Thursday, February 15, 2018

Red is the Bluest Color

Red is the Bluest Color
Thursday, February 15, 2018
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Grayscale Photo of Person Holding a Gun


I woke up from a nightmare where I was standing on a street corner during a storm, watching electric poles fall and knock over trees, and trees fall and knock down houses, and I realized my dream was America.

***

Two weeks ago my daughter interviewed my friends about their careers and one friend she interviewed was a mass shooting expert and my daughter asked, “Mom, do you think think that’s appropriate for school?”

I said, “I can’t think of anything more appropriate.”

***

Yesterday my daughter climbed into the car, held her arms out palms flat, and said, “I know, I know, mom. We heard in gym. Can we just enjoy Valentines Day? Don’t turn this into Sandy Hook.”

(Sandy Hook is forever engraved in my children’s memories as the day mommy locked herself in the bathroom and didn’t come out for hours. The Season of Grieving. The Christmas That Wasn’t.)

***

Over sandwiches I told my 11 yr old son, “Kaya, run outside if the shooter is inside and you’re near an exit.”

“What if I’m not near an exit?”

“Then hide behind a locked door.”

“What if the door won’t lock, Mommy?”

“Then make yourself small and stay perfectly still.”

We play Mario World 3D and the mushroom men are chasing us. Kaya’s toad character runs inside a gumdrop tree. “I would hide here if this was real life,” he says.

We change worlds. Now we’re speeding through clear pipes sprinkled with gold coins. “Here, mommy,” Kaya says, jumping into a wall of bricks. “I would hide here.”

“Good, Kaya.”

We’re chasing turtles through the sky. Kaya pops into a rainbow and waves from a cloud. “Am I safe here, Mommy?”

“You’re safe, Kaya.” And I throw fireballs through tears.

***

A child’s death is never a single casualty. A child dies, and a part of the parents die too. A community fractures. The future evaporates. Any weapon that can kill a child is a weapon of mass destruction.

***

American mothers,

each day you send your children to slaughterhouses.

and you pray at the altar of elected officials who advise, “say three Hail Marys and take a Tylenol in the morning.” Thoughts and prayers. Wink, wink. Their cloaks are lined with  human sacrifices, their pockets deep with second amendment rubies, and come reelection time, they’ll clink glasses of champagne with the men who armored the men who butchered your children, while in Florida, 17 angels roam the skies, searching for the cloud behind the rainbow.

American mothers,

Your country is killing your children.

American mothers,

Rise.
Scream.
Yell.

Your voice is more powerful than any weapon.

It is time.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thank you Alabama

Thank you Alabama
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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This one’s for the Yellow Dog Dems, the Exonerated Men, the Indies, the Greens, the Swings, the right-wing refugees.

This one’s for the fed-up librarian retired in Gadsden who never voted Dem until today and Peggy in Montgomery and Ebenezer on Fourth Avenue cutting hair saying white folks don’t scare him no more since Vietnam, he’ll vote in a dog fight, he don’t care.

This one’s for the troops on the ground, the phone bank crowd, the drivers and givers and big spenders and Twitter warriors and the keyboard queens sharing memes.

This one’s for the women who left early and the men who came late and the elderly and sick who waited in line for hours. This one’s for the disowned children of the rainbow world who stayed close to home when home wasn’t safe. This one’s for the descendants of slaves. This one’s for the woke kids in Tuscaloosa and Auburn and the genteel ladies in Mobile hiding their girlhoods in purses beside their photo IDs.

This one’s for the progress, the message sent, and the sins that can no longer be disguised behind a Bible verse.

This one’s for the Americans who lose time and again, but are never defeated. This one’s for the daughter who tugs at her mother’s skirt and asks, “what’s next?” This one’s for the mother who replies, “We keep fighting.”
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

An Open Letter to White Women in Alabama

An Open Letter to White Women in Alabama
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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Liberals are wrong about you. You’re not racist or homophobic (and no, you’re not married to your brother). You’re well-educated. You love your family and your church, and you will always put them first. If others have a problem with that, so be it.

You live in Alabama because you love it – the tall trees, the trips to the coast in the summer, the fried everything, the slow, pleasant pace of life (except during football season, when the air ripples with excitement).

Everyone is nice here, too. Neighbors are real neighbors; people take the time to stop and say hello. If you get a flat tire, a second later someone will stop and help. Do they do that up north, you wonder? In Chicago or Boston? Do they really care about their fellow man — all those self-righteous snowflakes with their protest signs, smug liberal cannibals so hungry for outrage that they’ll eagerly devour their own?

These Libs pop up online sometimes and accuse you of hating women, to which you reply, “I am a woman.” Just because you don’t strap on a pussy hat and march on Washington, demanding rights that (news flash!) you already have, doesn’t mean you haven’t felt the full weight of womanhood.

Or girlhood, for that matter. You remember being fourteen, don’t you? – all limbs and unruly hair, a mouth lined with braces. It’s a difficult time. You’re not a child anymore, but you’re not a woman either. Suddenly watching certain movies with your dad feels strange, and you no longer tell your mother everything. You still play games with kids on your street, but somehow it doesn’t feel the same – almost as if there’s another layer, a new price for playing.

Did older men approach you then, or gaze at you from afar with a look in their eye that made you uncomfortable — a look that you had no name for yet? Maybe it was a young man who first made unwanted advantages … are you the one woman out of four who has been sexually assaulted? If not, then certainly you’re in the Harassment and Close Calls Club, where most of us are members.

When was the first time you were told to be silent? When was the time you silenced yourself? Have you had enough self-reflection to trace back all your life’s struggles to the moment you said no and he said yes?

I think you have. In fact, I think you’ve changed a lot over the last couple of months, haven’t you? You’re still a God-fearing woman who loves her family, but lately, the pillars of truth that build the foundation of your faith have taken a beating. You’re starting to wonder if men, who have spent centuries interpreting God’s words, have maybe, just maybe, construed His words to their favor.

It started with Trump’s Access Hollywood video. It repulsed you. It didn’t keep you from voting for him (he was still a better choice than Killary), but it didn’t sit right with you then, and it still doesn’t. Then, a year later, the #MeToo movement grew momentum. You didn’t participate – at least, not in public. Instead you wrote it down somewhere – maybe in a post-it note that you slipped into your Bible, or maybe you typed it in a flurry of keystrokes that you saved in an inconspicuous folder on the family computer. Maybe you didn’t write it at all, but spoke it, when only God was around to witness your truth.

A month later, when public figures began to lose their jobs from sexual harassment claims, you thought quietly, “You reap what you sow.” And when, fifty-so plus men later, your husband casually mentioned, “This is turning into a Witch Hunt!”…you quietly disagreed with him.

Liberals are wrong about you, but maybe the Conservatives are too. You are not a sheep. You will not be spoon fed what to think. You may never march down Pennsylvania Avenue wearing one of those obscene pussy hats, but maybe it’s time you protested in your own way.

On Dec. 12, you have a big decision to make. As a fellow Southerner, may I make a suggestion? In the voting booth, go ahead and hand Jesus the wheel, but let your fourteen-year-old self lead the way.
Sunday, December 10, 2017

What a Mass Shooting Expert Wants You to Know

What a Mass Shooting Expert Wants You to Know
Sunday, December 10, 2017
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What a Mass Shooting Expert Wants You to Know

Jackie Schildkraut's Facebook wall is filled with posts describing the fallen, a digital shrine. Christopher Roybal from Colorado, "could draw people in with an infectious smile." Carrie Parsons "had a contagious giggle." Patricia Mestas was "a mother of three, a grandmother of eight, and a great-grandmother to one."
Thursday, November 9, 2017

Nov 8, 2017

Nov 8, 2017
Thursday, November 9, 2017
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PART I
Me to Year Ago Me: “where are you going?”

Year Ago Me: “Home to watch the election coverage! Break the glass ceiling! Clinton might take Texas!”

Me: “yeah well I have something to tell you...”

Year Ago Me: “hey if you’re only one year older, how come you look so fat and old?”

Me: <pauses> “you know what, have fun! Enjoy your covfefe.”

Year Ago Me: “My what?”

Me: “You’ll see.”

Year Ago Me can suck it.

PART II

Year Ago Me: “why are you so tense? Is it a close call? Does Florida go red?”

Me: “well that’s part of it—“

Year Ago Me: “I KNEW IT! I fuckin knew it. Fuck Florida!”

Me: “look, just do me a favor— don’t post on FB about not warning Florida the next time there’s a hurricane. You’ll piss off your Florida friends.”

Year Ago Me: “what’chu talkin bout, Willis? We don’t have any friends in Florida.”

Me: <sighs> “oh shut up and eat your twizzlers. Enjoy these final hours.”

Year Ago Me: <mouth stuffed with Twizzlers> what...doyoumean... fiiinal...hours?”


PART III

Year Ago Me: “Ha! Alabama goes red, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Kentucky go red. Big shocker there! Racist backassward fundamentalist dickheads!”

<bites into a Twizzler, takes a swig of rum and coke, pushes a cat butt out of the way of Wolf Blitzer>

Continues, “Enjoy your red map while you got it, you Republican fucks! Ha ha we don’t need Florida, cause as soon as Ohio and Michigan..........hey....Year Later Me! Where are you? Where’d you go? ...Why are you out on the balcony? What are you doing with that rope around your neck?”

PART IV

Year Ago Me: “THE SUN WILL COME OUT, TOMMORR—“

Me: “Nope.”

Year Ago Me: “God you’re so morose and angry! You’re like Prince in ‘Purple Rain’ but taller and with no talent.”

Me: “which reminds me...”

Year Ago Me, “shut up, breaking news! 90% Ohio counties reporting in. Here we go! oh my wouldya look at Wolf Blitzer?! he looks—“

Me: “Like a man witnessing the death of our democracy?”

Year Ago Me: “...pale. I bet he’s tired. All that walking back and forth from the map to the guest commentators...”

Me: “Yeah, that’s def it.”

PART V

Year Ago Me: “well....some of the people on Pantsuit Nation are friending each other to drown out the Trump supporters on their wall. Should I accept their friend requests?”

Me:”Uhm....yes....well...no....wait, yes...definitely...do it....but wait...I need to give you a list...”

PART VI (The Finale)

Year Ago Me (spread out on the bed staring at the ceiling): “This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening...wait, why are you grinning?”

Me: “Bc I remember this part the most.”

Year Ago Me: “But you’re grinning!.. what does that mean? Am I exaggerating? Will everything be ok? Is this feeling going to go away?”

Me: “No. It will never go away. Tonight, you’re going to have nightmares—many, many nightmares about large dark oceans with no shore — the kind of subconscious dreams you dream when your waking dreams die. Tomorrow you’ll pick up kids from school and you’ll try not to cry in front of your daughter. She’ll sense your grief anyway, but she’ll never really know what this night took away – but then again, neither will you.
The shock will eventually flatline, become a low-pulsating numbness; but it won’t hold you forever. You’ll have to reach back to touch it.

The bitterness will be a wound you won’t bother covering; for you will never again feel quite as American as you did before Nov. 8, 2016. Your country, you think, has betrayed you. Your friends and family – the ones who voted red – you won’t talk to them for weeks, sometimes months. Everything will feel alien for a while. You’ll watch strangers go about their daily lives and think, how could you?

The anger will manifest in different ways. Some days you’ll crush it, but some days it will crush you, and that’s ok too. Some days it will be your fuel; you’ll call or write your state representatives, you’ll join with other women to write a book, you’ll march and you’ll protest. Other days it will sit inside you like a buried scream, and you’ll find yourself pacing your house at odd hours at night wondering what you would have done differently.

But it won’t be all bad. The friends you made tonight—many of them will stay with you throughout the year and beyond. Some will become closer to you than your sister. You’ll laugh with them, you’ll cry with them. Together you’ll celebrate the victories (and there will be many) and mourn the defeats (and there will be plenty of those too). They’ll broaden your horizons, teach you to be more empathetic, to listen, to lead, to follow, to live in the moment. You’ll learn you weren’t the perfect liberal. You’ll learn no one else is either. You’ll learn you’ve been doing a lot of things wrong. You’ll strive to do better. You’ll fail and you’ll get up again. But most importantly, you’ll learn that you’re in this together, that no man is an island, and no matter what, we must keep living and we must keep fighting, because life has no meaning if you’re only surviving.

Chin up, younger, slimmer me. You've got a hell of a year ahead of you.”
Sunday, October 15, 2017

100 Women

100 Women
Sunday, October 15, 2017
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Collected from stories of over one-hundred women 


She was young. She was older. She was nineteen. She was thirty. She was fifty-five. She was fresh meat. She was ripe for the pickings. She was no spring chicken.

She was in high school. She was in college. She lived alone. She lived with her girlfriend. She was a single mother. She had a family. She wanted a career. She needed the money. Her husband was on disability. She had to feed her kids.

It was her first job. She was about to retire. She was changing careers. She worked full-time. She worked on weekends. She worked at night. She worked nine to five. She worked for hourly wages. She returned to the work force after becoming a mother.

She worked in the fields. She worked in an office. She traveled across the country. She worked from home. She worked in sales. She worked in a factory. She was a chef. She was an artist. She was a teacher, a programmer, a secretary, a doctor, a waitress, a therapist, a lawyer. She worked in a prison. She was a sergeant in the army.

She had the type of face you’d see on magazine covers. She had her father’s nose. She had a scar above her eye. She had cheeks etched with laugh lines. She was tall and shaped like a tree. She was barely five feet. She was embarrassed of her thighs. She wore sweaters to cover her arms. She wore her hair long. She had a crew cut. She wore her hair in beads. She tied her hair back in a bun. She wore pantsuits. She wore a uniform. She wore a white coat. She wore flip flops and jeans. She came to work made up every day. She came to work fresh-faced in khakis. She wore safety goggles. She wore boots and a toolbelt. She wore little more than nothing.

It was a boys’ club. It was a mixed bag. It was a starter pack. It was millions in. It was just her and him. She was the only woman. He was the only man.

He was charming. He was a prick from the start. He was helpful. He cracked jokes in meetings. He was her age. He was older. He was her father’s friend. He had a wife and children. He had an impeccable reputation. He was highly respected. He was the office sleazebag; everyone knew about him.

He was her boss. He was her co-worker. He was her customer. He was a co-worker. He cleaned the bathrooms. He fixed the machines. He was the president of the company.

It happened only once. It happened repeatedly. It would stop and start again. It happened when they were alone. It was a suggestion. It was a touch. It was a handprint she couldn’t wash off. It was a scream. It was a whisper. It was menacingly quiet. It was a remark about her looks. It was a tug at her skirt. It was a shoulder hug. It was a tap on her desk. It was a phone call. It was an email.

It happened in the office. It happened in the back room. It happened out of town. It was after hours. It was in the parking lot. It was beside the dumpster while they were hauling trash. It was at the annual Christmas party where everyone saw but no one said a thing. It had come out of nowhere. It had been building up. He said he had always wanted to do that. He said he didn’t know what had come over him. He said it must have been the way she was dressed. He said he must have been reading her wrong. He laughed and said she was sending mixed signals.

She didn’t want to believe it. She was ashamed. She didn’t know she could do anything. She just wanted it to go away. She wanted to be seen as tough. She thought it was her fault. She was worried no one would believe her because she wasn’t pretty enough. She was worried about not getting the deal done. She needed the job and was socialized to be silent. She wanted to come across like she could handle anything. She was already made to feel inadequate as a woman in a male dominated industry. She didn’t want to be considered a troublemaker. She was physically afraid of her boss. She had seen what had happened to the other women who had reported him. His wife was pregnant and she didn’t want her to have a miscarriage over the shock. His wife was the only other employee. Her co-workers thought it was funny. She wasn’t the only one, but no one else reported it either.

She asked him to stop. He said no one would believe her. He threatened to get her fired. He threatened to tell her father that she was a slut. He threatened the safety of her unborn baby. The harassment only increased. He said she was imagining things. He said, “You sure do think a lot of yourself!” He said women were too sensitive and couldn’t take a joke. He said she only wished; don’t worry, honey, I won’t fuck a pig.

She sought advice from others. She was told it was just the company culture. They said that’s just how men are. They said, “Oh, he probably likes you.” They said he’s just a friendly guy. They said there was nothing she could do. They said maybe she should leave and find a new job. Move departments. Work from home. She was told she would be labeled a dyke and raped by the prisoners if she complained. She was told to do her job and shut the hell up. She was told to wear different clothes, then maybe he’d lose interest.

She did report it but nothing happened. She was ignored. She was threatened repeatedly. She was fired. She was called a liar. They said it was just the culture. They said it would ruin his life. Her claim was disregarded by the owners of the company because he was making a lot of money for them. They moved her to another department but didn’t fire him. They started cutting back her hours. They treated her like a leper. They made it impossible for her to work there, she was almost forced to quit.

She is retired now. She is still working. She hears men how come forward and say they have daughters and harassment should no longer be happening. She wonders where these men were when this was happening to their wives. She wonders where these men were when it was happening to their mothers. She speaks out now more than ever before. She chooses to remain silent. She talks only to her therapist. She talks only to her minister. She saves the headlines from today’s stories and promises she’ll read them later. She’s walked a hundred miles in other women’s shoes; she’s not afraid to walk a hundred miles farther.


—Erin Passons, 10-15-2017




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