Every now and again there’s an article, a book, that stays with you. Like a meal that stands out in your mind and though the flavor is gone the emotions it elicited remain. Like a scent, a song, the recalling of the idea brings back the response it conjured in you. Such was the pricking of my mind when I read Masha Green’s New Yorker article, “The Unimaginable Reality of American Concentration Camps”, from June 21, 2019.
I wouldn’t be doing it justice to regurgitate the content and extole my opinion when the article stands so well on its own. We’re existing in our own cognitive dissonance these days. A buffoon is at the helm, propped up by corporations and those that profit from having him dance from their strings. We’re caging children because many of us simply fear those that we deem as “other” and dread the loss of privileges that we rarely have earned. We cast him as a joke and it helps soften the reality of his monstrous actions.
My daughter asked me about ERA the other day after reading in one of her history books about the Women’s Movement. It was sweet, painful, and a moment of many layers like most that consist of teaching hard lessons to our children. We researched the Equal Rights Amendment together and I had to prove to her that I wasn’t mistaken, it hasn’t passed. It still has not been ratified. She asked, “If it’s not “ratified” does that mean that rats won’t pass it?” Yes, my sweet child, yes.
Whether you are female, differently abled, neurodivergent, LGBTQ, minority, or an immigrant; we still do not have equal rights to those that hold the majority of positions in power. Our voices undermined as shrill or petulant yet if we allow others to silence us we lose what precious foothold we possess of freedom. For so many of my forty odd years I’ve doubted myself, second guessed my importance, and remained silent while others told me who I was and what I could be. As hard as I try, I still have moments where that is true and I fight against the signs of this that I see in my children. Their otherness doesn’t lessen who they are yet there are those that would tell them that they are not deserving of the same rights as themselves. That their neurodivergence, being autistic, makes them less in their eyes.
I see the pain it causes them. This unspoken judgement of them. It’s when others stare as they melt down in a public place. It’s when people speak about them as if they’re not right in front of them. It’s when someone thoughtlessly comments on how “normal” they seem. It’s when their access to an education is cut off because they are expected to conform to an arbitrary norm. It’s the many slights that dig away at you and add up to a weight on your heart that you carry with you. I have my own that I carry. The judgement of being a child of poverty, a child of a felon, a child of repeated abuse and defilement. It is the cage that those place you in to feel powerful. The chipping away at your freedoms to contain you and lord over you their ability to decide your fate. Where does this leave us? Us, the adults, that must find a sense of peace in the midst of a past and a present that haunts us.
As trite as it sounds, simply to continue to fight and hope for something better. To not accept the fate that others wish for us and choose the one that we want. I look back at the article by Masha Green now and again, I follow her work and others who risk voicing their opinions, and I refuse to remain silent when others wish me to be so. I remind my children that we do not have equal rights but we were meant to in a just world and that we all have to continue to work for the world to be one.
I look at this photo. A twenty-something version of myself. I had been given a new lease on life. Free of an abusive relationship, a new job, a new place to live, the support of friends that loved me more than some that should have in my past. Full of hope, lightness, and a sense that things would be better for me. My friend, Emily, took the photo and gifted me something I rarely have felt in my life until then. That someone believed in me.
Now that I’m firmly in my forties and another birthday has passed, I ask myself if I will ever see a day where my children have the rights they deserve and live in a just world and I want for something more than that hope and ache for a guarantee instead.