A life of contrasts

November has been a weird month. No matter the stance you take on sports or the world, it’s been an odd ride, and we’re not even halfway through. This may be mildly self-indulgent, but I’ll admit I’m healing, processing, and planning. Any catharsis is welcome. This is cathartic. My hope is to help you all work through things, whether you agree with me or not. If you agree, it might be helpful for your healing to see someone put your thoughts into words so you don’t have to. If you disagree, it might be helpful in creating empathy for people you think are just waving their arms maniacally and crying, “foul!” I assure you, we are not. There have been some wonderful commentaries on these current events by far better writers and thinkers than myself, and I don’t profess to stack up to them. However, I’m using all the tools I have in my admittedly privileged arsenal to help as much as I can.

See, I’m a liberal. I’m a progressive. I’m an activist. I’m a humanist. I’m also tolerant. I’m empathetic. I’m rational. Pretty regularly, these descriptors war with one another in my head, and most of the time, they meet in the middle and I go on. The same will surely happen here, but I’m not ready yet. My tolerant side is losing the battle with my progressive side. The empath isn’t quite able to convince the activist to stand down.

Perhaps I want it that way. Perhaps I want the calls-to-action of my heartbroken friends and family and strangers to stoke the fire. Perhaps I’m just not out of the anger stage of grief yet. Perhaps the Washington Post really is my spirit animal.

I digress slightly. When I’m happy, sad, confused, or, well, alive, I write. Sometimes I write deliberately. Sometimes I just put words on paper to watch them try to work out how they can come together and make a difference. This month, I’ve done a little of both. In a week, my words went from impassioned and elated to impassioned and deflated. I can’t help how I feel, and I know that’s true for so many others.

I keep trying to remind myself the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years so all hope is not lost in humanity. Someone said they’d trade the Cubs victory for a different Presidential outcome. I considered it. I guess I was bargaining. Then I remembered that a week before we were all coming apart at the seams, we were all coming together over a child’s game played by men wearing a baby bear on their chests. Stranger things have happened.

For now, though, there’s really no telling how strange things will get. For now, it’s about catharsis. I didn’t know how or if any of my words could help anyone else, but words are really all I have. Then a friend of mine from France asked me if she could read my response to the election results to her class. She’s teaching a course to French 16-year-olds called “Leading Ladies,” and after she apologized for calling it that and explaining the power of alliteration, she said, “It was soothing but also inspiring….I think it is important for them to know what we still have to accomplish.” Her request reminded me both how big and how small the world is, and I hope her students get something out of it.

I also (stupidly?) made my Facebook public again. I don’t want to isolate myself to just the opinions of agreeable people because that’s just wholly irrational. That may be another post for another time, though. My point here was to offer the words I wrote in the wake of a 108-year high in the making (for some of us) alongside the words I wrote in the wake of a year-and-a-half-long nightmare coming true (for some of us).

You can find the original posts on my Facebook. Click to read on.


To the Cubs victory: 
It hasn’t even been a full 12 hours since the Cubs ended the longest championship drought in the history of sports via an extra inning nailbiter. Right now, it’s an incomprehensible high for the fans, the players, and Bill Murray. At some point, we’ll come down from it a little and give credit to the Indians for what was a more than formidable competition.

For now, I’m really enjoying what has become an amazing collection of Cubs stories from friends and strangers. It seems like every fourth person has a tale about how this team affected them, from becoming a baseball fan because of them to dedicating a life to despising them. From one extreme to the other, the Chicago Cubs have, even in their darkest days, always been impactful.

I’ve read so many great yarns along the way, it would be impossible to go find them all again. So I’m asking you, if you don’t mind and while we’re all still high on it, to share those stories again here. Just reply with your Cubs story and let’s drag this historic moment out as long as we can.

Also, feel free to share this, tag me, and help me collect.

I’ll start.

My story has many layers, too many for an already too long post on Facebook. Among them, I remember declaring the Cubs one of my “top three favorite teams” when I was little simply because they were always on WGN. I learned the intricacies of the game from watching them, even if I DID root against them when they played Pennsylvania teams.

Many years later, I went to grad school and struggled with what to study. Completely by chance, I fell into a rabbit hole of research on Wrigley Field and its Bleacher Bums, and with that, my thesis idea was born. In a chapter called “Lovable Losers, Curses, and the Rhetoric of Wrigley Field,” I wrote enthusiastically about bleacher bums, passionately about lovable losers—under the scholarly umbrellas of collective identity, narrative fidelity, and social constructionism, of course. “The bleacher bums are members of the Church of Wrigley Field, a church that belongs to the denomination of the Chicago Cubs which lies within the religion of baseball,” and because losing had become almost synonymous with the team, “these lovable losers and their fans band together around the very notion of their failures….This is simply ‘Cubness’ at its finest.”

Well, the Church of Wrigley Field still stands, stronger than ever, but it’s no longer filled with lovable losers. Cubness, in 2016, has been redefined.

Congratulations, Cubbies and everyone you’ve touched!

(The answer is, “yes, I am collecting stories here at this blog, too.” Send away!)

 

To the Presidential outcome:
I’m in a weird place. I try to find a way to line anything with silver because it makes even the most devastating moments surmountable (nothing has killed me so far so I maintain I’m right). This time, though, it’s not so easy. I’ve been struggling all day.

Hillary didn’t win, and that’s heartbreaking. It’s not heartbreaking because she’s a woman and I supported her. It’s heartbreaking because enough of the American people said, “Yeah, I’d like to have this riverboat captain over here perform my brain surgery because it’s time for something different.” Enough said that to give us a riverboat captain performing brain surgery for the next few years.

We did this, and we will get through it. We don’t really have much of a choice, and that brings me back to the upside. As difficult as it has been to find one, here’s my best approximation thus far.

When Hillary started to gain some ground, when she was pacing to be the first female major party nominee, women around the country were reminded our collective social status is still not on par with our abilities. When we saw Clinton take a new step toward breaking that glass ceiling, those of us committed to gender equality as a life goal gained a whole new slew of allies. Representatives of all genders were able to say to one another, “Hey, anything is possible.” We realized we could shatter any societal restrictions or rewrite any damaging stereotypes, and this woman—whether we supported her or not as a political figure—was the one who reminded many of us we still had a fight to win. Feminism had a new charge.

You can argue—with semi-decent numbers—that gender was not the only deciding factor in this race. I am in no way saying it was. Nothing is that simple. What I am saying is this. Sexism is like an STD; it’s there and it’s pretty rampant and most of us don’t know who has it. Even worse, some of us have it and don’t realize it until those unfortunate symptoms pop up. And heaven knows, we don’t talk to each other about it.

Some of us do talk about sexism, though. Some of us also talk about race and ethnicity and nationality. This was an important election cycle for the intersectionality or our identities, as well. For an increasing number of Americans (and to be frank, people around the world), the different facets of these fights are equally valuable. Imagine being a transgender person of color who moved here from another country, witnessing your first American election cycle. I can’t pretend to know how confusing and frustrating that must have been. I’m American and white and would never fake understanding of a position I do not have the privilege to hold. I am, however, a woman, and I can speak to that.

So when we acknowledged Trump was hateful toward women (note I didn’t say “when we realized it” because, come on, we knew), there was considerable outrage. It’s likely there was more of an outcry than had he not been running against a woman because the idea of women still being relegated to second class citizens was so salient. Our new allies, these awakened feminists, watched it waddle in, make a loud quack, and shake some feathers, and for the first time in a while (and perhaps in some of their lives), they said, “Holy crap. It’s a duck.”

We were all thinking about it more when that tape leaked than many of us had been over the previous several years. Without a high profile story to draw attention, many of us struggled internally, asking if we were imagining that the gender canyon still existed, even as we faced ever more complicated issues in gender politics long before this race got rolling (trans rights, same sex marriage, reproductive rights, and so on). Now we had two narratives. We had one Presidential candidate clawing her way toward validity as the first non-male major party candidate, and we had another symbolically knocking her down every step of the way with one patently despicable comment or action after another.

When Romney famously defended himself by saying he had “binders full of women,” that was troublesome. It also didn’t come from the same dark and loathsome place. It was ignorance and lack of exposure more than anything in 2012. I’m not making excuses here, but I am contextualizing two very different sets of comments from two very different people with two very different worldviews. The difference between binders and buses in this case is intent. Romney and others like him who have inadvertently entrenched their loafers and oxfords deep into their esophagi often have no real frame of reference for understanding the damage their gender attitudes can take. So they dig a little deeper even as they think they’re righting the wrongs.

In the case of DJT, there was simply reckless disregard for it.

What that man said on that bus, toward Megyn Kelly, about Rosie O’Donnell, in reference to Alicia Machado, behind the back of his own wife…shall I really go on? What he said in any of those instances came from a place of conscious discrimination against a class of human he has discredited time and again and attempted to pass off as normal “male” behavior.

It’s not normal. My male friends and family members will tell you that. Perhaps (and hopefully) so will yours. Even the rawest and most unpolished of them wouldn’t (and often don’t) dismiss that behavior as “boys” doing “boy things” (although the distinction of “boys” versus “men” is not unimportant here).

So back to that elusive up side.

A woman interviewed on NPR said she knew if Clinton won that she, too, could do anything in the world she set her mind to. I hope that voter still feels that way because she still can. This loss is the end neither of sexism nor the fight against it. A complex and obscure –ism, the light this race has shone on gender-based discrimination cannot be snuffed now just because the election is over and we don’t like the outcome. For better or for worse, we’ve talked about this issue more this election cycle than many found comfortable. But you know what? Who cares if you’re comfortable? I sure as hell don’t.

If nothing else, Hillary’s strength until the end and her opponent’s reckless disregard for the dignity of others has hopefully awakened the beast in more of us, no matter our gender. This race has hopefully exposed more of us to the need to fight and fight bloody hard for gender equality, or it’s reminded women who had become complacent that this fight is not over, and we cannot lay down arms because the woman didn’t win.

Every time someone tells you something you experienced “just doesn’t exist,” remember this race. Every time you are told you’re reacting “on emotion,” remember this race. Every time your voice is treated as the quietest in the room when you know you’re louder than everyone, remember this race. Every time someone tells you your gender is less than someone else’s, for the love of God, remember this race.

Remember you are woman, man, trans, gender fluid, non-binary, and all the other amazing and wonderful things you can be. Mostly, remember you are a person and you are valid, and if Hillary Clinton can wake up today and retain her dignity, so can you…even if someone thinks you’re too fat, too thin, too old, too angry, too prudish, or too not-their-ideal…and even if that person is the next president (little ‘t’ intended).

Please feel free to share your own words, from either side of these moments.

No matter how we align ourselves, we can’t deny that 2016 will take up the majority of the test questions in the history classes of the future.

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