Why I did not join the women’s march

Did you hear about the women’s marches all over the world a couple Saturdays ago, on January 21, 2017? I don’t know how I missed it, but probably it’s because I was still reeling from the massive turnout for Donald Trump’s inauguration. Massive. The biggest inaugural turnout in history. At least, since 1988. For Republican presidents anyway.

Right.

I take it back, I did hear about the marches. But I chose not to go to one, and here’s why, long version.

* * * * *

Last month my mom fractured her femur, the big thigh bone, right where it goes into the hip. To understand the full import of this, you need to see drawings. Here look, I found a picture of a femur:

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 11.19.06 AM.png

Very Flinstones, yeah? Okay, so that ball thing that juts out at the top, that slots into a space in the hip bone, where it can swivel. Mom’s femur broke like this (do enjoy my scientific, sophisticated annotations):

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 1.42.19 PM.png

It’s apparently a very common fracture, which is understandable when you think about how much force that part of the bone has to bear. It’s the cost of having really great swing capacity in our legs so that we can do things like run away from grizzlies in our elementary schools because our teachers don’t carry concealed handguns to protect us.

Just to be clear, the bone didn’t sort of crack a bit. Rather, the bone snapped and shifted, just like I imagine pieces of California will sort of move sidewise and slide off when The Big Quake hits:

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 1.46.10 PM.png

(Didn’t I do a nice job of that with scissors and tape? Can you tell I have a first-grader in the house?)

When I finally understood this, I almost cried, because I know that it was six hours from the fall that caused the fracture to when someone finally called 911. Six hours like that before help came for my mom. Brutal.

Left uncorrected, the bone would have eventually knitted itself back together in this new shape. Given the amount of movement with the break, the doctor estimated Mom’s leg would have been about one inch shorter. Maybe she would have been able to walk, but it would have been like a galumphing crippled old lady for the remainder of her days. Which, if it weren’t so horribly awful, would have reminded me in a demented way of my maternal grandmother, who walked with a pretty good limp because one of her feet had been paralyzed by polio when she was young, before the age of vaccines.

But thanks to modern medicine — science  this is not Mom’s fate.  A surgeon was able to repair the bone using titanium rods. Here is what I saw in the x-rays:

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 1.38.08 PM.png

I kid you not. This is a really good likeness of the size of the rods, though presumably not the color. The short rod was embedded in the ball part. Then it was connected to the enormous rod that was jammed all the way down to the knee in the femur.

I felt like I was looking at an x-ray of Wolverine’s femur. What did they do, pour molten titanium into Mom’s leg? Viewed in two dimensions, the rod was filling more space than the bone. It had to be at least an inch in diameter. I couldn’t really wrap my head around what I was seeing. I made the mistake of asking the doctor how they did it. By the time he got to “reamed the bone,” I was weak-kneed. And I was shocked by the full-length rod. Apparently that’s what they do to prevent further fractures, because the entire femur is reinforced and that rod distributes the load evenly when Mom walks, so it prevents any sort of point-loading.

That surgery was six or seven weeks ago, and my Mom has been 100% sidelined during this early stage of recovery. My brother Mark lives about a mile away, so he’s been her primary caregiver since then. Mom and her husband John can’t drive, so Mark does all the shopping, he takes them wherever they need to go, he fixes whatever needs fixing, he manages all the appointments and prescriptions, he plans and cooks all of their meals, and he fills whatever random financial and personal needs come up.  Also he has three puppies and two full-grown dogs. Long story.

Since I too am a full-time caregiver and housekeeper for two kids, a dog, and a husband, I have a visceral empathy for what Mark is going through.

* * * * *

So last week I flew out to California by myself for a full week, to give Mark a break and hang out with Mom and John. This meant I was leaving the kids alone with Anthony for a week, which was an imposition on everyone, but I really needed to go see my mom and do my part.

I left Wisconsin on Thursday, the day before Trump’s inauguration, and shimmied over to Stockton, the armpit of California. Meanwhile, my brother’s mother-in-law Jane invited me to join her at the Women’s March in Sacramento, an hour away.

I thought and thought about it. I wanted to go. I wanted to join hands with my brothers and sisters resisting Trump. But I couldn’t. I decided that, in this moment and this time, my mom needed me more. She may only be with me for a few more years, and I see her so infrequently.

* * * * *

On the day of the Women’s Marches all over the world, I seemed to reflect a lot of what the Republican Establishment claims to value in women and people. I do not work for an income, with pride: I am a housekeeper and full-time mother by choice, and I take it seriously. My children have great need of me. I used to work, but I quit to become a mom. Since I don’t work for income, I put extra effort into being as supportive a partner as possible of my husband’s career.  I have never had an abortion, though I have miscarried, probably from drinking too much coffee before I knew I was pregnant. (Is that a crime yet?) I’ve never had an extra-marital affair, and I’ve only been married once. I am not on welfare or any public assistance. I don’t do illegal drugs. I don’t do anything illegal that I know of. I’m not an illegal immigrant. I like to think I have a pretty firm moral center, with good values on family, honesty, integrity and —

I do have potty mouth. But let’s be honest, that’s a superficial and silly standard. Plenty of Republicans have potty mouth too. And despite my potty mouth, I will just admit that I would be very, very uncomfortable dressing up as a entire-human-body-size vagina. I’m not sure I could do it.

Right, so I missed the marches because I was fulfilling an obligation and responsibility, borne of familial love and fealty, to cook and clean for my parents and give my brother a much-needed rest from the relentless grind of being a full-time caregiver. But the truth is, I would have marched if it was a dire emergency. I didn’t march on January 21 because I didn’t have to. My brothers and sisters marched for me. They were on it.

* * * * *

I’ve struggled to write much recently, because I find that all my efforts to make myself laugh, with my sarcasm and my grumpy, are failing. I don’t understand my American world right now. After a week of Trump in power — which I think is a more apt description of what he’s doing than the word “office” — I can feel the darkness descending. The worst part of it is the endless gas lighting that’s going on. I have grown so weary of it, so let me just get this off my chest.

I keep hearing that people like me need to understand the Trump voter. Why? Why doesn’t the Trump voter have to understand me instead? I’m part of the cohort that voted for Clinton, and there were more of us. Shouldn’t the majority be understood too?

I didn’t march on January 21, but I would have if I could have, and I have this to say.

Don’t tell me that the post-inaugural marches and protests were about gender identity, or judging others, or victim mindsets, or being sore losers, or whatever you feel like making up. No no no. I believe the marches were so heavily attended because people are really, really upset about being unrepresented. The majority of voters in the national election last November are now unrepresented in the federal government. How are we unrepresented if there are Democrats in both houses, you ask? Because Republican Congressmen and the new president don’t give a shit. They will not compromise, as far as I’ve seen. They don’t have to and they don’t want to:  they own all branches of government. At the state level, they are successfully gerrymandering their way into untouchable majorities, even when voters are evenly divided between D and R. They are planning to push through an ultra-conservative agenda that includes positions that are unequivocally contrary to the will of a majority of the American people on fundamental issues like abortion and healthcare.

Don’t you understand the problem, Trump voter? You should, since your candidate whined about it so much on your behalf: being represented matters. It matters not only to you, but to everyone, including all the people who voted for Clinton. And there were three million more of us than you, if you live in the real world where facts matter. How would you feel if your candidate got the most votes but didn’t win the prize?

How come we’re not allowed to feel the same way?

Don’t tell me that the post-inaugural marches were about putting women down who make more “traditional” choices. Nonsense. The marches were about letting people be who they want to be, in a land governed by a basic notion of liberty and, well, representation. I’ve made traditional choices, and not one person in my expanding universe judges me for it. My relations who marched understood why I stood down on January 21. I got nothing but love for it. Plus a lot of texts and photos from people who knew I was feeling a little left out. I was represented at the marches.

Don’t tell me that the post-inaugural marches were about telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. What a load of gas-lit nonsense. Legislation that limits a woman’s right to make  choices about her own body constitutes telling people what they can do. Period. I do not recall anything in the Democratic platform that involves legislating limitations on what a woman can do. Not writing and passing laws about limiting a person’s freedom… does not constitute an effort to limit a person’s freedom. (Why do I even have to try to explain this?)

Don’t tell me the post-inaugural marches were anti-Christian and intolerant and meant to exclude. Puh. leez. Worse than nonsense — smug, self-righteous alternative fact, more like. The marchers I knew were Christian, Hindi, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, and everything in between and sideways. They included Republicans, Democrats, independents, and nut wings. They included people who are opposed to abortion (but who believe the best way to win that battle is through compassion and education and contraception, not liberty-denying legislation and ignorance) and people who think it’s fine. They included gun-lovers and pacifists.  They included people of so many ethnicities and national origins. They included men and women, straight and gay and whatever.

And you want to tell me the marches were intolerant and exclusive, from your “we need laws based solely on Euro-Christian values” perspective? That’s goofy.

Don’t tell me you were offended by the post-inaugural marches because they were vulgar, and some people dressed like a big vag, and there was cussing and nastiness. Seriously. You voted for Trump, and you’re offended by vulgarity? Am I missing something?

Trump voter, you really need to understand the people who marched on January 21 a little better. Follow this particular chain of thought with me, for instance: (1) OMG, Trump is a racist and sexist pig who says a lot of really horrible things about women and lots of other people; (2) OMG, Trump lost by 3 million votes but he won the election, and now he’s acting like he has a mandate; (3) I know, let’s make fun of his “grab her by the pussy” comment by dressing like giant vaginas and inviting him to “GRAB THIS.”

It’s that simple, so get over the false moral outrage — it’s not like the people at the march go around in the ordinary course of their lives dressed in giant vag costumes. They were reacting to Trump. It’s a one-off that’s intended to provoke and inspire attention, but it’s not really fashion-forward, yeah? Kind of like Trump saying over and over that Clinton should be in jail, but now he’s done with that because the need for that bile-inspiring soundbite is over.

I have to say, anyone who’s willing to walk around in a 6-foot-tall vagina costume is pretty ballsy. But here’s the thing: the vag suit is about representation. The people who marched feel invisible, unrepresented, silenced. The raunchy signs and costumes were about being acknowledged. They were a way of saying to Trump and the GOP Establishment, “F*^& YOU WITH YOUR SO-CALLED MANDATE. REMEMBER US??? WE’RE STILL HERE AND WE STILL DIDN’T VOTE FOR YOU!!!”

And that’s how hard we have to push, because no one is listening in our federal government right now.

At least not yet. But that may change, if we keep marching.

But let’s not stop at marching, because that’s only the public face of a large battle that lies ahead. Since I could not participate on January 21, I enjoyed no personal catharsis from the marches. I just looked on wistfully. But from the outside looking in, they inspired me profoundly to think about what I’ve been doing and what I need to do. I have a short to-do list, which I hope to pursue fearlessly. Maybe you can too:

Make phone calls to your representatives. Every day. As I learned recently, you would be well-served to include this information: I am Jane Doe. I live in American City and (if it’s someone you vote for) I am your constituent. I am concerned about the issue XYZ, and this is what I want you to do about it.

Write letters and send emails. Every week try to send one letter or email that carefully states your position on something important to you. Send it to one or more of your representatives.

In conversations and on social media like Facebook, don’t let anything go. If someone posts a link or a comment that includes a lie or misunderstanding, don’t let it go. Answer it with facts and sources. As politely as possible, be firm in presenting your positions on important issues. Engage with people who hold different points of view, and make them hear you.

Because right now, if you are opposed to Trump, the only meaningful voice that represents you is your own. Maybe more important, your voice can represent others who cannot speak for themselves. Like my mom, her body broken by a couple fractures over the  last few years, her brain a little off kilter from a stroke. She can barely speak English anymore. Who will represent her in Trump’s America? If all her children get hit by buses or accidentally rounded up by immigration peeps and deported to some other land because we don’t look quite right — or is that quite white? — will there be a safe place for her in this world? Will she be able to get health insurance at all, let alone any that’s affordable? Or will she be the victim of a true death panel, doling out Medicaid coverage from some tiny fixed block grant that has to be triaged? Will our government — the collective voice of the people, after all — be an ugly, angry machine set on silencing dissent and empowering the wealthy, or something better?

So I will speak for myself, and my children, and my mom, and for all the other people who are likely to suffer in the coming days. I will seek representation. And I will remember to thank everyone who marched on January 21, for reminding me that I matter.

 

 

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