Remarks from the Unity Rally

I had the privilege of being one of the speakers at a post-election unity rally today at the statehouse. Here are my remarks:

unityrally

photo by Scott Jones

We live embodied lives. Which may seem obvious to you. But it means we are more than just thoughts, feelings, or souls. We live our lives in particular bodies. These bodies are differently colored, and abled, and oriented, and shaped.

As example, when we say “black lives matter”, it is not a claim that only black lives matter. It is a claim that black lives matter too. And that to live a black life in America is a particular experience. And so it is up to all of us to listen to the experiences of people whose lives are embodied differently than our own.

I recognize the binary of male/female is not everyone’s experience. And I hope those voices will add their own experience too, because I recognize it is not mine and that I need to hear their stories of what it is to be embodied as they are.

I am going to speak about my experience as a woman.

There is a knowledge that women have access to in our very bodies. To be female is to live with a level of vulnerability that men may be able to access on some level with their intellect, or with their feelings, but we know it in our very skin.

Let me illustrate what I mean. When I want to go hiking, walking, or running, I either go with someone else, or I stay in public, well traveled areas, during the daylight. I do not run alone at night.

I know, in my body, the fear that wells up from somewhere primal and deep, the fear that arises when alone on a dark, empty street and a man turns the corner. Even if that man is the nicest person who is just out for the same exercise I’m out for, the fear is its own response.

And I start looking for safe spaces—for houses with lights on, for public places I can get to quickly.  I hold my house key in my hand, pulling it out of a pocket so that it might serve as some form of self defense. And then the man walks past me, says “good evening” and goes on his way. The fear subsides, but not entirely.  It leaves its mark.

Over the years, I’ve tried to explain to men in my life  why I wouldn’t run at night. And it has been a difficult conversation. And these are men who love me and who are liberated men who fully support women—

Because they didn’t know the fear I’ve experienced. They didn’t know what it is like to have men give you that look, or worse, to combine that look with an unwanted comment about your appearance.  They didn’t know what that fear feels like in my body.

In order for them to understand me, it required their ability to trust my lived experience was different than theirs.

And so I’d like to offer a word about what this woman, at least, and I think many other women here too, have been feeling in our embodied selves, after this election.

Whether we were “with her” enthusiastically or not, during this election, she became relatable to us all because of the way Donald Trump behaved toward her. When he spoke over her, and interrupted, and paced behind her menacingly, we felt the experience in our bodies because some version of that has happened to every woman I know. 

When he called her nasty, we proudly claimed the word, because we’d heard it leveled at us before.

When tapes surfaced of him joking about grabbing women by the pussy, we felt the pain of that too. We know sexual assault is no joking matter. We know there are men who feel our bodies are their’s for the taking.

We know women are blamed for men’s behavior. All the time.

And so, on election day, whether we voted for her or not, we saw a woman who has experienced in her body the things we have all experienced too. And the thought of a woman finally breaking that glass ceiling became personal too.

Yes, we only make 70 some cents on the dollar to what a man earns for the same job. Yes, we still face discrimination and sexism.

But finally. It was so close.

And yet so far.

As the returns were coming in Tuesday night, I had to turn them off. I couldn’t bear the pain of watching yet another dream being what was shattered instead of that damn ceiling.

I’m not here to tell people to “get over it”. Yes, the election has been decided. Yes, the world moves on.

I’m here to tell you to listen to and trust your own body. If you’re grieving, be gentle with yourself. Sign off social media and surround yourself with friends and signs of hope. Give yourself time.

If you’re feeling strong and empowered, use that power to build a better world for all of God’s children.

And in the aftermath of this election, we recognize some bodies feel less safe than others.

It is up to us all to be people of safety and civility.

It is up to us to listen to, and trust, the stories of other bodies whose experience is not our own. To stand with and for them. To increase their safety and flourishing.

Some of us are excited about the outcome of the election. I’ve heard other people say “he’ll never be my president”.

I get that. I truly do. But i encourage you to look at it differently.

If he’s not your president, then he doesn’t need to listen to you and he doesn’t have to be concerned with your welfare.

I encourage us to claim that he is our president. And as such, he has to listen to us, represent us, lead us, and respond to us when we stand up and stand together to let him know what kind of behavior and policies we expect from the leader of the free world.

Our president is accountable to us and subject to our constitutionally given rights to speak our minds in peaceful ways. He is my president. That doesn’t give him a pass to normalize dangerous speech or actions.

And so I will both pray for his wisdom, leadership, and flourishing as, at the same time, I stand up for justice for all Americans, regardless of how they are embodied.

In the days to come, be kind. Be kind to the people who celebrate. And the people who mourn. The people who fear for their safety. Be firm on the side of love and welcome in the face of fear and exclusion.  And be hopeful.

A quote I keep near me at all times is from W.H. Auden:

“To choose what is difficult all one’s days, as if it were easy, that is faith.”

It doesn’t matter who sits in the White House if we decide to come together, and choose what is difficult, as if it were easy. Let’s do it together.

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