This post will be one of many for me exploring/reflecting on the past week in America as I grapple with the devastation I feel, my privilege as white and straight, concern about my body as a woman, and finding my hope again.
In high school I read The Portrait of Dorian Gray and a few days ago, I realized that novel was now my metaphor for America. For those of you not familiar with the novel by Oscar Wilde, it’s about a beautiful man who is painted and wishes to remain beautiful, to age through the painting. In his quest for beauty, he becomes cruel and it reflects on the painting. Gray continually does the wrong thing, purposefully at times, and the painting becomes heinous, where it is locked up in an attic. Tuesday night, America the Beautiful was revealed and we are more like the painting hidden in the attic than the ideal of democracy. Our collective sins have been illuminated and nation’s ugliness revealed.
What strikes me about this, is that it wasn’t as if people didn’t known that Gray was cruel, people had suffered at his hands, a woman died, yet, it was hidden away. People knew, people were complacent. What do we do now that we see America for what it is?
America is a patriarchal society. Period. We have not transcended to a nation where all are equal, we were build on the backs of the displacement of our Native Peoples and the enslavement of Africans, while treating women as property. White, cisgendered, straight men were lifted up, given a voice and power, and have yet to share it with the rest of society. But we know this, I have lived in Seattle, in the progressive haven of the West. How could the rest of America not have Indigenous Peoples Day? Have voter registration that is simple and accessible? Care about telling the truth during a political debate? Believe that Black Lives Matter? Believe that religious liberties are not only for conservative Christians? Who are these people subscribing to the patriarchal systems that make America ugly?
Before the election, I tried to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon that was sweeping the Republican Party and years before, the Tea Party. My white, middle class, college educated brain couldn’t fathom. Then the woman who I had supported throughout the primaries, had spoken for during my caucus, lost. I went to bed shocked and woke up crying in fetal position.
I failed to love my neighbor as myself. As much as a Trump presidency affects me as a woman in her reproductive years, it is nothing compared to my fellow Americans who are not Christian, who are immigrant or migrant workers, who are people of color, whose love is not bound by heteronormative expressions, and those struggling to make ends meet.
The patriarchal system of sin we live in, has been voted into office. Hope has been replaced by fear, and we will not be stronger together because Trump wants to divide us, pitting us against each other because he, and many others, is afraid of losing power. For the most part, America has seemed safe. For a white, cisgendered straight woman, it felt like home. American doesn’t feel that way today and for many of it’s citizens it never did.
America is ugly and now we need to deal with that. It’s been ugly and for those of us finally seeing it for the first time, we cannot turn away.
Those of us with unearned privilege must roll up our sleeves after we process this. It’s past time, but we need to seek understanding and be firming rooted in America’s next steps. The patriarchal system must be dismantled and it will take all hands on deck. It’s going to take a long time, it’s not going to be a quick fix. Mourn America the beautiful. Take the time you need, but come January 1st. It’s time to get to work.