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Don’t You Dare Tell Me How To Feel

get-over-itI admit my emotions are still raw after Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States on Tuesday night. And yes, I’ve cycled through the stages of grief: disbelief to sadness to anger to acceptance then back to anger.

And then more anger.

I’m not angry with people who voted for Trump. Even though they voted for a man who used hate to garner much of his support, I understand they had various reasons for voting for him.

I’m angry because I am forced to accept their vote while most Trump supporters have shown absolutely no interest in understanding why I’m completely heartbroken for an America I thought existed. I truly believed that Americans could value the common good over money, dogma, single issues, self-interest and even the truth. And I was wrong.

I’m even more angry that I’ve been told to “just get over it,” “find something else to occupy your thoughts,” “accept God’s will,” and “stop being a tool of the liberal media,”

During my entire life, I have never, ever told anyone who was grieving to “suck it up and just get over it.”

Grief isn’t just about losing someone you love. It’s about losing something that you value and hold close to your heart. It’s about trying to get through a day in a fog when other people are acting as if nothing has changed. It’s about having to re-wire your brain to live in a different reality.  Worst of all, grief harshly rips open old wounds and scars that some of us have spent decades trying to forget.

Which is why I was in tears this week when a friend asked the six women in the room “How many of us have been groped by a man we didn’t want?” Five of the six of us raised our hands. I was not the fortunate woman who didn’t raise her hand. I was the adolescent girl who had never even kissed a boy but was groped by a middle-aged man at church. I was wearing my favorite sweater on the Sunday when he grabbed my breast and told me I was developing nicely. I shoved that sweater to the back of closet and never wore it again.

That old scar tore open the day I heard the now infamous recording of Trump talking about “grabbing pussy.”

But grief isn’t just about the past, it’s also about losing hopes and dreams for the future. On Tuesday night, my hope for the future dimmed the second I received a text that my son, a college freshman, sent to his dad and me.

“Guys,” it read, “I’m terrified.”

And I knew exactly what he meant.

My son is a journalism major following in the footsteps of journalists on both sides of his family tree. His dad is a journalist. My mom was a journalist. His great-grandfather published a newspaper. And yet, my son’s professional aspirations were belittled and threatened by the future president of the United States. My son recognized this threat when, on the day his father and I visited the National Press Club, Donald Trump banned the Washington Post from covering his campaign.

Like me, my son completely understands that some media sources, both liberal and conservative, are truly biased. But he also knows that many journalists have dedicated their lives to uncovering and reporting the truth – whether or not they like or agree with it. All of their hard work is being completely disregarded and even threatened by a significant percentage of the American population. And he is scared.

I completely understand his fear.

A week before the election, I finished reading two books. The first, Lilac Girls, a historical novel by Martha Hall Kelly. Although it’s a work of fiction, the book follows real events, real people and the real tragedy of World War II when too many people were willing to blame, ridicule, persecute and ultimately kill people of a different faith because they believed in a leader who told them to hate.

In the second book, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, a French Catholic girl is sent to a concentration camp because she has Jewish blood. Despite her prayers, her entire family is killed, and she begins to doubt the power of prayer.

That story is so fresh and so painful that I can’t believe this election is “God’s will” any more than I can believe the rise of Hitler was “God’s will.”

I will never believe that God favors one group of people or one set of beliefs over another. The God I know encourages love and acceptance.

And if you tell me I’m wrong, I’m going to get angry. Just like I’m going to get angry when you tell me that I simply need to “get over” this election.

I won’t hate. I won’t belittle. I won’t even tell people they are misguided or wrong.

But I won’t get over my anger.

And don’t you dare tell me I should.

Beyond Appearances

if-only-our-eyes-saw-souls-instead-of-bodies-how-vMonths ago, I swore I wouldn’t get too emotionally or otherwise invested in this year’s presidential election.

In 2012,  I wrote and ranted and worried. I wanted to ensure that everyone knew exactly what I thought about the candidates and why my opinion was justified.

In retrospect, I doubt anything I wrote had much, if any, influence on anyone.

People who agreed with me, well, agreed with me.

People who disagreed with me either ignored me, posted negative comments, unfriended me or unfollowed me.

America re-elected Obama, politics continued to divide us, and America has continued to be torn apart by issues of race, equality and social justice.

And this presidential campaign has devolved into a completely horrifying spectacle.

Yet up until now, I’ve refrained from writing about it.

Maybe I’ve just become too cynical and convinced that some people’s brains simply can’t separate facts from propaganda and can only spout ridiculous rhetoric.

But something happened to my self-imposed reticence after watching the first of three scheduled presidential debates on Monday night.

I realized the hypocrisy of my temptation to make light of Donald Trump’s hair, his weird orange complexion, his constant sniffing and his absurd facial expressions.

Because in doing so, I’ve lowered myself to his standards of valuing, or devaluing, someone based solely on appearance. This is, after all, a man who discussed the potential size of his toddler daughter’s breasts, has used physical attributes as a qualification for employment, and, the night after the debate, defended hurtful comments about a beauty queen’s weight,

As a country, we  have to be better than this.

We must do better than this.

We have to raise our expectations and our standards.

And, most importantly, we have to make the voice of human dignity louder than anything money can buy.

Fear and Self Doubt at the End of a Pointed Finger

A few months after I moved to West Virginia from Oregon, a girl in my junior high gym class pushed me into a dark corner of an unused shower, got in my face and screamed at me for being too smart. As she pointed her finger into my chest, she told me that I had better stop acting like I was better than everyone else. She was joined by two other girls whose spittle sprayed across my face as they railed at me – screaming that every time I got a high score on a test or assignment, I ruined the curve for everyone else. They also told me that I talked funny, should  accept I was in West Virginia and needed to start acting like it.

Even though the incident probably lasted only a few minutes, the repercussions have lasted my entire life. Yet I never told anyone about what happened, and, up until now, it’s been a secret between me and the three others involved.

But this week, with all of the negative comments and finger-pointing after the presidential election, the memory has come flooding back.

After the incident in the shower, I hated myself and believed I was somehow to blame for the situation. While I never purposely got a bad grade, I was still bullied into submission. I spent years locked in the prison of being a follower rather than an individual. Throughout my adolescence, most of the opinions or beliefs I espoused weren’t really my own. Instead, I was simply parroting what I had heard and what I thought would help me fit in.

Even worse, I was full of self-doubt about who I was and what I believed.

Thankfully, I grew up and I grew strong. I grew to be an independent woman who could think for herself, believe in her own intelligence and develop a conscience that extends far beyond her own wants and needs. I also grew into a woman who isn’t tolerant when people make judgments about or reject someone who acts or thinks differently than they do. I know all too well what that feels like.

That’s why some of the harsh comments and reactions to this week’s election took me right back to the shower where I was being bullied.

I understand why some people are angry and frustrated. I felt the same way after the 2000 and 2004 elections. But I didn’t to purposely make others feel bad about their beliefs and opinions. Yet that’s what I’ve been witnessing, and to me, the reactions mirror how the girls in the shower treated me.

People are angry at the election results and are trying to find someone else to blame. The girls were angry about their own grades and had to find a scapegoat, which was me.

Romney supporters are screaming that those who voted for Obama are idiots, morons, traitors and worse. The girls didn’t question my intelligence, but they did question my standards and integrity.

Some extremists are complaining that Obama rallied minorities and people on welfare to vote for him and, in those complaints, they are insinuating that these individuals don’t have the same status as  “real” Americans. The girls complained that I, a newcomer to a community where they had lived their entire lives, should be conforming to their definition of normal.

The main difference between now and when I was a teenager is that I am not going to be quiet when I hear or witness such behavior. It’s wrong and people should be told it’s wrong. Neither do I feel bad about myself or my beliefs. I now recognize that anyone who points a finger is simply trying to transfer their own fear and self-doubt to someone else.

Instead of pointing fingers we should be joining hands so together we can tackle some of the tough issues we face.  After, all, it’s’ hard to be angry, fearful or full of doubt when your fingers are touching someone else’s.