Often I have expressed how gratifying, satisfying and humbling it is to me when my sweet supportive friends comment that I have provided them with insight and precisely spoken the unexpressed feelings and emotions which were in their hearts. That’s an honor that comes with a great sense of responsibility to keep my wheels on the high road and avoid exit ramps of frivolity and crassness and fast-and-loose facts.
My insight comes from insatiable reading, incessant pondering, incapacitating-at-times empathy that allows me to often-weepily feel the pain of others. But I can only process all of that, as long as my heart remains tender to prick; open to understanding.
If you’ve followed me for two days, you know how much I love President Obama; how much I respect who he is; how grateful I am to have lived through and been a part of this poignant moment in history when a man who would have still had to use a separate water fountain when he was four years old, became the president of a county where only 13% of the population is black. His achievement and the advancement in white thinking and white feelings in such a short period, is overwhelming.
Many times I have lamented the rooted-in-hate born-of-fear blindness that afflicts conservative religious whitefolk and has kept them for eight years from seeing the greatness in President Obama. To me it is so openly obvious that I can’t fathom why they are so unable to put aside me-first self-centered white-privilege-preserving attitudes and go with the moment, celebrating history and progress and humanity.
I wasn’t going to be them.
My profound sadness over President Obama’s time in the Oval Office drawing to a close kept me on the sidelines, even as I was leaning Bernie. I even voted for him in March after — for the first time in my life — standing in the booth for several minutes, still unable to make up my mind.
But my heart began to say otherwise.
The 11-hour inquisition of a lone female by five snide and sneering menfolk; the menfolk callously re-starting the debate on live national television after a bathroom break with the lone female participant still in the bathroom; hammering on an email issue that had been ignored when handled identically by previous menfolk; badgering on the manner in which non-earth-shattering emails were stored when they had remained silent in the face of Bush deleting emails that could have shed light on 9/11 and Iraq and torture — were all things which pushed me towards her.
By April I was fully in her corner, primarily due to my decreasing ability to discern any appreciable difference between one angry old red-faced white man and another angry old red-faced white man. Or the hate and crassness and rowdiness of the supporters of one, compared to the hate and crassness and rowdiness of the supporters of the other.
You can call it sexist if you like, but I love her calming feminine demeanor.
I was in her corner, but still, I didn’t “get” it.
I identified with her when the macho menfolk held her to a different standard and treated her unfairly. I gravitated to her out of revulsion to unrefined rowdiness and unbridled masculinity brimming from the boys. I respected her most-extensive-in-history resume. And her embrace of The Greatest President and his support of her, warmed my heart.
But I didn’t fully “get” it.
My heart wasn’t in it.
I lacked the insight necessary to engage my heart.
Until I listened — with ears sensitive to emotion and heart open to understanding — to my sweet supportive friends. And understood the magnitude of their moment. I knew my grandmother had died at age 95 in 2008 longing for this day. I didn’t know that every woman knows at least one person who didn’t live to see this day for which they had dreamed and worked so long. I didn’t know that so many of my regular readers — probably half of whom are females in their 60s and 70s — have their own heart-wrenching stories of why this day is so important. I didn’t know that they have personally looked forward to this day all of their lives. I didn’t understand how crushed they were eight years ago when their long-desired moment in history evaporated.
This time, they — the ones who are always so sweet to let me know that I touched their heart or expressed their heart or provided insight — they touched my heart; they provided me with the insight.
My Damascus-Road moment came after reading a comment written by my dear friend Claudia Baird, a country girl (her words) living in the mountains of Crested Butte. She penned these words as an introduction to my “Why I Chose Her” essay that she shared on her page:
“I remember when I couldn’t have a credit card in my name, and I remember when my then husband had to give consent before I could have a life-saving hysterectomy. I remember when, as a newly single woman, my male boss had to sign so I could have power in my rented home. To see a woman nominated for President of the United States in my lifetime is a very powerful thing. I’m overwhelmed.”
I just flat-out cried as I read that.
If you don’t “get” it just from reading her heartrending words, my tedious explanation won’t help you.
This isn’t something you get from argument and logic. You get this from opening your heart and listening…listening without agenda; listening without self-interest; without fear of change; without trying to preserve your privilege.
This is a moment in history paralleled only by the moment eight years ago when we liberals nominated the first black president. Don’t be like conservatives and let this moment pass you by because you’re too vested in your own self to open your heart to others. Grieve over your lost revolution as women did eight years ago. But then open your hearts to the wonders that lie ahead and be cognizant of the horror that lies ahead if you don’t.