It’s been a hell of a year so far.
Not just as a woman, but as a student of Journalism, I have to say I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. When I look back at my adult life from today’s uncertainty – I can’t help but recognize some parallels. It helps, also, to remember the hopeless desperation I’ve experienced in the past and realize that even despite the worst of my bad days, I’m still surviving.
When George W. Bush became the president in January of 2001, I was 21 years old and fiercely independent… except that I wasn’t. I hadn’t yet grown out of my parents’ ideologies or financial support. I thought a conservative POTUS would protect our gun rights and make the White House respectable again. I didn’t pay much attention to the news, but I loved my father and respected his beliefs. Except the racism – that part I rejected.
Facebook didn’t exist yet, I had no children, and even my email address was from some arcane hotmail (AOL?) domain that may or may not still exist. It was the year my life would change drastically, and I didn’t have enough experience of the world to really be worried about it yet.
The last few months of 2001 would change our whole country – but for me personally, it was a violent shift in reality of both micro and macro proportions. I got pregnant in August, and spent the entire day of September 11th working a retail shift completely alone in a failing shopping mall before the age of smartphones. Pregnant. Single. Disconnected.
On the cusp of the 21st century, I spent 8 eternal hours that day listening to the radio for updates and talking on a phone that was connected to the wall with an 8 foot cord. Thankfully, I had no television at hand to watch that second plane slice into the tower over and over again. That came in the days to follow.
Eight months after the 9/11 tragedy, I became a single mom. That fall I signed away my soul for the first round of what would eventually become a six-figure student loan debt. Through the years of being without health insurance, reduced to a statistic, a housewife, a commuter, an underpaid reporter, an “independent contractor”, and finally a divorced single mother with a degree – I grew up.
I learned that no one wanted to take my handgun, that democrats weren’t another species, and that republicans were not the defenders of financial freedom that my father had made them out to be.
That 21 year old retail employee who thought she had seen some shit – she gradually faded away. Awareness became my passion, and studying the news and media opened my eyes to the world outside my own viewpoint.
I eventually recognized that despite my struggles with homelessness, poverty, and family dysfunction; my life had been privileged. There was always someone with enough sympathy to help me out, if I looked hard or compromised my principles enough. My ordeals up to that point were softened by my whiteness, by my middle-class experiences and connections. The day I spent in that shopping mall, watching the anchor stores close their doors one by one, was an entirely new ordeal. The beginning of an entirely new series of them.
That mall is a church now -bought out from the owners, and reorganized into a sanctuary and some Christian stores. Everything seems to have shifted for American society since then, from our news media to our government to our faith in human decency. Shopping malls and churches aren’t even distinguishable anymore. Still, We Persist.
So what new terrors will 2017 bring? POTUS 45 is currently ruling the executive office like a self-concerned teenager with a god-complex, and has appointed a cabinet of the same type of cronies who gave us the 2008 recession.
George W’s follies from ’01 – ’08 made the headlines just as heated and profoundly controversial as today’s. Maybe more so, because despite his failings and his blatant shortcomings as a public speaker – at least he was an experienced politician. Moderate conservatives were still able to look to him as a leader they could respect, follow, profit from. Foreign leaders could at least recognize him as capable of navigating the political landscape.
Today’s moderate conservatives seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s hard to admit you’ve been holding the reins as the cart is careening toward a cliff, and even harder to pull back on them. In order to support the current administration, they have to overlook more than just poor spelling and thinly veiled insincerity. The biggest economic downturn since our country’s Great Depression notwithstanding, some folks still really liked W.
Obama pulled us out of the recession, made strategic victories for disenfranchised groups of Americans, and breathed new hope into the working class. So many of us are better off than we were 8 or 10 years ago that I fear we all have too much to lose. How likely are we to rise up and get woke, when we’re worried about keeping the jobs and supporting the families that we have all been blessed with since Obama took the helm?
Whatever happens in the next four years (or less) we have to be willing to find places to step up and defend the progress we’ve made as a country. Financially, socially, and culturally – the United States IS greater right now than it was in the past. The administration’s current propaganda machine is pumping out anti-America talking points and statistics that are patently, demonstrably false. We must fight back with facts. We can’t let history be re-written, just because right now we’re comfortable enough to let someone else do the protesting.
We have to remember where we’ve been, and the cost of doing nothing. We must persist.