12 – 13 min read.
Forward: I started the process for this piece on May 7th. I am closing it out on June 24th. Like my Sophomore English teacher wrote in the graded margin of my short story, “the ending is a little rushed.” But I’m done, I’ve said what I want to say, and there aren’t enough hours in my lifetime to refine and clarify my thoughts to my satisfaction. So here we are.
“What are you doing this weekend? Want to attend a protest against the abortion clinic?”
I can’t say these were the exact words of the plucky, intelligent and deeply caring junior high friend who asked me to join her and the group organizing this protest, but that was the impression it left me. And I can’t recall my exact words back to her, but I likely stuttered and declined – not challenging her desire to protest abortion and now exploring my ideas about her and why it felt wrong to attend. We were 14, maybe 15. I remember being thrown off by the proposal. I had been raised Catholic; she might have known that and assumed I was in line with her thinking. But unbeknownst to her, I had already begun deconstructing my feelings around the church, and I couldn’t co-sign being pro-life. I also had an interest in possibly pursuing social work within the foster care system or child protective services. My early exposure to the horrendous acts of child abuse through the book “A Child Called It” and watching Lifetime movies about runaways – made it known to me that there were people out there that needed a support system and a safe space to turn. But my growing awareness that the system was filled with red tape and left people behind let me know it wasn’t perfect. In my teenage brain, the math wasn’t adding up. Why should women who are incapable of caring for a child be forced to carry their pregnancy? Adoption doesn’t always work out for the child. The foster care system is strained and is another area for bad actors to hide. The idea of eliminating the option for abortion only led me to ask more questions about the support system for the children.
So on May 2nd, 2022 when Politico’s article “Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows” breaks and the fallout is plastered across the headlines and social media with the same talking points my teenage brain had been working through twenty years ago – I was fired up. I wanted to understand the whole picture and the arguments on both sides. Dissect the flawed logic in the pro-life view and counter with stats that eviscerated the notion that giving states power to determine abortion access wouldn’t be incredibly damaging to society.
A piece that would first highlight the long-term health implications for people due to OBGYNs and medical physicians being ill-equipped to perform procedures for people who are experiencing a miscarriage or have a life-threatening pregnancy. The essential need for body autonomy in a medical space. Present that the argument “abortion is used as birth control” completely negates the fact that it’s a difficult choice for any person to make and one that most don’t take lightly but are thankful for the option. An unwanted pregnancy isn’t out of an act of irresponsibility, and a child shouldn’t be born as a “consequence of one’s action” like a character-building punishment. Limiting access based on the viability of life, a philosophical debate that excludes quality of life, vilifies the <1% who have to make that choice at 21+ weeks. The late-stage abortion is a likely indicator that something has gone terribly wrong with the pregnancy and the choice should be received with support, love, and grace in this devastating time. Abortion was never in the plan, but now they find themselves at the doors of a dark decision.
Then bring up stats around adoption rates and the foster care system. Indicate the risks for those that do not have a stable family option – express the intense stressors and potential trauma that impacts one’s ability to thrive in society when they lack a healthy home environment. For example, 80% of children in foster care have significant mental health issues and 75% of girls who have been within the foster care system* are pregnant by 21, limiting their ability for upward mobility. And finally, I was going to tie up the piece with a statement from the perspective of a spiritual person who returned to Catholicism, saying if God gave us free will are we not playing God by eliminating the women’s right to choose. Pregnancy is a personal journey and should be honored as such.
Basically, a dissertation on Abortion in America for a self-assigned Ph.D. program. The ambitious assignment ended with a thirty-six slide Powerpoint filled with notes, 15 plus links, and 7 to-be-read tabs open in Google Chrome. Each article sprouted a new branch of questions, and while chipping away at my dissertation for my inner professor, the headlines moved on, and there was a shooting in Buffalo. Ten Black people killed by a mass shooter in a grocery store located in a predominately black neighborhood. The motive — to prevent the elimination of the White race.
Again, social media is a flutter, but this time not as loud. Because although I follow Black creators and friends on my Instagram, accounts that are active in highlighting when White supremacy rears its ugly head and people who publicly engage in the act of bearing witness to the heartbreak in the world – it’s not the majority of accounts I follow. In my algorithmic bubble, Buffalo did not receive story after story of reposted content. The inescapable rhetoric only occurs when something directly impacts the majority. Emotionally driven to cry out the injustice, this incident didn’t hit my bubbles threshold for mass dissemination. One could analyze the reasons for this shift in behavior. Is it an indicator of the desensitization around the violence towards Black Americans or simply the result of burnout from the Roe v. Wade passion posting? I’m not judging people based on a social media observation. Measuring the whole of a person based on their social activity is today’s version of “judging the book by the cover,” you can get an idea, a good curated synopsis, maybe even cliff notes, but we don’t know the person line by line – we miss most of the nuance. There is no rule book for expressing oneself around the horror of our human existence. The idea of “doing enough” is a bottomless pit that guilt and shame love to attach themselves to – do not allow social media behavior to feed those feelings.
I didn’t repost the words of someone else’s outrage. I didn’t reach out and check on my Black friends. However, I listened to what they were saying and will always stop to listen to their thoughts and experience. The Buffalo Supermarket shooting is another reminder of the deep systemic issues around race that plague society. A malware humming in the background. The human psyche normalizes or finds ways to cope with ongoing anxiety, so I understand what the disruptive, ice-cold water of reality race-based tragedy can feel like. It shakes one out of the cocoon of mental safety and brings the pain right back up to the surface.
Humanity has used othering as a form of survival from the dawn of time. It’s a survival instinct. Othering can be based on various factors, but it’s a us vs. them as there is safety in numbers. When I drove across the South in 2014, a dream road trip through a part of the country I’d always been fascinated with due to early exposure to “Gone With the Wind” and heroic stories of people within the civil rights movement. I toyed with the idea of dying my hair turquoise but decided against it because I knew having my normal brown hair would make life easier. Not knowing the prejudice I might encounter cause of alt-colored hair, in a territory known for its propensity to “other people,” I choose to avoid it as a way to simplify the adventure. I made a biased decision against the people of the South around something I could control. I was exercising a privilege I know other BIPOC individuals can’t easily make.
I understand there is resistance around the conversation of privilege and White supremacy. It baffles me, cause to me it’s simple. However, I am aware that the ideas are politicized and characters have agendas that cause people to tune out. I don’t want someone to tune out. So the following is expressed to simply illustrate why to me it’s clear as day that it exists; cause we all have it (privilege) and live under or amongst it (White supremacy). Whatever small advantage you have had above someone else, in any particular situation, is when your privilege has shown. And every time you felt your features or behavior didn’t fit some Eurocentric idea of perfection, that’s a form of White supremacy. Our country, and other European colonized countries, are founded on White supremacy because of the ideas and values of White Europeans that shaped it to where we are today. And there has been opposition, thankfully, that has fostered the diversity and expansion of our culture and emotional intelligence. There have also been good Whites along the way, but White supremacy exists, and I hope one day it will become so minute it will be like when the flat earth society only had two members. However, due to the ever-growing feeling of lack and fear, fighting each other over a metaphorical space to lay our heads down and protect our families. I’m not sure what progress we will make – I’m optimistic. But then the flat earth society has 225,108 followers on Facebook, and sadly, I don’t think it’s a majority of hate follows.
It’s insanity. We live in a maddening world that forces us to question everything and ourselves. In the search for answers we latch onto data, comforting conspiracy theories, spiritual beliefs, you name it, and combine our favorite pieces of information into a gooey healing balm for our psyche and say it’s going to get better. But then it doesn’t, cause we’ll have another affliction to swallow, but this time its children – 19 innocent children (and two adults).
Headlines stitched together from keywords “school shooting” and “Uvalde, Texas”. A disturbed 18-year-old purchased two AR platform riles from a federally licensed gun store and 375 rounds of 5.56 caliber ammunition a few days after his birthday. In the school he enters to commit murder, the police will stand outside the active shooter situation for 45 mins while a mother runs into the school to find her children. Matthew McConaughey becomes the voice of reason for gun control.
The Word doc for this article is titled “big piece” because I had the spark to write something, and then as the weeks unfolded, the objective, the voice, and the purpose morphed and evolved. As the tedium of everyday life disrupts the creative process, so did the traumatic events that fueled the words on the page. Outlines in the form of early morning word vomit in my journal, trying to deconstruct and understand the world through my thoughts and experiences.
Today, Roe v. Wade has been overturned. I don’t like hyperbole or emotional manipulation when it comes to politics, but it’s hard not to look at a map of the United States with trigger laws on abortion in place and not think – this is how the dystopian America that the movies warned us about begins. And yet, it can’t be ignored that many in this country have already been living in a dystopian nightmare of restricted access to fundamental rights and needs, this is just what happens when it knocks on the doors of “safe” middle-class neighborhoods. The attacks on personhood from the government to civilians is and has always been constant, perhaps the only difference is the rate and our consumption of the trauma.
I’m scared about what happens next. I don’t like what I see, but I refuse to turn a blind eye. And I’m privileged (currently) with financial stability and the freedoms awarded to me because I was born, raised, and currently still reside in California – and when you have privilege, you use it to help others.
Fighting a low-grade depression for months now, and it coming to a head while crafting this babble; I have a sense I won’t want to continue to write about current events. My off-hours bliss is not found in being an argumentative mouthpiece or writing a thoroughly researched persuasive argument. The anxiety knowing that there are angles of the tesseract that I have excluded gnaw at me. I have an awareness of the neverending wheel of horrors, home and abroad, and consistent commentary or speculation isn’t my aim. Also, I can’t keep up. I am the slow kid finishing the mile run, coming in huffing and puffing, wheezing as I bend over in pain from the knowledge that this will all happen again and again and again and again. All the hate, pain, suffering, death, violence and whatever other adjectives that describe the dark low vibrational frequency of existence is the same coin different side to joy, elation, love, pleasure, comfort, and subsequent adjectives that describe a bright light higher vibrational state. A utopia doesn’t exist outside of us but within us, and we influence the world by doing whatever in our power to create that utopia outside of us. Collectively a shared vision is lovely but impossible, as everyone will have some altering view – but if we can sign off on respect, support, and openness to being our guardrails, I think we can get closer.
Black bar censorship on collage images is to respect the likeness of people who have not chosen to be used for this art piece but utilize the symbolic representation of the figures. The following references have been used in this piece; Empire Records, Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Paris is Burning, and Pose.