The usual greeting for today would be “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Not this year.
I’m having a difficult time using “happy” as an adjective after the last week.
My family has been struggling with caretaking issues for Paco, complicated by the pandemic. I’ve spent this weekend feeling as though I want to cry, but not quite being able to let myself do it.
It’s the opposite of “happy.”
The United States is also dealing with the first day after the second impeachment trial of our former president. The trial was sobering, as it drove home the extent of death, injury, and damage done during the insurrection and how very close the vice president and members of Congress came to being injured or killed. Somehow, even though more than 67 senators said that DT was responsible for inciting insurrection, only 57 voted to convict falling short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction. There are likely to be legal repercussions for the former president coming through the judicial system, possibly both federal and state. Meanwhile, he is likely to seek revenge against those Republican members of Congress who voted for impeachment or conviction by advocating that their state parties censure them, by advertising against them, and by funding primary opponents.
Let me be clear that even if DT had been found guilty in the Senate trial, it would not have been an occasion of happiness. It is impossible to feel happy in the face of so much suffering, pain, and fear.
I am trying to find comfort in the message of Valentine’s Day that love is strong, enduring, and the most important aspect of our lives.
I don’t think surrealer is an accepted English word, but it’s all that comes to mind right now.
When I was away for a week, I didn’t follow news as closely as I usually do, but after a few days back at home, it seems that the levels of contradiction and absurdity and fear-mongering and conspiracy-theorizing have reached new highs in the United States.
Serious journalists have to try to try to explain QAnon. The Republican convention played up fear of anarchy and violence as being part of “Joe Biden’s America” – despite the fact that Donald Trump has been president for over three and a half years – while neglecting to confront the very real fear of the spread of coronavirus. The official case count in the US is now over six million and the actual case number is probably much higher. That’s terrifying.
If the consequences weren’t so disturbing, I’d laugh. Instead, I’m stuck with the bewilderment of surreal-er.
I realize that people who are in a media bubble or conspiracy mindset are not generally inclined to factcheck, but I implore people to seek out credible sources of information. Go to Joe Biden’s campaign website for his positions on issues and his public statements. Go to the Johns Hopkins website for US and world COVID statistics. I was hoping to provide a link for Donald Trump’s plans for a second term, but his official website doesn’t have an issues and plans page; I haven’t heard him give a clear answer about plans in interviews, either. It’s a major problem, especially with so many challenges facing the country right now and so little effective action from the administration.
In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
After all the safer-at-home pandemic protocols, I’m afraid that it will be difficult for me to resume going back out to church, meetings, events, etc.
The truth is that I am both introverted and shy. It takes a lot of energy for me to be in a group setting and even more for me to actively participate. I much prefer one-on-one interaction, the exception being among family.
I wrote yesterday about the explosion of Zoom and other virtual meetings. I’m finding that these are also very draining and even more difficult to navigate than in-person meetings, because it is harder to gauge how/when to break into the conversation when we are each in our own little box.
I wonder if some of the group activities I used to do will even exist after a vaccine makes social interaction relatively safe again. While I had been mourning my lack of a chorus with whom to sing, now no one has a chorus available and may not for a long time, given that singing in a group is an especially dangerous virus-spreader. The spirituality group that I have facilitated for years at church is almost entirely people in high-risk groups and we don’t have the option to go virtual due to technical limitations.
Some organizations, like the Binghamton Poetry Project, will eventually have to decide if they go back to in-person meetings or stay in Zoom, which allows people who don’t have transportation or who live outside the area to participate.
It’s possible that there won’t be many groups expecting my physical presence when we get to the post-pandemic world, but there will no doubt be some. Will I be able to muster the energy to venture back out on a regular basis or will I just stay home?
One of the purposes of the choice of “Be Heard” as the theme of the Binghamton Women’s March was to listen to perspectives that have often been silenced. One of the most powerful speeches was about sexual assault.
With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in the news, I have also been having some discussions about consent and assault/harassment with my daughters, who are in their late twenties and early thirties.
The Women’s March speaker who was a survivor of sexual assault said something that really articulated the issue of consent for me, something along the lines of she is not sure if she said no, but she was very sure she did not say yes. She did not give consent.
Her words crystallized something for me so that I understood better what my daughters and other younger women have been saying. As a woman in her later fifties, I wasn’t really brought up with discussion about consent. We were trained to be vigilant about making sure no one drugged our drinks at a party and about staying away from dark or isolated places, but not about what to do if a date or acquaintance pressured or overpowered or coerced us into unwanted sexual behavior.
I understood over time that it was never about what women wore or if they had been drinking or if they knew their attacker. Women who are assaulted are not at fault for their assault. No means no.
What I hadn’t understood until now was the extent to which no means no is not enough. Women may freeze or shut down in fear when faced with sexual aggression and may not be able to say no. They may not be able to leave the situation without the threat of violence against them. Asking “why didn’t she just leave?” is akin to asking “why was she wearing that?”
The questions are placing blame on the victim rather than on the perpetrator.
All forms of abuse and harassment are abuses of power. Sexual abuse and harassment are no different.
I have been writing for months about how scared I am of DT.
Over the weekend, though, I have been getting lots of messages to not be afraid.
At the Women’s March in Binghamton and from speakers that I saw on video from other locations, the message was repeated over and over. “Don’t be afraid. Grab a clipboard and get signatures to run for office.”
At church on Sunday, we heard in readings and the in the homily to not be afraid. We sang a psalm response, “Of whom should I be afraid?”
I wish I could say that I am suddenly not afraid. I’m at least less afraid, because I feel that there are so many others who are going to be working to limit the damage that DT plans/executes. There is strength in numbers, especially when we are working together for the common good.
I doubt, though, that I will ever be brave enough to run for office. Years ago, when I was doing extensive volunteering in our local school district, numerous people tried to convince me to run for school board. I knew that I had the intellectual skills needed, but did not think I could muster the stamina needed for long, contentious meetings.