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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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Donald the POTUS: faithfully executing the office of the president

I just saw an article that I felt certain was satire.  It simply had to be. One worthy of SNL or “The Onion” notoriety. But no, it was no joke. It was the Real Deal. A sad, ironic dick move by the Trump White House kind of deal. But what should the public (or public television) expect from the twisted, perverted Art of the Deal master himself?

His White House, in all its rank insensitivity — or blatant ignorance (or both) has asked Sesame Street characters to appear at the annual White House Egg Roll — in keeping with previous years when Big Bird and Elmo and other beloved Sesame Street characters have been in attendance. It should be an appearance they relish… interacting with the children who adore them and learn so much from their counting and alphabet skits, their sing-a-longs, and their sensitive, educational interactions with every type of people from every walk of life.  Why, then, does this story smack of irony?

Could it be because the Trump White House asked the darling Muppets of PBS fame… as in public television… as in the network that falls under the Corporation for Public Broadcasting… as in one of those Endowment for the Arts recipients which Trump has argued should no longer receive federal funding… Because who needs public television?

Well, apparently Donald J. Trump, the orange, tiny-handed, strangely Muppet-like president himself needs public television. At least for the weekend — to do his bidding and render up services, like so many others he has callously bagged and then tossed aside.

So, hey, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster… all you others with your necks currently stretched precariously thin awaiting the government gallows… would you mind climbing down for a second or two to help out your bloody executioner? He needs you to win over the crowds. It’s a great photo op. For him. Not you. You have marginal worth and are expendable. But he — he could really use you to help him with the rolling of the eggs. Then he’ll get back to the rolling of your heads.

Now according to PBS, they have agreed to send a Muppet. But only one. Only one will be appearing at the 138th egg roll. In previous years, many, many more have been. So. Who will it be?

I sincerely hope it’s Oscar the Grouch. Oh, please, please, PLEASE be Oscar the Grouch – the grumpy self-righteous guy who collects garbage and rages against humanity. Why, pray tell, would I want such an unsavory character lording over the White House and influencing easily manipulated, immature minds? Why, indeed, would any of us?

. . .

Oh, so you see it too… The fact that Oscar the Grouch is the puppet version of the newly elected puppet version of a POTUS.  Think about it. Oscar behaves (and even once looked, as I shall soon reveal) just like the current president.

Consider his character: He is disagreeable and argumentative and hates everything that is good and decent in life — and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He actively refuses to comply with rules and grumbles loudly when things don’t go his way. He is easily annoyed, but absolutely thrives on annoying others. He’s spiteful and casts blame whenever he’s in the hot seat — which he all the time. His reasoning is faulty, and he is unnaturally drawn to trash (consider his closest advisors). Finally, he is controlled by anger and a mysterious, behind-the-scenes puppeteer.

Add in the little-known fact that prior to his current mottled green manifestation, Oscar was once a dull, sickly orange, and you just can’t deny the similarities. (That color change, though, shows that Oscar the Grouch is capable of transformation, something of which I believe Donald the POTUS is incapable. Oscar can learn from his mistakes (even if grudgingly and only now and then…), but Donald the POTUS cannot.

And if all of the above still doesn’t convince you of their parallel personalities, consider the fact that twelve years ago, Sesame Street did a parody of Trump called Donald “Grump” about an angry, greedy son-of-a-beast who wants more, more, more — power and garbage.

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Now let’s talk garbage for a minute. Unlike Oscar the Grouch, Donald the POTUS is a bit unclear about what constitutes garbage and what doesn’t. What DOES NOT are arts and humanities programs such as PBS, NPR, poetry foundations, musical theater, and public libraries. Donald the POTUS is ready and willing to dispose of those. He’ll kick them soundly to the curb.

What DOES equate to garbage, though, are all the puffed and libertine bodies stinking up the Oval Office, piling up in the Cabinet, draped over the press secretary’s podium and filling  the “swamp” he promised so categorically to drain.

Now it is his job as president to faithfully execute the law – and indeed, we’ve seen him hacking away at it, doing his damnedest to destroy judicial checks and balances put in place by our founding fathers nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago. He is also doing his damnedest to kill the arts, the environment, and the fundamental rights of millions of Americans. And the ignorant, unsuspecting masses are cheering him on.

Donald the POTUS also vowed to faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States. And he is doing that too, rapidly and methodically.  Soon he will have destroyed all that is good and sacred about that office.

So I am waiting with baited breath for Monday morning and the annual White House Egg Roll to see who PBS sends. Please let it be Oscar. Please! Of course, the irony would be lost on Donald. He would stare blankly at his Muppet doppleganger and completely miss the jab.

But the enlightened ones among us wouldn’t. We would know. And we would laugh bitterly. And on Monday morning, the day after Easter, at the tail-end of Passover, in this most blessed season of miracles, we would pray for a miracle for America.

We would pray for deliverance from the orange Muppet in president’s clothing that is systematically ruining our nation.

And hopefully our prayers would be answered.

An Inspirational Inaugural Weekend

womensmarch

 

My heart, such a blue, bruised, tight little ball in survival mode on Friday, has been warmed, replenished, and reopened this weekend by the outpouring of women’s voices and women’s marches — not just in our own nation’s capital, but the whole world over. Seeing my sisters spilling out of their homes and into the annals of history has been a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Women have always been my heroes and my leaders. I come from a matriarchal family, where the women are strong and outspoken and they get the job done. My aunts and grandmother showed me – after sixteen years of living beneath the shadow of misogyny and the dominance of patriarchy in a cult cut straight out of the cloth of the caveman days – that women are a pretty, big deal. They showed me that we can speak up and we can speak out. And what we say matters. And how we feel matters. And what we need matters. My matriarchs taught me that we can and should stand up against injustice – alone or together. Either way, we are a force to be reckoned with. On Saturday, that force rose together in tsunami fashion – a storm surge that flooded the streets of cities across the globe with a moral mission to preserve and advance the rights of women and other minorities whose voices are being threatened, whose rights are on the chopping block. I am so proud to be a woman.

I always have been. I’ve never, ever wished I were a man. Being female is the greatest. I love almost everything about it. I love dressing up. I love smelling good. I love putting on make-up and curling my hair. I love soft, fuzzy sweaters and soft, fuzzy kittens. I love carrying babies –  both in my arms and in my belly. I love chocolate kisses and passionate kisses, Disney princesses and the princes that come with them (although my favorites are definitely the most recent ones – where the princesses orchestrate their own rescues and the princes play supporting roles). I love the color pink and big, white wedding gowns. I love rainbows and unicorns, peace signs and freshly baked cookies. All of these things fill me with warm fuzzies, as do romantic comedies and super bowl commercials. I get all the feels almost all the time. I don’t see that as a character flaw or a genetic glitch. Just because I’m soft, doesn’t mean I’m soft. And just because I’m soft-spoken doesn’t mean my voice can’t or shouldn’t be heard.

Yes, I embrace all my girly girl traits, but just because I love being a girl doesn’t mean I love everything that comes with the territory. Period cramps and labor pains bite. And glitter and leopard prints can go back to the ridiculous drawing board that first designed them. High heels hoover and handbags are too high priced. But the thing I hate most about being a woman is the disrespect and condescension that is served up from people – male and female alike — who refuse to recognize and appreciate a woman’s worth as equal to a man’s. Which leads me to my most-despised term in the English language: Ladylike. Them’s just fighting words.

But this weekend, we brought our fighting herds, which is what I choose to focus on during this oh-so-inspirational inaugural weekend. Yes, inspirational.  And no, not due to an orange man in a white house. Nope. The inspiration comes from the outpouring of support by and for Womanhood, the subject that has most profoundly shaped who I am today, how I live today, how I love today and even why I am today.

I use the word SUBJECT here with absolute intent and purpose. As an English teacher, I teach sentence structure and semantics. I know the importance of word order and connotation. In grammar, the subjects are in control of their sentences. They are the ones doing and the ones being. They own and they control. For centuries and centuries – for entire histories – the subjects that are doing the doing, the owning and the controlling, have been men.

Objects – direct objects, indirect objects,…SEX objects – they are not in control. They are not doing and they are not being. For centuries and centuries – for entire histories – women have been the objects that were owned and controlled. We were wives or mistresses or prostitutes. We were the objects of sentences written by a patriarchy.

But we women have made tremendous progress in rewriting our destinies. We are currently at the highest point in our grammatical and sexual evolution. Not all of us, but many of us, are the subjects of our own sentences. We own and are in control of our options. Our decisions. Our bodies. Our lives. Our selves.

And this weekend, we poured onto the streets to protect and advance our rights. Do not doubt us. Do not denigrate us. Do not sandbag us, or coddle us or condescend us. Do not fault us or foul us or fabricate lies about us. Do not undermine us. Do not underestimate us. Because, as Maya Angelou prophesied in her poetic call to action:

Out of the huts of history’s shame, we rise…

up from a past that’s rooted in pain, we rise…

we are the black ocean, leaping and wide,

welling and swelling, we bring in the tide.

I am living in a heart-wrenching time to be a woman, but it is also a heartwarming time to be a woman. Yesterday, as Gloria Steinem said, we saw the upside of the downside. We saw women by the millions taking to the streets in support of autonomy and equality. In DC, in Austin, in L.A.; in Atlanta and Nashville and Chicago and Nome. In Berlin and Rome and Sydney; in London and Dublin and Ipanema — and even the Antarctic peninsula — we rose up and we roared.  673 marches across the globe, we rose in a sister solidarity to connect continents, challenge conventions, and change policy. And it won’t end there. We will continue to rise for as long as there is terror and fear and injustice and inequality.

For as long as these evils exist, We Will Continue to Rise.

 

A Tale of Two Mommies

Why does the world spawn so much violence? How is it that so many people house so much hatred in their hearts? I find it incomprehensible. It leaves me feeling overwhelmed and broken. Which is ridiculous when I consider the ones who literally are overwhelmed and broken.

I was planning on writing about all our Christmas plans for the upcoming week and the ensuing traditions that will unfold. But instead, watching the morning news and surfing my social media sites, I’m finding that such a blog post is entirely too saccharine, entirely too unpalatable amidst all the vitriol and violence technology has brought me this week.  The cyber bullying of a teenage boy; the terrorist attack in a Berlin Christmas market, the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, and, most heart-wrenching of all, the Aleppo refugees struggling to find safety and loved ones in a war-torn life.

I can’t even.

One of the first unfair, unjust developments of this holiday week hit me on Saturday morning when I became aware of the twitter tirade against our beloved Canes quarterback – a high school student and the top junior player in the nation. He’s just a kid, folks. And while he’s not, technically, still a babe in arms, he’s a baby with an arm and he should not have to brace himself against the nastiness spewing from computer screens and smart phones simply because he chose to go play football at a college that he believes will be the very best fit for his life and his future. Key word here: HIS.

Now I know he has the stature and statistics of a man. I know he’s the number one recruit for 2018. I know he’s been heavily touted and scouted since he came up from the eighth grade. I know he breaks records and slings laser beams. But in the end, he’s still just a kid. He loves sour patch kids and his baby sister. He can’t buy tobacco or drive after midnight. He should be dealing with group projects and impending Senioritis. NOT with cyber bullying on a global (or at least Southeastern Conference scale) just because he picked an ACC school.  He’s a KID, for goodness sake’s! Heck, he may even still believe in Santa Claus. And all of this hatred is being spewed over a GAME! A game designed to instill joy and an escape from reality on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons. My mother’s heart aches for him.

But if I’m being honest here, it aches the absolute most for his mama. Because when somebody attacks your baby – no matter how young or old – it tears a mama’s heart into brittle, jagged confetti. When my girls were growing up, I’d get all kinds of bent out of shape if anyone so much as looked at them sideways. I remember being ready to sucker punch a school bus bully when my baby girl was a kindergartner. I refrained. But I was ready. And just last year, an arrogant asshole of an attending said some hurtful things to my eldest, and I was ready to tear out his external carotid artery with my bare hands. But, again, I refrained. I don’t know how in the world I could refrain if there were basically thousands of ill-tempered SEC fans bad-mouthing my baby on social media for all the world to see. And it’s not limited to social media. Yesterday, while out and about town doing some Christmas shopping, my husband and I – proudly sporting our Canes championship shirts – had to listen to not one, but two negative nellies pontificate on our quarterback’s decision. I was thunderstruck. Really? Who are they to presume to know what’s best for him? All they had in their minds was what would benefit them and “their” team. (As if they truly had anything more than season tickets (maybe) and a college diploma (even more unlikely) and jersey purchases invested in those teams.) And that got me thinking — if WE had to listen to those zealous fans politic for their team, how many more have he and his poor family weathered over the last five days – and indeed the entire season? His mom’s grace is made of firmer stuff than mine, that’s for certain. I admire her poise and her polish. Her motherhood is paved on the high road, and I stand in awe.

So there’s that mama’s pain.For her, it’s been the best of times and the worst of times. But that mama’s pain pales in comparison to the anguish of the mama I saw on the nightly news this weekend. The mama who lost all her babies beneath the all-too-real onslaught of bombs and ensuing rubble in Aleppo. For her, it’s been the worst of the worst of the worst of times.

She was covered in dust, blood parting her swollen face like a Picasso portrait. She wandered aimlessly around a makeshift hospital crying in anguish. But still she finds the tenderness to comfort a toddler boy, hands and bare feet caked in chalk, forehead marked in blood. Both of them are marked in blood —  the blood of the scapegoat that their people have become. A people punished brutally for the sins of others who care nothing for them or their plight. This sweet toddler boy (a boy roughly the age of my own toddler boys) is devoid of tears, his pudgy face paralyzed. Almost. If you look closely, you’ll spy the tiniest, quivering lip. He bites it instantly. He’s learned early to hide the hurt. But the mother – the mother who is not his – she wails. Her tears trace through the dust and drip to the floor, a floor smattered and smeared with blood and grit. All of her babies, lost. All. And then, she’s joined by a young teenage boy (a boy roughly the age of our young quarterback), and he’s carrying his infant brother. A baby brother who did not survive. These three broken humans huddle together, searching for comfort that cannot possibly come. As the reporter proclaims, they are “exhausted beyond words by a life beyond description.”

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My mama’s heart agonizes for them. This Syrian mama, this mama whose pain is unreal to me. Cannot be fathomed by me. Pain that is the result of real weaponry, the result of deadly weaponry so far beyond the rantings and ravings of selfish cyber bullies that it seems ridiculous to discuss the two situations in the same blog. This young Syrian teen, this teen who, rather than throwing bombs into end zones, has been on the receiving end of bombs that have ended whole families. This precious toddler, who faces an existential lack and want and void that God-willing, our toddler boys will never, ever encounter. I cannot fathom the pain. My soul runs from the comprehension. It does not want to know. Does not want to understand. It would break me.

As a mother and an American, I feel guilty. Guilty for being so privileged by destiny that I live without such incomprehensible pain and loss. Guilty for uttering my previous, selfish, “God willing” statement. Guilty that I cannot do more than pledge a donation and remember these broken members of the human race in my prayers. Guilty that I am able to sit here, drafting this blog amidst my Christmas lights and wrapped presents, while making road trip preparations, drafting Christmas dinner grocery lists, and doing last-minute, on-line shopping. How can this world be simultaneously benign and oh-so-malignant?

A mother’s pain is a jagged, cutting pain. I have never felt pain like it before. And while I have felt a mother’s pain, I have never felt pain like either of these mothers’ currently feel – my football mama’s pain and our Aleppo mama’s pain. Both pains are torturous; but one is debilitating.

And I am helpless in the wake of their respective pains.

In this season where Christians celebrate a young virgin mother — a mother who also felt the pain of a world that turned against her son, a world that despised and destroyed him — I am saddened that we have not come very far and we have not learned very much. We are still doing terrible things to our sons. And to our daughters.To all fellow humans. We tear each other apart for our own selfish gains. And so often, we use God as the impetus. We destroy in the name of God the Father…  or the god of football. Which is the more ridiculous? I do not know.  I am disheartened.

But I am still hopeful. Because despite the fact that we are all inherently selfish, I know we are not all inherently cruel.

So I offer up words of kindness, words of prayer, and pledges of money and solidarity. It is all I know to do.

But I pray it will be enough. If enough of us do it.

 

Belching out Injustices from the Bottom of the Turtle Stack…

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This may not be my most well-crafted of blogs, and I apologize if I’m off my game. I’m currently in mourning for the state of our not-so-fair country. And I believe the first stage of grief is anger. And boy, am I.

This morning, like every morning, our school day began with the Pledge of Allegiance. But will there ever be liberty and justice for all — as our Pledge of Allegiance claims? There hasn’t been yet, and my fears are that we are simply “Making America Racist Again” – as if we ever left it behind in the first place…

I’ve never put so much of myself into an election. Ever. And now that it’s over, I’m a sore loser, metaphorically speaking. Today finds me bruised and battered and feeling broken. But feeling broken and being broken are not the same thing.

I feel like I’ve never had so much to lose in an election before. And those I love have never had so much to lose. And now that it’s over, I’m expected to be a gracious loser? Nope. Not happening.

I can accept the results of the election. I won’t be like Trump and throw “rigged” into the equation (although it’s flawed, that’s for damned sure), and I won’t demand a gazillion recounts. So, yes, I will accept the presidential results. But I will not accept the resulting racial and social intolerance that is sure to grow ever-stronger now that there’s a bigot at the helm.  Something’s rotten in the state of the nation – and I will fight like hell against the injustice. I will make my voice heard – because that is one inalienable right all of us have been given. But right now, so many voices are muffled and muted and ignored. Right now, not all voices are truly heard.

The popular vote was won by Hillary, but (just like sixteen years ago) with the electoral college comes the spoils. And by spoils, I mean spoiled. As in, we are rank with injustice up in these parts. But I will rail against the machine. I will demand change. I will shout it to the rooftops until my voice, and ALL voices, are heard. Because, Good Lord willing (yes, I will pray for change, too) maybe in my lifetime, all voices will finally matter.

So whose voices don’t matter and whose voices do? Well, I’ll start with the man (woman, actually) in the mirror. Mine doesn’t matter. Nor, apparently, do millions of other women’s voices. Our votes meant nothing. And while I know we live in a democracy, where majority supposedly rules… majority does not rule.  Money rules. And ignorance rules. Those two things rule.

How do I know? Because those were two of the primary motivating forces behind the majority of Trump votes.

Trump got the uneducated white man’s vote – big time. And with that vote came the uneducated white man’s wife.  Middle-class, suburban, high-school-educated (or less), small-town, white folks voted for Trump.(Others, too. I know that. But I’m looking at demographics, here.) So those people have a voice. Their votes count. But then, white voices always matter, so no surprise there.

Trump also got the vote of the energy states: Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, North Dakota, Ohio, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia… So Big Oil votes count. And so does Coal. And manufacturing states, too, like Wisconsin and Indiana and Iowa and Michigan — they went to Trump. So, in other words, money talks. It’s a voice that is heard… Money is really persuasive, really good at tempting souls toward damnation. It’s the root of all evil, if I recall correctly.

So let’s look at the other side. Who voted for Hillary, demographically speaking? Well, she got the minority vote, which ironically makes up the democratic majority these days: she got the African American vote; the LGBT vote; the Latino vote; the college-educated white female vote.

The common denominator, when you line all of these votes up in a pretty row, is that as the paradoxical minority majority, none of these voices were heard. But then, nothing new there. These groups are traditionally silenced. And while yes, I know that college-educated white women absolutely benefit from white privilege, and we often have a much stronger voice than the others in this list – we are also not treated the same as our white male counterparts. (i.e., the glass ceiling phenomena… the gender pay gap… the more qualified, better educated, more temperately-suited candidate did not get the presidency last night…)

As I ponder the pandemonium of our situation, I’m reminded of a favorite Dr. Seuss book: “Yertle the Turtle.” Like most of his books, it’s a satire about a megalomaniac who gains power and control over hopeful, obedient masses blinded by the glitter and promise of his reign. This book and the Trump campaign merge into one big cautionary tale to me. Yertle knows business. He knows money. He is successful and powerful. He can move and shake and control and corral. Wall Street is his mistress. She bends over at his command. And she puts out. So THIS is leadership. THIS is what the country needs. Therefore, millions voluntarily step up so the Turtle King can climb atop their backs and build his throne. And boy, do they come — “swimming by dozens… whole families of turtles, with uncles and cousins.” Surely, as he’s raking in the coin, as he’s building his wealth and his power and might, some of those riches will trickle down to help alleviate the drought at the bottom of the pond. But the only thing that trickles down that “great heavy stack” is pain and misery and the impending doom of cracked shells and broken hearts.

Why would these turtles have done such a thing? Why have WE done such a thing? I ask myself this continuously. The only answer I can come up with is that we have become an unbelievably materialistic society that believes implicitly in instant gratification. Not content with our recovering economy, our gradual, yet markedly-improved quality of life, we are driven by dreams of easy money. The American Dream has become a crude wet dream, and Trump is our golden boy. He’s all that glitters. He is the poster boy of reality television: selfish and prideful and controlling and manipulative, and he gets what he wants by stepping on the shells of those around him. And, apparently, American citizens believe that all of those qualities are perfectly okay. Why? Because he’s a star. He’s a razzle, dazzle, reality super star. And he’s turned reality television into the new reality. Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you’re cruel at heart. You, too, can have whatever you want, as long as you’re willing to play dirty – to behave horribly, to degrade others, to threaten violence, to COMMIT violence, to assault women, to refuse to pay your fair share… Basically, as long as you’re willing to railroad anyone and everyone in your path to get there (a fitting metaphor, since I have heard “Trump Train!” at least a dozen times today in the halls of my blue-collar, white suburban, middle class high school campus), you can have it all.  I am horrified and I am ashamed

Yes, America showed last night that it is far more concerned with its back pocket and its purse strings – than its humanity. And that is not okay with me.

And, yes, I am a bleeding-heart liberal. I admit it. Hell, I embrace it.  My heart weeps and bleeds for those who are targeted and treated unfairly. I’ve been there, remember? I know what it means to not have a voice. And I’m right back there again. This time, with a voice I’m not afraid to use, but one that remains unheard. And there are so many of us in these United States who are in this sad situation.

So, as a bleeding-heart liberal, my heart weeps for my Muslim friends and students. To be despised because of your faith – to be racially and religiously profiled because of your love for God – it is reprehensible. I will fight with you for your voice to be heard.

My heart weeps for my gay and lesbian friends and family and students. To have your love judged, to have your personal happiness threatened by a resurgence of bigotry and blind dogma — it is unforgivable. I will fight with you for your voice to be heard.

My heart weeps for my black friends and my black students.  To be held suspect – or ignored – or targeted — or unfairly tried — or injured — or killed, all because of the hoodie on your back, or the plaits in your hair, or the pigment in your skin… it is an absolute abomination. I will fight with you for your voice to be heard.

My heart bleeds for my fellow-females. To have our autonomy threatened, our merits and strengths and choices and progress potentially peeled away… it is inadmissible. I will fight for our voices to be heard.

My heart is bruised and bloody this morning, but my shell is not broken. Like Mack, Seuss’s “plain little turtle” at the bottom of the stack, I will not give up. I will not give in. My voice will be heard. I will hold strong and I will belch out the injustices, over and over and over. Until that xenophobic, racist, sexist throne topples. And all voices are finally heard.

 

I’ve Lived Through That Hell, and I’m Not Going Back Again.

I’m just going to put this out there again.  So many of us are strong. Are resilient. Have overcome so much and will continue on in our quest for equality…

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Frailty, thy name is NOT woman… even though I was programmed to believe so.  And so have, apparently, a whole lot of other people.

Y’all, I’m about to get political here, and please know that it is not because I want to pick fights or force my will upon any of you. I know and understand that I am passionate in my beliefs, just as you are passionate in yours. I know we all have our stories and we all have our convictions, and I know that our experiences make up what we ourselves hold to be true. Faith guides the majority of us. Faith points us in the direction of what we deem right and what we deem wrong.  Our personal histories dictate our faiths.  Often, we either reject the teachings of our childhoods or we embrace them.

Me, I believe in God — but not the God I was raised on. Not the God that was thrust down my throat and battered about my heart and head, yoking me to servitude and self-loathing. That was my reality. A God of the Old Testament. A God of Wrath and Condemnation and Plagues and Pestilence. A God I was raised to fear. A God who condones men who would proclaim me a weak, worthless and wanton woman.

I have lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.

I choose to believe in a loving and benevolent God. This is my reality. The God of the New Testament. A God who appreciates and cherishes me, who values my contributions and celebrates my achievements. Who does not love me less because I am Woman. A God who does not fault my mind and shame my body.

Today, I am speaking out because there was once a time, not that long ago, when I could not speak out. There was a time when I found myself and others of my gender, silenced and powerless. I’ve explained before that I was raised in a cult. It was a cult led by men who took pleasure in their ability to objectify and subjugate women. It was a cult led by men who refused to see value in womanhood beyond their ability to serve men’s needs and take care of their households. It was a cult led by men full of ego and blasphemy, self-righteousness and self-flattery. They didn’t appreciate women – although they did “delight”—I remember that word – they did delight in a good woman. And what exactly made up a good woman? Her abilities to serve, to be silent, to satisfy and to look pleasing while doing it all.

I still struggle with recovery from that early indoctrination and conditioning. Every day I remind myself that I have a mind and a voice that are vital, that are important – that I am worth listening to. It is classic battered women’s syndrome, to believe that you are unworthy. To feel fearful and weak and apologetic. And though I was never physically abused, I was emotionally abused — programed from a very young age to believe that women are nothing more than silent helpmates for their husbands, in the primordial form and fashion of the Old Testament Eve. I struggle every day to remember I am so much more than that.

I also struggle every day not to grow angry and resentful towards those who have never had to experience misogyny or prejudice, who could never understand what it feels like.  But who are ever ready to denounce the fears and concerns of those who have.  Who try to calm us, to placate us when we grow upset at old, familiar injustices we see rising once again to the surface. Or who argue our claims of injustice are unfounded or are blatant exaggerations. Who suggest that if we would just shut up and not stir the pot, things would be fine.

Well, I won’t shut up. I won’t sit and wait for the pot to boil over and burn us all. I’ve lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.

I’m kicking, I’m screaming —  I’m asking other women out there to do the same. We CANNOT ignore this call to action and we CANNOT fail. If we do, all hell will break loose – again. I’ve lived there. Some of you haven’t – but your mothers or their mothers or their mother’s mothers have. Because I see the Handwriting on the Wall – I’ve seen it before. And I BEG you all to take a look around you and recognize it, too.

Let me explain…

I’m terrified of the mentality that Donald Trump has toward and against women — because I have seen it before. Sadly, he spouts the same fundamentally-flawed attitudes toward our sex as the cult I was raised in, and while the language he uses is far more vulgar (it was a church, after all), the philosophies are the same. He is a man eager to insult and belittle women, a man ready to condemn all women for being the genetic dispensation of Eve. He has fat-shamed us, he has slut-shamed us, he has fluid-shamed us — yes, he even went there — publicly ridiculing a female reporter for “blood coming out of her wherever” and humiliating a lactating female attorney by calling her “disgusting.” Trump is cut from the same cloth as those church elders I left behind, that I escaped from, so many moons and so many progressions ago. Men who feel we are less than them because we have different parts than them. I refuse to go back to that dark, silent Hell.

Just as The Fellowship – for that was the pet name of the cult in which I was raised (ominously patriarchal, I know…) – refused to acknowledge that women have brains and purpose beyond that Old Testament job of helpmate to our husbands… Trump has refused as well: “You know, I don’t want to sound too much like a chauvinist, but when I come home and dinner’s not ready, I’ll go through the roof, okay?”  He also once implied on a radio interview that it is a woman’s job to care for the children and he holds disdain for any man who has ever diapered an infant because that’s the wife’s job.

Yeah, well I’ve lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.

When I was young and fully submerged in the confines of the cult, I knew I had no chance of becoming anything other than a wife and homemaker. College was never to be an option for me. In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, an antagonist has a theory closely akin to how I was raised: “Sending a girl to college is like pouring water in your shoes. It’s hard to say which is worse, seeing it run out and waste the water, or seeing it hold in and wreck the shoes.” An expensive university education would never have been an option for me, had it not been for my grandmother. My post-secondary destiny was apprenticeship under an elder’s wife. I would be closely tutored and monitored in the ways and wonders of domesticity. I would become an indentured servant, working for my room and board and learning to be a skillful homemaker from some of the best. These women put Martha Stewart to shame: perfectly pressed and pleated trousers for husbands, hospital corners on all of the beds, crown roasts of pork at Christmas and braised racks of lamb at Easter. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to be proficient, masterful even, at domesticity. I love a beautifully appointed table to this day, and I do value the domestic education I received before I made my escape. One of the things that makes me happiest in life is to make my family happy. My problem here is that it should be by CHOICE.  A woman should always have a choice, with regard to ANYTHING – job, husband, family, all of it.

Wait, you argue. Trump has never said women shouldn’t be allowed to work outside the home.  Ok. I give you that. At least he hasn’t said it publicly… However, he avoids discussing women’s strengths and abilities, unless they involve her sexuality.  It’s far easier to objectify women if their brains are ignored completely. If he does happen to comment on women’s minds, often it is to call them “neurotic” – one of his favorite female insults. Normally, though, he focuses on women’s physical appearances, particularly in relation to conquest: “It’s all about the hunt and once you get it, it loses some of its energy. I think competitive, successful men feel that way about women.” And with regard to female writers: “it really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.” In other words, my words mean nothing – not only because I’m not young and beautiful, but also because it doesn’t matter what I write. According to Trump, as a woman, my words – and by reflection, I, myself – don’t matter. I mean nothing.

I’ve lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.

So let’s talk a little bit about the historical precedence of equating women with nothing… During the Renaissance, the Elizabethan euphemism for female genitalia was “Nothing”– seemingly apropos, I suppose, since no thing hangs between our legs, but also extremely demeaning and disparaging. Trump over and over again diminishes us to our genitalia, objectifying us – robbing us of subjectivity. Making us little more than toys for his tool.   Trump considers us powerless because we have No Thing between our legs.  For Trump to respect you, you must have Some Thing hanging between your legs. And then, only if it’s a white thing.. and even then, only if it has some wealth attached to it. Because that makes you a star. You can do anything when you’re a star “Grab ‘em by the pussy,” if you want. He sees women as objects to be demoralize, to grope, to molest, to rape, to control. Any which way you look at it, women get the shaft when Trump is in charge

Trump’s words have the power to transform women’s lives as we know it. A president’s words set the tone and the climate of our nation. His (or her) words carry weight. They are powerful and they are absorbed. They can teach a child she is worthy or they can teach a child that she is unworthy. Girls and young women maturing in our society do not need to hear their president slut-shaming and fat-shaming their sex. As women, we have come such a long way from the double standards of our father’s and fathers’ fathers’ eras. For centuries a woman’s value was tied to the tiniest sliver of a membrane and whether or not it was still intact. Men were celebrated for their sexuality. Women were shamed for theirs. That’s bullshit.

I have lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.

Thankfully, our potential and value is no longer intertwined with the state of our hymen or the price of our dowry. We have not yet reached the place where double standards are obsolete though (obviously – otherwise the fat-shaming and slut-shaming wouldn’t still be happening) –  but I fear that with Trump and his misogynistic attitudes we will slide backward far faster than we’ve managed to climb forward.

Women have worked hard to get where we are today… and we still aren’t where we need to be. Women still make significantly less than men in comparable jobs – statistics claim between 22% and 27%, depending. And if the job has shifted over the years to predominantly female-owned, statistics show that wages fell, in some instances, up to 57 percentage points. For whatever reason, throughout history, women have been undervalued. In Judeo-Christian society, I think it all heralds back to that despised darling, the apple-eating Eve.  We women are way too wily and wicked, and we simply cannot be trusted. So don’t you dare give us power.

Now people would argue that Trump’s words are just that – words. But words are never simply words. Take the Bible – the Word of God – for example. If you are Christian, you build your entire faith, your entire world and mindset and principles and actions, around those words. If you are not Christian, then they are simply words.  The same may be said of the Koran. Or the Bhagavad Gita. Or the Tripitaka… And if we segue away from faith into the secular, the same may be said of the United States’ Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. They are simply words. But they are so much more than that, as well. They bear weight. We have built our government, our lives, our principles and actions around those words.

The same may be said of Hitler and his government, a dictatorship built off of the power of his words -– he started slowly and gathered steam (unlike Trump, who has been ballsy from the start and will surely only get more daring), creating a mindset and manipulating millions and slowly eliminating the freedoms of the Jews and others. Trump is openly xenophobic toward several groups, Muslims in particular. He would like to see all Muslims carry religious IDs, a frightening flashback to the labeling of the Jews, initially by IDs and later by insignia. Trump has also threatened the first amendment – freedom of speech – by declaring he would shut down Saturday Night Live because of their “unfair” depictions of him. If he could shut down satiric entertainment like SNL, what might he do to print and network journalism? And like Hitler, Trump isn’t above inciting violence, He has encouraged his minions to punch protestors, proclaiming he would take care of their legal bills. His campaign suggested Hillary Clinton would likely be shot if Trump lost the election – a thinly veiled threat. And he, himself bragged that he could literally shoot someone on the streets and not lose voters– and the sad part is, he probably could. Because he is the epitome of a cult leader – and I know cult leaders. I’m a recovering member.

I have lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.

It is obvious that Trump’s legions are following a controlling, narcissistic bully. He convinces seemingly rational and intelligent human beings to latch onto his every whim with wild abandon. Hell, some supporters even likened him to the Biblical Samson, a sinner and womanizer, but one who, they argue, was still called by God.  I’m not kidding here. Supporters declare, “God’s hand is upon Trump and the forces of evil have been trying to stop him.”

Wait, what?  Trump?!?

It is obvious that some followers are ready to sacrifice life as they know it, to take up Trump’s cross, and to follow him blindly. Hitler is famous for saying, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”  Trump doesn’t even lie about the audacious things he would do. And people are absorbing every outlandish, sexist, racist, violent, vitriolic word of it.

This presidency terrifies me.  I know that our nation is drastically divided for a variety of reasons. I know that. I get that. We all are equally passionate about why.  I just wanted to share a few of my reasons why.

I have lived through that Hell, and I am not going back there.

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