Someone said some things to me yesterday that hurt. The kind of hurt I can’t just shake off and put away. The kind of hurt that leaves me too distracted to do the work I have to do. So I do what I always to when hurt turns into fury. I sit down and write it out. And this is the story behind most of the political and social justice posts that squirm their way into my otherwise-tame poetry blog.
It’s the story behind my top post out of more than one thousand: When Will We Have Had Enough?
It’s the story behind my heartbroken plea to give up selective, xenophobic grief and outrage: No More of This!
It’s the story behind Molten Sand, Anger Beyond Words, and Who Would Jesus Bomb?
All of these words come out of a heart broken by the pain and hate in this world.
I can’t be a good, quiet girl and let this shit go on.
But secretly I’m just a little peasant girl who wants to sit and snap the green beans she grew herself. I know exactly what kind of backbreaking labor it is to grow and harvest 50 pounds of green beans and turn them into food for my family. I just want a simple life taking care of my family and being cared for.
I know full and well that when people say the things I was told yesterday it’s more about them than it is about me. Knowing this doesn’t stop it from hurting. I’ve been told far nastier things. And that perspective doesn’t stop it, either. In part, my pain is because of who it is who said these things. The one person who knows exactly how not true such vile accusations are. This is the way life goes. I know this. People lash out and try to displace their own issues onto others. The things he said reveal far more about him than they do about me. I stand before God with a clean, if broken, heart. And I bring my pain and resulting anger here.
The thing is this particular accusation cut me right to the bone and it’s up to me to look at why it gets to me like it does. And the truth is, without actually quoting what was said, that it is because I have a complicated relationship with my country. This isn’t much of a secret. Many of those political posts make this fairly obvious for anyone who reads them. I love the good ol’ US of A. I do. And I hate it. I hate the things done in my name in this world. I hate the hypocrisy and double-speak. I hate the culture of violence and misogyny. I hate living in a world where I am defined by my gender and nationality and not my humanity and individuality. I’m not proud of my country. I’m ashamed of it. Ashamed of the wars and violence. Ashamed of the hate and evil.
These kinds of definitions of human beings only serve oligarchy and dictatorship. So long as we allow ourselves to buy into that bullshit there will never be real freedom for anyone. And I think this is why those comments hurt me like they did. Underneath them is a tone and worldview that plays right into keeping people divided and “in their places.” And this is contrary to my fundamental beliefs. So long as we allow ourselves to be split up there will never be the wide-scale solidarity required for there to be peace and justice on this planet.
I whole-heartedly reject the premise that anyone is greater or lesser on the basis of race, religion, culture, or nationality. I think that these things are all parts of who we are and how we see the world but they are only small pieces of what defines us as human beings. What really defines us is how we treat others. But it is true that some of us are born with unearned power because of where we are or what we are. And this is what I hate about carrying the legacy of being a white, Christian, American. I know full and well that this is a privileged place in the world scheme of things. I know that it isn’t fair and it isn’t fair in my favor.
I also know what it is to be a woman in a man’s world and I know that this is nearly universally true. Men everywhere have a power over me that comes from their being born male in a world that categorically places men over women. I know exactly what it is to be held down and abused, both literally and metaphorically, for no other reason than because I’m woman.
I know what it is to work all day under the sun growing my own food. I know what it is to live without running water. I know what it is to live without heat. I know what it is to be hungry. I know what it is to have to fight for the right to breathe air and live.
America is a pretty fucked-up place, really. Being born here doesn’t guarantee shit for women. Or for people who aren’t white. Or for people who are poor. There’s a pretty extensive list to cover all of us who are shut-out of “America” while living in Amerikkka.
I really can’t blame this person for his stereotype of American Women. Like all the world’s women I’ve been trained from birth to placate men’s desires. It’s a universal truth that those on the bottom have to understand those on the top while the reverse is not true at all. You can always tell who holds the power in a relationship by looking to see who thinks how it would feel if the situation was reversed. And many times I have had to ask this person how it would be if I did to him as he does to me. Because he’s male and, like the rest of the world’s men, has been trained to use woman.
It’s how systemic oppressions of all kinds are tied together. And it works to make sure nothing ever, really, changes. It works well to keep power concentrated in the hands of a few. Even the most progressive men, the ones who make a big stink about caring about human rights, very rarely stop to really assess how they treat the women in their lives. And this, ultimately, is why they so rarely succeed in their work.
But no, I can’t blame him for being raised from the cradle to discount anything a woman says. Men are basically alike everywhere. And it is hardly his fault that the image of me, the fantasy the world sees, paints The American Woman as being shallow and sexually available and selfish and snobby. I know full and well how the media portrays gender and race, religion and culture, nationality and sexuality. If I watched TV I’d believe he was just a terrorist. But I don’t buy into the bullshit and I try to make it a point to get to know human beings for who they are.
It’s a radical act to forge human relationships across the borders and boundaries erected to divide people. Stepping outside ourselves and learning to love people we are supposed to see as “other” is perhaps the loudest political statement we can make. When we are socialized to be bound by gender, culture, religion, and nationality breaking those bonds is perhaps the most threatening thing we can to against systems that would keep us all “in our places.” Which is not to say that we shouldn’t follow our religions, cherish our cultures (even while critiquing them when they need it) and love our countries. But a in a world that wants us to hate, love is the only path to justice. And this, this is my core belief, my basic worldview. Be a lover. And look for other lovers so we can all magnify one another.
Part of me really wants an apology. That part of me that hurts. Because walking in the world with my heart on my sleeve means being wide-open to hurt. I want to hear those magic words that make it so much easier to forgive, to heal. I’m just a backwards country girl who wants to snap her green beans in peace. Just a woman who knows that wanting a man to assess the damage he causes and apologize for it like waiting for a donkey to apologize for kicking. Just a woman who knows that when men say such things it’s all about them. But it still hurts. It’s still vile and evil and intended to be cruel and hurtful. It’s still just another man taking his anger out on a woman. I’ve been here before.
And me. I’m still just a simple woman who’s trying to find away to respond with love. I’m not very good at it. I mess this shit up all the time. I make a lot of apologies. I stick my feet in my mouth and fall down and get a face full of dirt pretty regularly. I’m just a girl with her bucket of green beans who knows that all that really matters, in the end, is standing before God with her heart open and on display, no secrets and no shame. So anyways, you know who you are, I mean it that I love you no matter what. And I meant it that God sees all we do and all that is in our hearts. But I’m just a(n American) woman. Don’t listen to me.