I’ve lived by this bumper sticker adage ever since I can remember. For all kinds of reasons, I have been a sass and a half since childhood. I know that some of you will be surprised to learn that there was a time when I had to force myself to speak up. Like most girls, as I morphed into a prepubescent 12 year-old, I could not talk; I turned inward. I learned that when I spoke up, my voice wasn’t welcomed. And as I came out of the coma of hormones I became a 15 year old spitfire of rage. It was then that I learned to use my anger to yell out loud, be vocal, and to never stop talking about what I believe in.
Yet in my middle-agedness I am finding it harder to speak up, speak out. I am still passionate, to be sure. But that passion has become tempered with time. It’s not so brash; so loud; so ‘in your face.’ And that is only natural I suppose. It could be caused by the dailiness of mothering. Or maybe that I am finally finding some norm without my girly parts, an evenness that comes with medicinal estrogen replacement and has smoothed the rough edges of my youthful fury.
Whatever the cause, since last week in Tucson –the shooting in my hometown; the gendered violence against Gabby Giffords– I have been silenced. I can’t barely speak about my feelings. I have tried to write and re-write and delete and start again in an effort to express my thoughts. My initial response to hearing the news about the shooting, the deaths, the bullets, the crazy-town stalker – was outright deep in my bones, fear. Since last week I have tried to vocalize how I feel about this event and I just can’t. I just cannot say how afraid I am.
Living in a city not too far from Tucson, the hometown that I share with Gabby, and being under siege since I got here, to this toohotcity, has been hard to take. It’s the little things that get to you. Being called names or having your car keyed for a wrong kind of bumper sticker. Being followed almost home and threatened by men who know that I’ve helped their wives leave them in my job as a DV social worker. Being maligned and bullied by neighbors because we read — not the right kind of books that are sold en bulk at outlets like Costco or Walmart; we don’t consume ghost-written trite from Glen Beck or Sarah Palin in this house.
So that while I am not a feminist in hiding, I have learned to not be openly progressive amongst people I do not know here. I’ve learned to try keep a low profile. To accept graciously when someone says they’ll pray for me, never challenging their assumptions that I believe in their Christian god. I’ve learned to never explain my hedonistic ”Mary” collection that has everything to do with my mamaness and nothing to do with any g*d the people around me worship.
The truth is that I am scared because while Tucson maybe a place that can take pride in its diverse community, I do not live there anymore. Tucson is a fine exemplar of “America, where a white Catholic male Republican judge was murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon, all eulogized by our African American President.” in the wake of this national tragedy. But Tucson never did speak for the rest of the state of Arizona. Tucson is a mid-sized university community and as I’ve stated before, a bastion of liberalism in a sea of conservative right-wing politicking.
While I can’t quite contextualize where this will lead, I know that I have to keep writing, keep talking, continue trying to express why what happens here has an impact out there in the real world that we live in. And while I do think it’s beneficial, even generous, to talk about gun control, lacking mental health services, and calming the violent political rhetoric, I just don’t think that is enough.
So if you can tell that as I write this that my voice shaking, know that I am scared; but I intend to keep talking, to continue advocating, to be here in spite of my fear.