(Prose) The US Election in 2016… Interesting Times by Liona Rowan

USA election 2016 © Liona Rowan
USA election 2016 © Liona Rowan

As I sit here looking at this blank page trying to figure out how to start, I decided to start just like this. Telling you about my process as I try to untangle my feelings, my beliefs, my opinions so that I can make a coherent and cogent statement. This will be somewhat stream of consciousness mixed in with deeply thought-about ideas and reflections on just what is going on in me as a result of what is going on in the world right now. It is March 2016, an election year. This is the most extended and appalling election cycle of my nearly fifty-five years. I cannot wait for it to be over, and yet I am filled with dread at the prospects of what could happen next. Truly. If Cruz is elected, or Trump, well I could end up in a camp someplace to be burned or baked or shot as a traitor because I’m not Christian, or simply because I have been involved in some revolt someplace, or for simply voicing an opinion that I do not like any of the Republican candidates. Who knows. Or perhaps Sanders will win and the house and senate will be in control of the Democrats or maybe Clinton will win.   It is a long time until November.

It would appear that the right is in a race to get us back to the Dark Ages in a hurry. If one only listened to the Republicans or Tea Baggers (yes I know that is derogatory; it was meant to be) or their propaganda arm, all of the news stations, one might be tempted to believe that women are not sentient beings (even women will spew this type of hate at women thinking they are the “exceptional woman,” but any person with even a passing understanding of history must know this just isn’t going to end in their favor—but I digress.). I am a woman. I am fully sentient. I am fully human. It seems like I shouldn’t have to say that, but, clearly, I DO. I have the right (or perhaps I’m just taking the right given the political climate) to decide what does or does not happen to my body, by whom and when. My sleep does not give consent, my state of drunkenness does not give consent, my marital status, my state of dress or lack thereof does not give consent to ANYTHING. Not sex, not forced pregnancy, not conversation, not medical treatments of any kind, not photographs, nothing except my words given freely without coercion can give consent to anything.

It makes me weary that I even have to say that. But I do, given the fact that in the last four years or so over 500 laws have been passed in various states to take away my rights to my body. In thirty-one states a RAPIST can sue for custody. THIRTY-ONE STATES! There is so much more and so much worse to report about this, but that is not my focus at this time. I’m wondering why there are so many men that feel that they know what is best for women they don’t know. I am wondering how men—that do not know when menstruation starts, what it is for, that it is a monthly occurrence, are not really clear how birth control pills work (or that they are used to treat so many other illnesses from acute acne to severe menstrual pains), or how pretty much any kind of birth control works—feel that they are qualified to make decisions about abortion, birth control and appropriate sex education for women and for men (which clearly, a goodly number of these elected officials did not receive). Woo, that is a long sentence.

Which brings me to the fact that these men are actually elected. ELECTED into their offices so they can strip me and every other woman of her right to be a full citizen of this country. Who is voting for these people?! Why?! I know in Texas, where I am living now, Rafael “Ted” Cruz was elected by less than 4% of the eligible voting population. Why? Because people don’t vote. People don’t vote in Texas because it is a huge pain in the ass to vote here. The sample ballots are buried in the official websites, you have to research every single candidate one by one instead of having each one named on one website with their stated views by their photo. I am a serial voter, meaning that I have voted in nearly every election since I turned 18. I have two graduate degrees; research, I know how to do it. Trying to find WHEN elections are held, WHO is running, WHAT party they are in, WHAT their platform is, WHERE to vote is a fucking nightmare in this state. Yes, yes, I used profanity, but really, it is just that hard. Whenever I find pertinent information I post and share as much as possible, but one person can only do so much. Texas has, and has had, the lowest voter turnout of any state and the people that DO vote seem to want to live in a totalitarian Christian state. Voter apathy paired with what appears to be a concerted effort to discourage voting leads to Rafael “Ted” Cruz representing our state when it appears everyone except the 4% of the electorate that actually voted, hates him.

Laws related to separation of church and state are regularly broken in public schools. Title IX violations are as common as chewing gum stuck under tables. The casualness of the school staff towards breaking a large variety of laws is shocking. The “traditional” gender roles are enforced by kids and adults. At my son’s public school during gym class, the boys in the co-ed gym class were playing football. The girls were just sort of wandering around. Half of the boys had their shirts on, half of them had their shirts off. DURING SCHOOL HOURS! I went to the office to report a dress code violation. The secretary looked surprised that I was annoyed. I asked, “Can the girls take their shirts off?” She, of course, looked shocked and said, “No!” I said, “Then the boys should not have their shirts off; it is a Title IX violation.” She suggested I speak to the vice principal. I said, “I would love to.” She went to his office to ask him to come out, and I could practically hear his eyes roll. He did not come out. He told her to tell me, “He’d look into it.” This is the same school that sends girls home for their bra straps showing, or their hems not being long enough…

There are also prayer circles around the flag in the mornings… yep. Prayer circles.   You can bet your bottom dollar they are not Jewish prayer circles, or Muslim prayer circles, or Hindu or Pagan or really anything other than Christian prayer circles. This was declared constitutional as long as it is “student led.” Yep, student-led my ass. There is also a lot of religious paraphernalia allowed in the classrooms. One teacher has many photos of Mother Teresa and crosses pasted all over her classroom. Heavy sigh. I mean it is shocking to me. No one seems bothered. One child in another school was being bullied because he was Buddhist. His family was from Asia (I can’t remember what country, it doesn’t matter for this example). The parents did what parents do and went to the school to look for some sort of resolution. The principal suggested that they CHANGE THEIR RELIGION. Yep, the principal. Civil rights? First Amendment? Who needs ’em?!

I know I am rambling. It is just all so intertwined… the casual misogyny, the casual religious discrimination, the casual “boys will be boys” attitude that is enforced as much by women as by men. I live in a very Republican county in Texas. It appears that, while they hold the flag in high esteem, they do not hold the Constitution in high esteem.   Honestly, I just don’t understand it. Even the waitress at dinner last night wished us “a blessed evening.” Now, while you may be thinking she was just being kind—yeah, kind with the full force of the Christian religious hegemony behind her—she had no idea whether or not we were Christian because it is none of her business. Just as HER religion is none of mine. Not only is it none of my business I have the right to go out to dinner and not have someone else’s religion rammed down my throat, no matter how well intentioned or sweet the delivery. I mean, how hard is it to say, “Have a nice evening!” I know, I have been a server on and off for well over thirty years.

So far, I have not mentioned the casual racism, it’s in there! I am a white woman. No one questions whether or not I am racist here. It is assumed. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the phrase, “I’m not a racist but…” only to hear some of the most racist shit I have ever heard. Which I then have to challenge. Because, well, that shit is fucked up, and not ok. I doubt that I have changed anyone’s mind about anything, but I now have a reputation for calling people on their shit. What that has brought me is relief from hearing it. However, I bring this up because it is always there. Always. There are some places where it is less intense, but it is never gone.

Now back to this election cycle. Donald Trump. Heavy sigh. He is playing on all of the casual misogyny, racism, religious hegemony, white male as normative beliefs that many people have been keeping under wraps. He does this by saying he is not “PC.” His followers LOVE that because they believe that being required to treat other humans as humans is more than they should be required to do. That all of this “PC shit” is discriminating against them. You know, the poor oppressed white guys who would be as rich as Donald Trump if their women would only get back in the kitchen and all the people of color would go back where they came from. Never stopping to think what would actually happen if any of those things actually DID happen. Donald Trump didn’t earn his money. He inherited his money. Just like his children will inherit money from him. Trump has lighted a fire under this tinderbox, and he is using his words like a bellows to feed the flames. Cruz and Kasich are no better. Although the irony of Cruz being an immigrant seems to be completely lost on him. That all by itself should disqualify him from office, but whatever.

A Trump presidency is one of the scariest things I have ever contemplated. Watching his numbers go up and up… I keep reminding myself that this is just the registered voters that vote in primaries… This is not a good representation of our country. There are more good people in this country than bad. More love than hate. Trump doesn’t say anything. I mean, he says words, but they don’t have any substance. There is no how, or what, or why he is going to do anything to “Make America Great Again.” He just says we are going to win. Meanwhile what does fall out of his face that is comprehensible is reprehensible. He spews hatred against anyone and everyone. The news, liberal media my ass, does nothing but cater to him. They get their ratings and we get fucked.

Online “news” sources are no better. There is name calling across the board from all sides. There is no objective journalism anywhere. The Internet gives voice, and fans the flames of hatreds of all sorts, liberals hating conservatives, men hating women. My god, how men hate women, except you know, when they are looking at naked photos of them. The vitriol from all sides against all sides. IT IS BREAKING MY HEART!! I am not being sarcastic or ironic here. It is truly shocking to me. A presidential candidate, who has a real chance of winning the office of the presidency, is talking about how well-endowed he is in a debate. A DEBATE! Political ads that equate Hillary Clinton, another contender for the presidency with a good chance of winning, to a yippy dog. For REAL?! How have we sunk so low as a nation?

What happened to, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Was what I was taught in school—that America is a place of freedom, a place of refuge and safety—just crap? My mother is an immigrant. Nearly all of the adult women in my life as a child were immigrants, as were many of the men. They all believed in the American dream. A dream of equality. I realize that there are many, many for whom this has never been a reality, which to me means we must try harder to make our society, our country more equitable, more just, not just say, “fuck it” and turn it into a shit show of hatred.

It is NOT OK with me that our government is refusing, REFUSING to do its job. It is NOT OK with me that presidential candidates are using their platform to incite violence and hatred against immigrants, religions, women, people of color. Living in Texas I sometimes feel like I am swimming in a sea of hatred with a veneer of politeness… unless I say the wrong thing. Then, I get a “well bless your heart” which is really the polite southern way of saying, “fuck you.” Honestly, I prefer the New Jersey way of saying, “fuck you” which, conveniently, is “fuck you.”   I don’t pretend to be nice to people I don’t like. I am polite. There is a difference. There is a lot to be said for using one’s manners. Please and thank you; excuse me; I beg your pardon; I mean the list is long. GAH!

This is not what I want to say. I want to say that we are better than this. We must be better than this. If we turn on each other we will have a civil war. If we turn on each other with the amount of guns in this country we will be fleeing to Syria.   If Trump becomes president, or even Cruz, remember lots of other countries have nuclear capabilities. Not the least of which is North Korea. Imagine the diplomacy at play between Trump or Cruz and Kim Jong-un. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Or if that doesn’t make your blood run cold, think about the endless wars either of them will start, or when Trump or Cruz actually DOES try to “get rid of all the Muslims.” Have we learned nothing? World War II wasn’t THAT long ago. Korea? Vietnam? Desert Storm? Shock and Awe? Is this why the powers that be want to eliminate abortion and birth control, keep the poor, poor, eliminate food stamps, AFDC, Social Security, and every other social welfare program, fan the flames of hatred and fear so that they can use us and our children for fodder for their wars? I mean exactly how much money do people need? How much power? And how much will either of those serve you if you win and you are the only one left and the planet is dead.

Why are we letting them?

See (Meet Mago Contributor) Liona Rowan

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Susan Hawthorne

So relieved to read your post. I am in Australia and feel exactly the same as you and now it is even worse with Trump trumpeting his various victories. I feel despair at the ways in which election campaigns are being run. Take care. I hope you can get through this. Not that there are any simple answers.