Say It Loud

Appalled and outraged in November last year, I co-organized a rally to protest that time honored American tradition embraced by presidential candidates: ye olde grabbing of the women by their pussyes. How naïve I was to believe voters would revile such a practice and certainly cast out the pervert pox running for president. Our signs were on point, though: “No Perverts for President.” “Pussy Grabs Back.” A hashtag was born: #NotUpForGrabs.

Survivors of assault, molestation, rape, harassment, oppression, subjugation, misogyny, racism, sexism and transphobia came to share and, if not to pray, then at least to pillory the pervert back to hell. Karina Barillas, director of LaCasita Center, gave us goosebumps with her “no mas” entreaty long before the country would learn several women in Alabama allege former Judge Roy Moore tried to “move on them” (in Trump’s words), when they were teenagers, and the #NoMoore movement was born. That November day we were strong. We were confident. We were united.

We were wrong.

By the time this prints, we will know if Alabama gave its imprimatur to a man who repeatedly violated court orders as judge to remove religious endorsements from his courtroom, a man who equates homosexuality with bestiality, a man who openly endorses the National Rifle Association and a man who allegedly hit on little girls. Shocks the conscience, right?

It shocks mine. It might shock yours. Like me, you may believe church and state are to remain separate under the First Amendment, and that states cannot establish a specific religion over another one without running afoul of our Constitution. You might believe a person’s sexuality has no bearing on a person’s character, unless expressions of it are illegal, both criminal and civil. You might believe the NRA owns Congress, and that you will not see again in your lifetime an equivalent bunch of feckless, greedy cowards as those who fail repeatedly to draft, let alone make law to regulate gun ownership.

But, then again, you might not. And aye, there is the proverbial rub.

Polarization, thy name is The Broken States of America. Discourse, at least the kind envisioned by the Framers that is to occur in public fora around the country, is dead. Social media, rather than excavating the next great idea or solution, according to those who track such things, serves to reinforce our existing belief systems and separate us further, even while we feel a sense of kinship.

America. Should we call the whole thing off?

“No,” said Mahogany Mayfield, 23, cofounder of Girls League of the West and an advocate for local youth. Sure we were naïve, but it’s not over yet.

Mayfield said, “We need to be honest with the history of America and recognize Trump as not being the first predator and first sexual predator that’s been in office at the national or local level. For the country to move forward, Mayfield said “Don’t isolate Trump” as unique to the country or our history. She said we have to realize Trump “is the less respectable version” of previous presidents and leaders and those in power in America.

“He is not a foreign figure. He is America.”

Our mistake, according to Mayfield, is: “We made him a character more so than a just a product of America.” He is us. We are him. Perhaps we are united after all, then.

Social media, for all its failings, has given many a platform for their voices, which may have been squelched otherwise due to a lack of power and money. “We don’t wait until there’s a headline,” Mayfield said. “I think we humanize everyone.” Our task now is to acknowledge whatever social ills are simmering, rather than waiting for the lid to blow off the contents.

It is truer than ever to me today that most people in America believe women are #NotUpForGrabs and that an adult who tries to have sex with teenagers is a sexual predator. If the people of Alabama elect a sexual predator to Congress I will be disappointed, yet I agree with Mayfield that if we didn’t create people like Moore, we at least gave them access to power to enable them to fester and grow. That kind of access to power and reinforcement of it has proven, if not deadly for women and girls in America, lethal to our emotional and economic well-being. I encourage all of us to take Mayfield’s advice on what we do next to heal the rift between us, pop the festering boils among us and ensure unchecked power and aggression and oppression and sexual assault with impunity do not survive another minute.

Your needle: “We approach women and girls who are left in the margins. It doesn’t take a headline to make it true. It takes place at the most micro-levels every day. We have to acknowledge it. Love a girl. Love a woman. I think that would be the call of action for everybody.” Pop away!