Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Peace Islands: Coping, Week Two

It's now been two weeks in this new weird world. I started tutoring part time in a writing center. This is the type of job I would have once found fulfilling, but my first day working one-on-one with students left me hopeless. How will these students ever learn how to write? We spend fifty minutes together, and that's only enough time to revise the introduction paragraph. This guy can't focus. This girl doesn't understand articles. At home I blobbed into the couch. What's the point? If half the country is garbage, if it takes people three failing grades to make it out of English 100, if I enjoy pizza date night, but I shove the huge cardboard box in the dumpster. Why are we walking as if everything hasn't been exposed as slop. "This isn't you," reminded Puhg.

As a professor of a city college, I have access to the wellness center, which means free counseling. I called yesterday to see if I could get an appointment. I was offered 9 AM today. My counselor wore a hijab. She asked how I was, "I'm sad," I said, "about the election." She said, "You're not the only one." I've heard normalizing pain doesn't usually help, but in this case, it did. She kept reminding me "More than half of the country feels like you." That encouraged me in two ways. One, at least half the country isn't trash and two, we'd be 100% trash if I (and all people like me) gave up.

We talked about how she was feeling because I asked. Because she's Muslim. And she seemed happy. It was really helpful to hear her experience. A) She did not follow the election. As a non-citizen she couldn't vote and so preferred to not get wrapped up in all the hate Tr*mp was spewing. I don't think ignorance is the answer, but sometimes we must focus on other progressive things besides politics. B) She feels empathy with the US because she is from Turkey. She fled to avoid Erdogan--Turkish Tr*mp (she says). But he's much worse. Not like "it could be worse" is a valid argument, but it can make a person at least attempt gratitude. C) She says she's never been treated poorly as a Muslim. She recognizes she is in Chicago and there are places she probably shouldn't go in America, but as of now, here, people are really nice to her.

She told me I'm not the first person to express hopelessness about the future. She gave me the visual of "peace islands." Maybe the world seems bad. Maybe it is even mostly bad, but there are places of peace, and we should expand those, instead of letting them fall into the sea. I can buy that for today. Tomorrow I might ask, "But what's the point of making peace islands bigger anyway?" But today, okay.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Worst Day

Two days ago, Tuesday November 8th, I was happy. I played "Proud to be an American" while I was in the shower and "Born in the USA" as I walked down the streets. I emailed Dizz to tell her how I thought of her child, my goddaughter, growing up with a woman president every time I passed the early voting site across from my apartment. There were lines a block long.

That afternoon I wore my sweater that reads "A woman's place is in the House and the Senate." A little girl in an improv workshop I helped with told me she really liked it. That night I went to see my friend Tob in an improv show. I watched his set, and during the break before the next team came on I checked the news. My stomach dropped. Trump was getting votes, a lot of votes. I was floored. I had never believed. And then here was this little map of the US lit up red. I took my purse and ran out of the theatre. I bumped in Tob and slurred "Good job I'm scared." He held my shoulders and explained this was expected. "Conservative states were coming in first, Hillary will win Pennsylvania, Nate Silver says..." and I breathed. But my heart was beating at an alarming rate. I watched for a few minutes with a cast member I bumped into and then went home, refreshing the page the whole train ride. People around me were doing it too. We were silent and staring.

I walked to Walgreens and bought a can of ranch Pringles. I got home where Puhg was under a blanket like a boy who believed he say the boogeyman. "The Boogeyman," one of my Mexican friends had told me, is what Latino children in his family have been calling Trump. A scary creature threatening to rip them away from home. We watched as it got worse and worse. Girlfriends texted me, "What is happening?" I am usually optimistic and I had no words. When it was being projected with 99% accuracy I tried to voice what had been building in me. I said, "I just really thought--" and then I could not stop crying.

There are things I don't love about Hillary, but there are things to criticize about everyone. No one in the history of the world has ever been perfect, and yet we have demanded our women to be. She is too qualified to not have been involved in something that could be spun as "bad." She has had too many complicated, intensely rigorous jobs to not have ever been a piece of a death or a technical snafu. She has been cleared by the FBI. She has never committed murder. She has forgiven her husband for infidelity. She has worked every single say of her life to create the exact smile people want to see. She is SO SMART. She is SO ACCOMPLISHED. She knows government like literally no one has ever known it.

I don't need to say what Trump is. If Hillary has said ONE of his top 25 most offensive sentences, she would have been banished from this election immediately. Yesterday I cried my eyes out all morning. My dreams crushed, the textbooks of the future explaining how we just weren't ready. People say it's not sexism. No one believes they are sexist. True sexism is transparent. True sexism is how a girl in middle school can be called a slut or a brat or stuck-up and how everyone will just believe it. No one is asking, "What's your proof? According to what?" And then later when people ask, "Why don't you like Tiffany?" You can answer matter-of-factly, "It's not that I'm sexist, it's that she's a brat." He said Crooked over and over. That's all it took.

Racism. I do believe not every Trump voter is actively racist. But supporting a racist is tells POC "I do not care that you are scared" and THAT IS RACIST. There is no counter-point to this argument.

So many horrible memories of my experience as a woman keep sliming their way up to my brain. A group project where no one listened to me because they didn't want to be bossed around by a girl. I had to wonder for a year if I was unlikable when they elected a new group leader. I had done nothing but asked to make a spreadsheet of who should do what and by what date. The new leader said "We're all mature enough to get this done." I was inc charge of compiling. Half of them emailed their materials and half didn't. No one had edited. I did the whole thing myself in one night.

Walking into the first day of 8th grade Reading class. Our teacher was a 20something skinny blonde woman. My classmate said, "Looks like a real bitch." She had only said, "Hi everybody!" My classmate repeated this several times to all the boys in class. He was the only black student. Maybe he had a really rough experience and was trying to fit in. He used blatant sexism to do it. I was scared to be a girl. I was jealous not to be a boy who only had to snicker.

In graduate school a good friend of mine started ranking girls in our sketch comedy team by numbers of attractiveness. He called me an 8 and said I could easily be a 10 if I stopped eating so many desserts. Another woman there scolded him and he replied back why should we be mad he was honest? I begged my castmate on the cruise ship to stop objectifying women's bodies when we were in the pool at Costa Maya. I teared up explaining how hard it's recently felt to be a woman and he he responded, "It's hard to have someone not think you're funny too."

I didn't know how much I needed it until it was taken from me. I am devastated. I have been texting girlfriends from all times of life and we are all mourning. We are baffled. We are sad. I saw a student on the street and I cried in her embrace. I cried in my improv class. I said, "It seems offensive to be doing this." My teacher said, "It's not." He was very supportive, but I don't know if forgetting is the answer.

I cannot imagine how Muslims feel. I recognize my sadness is nothing compared to many more marginalized people.

Dusty is mad in a way I didn't know Dusty got mad. How is it possible the world is continuing on as though nothing has happened, he asks. And he has a point. Someone who has spoken out against other people in our country is now in power and we put him there. And we're all supposed to go on supporting this system that is so rotten and wretched by trying to find our own happiness and moving on? I am torn between trying to be joyful in the face of Trump stealing happiness and trying to never forget how terrible this is. I keep refreshing my Twitter to see more and more accounts of hate-crimes. Puhg asks why I am looking. I don't know. Maybe it's my duty? Just by knowing I don't end it, but by not knowing do I dishonor it? I usually know what to do even if it's hard or even if I'm not doing it yet. But I do not today. I truly do not know.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Flying the W

Pretty amazing time to be a Chicagoan. I mean, this has been the most beautiful, most fall of all falls ever. And then the World Series. Holy smokes.

I don't follow baseball. Also if I did, I am a "Sox fan."But how magical and exciting! Curses being broken and people waiting lifetimes for this and parades--what's not to love? WELL BUCKLE UP COS I'VE GOT A COUPLE THINGS NOT TO LOVE.

Puhg and I walked over to Wrigleyville on Wednesday during the 8th inning because, I dunno, we wanted to be there when it *happened*. I am into communities in that sort of clutching, creeping way. What a game! There were barricades and people just EVERYWHERE and flags and blue and blue and blue. People yelling scores out windows, people drinking and falling. We ended up in a pool of a hundred people watching the game from outside a sports bar. I think I felt sort of euphoric for a moment watching everyone be so happy, but then a crushing weight of "but what if all these people came together to care about something real?" hit me. Like, what if all 6 million people who went to the celebration Friday all spent even one hour trying to end gun violence? What if all 6 million people had spent ONE HOUR learning about religious tolerance or volunteering at an after school program? Not that those people don't do those things, it's just, it's just...

I've never understood sports. It's so made up. How can we care about something so fabricated? (SAYS SOMEONE WITH AN MFA IN PLAYWRITING OMG, ALICE). I don't have the long family tradition some people do. I wasn't stuffed in Cubs attire in first grade. And honestly I'm jealous. I will never be as passionate about literally anything happening as some of the people I saw in the streets last week. Like, MAYBE if meat became illegal I would understand what it feels like to be a Cubs fan in 2016.

And everyone at the parade has all this new Cubs junk--hats and sweaters and flags--and I know they'll have it forever (heck, maybe I'll buy some shirt to commemorate the weekend I really did think I would die on the Red line), but what if that money had gone to Greenpeace instead of a mondo corporation?

And, like, you had to be stinking rich to get into those games. It made me sad. Once my brain remembered that tickets were literally thousands of dollars (where else could that money have gone?), for the rest of the night every time the cameras panned to spectators I was thinking "super rich old guy, super rich child, super rich twenty something." And all these (probably) more die-hard fans were standing in the rain in Chicago. Maybe I am cursed--I ruin all lovely things?

I will say happiness is a power. This win was powerful. Even though it was just a bunch of dudes hitting white orbs with sticks, it meant Something, and that Something inspired joy. Perhaps with more joy to propel us, we will improve our world? Does that count? Am I not a complete snowbeast?