Devon Wilke's writing is focused on the creative arenas - film, theater, fiction, music; art - as well as politics, culture, and human interest. Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for links & details.
I don’t know what it’s like to be judged harshly for my skin color, the shape of my eyes, the letters in my name, the gender of my lover, or the religion I believe.
What I do know?
I know what it’s like to be a woman. Specifically, a woman in America.
While the assignation may not typically engender tragedies like the above, it does come with its own list of degradations and diminishments, “isms” and marginalizations; mitigating and dismissing factors.
Being a woman in America is a full-time audition.
LOTS of outrage to express, lots of anger and an unwillingness to acquiesce to the political status quo. People of conscience wear “pussy hats” and raise protest signs. We hashtag #Revolution, #Resistance, and #NotMyPresident every chance we get; stay vigilant on social media; write op-eds, call and email state representatives, sign petitions, organize town halls, and attend marches. WE MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD IN PROTEST. And, yes: WE VOTE! Right? We vote? Turns out... not so much.
It’s tough. We like our presidents admirable. We like them smart and shiny, with verifiable resumes, successful academic careers, a lack of ongoing lawsuits, demonstrably adult speech patterns, and character traits like integrity, honesty, intelligence and political gravitas.
We’ve had a few of those. We’ve also had a few who were less so — less shiny, less honest; occasionally less elected (Bush v. Gore still rankles). But even in those lesser cases there was still the sheen of presidential distinction and stateliness; still the expected standards of respect, decorum, and good manners (even when spun homey by Carter, Bush or Clinton); still the aura of loftiness surrounding not only the office, but the man (yes, still just the man) who held the office.
Then Election 2016 happened.
My day started with a video. A grainy scene shot on a school bus by a child with a phone; it captured a few seconds of some jolly middle-schoolers from Maryland chanting, en masse: “1,2,3,4, how many niggers are in my store?” Voices brimming with hilarity and excitement, they no doubt repeated that phrase over and over, while children of color heard, listened, recorded, and felt... what? What does a child of color, a black child, feel when his or her classmates sit on a bus singing about “niggers,” that most notorious of pejoratives meant to denigrate those with black skin?
Oddly, we seem only to ascribe the concept of legacy to those who are famous. We speak rarely in those terms about the uncelebrated, the not-famous, the every-day folks unknown beyond their small circles. They are, or were, after all, just “regular people,” certainly not meritorious enough to bear the burden of legacy... right?
I don’t think so. In fact, I think the misassignation of “legacy” as a responsibility only of the famous and celebrated has done a grave disservice to our human race.
We give power to, and rely on, the protection of police officers who literally have our lives in their hands, and yet we know nothing about their prejudices, their worldviews, or the degree of their compassion and overall humanity. We have to accept at face-value the depth of their training, their skills and reflex abilities, and we allow them to carry weapons they can point and shoot without knowledge of their aptitude to be judicious about that power. Which means when people get stopped by a cop, they simply cannot know what will happen... it becomes a matter of life and death.
The verbiage, the lines and phrases; the words and meanings are so familiar, so regurgitated, we can almost write the script blindfolded. We’ve heard the language spewed over decades of sexist thinking on the topic of rape, spouted by crafty, amoral defense attorneys, desperate, self-serving parents; entitled, clueless perpetrators, and hardened, sociopathic criminals. Whatever their disparate positions, the goal for each is the same: diminish the crime, denigrate the victim, point the finger away from the rapist and toward the person he’s raped, usually a woman and often a vulnerable one.
t's a tough time to be courageous. Fear is all the rage, the currency of politics and pontification. For a country built on ideals of intrepidity and dauntlessness, how strange that we've become a culture hiding behind walls of artillery, clinging to the coattails of our most xenophobic and narrow-minded.
Which got me to thinking about the people in my own life. My friends. My circle. Those with whom I share this world. In doing so, I couldn't help but recognize what a courageous bunch they are, which, in the quaking of our current zeitgeist, seemed worth noting.
I don't have to name names; we've all seen one famous face after another tumble down the rabbit hole of peer pressure, cultural expectations, show business demands, sheer vanity, fear of death, revulsion of aging and the simple miscalculation -- pummeled and propagated by the media and culture -- that the only beauty is youthful beauty. It's a heavy burden.
When some first read about the Cosby accusers and asked, "Why did it take them so long to report anything?" "Why didn't they fight back at the time?" Why did some of them go back or stay within his circle?" "How could a strong woman not see ahead of time what he was up to?" "Why are they only coming out now?", it was clear the questioners, the naysayers, didn't fully grasp gender politics. Particularly those between a wealthy, well-regarded, famous, powerful, beloved man, and, well, a bunch of no-name (at the time) women. The power imbalance drips off that equation like so much battery acid.
I swear to God, I've aged eons since this election cycle began; the image above would be funny if it weren't so true. Why does it take Americans so damn long to elect a president? Why? It only took eight months for me to decide to marry my husband; just half a year is needed to grow enough wheat to feed the nation; hell, only nine months is required to gestate an entire human being... why does it take two freaking years to elect a president??
They can want to. They can try. They can watch it, read about it; talk about it, blog about it. They can weep over its injustices, march in solidarity with its victims; use the right phrases and hashtags, even show homage for its music and culture. But just as non-parents can never fully understand the experience of actually being parents (forget the "my brother has kids" thing... it ain't the same), so, too, can whites never fully grasp the day-to-day, can't-turn-it-off, always-there experience of being black in America.
Stand by your man, certainly, but stop acting like a bunch of jacked-up bullies who need to beat up the competition to score points (see Tennyson's quote at top). If Bernie Sanders is to be the Democratic candidate in the presidential election, having a cadre of mouth-breathing thugs as his posse is not, I'd presume, the image he'd choose to convey. But until the day we know who will be running on the Democratic ticket, or who will ultimately be our next President, how about we all act like civilized grown-ups?
A fast, smartly designed car that kept emissions low and used generally cheaper diesel fuel. Win/win all around, right?
WRONG. So, so wrong, as we now know.
As of this week, the world and I discovered that my car, as well as our son's 2012 TDI Jetta sedan, and the cars of about 500,000 VW drivers the world over are about as green as my old neighbor's nitrogen oxide belching pickup truck. AND we all paid a premium for that shameful distinction. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels drop-kicked.
I found myself getting twitchy and all "devil's advocatey" about the whole thing. Certainly I get the reason for such affirmative action -- women are deeply under-represented in all areas of the arts, literature no exception -- but what does it say that those taking on gender politics believe the way for women to rise is to literally remove men from the equation?