Sunday, November 13, 2016

Taking a Bullet

That's Sophie sitting in her wheelchair, gazing at trees. She's finally stopped moaning and humming. I'm not sure why she's been moaning and humming. Is it the impending full moon? Is she constipated? Is something hurting? Has she absorbed the extreme tension in the universe post-election? Has she absorbed the extreme tension in my family due to the election, via me? Is it moaning? Is it discomfort?

She is not having seizures, praise cannabis, and that would include THC. So, yeah, you obdurate fools who don't think THC is medicinal.

She is otherwise dramatically improved from a month ago. It seems hard to believe, yet I am determined to feel gratitude for this respite. That's why despair must not be indulged when things go wrong. Things never stay still. Still, the moaning and vocalizations are constant enough that they put my already extremely edgy self just at the tip of -- well -- falling off. I told the boys as I folded my laundry that when we lived in a tiny New York City apartment and she was a baby and screamed 3/4s of the day due to discomfort from the drugs that she was on, I would have to resort to putting her into her crib or in the middle of the bed, after which I would go into the shower, turn it on full blast and crouch there on the floor, my head in my hands, the tears swirling with the water down the drain. Oliver asked, If that was your life, why in the world did you have us? I told him that never, at any time, did I regret having a baby and that Sophie was a rock star even then and that he and Henry were the reason why I had them. The boys smiled as they ate the pizza that I'd ordered -- things are so hairy around here that I'm not even making lunch these days, much less dinner.

That paints a rosy portrait of two boys, their moaning sister and tense mother folding laundry while eating pizza. It was hardly that as our lunch discussion became a heated and argumentative one as we shared stories of racist incidents that we know about, that affect those we know and love, already, not even at the end of the first week of post-America. We live in one of the largest and most multi-cultural cities in the world. I've got teenaged sons whose best friends include bi-racial kids, black kids, Hispanic, Muslim and Asian kids. Their sister is disabled. They know what discrimination is (the people who use the word retard and then argue that it's just a word, the fact that disabled people were institutionalized in the past, that they face discrimination both subtle and overt everywhere in this country, etc. etc. etc.), but I don't think they have ever seen the kind of overt shit that's going on now, and it enrages and scares them. One of their cousins wept openly about an incident on a high school bus where white kids shouted at black kids to go to the back of the bus. A young black student at UCLA whom we know stopped her car to help a white bicyclist that had fallen off his bike, but he called her a nigger, told her that we don't need your help anymore. We have family members that we literally can't talk to right now, and that's so disturbing and stressful that I can't even write about it.

The boys' first impulse is to fight back, to use violence, and while I know this is talk that comes from teenage bravado and testosterone and feelings of helplessness (and the reason why, I'm sure, young males have been historically exploited to fight wars), I am doing here what I call parenting on the fly. We talk about being alert to increased violence and racism in our community and to being prepared should something arise. We talked about our white privilege. We talked about the importance of non-violence (O.K. I talked about it and they rolled their eyes), and I told them that if it comes down to it --- and they asked me this question -- I would take a bullet but not shoot one.

Yeah, lunch on a Sunday afternoon.

Never have I felt as galvanized or depressed.

I claim to be a master of equanimity, of the ability to hold two opposing or contradictory thoughts or feelings at once, but that's not happening right now. Or maybe it is as I balance fierceness, righteousness, anger and at least a desire to be compassionate.

For every the America we know is dead (usually said, written about or cried by a white person), there is a much more relevant there was never an America.

I'm not sure the rift in families can be repaired.


  1. Yes. Another perfect comparison to the Civil War- families torn asunder. Because once we know what they truly think, how can we still claim them as close?
    Well, we can't.
    As to the horror stories of examples of hatred- I just have no words.
    BUT. I am so glad that you are the mother you are and that you and your sons can talk true and honest. And that Sophie's seizures have diminished. And I hope with all of my heart that everything is okay and that this is "just" the moon's doing.

  2. Did none of the other white high school kids on the bus step up to show contempt for the shouters?

  3. Yes. A literal bus riot was the result. And school time taken away so that all the students could be addressed -- it's insanity, and it's going on everywhere.

  4. I envy your ability to out your feelings and thoughts into written word. I relate so I suppose that is one part of why I read your writing. My brain is amok. It helps to come here. Thank you.

  5. I'm in the South, and I have never seen people so tense - specifically, the white people.

    People wander the halls at work and others walk up to them to ask, "How are you doing? Are you okay?"

    Meanwhile, I'm doing okay. I'm disappointed, I'm nervous about the future, but I'm okay.

    This happened. Something else will happen next.

  6. If the rift can be repaired, it will take a lot of work and diligence and folks like you who are willing to be completely honest about your perspective. Thank you for remaining steadfast in your words and sentiments. I am with you. I burst into tears twice today and feel so, so heavy. I won't resort to violence or denigration or demonization or hatred. I can't. It would destroy me. Love.

  7. It's a fucking mess. I can't imagine.

  8. Bannon as chief strategy advisor??? I am losing my mind.

    I'm glad Sophie is much improved and that you and your boys have these conversations.

    I'm so upset. I thought I was starting to move on but Bannon (and Kellyanne Conway) are nightmares.

  9. So glad to hear you & Sophie are getting a respite.

    I'm reading about hate incidents all over the country, and I have heard no national politician speak out against this. What is going on? My daughter teaches at a predominately Mexican and Latino high school and the kids are scared witless. My husband is watching the 60 Minutes Dreumpf Debacle but I cannot bear it.

  10. I keep hearing things like this - acts of discrimination, outright hate and then the people he is appointing. I have something like that surreal feeling after 9/11, when something is happening that no one could fathomed was even possible. I have this niggling dim thought in the back of my head that says, civil war.

    Your boys are extraordinary, E, and you've made them so with honest and clarifying conversations like this. I wish all children had parents like you, but I know so many don't. That's such a nice picture of Sophie in a safe and pretty garden, I hope she continues to do well. It's one bright spot in all of this.

  11. I'm disabled, a female, over 50, Jewish and alone and I'm sure my extended family voted for this, though I've not spoken to any of them and do not expect to...I saw this coming last summer and I am sad and angry but not surprised...I wrote about being scared at a mall by a stranger the other least your kids have each other and you...

  12. The stories of divisiveness I see coming out of America now are very scary -- we had similar incidents here after Brexit. Both your examples are appalling. I wonder if people will just SETTLE DOWN as Trump's administration gets underway (as seems to have happened here, at least for the time being) or if the hate will persist. I still can't believe we're in this situation. I've never felt this way after a presidential election -- I've often backed losing candidates, but never one who seemed so wildly inexperienced and unpredictable, or who thrived in an environment of such conflict. It's all so unreal. We're just not talking about it with our Trump-backing relatives -- which is weird, because there's a MASSIVE elephant in the room, but I don't know how else to preserve family unity.



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