Fear and Other F-Words
Originally posted at 5:30 PM 11/6/2018 — Election Day
One of the things people my age (solidly middle aged Gen X) mark as a “where were you?” moment is the 1986 Challenger shuttle explosion. I was in ninth grade, and having lunch in the cafeteria at Herbert M. Slauson Junior High school.
I was not one of the people who watched it happen because their science or social studies teacher was showing it live, and I didn’t see that much contemporaneous footage, because my family didn’t have a TV. But I did see the vapor trail comet on the front page of the paper the next day, and in LIFE magazine and everywhere else that marked that year. And I saw the horrified faces of Christa McAuliffe’s parents, captured at the moment they realized what was happening. I always thought broadcasting that was a dick move on the part of the photographer and the media. (I checked to make sure this isn’t them)
Last night I had a feeling of helplessness. I wasn’t sure there was anything more I could do. I filled in and deposited my ballot two weeks ago. I wrote post cards to voters in GA, I supported a couple dozen candidates around the country, I put up yard signs. I was (and am) stuck waiting. A couple of memes I’ve seen today analogized the feeling to waiting for a grade on a group project, or waiting for biopsy results. I remembered how I felt in 2016, lying in bed getting my kids to sleep, and watching people reacting on facebook with rage, eroding hope, disbelief, grief, and rage all over again. I couldn’t quite put a name to the combination of what I felt before and my fear of feeling it again. It came to me that the only thing that felt similar to the 2016 election results was the Challenger disaster. It was something that should have gone fine, beautifully even. A diverse, optimistic crew, a school teacher, a feel good moment for everyone.
Instead everyone got a numbing sense of “what…?” followed by more, “No….what?!” Just like all the pictures all day election day in 2016, of everyone voting, flashing their stickers, and feeling hope. Then watching our democracy blow up and rain shrapnel on us.
The first time you feel something like that, the surprise is a big part of it. It’s not a thing you worry about beforehand, except in the abstract. Sure, shuttle launches are dangerous, but space travel was almost kinda normal in the 80s. After that though, we knew to fear it. We knew that we were watching something that could go terribly wrong.
That’s how I felt last night. Watching something happen, from a distance, having no ability to do anything more than what I already have, and knowing that something could go wrong, and worst of all, knowing how I will actually feel when it does, because I’ve felt it before.
After crying real tears in my car on the way home, I got to the house and checked my email (anyone who has ever tried to email me will know I was in serious straits to actually check my gmail). I wasn’t looking for candidate emails (i knew there would be an arseload of them), but I saw that I actually had a few from that very afternoon. Candidates were STILL asking for money. I could still do something.
So I gave to MJ Hegar at 8 pm the night before election day. She’s the combat veteran helicopter pilot who was wounded after three tours in Afghanistan and is running a long shot campaign against an incumbent GOPer in the 31st Texas Congressional district. I’d hadn’t given to her before, because although I admire her, she was a long shot, and also, like several other D candidates, they’re basically what would have been Rs when I was younger, so there’s a little more internal resistance. (yeah, yeah, I know, it’s the leadership we’re after).
I gave to Hegar because she’s one of the women to challenge the long standing prohibition of women in combat positions. She took multiple bullets for our country, but slammed into a promotion ceiling at exactly the point that her male peers would be moving into senior roles. Now she and about a dozen other women armed service veterans are running for office.
The “capacity” of women to be soldiers, lawyers, doctors, and really anything requiring education or traditionally “masculine” courage and bravado has been the subject of truly ridiculous legal argument in the last 150 years or so. E.g., women have no place in the courtroom because scary, icky stuff gets discussed there (like rape, violence, and other things that happen. To Women). The proponents of this crap used what passed for science to back them up: “our uterus would shrink if we studied too much”-type science.
Science has gotten better since the 1860s or the 1920s. We’ve gotten better about biology. and physics. We’re not talking about phrenology anymore, or wandering uteruses. But right up until the last few years, we’ve used “science” to explain why women can be shot full of holes, but not become generals. And we have an administration that is trying (without much success) to claim “science” supports biases about binary versus bimodal gender in humans. MJ Hegar is a walking, talking F.U. to fate, fear, and partisan pseudo-science
I’m still terrified. I’m going to be terrified for at least another three, probably more like 13 hours. But tomorrow, or the day after that, I’ll be back at it. I’ll find something else to do, even if I can’t contribute to a candidate. Someone will be having a fight worth fighting.
Originally published at ragecreationjoy.wordpress.com on November 8, 2018.