As a child I would curl up in a chair and devour books about WW2, Résistance fighters, Holocaust stories, and think about how lucky I was to be living in a safe country, protected by our freedom and our laws. I would listen to Tracy Chapman and Bob Dylan and feel inspired to become a real activist, always speaking my mind and never letting anyone put me down. As a young teen I delved deep into feminism and activism through people like Marge Piercy, studied the Civil Rights movement, wishing that I had been alive in the 60’s so that I could have been a part of it. I butted heads with my American history teacher during my first year at university in France, chastised for using the word “massacre” in an essay describing the battle of Wichita Village. There were no massacres apparently. It didn’t matter, I knew I was right, and I was stubborn. I sang to Bikini Kill and Hole, shy but ready to fight for equal rights. I still assumed that I was safe: privileged and safe. When I moved to the US I spent the first few years being proud to live in NYC, discovering a city that brought every part of me into a whole. I finally understood why so many people wanted to live in the US, and despite her flaws, she would be the place I felt the safest. Still, I understood how privileged I was, and how lucky: young working class white girl from England and France, running around the streets of the Big Apple, every opportunity available to me should I want to try it. I WAS safe, I really thought I was.
As I was putting the dishes away just now, relishing in the first moments of calm after putting the kids to bed the too frequent realization that we are NOT safe here washed over me. I live in a country where (just to name a few of the most glaring issues:
- You could be gunned down at the movies, in church, on the street, in a bus, at school, or anywhere else for that matter, at any time.
- Racism is institutionalized and constant: we may all have the same “rights” but POC still have to face racism and aggressions every single day of their lives, even from those who are supposed to be allies.
- People are called “illegals” when they don’t have the documentation that allows them to legally live and work in this country, even those who have been here for decades, or most of their lives.
- Women are in constant fear of losing their reproductive rights.
- Women STILL earn less than men, and POC women usually earn less than white women. For the same position and same job.
- Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse are still rampant in all levels of society, and the president has gleefully admitted to harassing and assaulting women on tape.
- When victims are brave enough to report assault and harassment they are usually blamed, their lives dissected and paraded for all to see, and finally made to shut up. Usually white, male perpetrators get a slap on the wrist, or become president.
- Immigration officials have no qualms about shoving 10 year old post-op kids with Cerebral Palsy in detention centers without their parents, or going into schools to check out possible undocumented fourth graders, or trying to deport adults who have an American parent, but whose other parent forgot to do the paperwork when they arrived in the US decades before.
- We are being governed by a disgusting idiot, most likely thanks to the Russians who have been on a massive hacking spree, probably infiltrating everything they can, in cohorts with the extreme far right wingers.
- Anyone can buy an assault rifle and use it.
- The current administration considers a median income of $450,000 a year as “lower middle class”.
- Climate change is apparently a farce, even though we are faced with the reality of it every single day.
So, no, we do not live in a safe country. We are not at war (unless you consider the “war on terrorism” to be a legitimate war), and there is no civil war raging within our borders. People seem to think that this country is still doing pretty OK, and some delusional individuals even think that this president is going to “make America great again”. But we are NOT safe. Our enemies could literally be anyone, even a neighbor who you say hello to every morning. While there HAVE been some isolated attacks by “radicalized” persons who were not born here, we have a lot more to fear from gun-toting homegrown terrorists than we do from ISIS. And we have a LOT to fear from this current administration, because everywhere you turn a liberty is being knocked down, and down every road you go a roadblock is being thrown up. It’s been a year since the elections now, and nearly 11 months of Trump, and it’s a LOT worse than even I imagined it would be. And I was considered a fearmongerer back then. I fear for my partner and for my children. I fear for my friends who don’t fit in your WASP box (which basically means 99% of them). And I fear for this country as a whole, and for this world in general more than ever.
I used to imagine myself working for the Résistance, wondering if I had possibly been alive in France in the 1940’s in a previous life. I used to imagine working underground during the civil rights movement, always on the run, always challenging the system. And now I find myself, at the age of 39, fearful for our lives and our safety, penning letters and articles and stories, writing faxes to Congress every day, calling representatives I don’t even have the right to vote for, planning escape routes to Mexico and Canada, and generally just wondering what else I can do to make us safe again. I can’t vote here, and even then I am beginning to wonder just how much of a difference it would make (that would never stop me from voting though).
And yes, I know we don’t live in a war-torn country, running for our lives while the government rains down biological weapons on our heads or holds us hostage in our homes. I know that I don’t have to worry about my children being trained to become child soldiers before they hit the age of 10. I know that there is no imminent danger of us all dying tomorrow from some kind of chemical warfare… But I will never feel safe here ever again. As much as we fight gun laws never change. As much as we talk about the benefits of immigration, people still hate us, as much as we talk about the decline of racism, it is still a very prominent and ingrained issue in this country, and as much as we talk about women having equal rights, we are still fighting for real equality. Gay marriage may be legal today, but in the mean time people are pushing through idiotic transphobic laws, and camps to “convert” gay teens STILL exist. So yeah, maybe we aren’t so free after all. And we are definitely NOT safe.
Please, for the sake of us all, do your part in the resistance. Because if we don’t all band together, no matter who we are or where we are from, we are going to wake up one day and find ourselves in a reality we never thought possible. And even those privileges we took for granted yesterday will probably be gone. We cannot let this happen.
(Do your part by voting in local elections today PLEASE).