A couple weeks ago, I had a dream that I was out to dinner with several of my female friends and colleagues. We were sitting at this circular table, when in walks Hillary Clinton in this beautiful white pantsuit. Each of us stood up and greeted her, almost as if we were expecting her to meet us there. When she got to me, I couldn’t hold it in, I just looked at her, started to cry, and gave her a hug. She held me in her arms and I just kept sobbing. My heart had burst open and all my fears melted away.
Now, you should know, I wasn’t the biggest Hillary supporter out there prior to the election. So my dream wasn’t anything relating entirely to my political beliefs. I think bell hooks said it best in a recent interview with BUST: “It’s absolutely evident that so much of the anti-Hillary Clinton campaign was rooted in misogyny and woman hating, and that in many ways she became a symbolic representation of feminism.” Whether or not you agree that Hillary was a symbol of feminism, since the day after the election, none of us have been the same after the results came in. But since we’re all going through our individual experiences, I don’t want to assume I know how you feel. What I can do is share my own story with you.
Among the vivid dreams and nightmares I’ve been having, I’ve also been waking up with anxiety at all hours of the night. I make sure our doors are locked about three times more than I used to. I’ve convinced myself of there being ghosts haunting me, a stranger dwelling in the attic, auto shops and other companies making copies of my house key to break in later. I’ve started crying much more frequently for no reason at all. I’ve questioned my identity as a straight, white, privileged, feminist woman and questioned my place in society. I’ve beaten myself up for focusing on me, when there are bigger issues at hand. I’ve read article after article, trying to gain understanding, knowing what I’m feeling isn’t new to some people. I haven’t struggled very much in life, and if I have, my parents have usually been able to help me out. We’re very fortunate with our life circumstances for the most part.
I grew up fairly sheltered, in a smallish, predominantly white town, in a community where everyone knew your name. It was safe growing up in that atmosphere, but I never wanted to stay put very long. I wanted to travel and see more of the world, so I went to summer camp by myself without knowing anyone, I went to Prague when I was in college with a group of strangers from other schools, I moved to Connecticut and New York by myself. And looking back at all those instances, my backbone looks a lot stronger. Nowadays, I find myself leaning in, and not the way Sheryl Sandberg was referring to. I feel weaker and scared to leave my apartment, unsure what obstacles might face me outside. I don’t like to be left alone anymore, afraid that I can’t defend myself from danger. My heart rate picks up if I’m in the elevator with one or more men. I second-guess myself all the flipping time. Doubt seems to be what I’m fluent in, and it breaks my heart. I know how strong I can be. I know I’m brave and can take on the world if I put my mind to it. But I also know I’m human and allowed to feel what I’m feeling.
As I said before, I wasn’t the biggest Hillary supporter leading up to the election, but if I could live in that dream where I’m hugging her, I would. It was safe, warm, secure, and full of love. I felt her strength radiate through me and even though I was crying, it was okay. She didn’t judge me for the tears, she just held me close so I could eventually let go of the monsters haunting me and greet the real beasts head on.
Last Monday night, I attended a reception entitled #NeverAgain: Standing with American Muslims at the Los Angeles City Hall. George Takei and Mayor Garcetti were there among the speakers, addressing the importance of unity and remembering our history. The Japanese American internment camps were brought up by George Takei, who can easily recall his experience there as a 5 year old. He spoke of it and why he is using the hashtag #NeverAgain. We simply cannot allow for this treatment and division to occur after seeing what history has shown us. A lot of people seem to agree, as the petition that he revealed was signed by over 300,000 Americans opposing a Muslim ban by President Donald Trump.
Needless to say, it was a beautiful couple hours we shared together in the City Hall rotunda. The atmosphere of politics and activism blended together, creating this almost magical element. I kept looking around, waiting for Batman to drop in from the balcony - which honestly wouldn't have surprised me since the world we now live in appears to be constructed in this comic book-fantasy-science fiction story plot where the realities facing us seem the most surreal.
We have this man in the high tower looking down at us, laughing at us, and ripping us apart. He keeps pointing fingers when things don't go as planned, blatantly saying it's the other side who isn't behaving appropriately (2:37 into this video). By using the phrase "the other side," he is saying it should be Us Versus Them. So much for the United portion of the U.S. of A. We are strategically being divided and told that anyone who is different from us doesn't belong here. Mayor Garcetti spoke of the issue himself. He said we shouldn't be allowing this idea of Us Versus Them into our lives. We should definitely not be banning people from entering our country. How are we so different anyway? When we see each other, we should be looking for what we have in common and reminding ourselves they are us, we are them.
Fear shouldn't be a guiding light in our lives, but it's what is being fed to us all the time. I am guilty of feeding into it, and find myself scared for what is happening around me. But I also know that the Batman I was looking for the other night started out as just a person who saw evil in the world and decided to do something about it.
I’m sitting and watching a panel surrounding Intersectional Feminism. One of the speakers is talking about readiness, and how we have to be ready for the magical of any given moment. I’m sitting here, and I’m honestly wondering if magic even exists anymore. I know it’s pessimistic. I know it’s cynical. But with everything going on, I have my doubts that clapping my hands will save a fairy from dying.
The moderator opens the panel up to questions. It’s time for the final one, and a brave soul up front says she’s struggling as a white woman, as a feminist, as an ally in today’s world. She’s wondering what she can do differently. The panel is looking at each other, curious who wants to field it. A voice in the back of the audience rings out. Her voice is shaky and she says she’s nervous.
She’s Latina and is having a similar issue with her friends, all of different ethnicities. She doesn’t want to tell her friends what to do or to have them come to her saying; “I’m here for you when you need me.” No, she needs them to step up and take action. To not only ask what we can do differently, but to really listen to the problems at hand. She keeps sharing her stories with us and now the two women are having a conversation with each other across a sea of people. It’s the most beautiful thing I have witnessed since the Women’s March.
I’m watching this unfold before my eyes but it doesn’t seem real. It seems like something out of a movie, something scripted by the creators of the panel to close the evening out. But it’s natural and real. It’s magical. And I can’t help but tear up at the sheer beauty of it. The conversation is ending and I can’t help but clap as loud as I can because once again I believe in the unbelievable.
Copyright © 2019 Christine Drew Benjamin | All Rights Reserved