few days feel the same. It is in fact the respect for the office of President that drives them into the streets, so that they may exercise their rights and remind our President that he is, in fact, beholden to the American people, ALL the American people, to uphold and fight for our rights, not to serve the profits of himself and others.

 

To both my friends, I love you both deeply, but as an American, a Patriot, a student of history, I cannot agree with you. I will fight for your rights. I will fight against tyranny, hate, greed, fear, and ego. I will do all of it with a deep, unending love of my fellow humans, and the world in which we live. I will be fallible, imperfect, and human, but I will fight, any time I like, for what I think is right, and support others that are doing so.