My voice is white, female, middle class American. My voice is educated, privileged, heterosexual, cisgender, Southern, Christian, and y...
My Abuser, My President
My voice is white, female, middle class American. My voice is educated, privileged, heterosexual, cisgender, Southern, Christian, and young. That is the only voice I have, so as much as I want to use it to represent black, Latino, LGBTQ, and Muslim Americans, it can't. I can stand in solidarity and use my privilege to help make a safe space for those conversations. That's all. It feels like screaming into a void anyway, except for an occasional echo of rebuke, shame, and condescension. If that's the response my voice gets, can you imagine what others are experiencing?
Logic often fails during periods of grief, so I hesitate to make the connection I'm about to share. I pause and think about whether it really links up. We can all be a little dramatic when we're upset. I feel threatened, isolated, ashamed, devastated, angry, guilty, and indignant. These emotions don't produce objective calm thoughts. Donald Trump is going to be our president. I've been told by multiple people that it is disrespectful and hateful to label those who voted for him as racists, misogynists, and/or bigots. I changed my tune to one of condescending mercy to the point of only some of his voters being vile but the rest being motivated possibly by fear, anger, religion, frustration, ignorance, brokenness, and hurt. We too, can love the sinner, hate the sin, right? There wasn't any room in my brain for a good, loving, compassionate, fair, sane, whole, confident, strong, intelligent human being voting to elect this man. That is a fault of mine and I'm on my way to making space in my heart for this truth. I'm always saying that the world isn't black and white and people who act like they know all the answers are wrong and delusional. I haven't gone that far in my indignation, but I've definitely claimed to know this is the WRONG answer. This article is really helping as I read it, refuse to believe it, read it again, and repeat. https://www.currentaffairs.org/2016/11/what-this-means-how-this-happened-what-to-do-now
In the meantime, I'm still reeling. Did you, pioneers of the civil rights movement, stare in disbelief as your own loved ones threw rocks at children on their way to school? Do you, families of remorseless sexual perpetrators, think that your loved one is well? Do you, brother and sister Arkansans, get sick to your stomach when you drive through Harrison and see KKK funded billboards and then worry if you offended a hooded one with your disgust? Have you, fellow liberals, watched friends and family who are poor, uninsured, uneducated, and economically hopeless rail for the past eight years against Obamacare and economic and social policies that seek to aid them first and above any immigrant then tried to give rationale, statistics, and historical data, only to come to the root of their problem which is that Obama is a black man? It's confounding.
The longer I sit with this unease, the more despondent I'm becoming. I deactivated my Facebook account to protect myself and others from my temper. My words should be contemplated and careful. This is where I've painfully settled from my own lived experience. America, you elected my abuser. I am one in four. I stand with one quarter of women in our country who were sexually abused as a child. I was four years old, I was five years old, I was eight years old, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and then I became a liability. My step-father sexually abused me for the majority of my childhood. He was acquitted because the court didn't believe my testimony; the mixed up, fearful, traumatized, and innocent recollection of a six year old girl. My mother sat next to him. I eventually lied to a judge and told him I made it all up so that I could go home. He believed that. When I did get back home, the abuse continued. I tried to tell my mother, but she didn't believe me. I learned to use it to my advantage. If he was in a bad mood, I'd let him do whatever he wanted while I pretended to sleep so that he wouldn't be mean to my little brother and sister. I signed an affidavit when I was 17 swearing that he didn't do these things so he could get a job with state government. When I was 24 I told the truth again so he wouldn't get custody of Freddie. When my attorney asked me if I wanted to press charges for the years of abuse after his acquittal, I said no. My dad would have dated me too if he hadn't been my father, but since that wasn't acceptable, he took advantage of me instead.
It's taken a complete reformation of my heart, mind, and soul to become a feminist. To become a Southern, white, female, Christian feminist. I want better for all of us. Trump is a man who blames victims, marginalizes and objectifies women, and accepts and perpetrates the abuse of womens' bodies. Electing him as president is a nationwide endorsement of this mindset and behavior. He represents a lot more reprehensible behavior to people with other voices. This is what he deeply and personally represents to me. My dad makes a lot of money, he is successful, he is smart, he is mean and petty, he's easily jealous, he's brazenly honest but funny. He is a deeply broken, perverted, sick, sneaky, intelligent, narcissistic man. His word was believed over mine. I'm drawing parallel lines here, do you see them?
There's no point in putting all of Donald Trump's quotes here because they obviously don't make a difference. I'm trying to process the "Trump Vote = Molotov Cocktail at the Establishment" theory. I haven't yet gotten over how someone could sacrifice the safety and security of so many others though. Trump has said that you have to treat women like shit, he refers to women as pigs, he has sexually assaulted women, he degrades women based on their appearance and their bodies, he bullies and intimidates women, he cheats on women, he feels allowed to grab them by the pussy without their consent because he is a star. Plenty of men say and do these types of things, the awful ones. Donald Trump may not be a child abuser. He would probably want you to use your 2nd Amendment rights to shoot anyone who harmed you or your child. The point is that girls will be looking into a world where they have to grow up to be a "10" if they want their president's respect. Little boys will hear his words and as much as you teach them that consent is mandatory before sexual contact, their president doesn't need it so why should they? Abused and assaulted women will watch their president blame them and belittle them as if their clothes, their profession, or their sexuality are a non-verbal indication of consent, "Oh, I bet she's never been grabbed before." This is at the heart of my story and hurt. I won't tell anyone else's story because I've lived my own. My grief is valid and I refuse to continue feeling guilty and ashamed for how I feel. Your grief is valid and you aren't alone. Right now, half of my country looks like my mother the day I got up the nerve to tell her the truth and she grabbed me by the arm and threw me in the floor in front of my dad and said, "Guess what your daughter just said?" Half my country wants pancakes and to go to the movies and the mall, so I'll lay here scared and naked and close my eyes and pretend to sleep while he touches me.
Here's the deal though. I forgave him. My faith gave me the strength to do that. I won't hold that burning coal in my hand. I love him for all the good things about him, because the rest of the time he was just my dad. He wasn't only a monster and nothing else. Neither are you, America. Trump, you aren't just this and I will forgive you. My dad is also the man who gave me my education, my work ethic, and my ambition. I'm working through this. Despite my forgiveness, I set boundaries so he couldn't hurt me anymore. Eventually, when my kids came into the picture, I had to build a wall (can we get a little levity here). Some people may find themselves on the southern side of my wall, but most will find themselves in here with me despite our equally unapologetic stances. We are all going to need each other because even though you sat next to my abuser, you are a victim too. Just as my mother was. I love her so much and now that I'm grown, I don't blame her and I can see so clearly why she made her choices. She made a sacrifice for what she believed to be the greater good. She refused to see or process the bad in him. When she couldn't deny it, she weighed the cost of the alternative. She took his verbal, emotional, and physical abuse too so that her kids could grow up in a nice house, have groceries and decent clothes, go to good schools, and have a nuclear family. It worked for awhile, but eventually it all crumbled. We'll all have to be here for each other when it crumbles or we'll congratulate you fire-setters when it turns out the sacrifice was worth it and we are all prospering. I'll be manning the special tent for the wounded, the hurt, the left-behind, the abused, the marginalized, the dead, the grieving, and maybe our country will experience true grace and they will forgive us.
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Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin - Trump Supporting
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Everyone knows that gratitude is good. Especially when you are an incredibly privileged person, and I'm not talking like filthy rich or...
Gratitude and Guilt
I've been looking up articles about this very thing. The real sciencey ones are about how narcissism and entitlement prevent people from feeling or expressing gratitude. The millennials talk about the feeling of indebtedness that comes with accepting favors, gifts, and "blessings" from others. None of that really applies to me. Those aren't my gratitude struggles. When I was younger, I struggled with contentment and that still raises its ugly head from time to time. Gratitude should be the healer of discontentment though, right?
The mom blogs focus on how when we stop to feel grateful that our kids are healthy, we start feeling guilty for yelling at them. That one is a little closer to home. Yes, I purposely combat discontentment with self-inflicted guilt. So what your skylight leaks and there's a hole in the garage ceiling where your bestie fell through the attic? You have a house that's warm and safe, you ungrateful twit! See, that's hardly productive. This naturally progresses into marring my attempts at real gratitude. Contentment and gratitude aren't the same thing. Think of contentment as a decision and gratitude as an emotion. I combat thoughts of not being good enough, not doing enough, not working hard enough or efficiently enough to accomplish everything that I want. That is my discontentment and it isn't material or monetary. It's relentless ambition being opposed by physiological hurdles beyond my actual control. That's something I gotta see my therapist about, and I do!
What am I even getting at here. Okay, so the purpose of finding real gratitude is not to talk yourself out of being ambitious, but to honor and appreciate and even acknowledge the things that are right and good in your life and your world. Unfortunately, I conflate the two on a regular basis. I find myself using guilt to convince myself to be content with what I have. Then I turn around and try to be grateful for what I have and then start to feel guilty that I have those things at all. Why doesn't my child have cancer? Why can I afford this organic milk when so many others can't afford a pound of rice? Good grief, my mind is mad house prison!
I have to change my mind about what gratitude is and what value that state of mind holds for me and my family. Gratitude born of guilt will never build true empathy for suffering. Gratitude forced by comparison will never breed compassion. It paralyzes the kind and hardens the hearts of the privileged. True thankfulness is fleeting, momentary, unannounced, and beautiful. All the crap about your gratitude journal and meditating on your blessings is complete bullshit (unless of course it works for you and then I'm super happy for you and keep doing it). You aren't "blessed" because you're thankful for your blessings and you won't get less blessed because you become entitled. The world isn't fair and equal, it doesn't work that way. Also, if you go around telling people how blessed you are, they will hate your face. What you and I are is lucky and that's about it.
The practice of gratitude is being present. How many times a day can you say that you are present, physically, emotionally, and mentally? When are you not running through the list of everything else you have to do or clicking through your mental notes of what you're supposed to be thankful for when you are really mad or anxious or discontent? That's why those moments are fleeting. I've found gratitude to be a spiritual experience for me and I hope so much that some of you feel it too. Some are quiet moments and some are crazy ones, where something just hits me straight on in the chest with an overwhelming soul crushing realization. It sits on me and yells, "This is my life, these are my people, I'm here by some cosmic force, and look at them, they are beautiful!" Sometimes I get chills, sometimes I get all choked up and teary eyed, and sometimes I freeze in hopes of letting the moment linger. When I find those moments fewer and further between, I know that something is closed. I'm letting my stress, my guilt, my discontentment, my lack of presence or something get lodged into all the nooks and crannies so there's no room for gob smack moments of debilitating gratitude. One happened the other day at the neighborhood pool. The way the sun was going down and the color of my baby girl's strawberry blond hair and Freddie's swimsuit on backwards and my husband's stupid waterproof earphones so he can ignore whining children on land or by sea, the families there of all different races and ethnicities. My heart almost kabloomed, which is dangerous while swimming. I can't live like that all the time. My vascular system wouldn't be able to handle the stress. You can't guilt that, because it's real and messy and temporary. You can't bottle it up and put it in a journal because you don't even know exactly what triggered it or what the heck you were even grateful for in that moment.
Please look for those moments. I can do nothing to affect my gratitude besides being fully present as often as possible. Work on your discontentment, work on your guilt by giving back and engaging in your community, donate to organizations that do great things, volunteer, vote well, read and increase your knowledge. Those things require work. Gratitude requires letting go.