broken silence

another way to see: it's sort of like the dollar bill has been turned inside out, and now people who couldn't see it before can see it plainly: America is built on the slaughter of Native Americans, the theft of land, the bodies of African Americans as well as the modern slave labor of brown people, and the reproductive use-value of women as objects. it always has been, but we developed sly cover stories. our present tense isn't "new," but it is very stark and loud and the cover story is gone. capitalism is as bare as it's ever going to be. take a good look. decide.
Lidia Yuknavitch

 

Silence radiated through me for months.

Or maybe it wasn't silence. This was more like the absence of words that matter. In the place of full sentences and bright ideas were a continuous string of hopelessness and fear. Worry on repeat like a song that just won't quit. I can't totally blame my state on the world. I was sad before Trump got elected. But I know that when red began flashing on my screen, again and again, and we were told it looked like he would become our president, I sunk even lower. 

I stayed up late that Tuesday night. Scrolling through Facebook and watching as disbelief spread through my newsfeed. Waking up on Wednesday, the air felt heavy. The fear was no longer just mine own- it belonged to everyone. I stayed in bed longer than usual. I pulled the blanket over my head and shut my eyes. It finally felt like I had a reason to feel like the world around me was falling apart. In many ways, it was.

The following day, I returned home from dinner with a friend. I had missed her birthday party, due to the fact that sadness doesn't really like social gatherings. This friend is from a small Southern town and wondered how she could face her family during the holidays. I can't sit with them, knowing they voted for him, she told me. We ate Italian and shared our feelings across the table. Pasta and bread were definitely needed during a time like this.

As I listened, I realized that I had taken so much about my own upbringing for granted. I have never heard the n word used in a derogatory way in real life. My father was always adamant about me dating whoever I wanted, as long as they treated me well. I was free to practice any religion that I chose. A life in the arts was not only ok, but met with a well of support. And like others, I had been naive about some of my fellow Americans' beliefs. Was this a sign of my privilege? 

When I returned home, I began going through social media in an obsessive frenzy. Reading article after article, status after status, pressing like and then pressing it again. Our country felt fucked, but I couldn't form tears. There was a frozen quality to my feelings. That is until I came across a twitter link of hate crimes that had occurred during the past 48 hours. I pressed the downwards arrow and took in the information. 

Swastikas.

His name graffitied onto the prayer room door at NYU.

Stories and more stories. 

I buried my face into my hands and wept. It was an ugly cry, the kind that mimics animals in pain. Small whimpers and soggy sleeves. What was becoming of the place we called our country? I wasn't so much worried for myself, but for all the people, known and unknown to me, that were now targets. As the days passed, I watched as the racist underbelly of our nation rose like fire. Words of hate, rolling off of American tongues. Spoken in classrooms and neighborhood streets. Written on walls and cars. It was nothing short of horrific. 

We cannot stay silent! Wallow for a day and then get to acting, Facebook told me. Actual bodies are on the line RIGHT NOW, a teacher of mine wrote. And yet, I couldn't speak up. I didn't know what to say or how to say it. I felt trapped, struggling to stay afloat in a weighted world. So I did what I could within the realm of what was possible for me at the moment- I donated money, I shared articles that seemed important and I made calls. As I tuned into social media, I was moved by many people I knew taking tons of action. People were marching, they were creating, they were calling and they were banding together.

While some of the country was still out of the loop about Standing Rock, every other post in my feeds seemed to include #NODAPL. Many were collecting donations through crowdfunding and gatherings, before making the trip to North Dakota to deliver supplies. Friends were taking weeks or months out of their lives to prepare hot meals for the water protectors. Artisans in the community were donating a part of their Black Friday sales to the cause. Words from writers about social justice felt more potent than ever. Filled with sorrow and empathy, but with glimmers of light, too. Seeing the mixture of art and activism collide gave my heart hope. In many ways, the darkness was forcing us to rise. 

Stayed tuned for part 2 coming tomorrow!

Photo: Unknown   

HealKenna Conway