Please Don't Tell Me To Calm Down
Last week my older brother texted me that he’d booked his vacation for next summer – I joked, “That’s only if we’re all still alive by then, hahaha!” I was only kind of joking.
He wrote back, “Huh?”
I wrote back, “You know…climate change horrors, nuclear war threats, civil war threats? Read any news lately?”
He thinks the news is too depressing. He has a sort of peripheral understanding that Trump is a maniacal asshole in the way you hear stories about that one family member like, “What did he do now?” but still manage to avoid direct confrontation.
Meanwhile, I add more duct tape to my “earthquake kit” which also has iodine pills and enough food to last for a week because calling it a “nuclear fall out kit” would make me “crazy” and people would start to tell me to calm down.
But then again I’m fine.
Because I spend most of my nights talking to my husband about my otherwise normal day and watching old episodes of Game of Thrones and it starts to feel like old times – the time before we had a narcissist Nazi as our president.
I get so angry when I let my mind think about people I know who voted for him. Or who voted for a third party. Or who didn’t vote.
Last November for the first time in my life I feared an actual nuclear holocaust as a result of his rise to power. I feared for the future of my children by way of education, climate change, healthcare, and things that as white men they will be less affected by but that still matter. Sexism. Racism.
“Your life will not change very much,” they said, condescendingly. Which is another way to say, “Calm down.”
It’s true in a way: My life is pretty good. I have a happy marriage, I have two beautiful and healthy children who are being well educated and well cared for while I go to a job I love and my husband goes to a job he loves and no one is afraid of being deported or shot or that we’ll be in financial ruin if someone has a brush with a major health issue which is likely going to happen because no one dies of old age.
And yet still, I can’t help but feel like all those November fears are coming true. Or will soon enough.
A few weeks ago I put this sign in our yard without much discussion about it other than to say to my husband, “I bought a sign and I want to put it in our yard.”
I do not know what it feels like to be an “other” other than to be a woman which comes with its own dark cycle of self-reflection and realization and anger and I think that may have to be another blog…but I wanted to tell people that I am an ally because so often I feel myself drowning in white guilt. And this felt like a way to do that.
But I kept thinking about the four neighbors we have two streets up from us, who had collectively posted Trump paraphernalia during the election and long after that included a GIANT FUCKING BANNER SIGN flapping in the wind. I was scared, suddenly, that they would ask me about it.
Chris asked me about it: Is this how we want to promote our political beliefs?
I told him it felt like he was telling me to calm down.
He said that if it were really important to me that it would be important to him, too. But that I just did it, without talking to him about it and by doing so I’m not including him in a public pronouncing of a political belief system that has the potential to start up drama.
You’re being dramatic is just like saying “calm down.”
But he was right in a way. I confessed that I was anxious about it. I felt naked. I felt exposed. And maybe this wasn’t the best way for us to be active in our community. And I did feel bad about not including him but the truth is I had a feeling he wouldn’t be into it…not because he disagreed with the message, but because he doesn’t like attention of any kind. And this calls attention.
I’d publicly professed my excitement about having this sign in our yard on social media and here I was not 24 hours later feeling naïve and ill equipped to manage the responsibility even with my own husband.
In fact, writing this makes me feel like I’m exposing our own inner workings as a couple. And that too feels overwhelming.
Sure it’s possible we could live a peaceful existence where no one would ever mention the sign or anything about it forever. And yes I could have kept it up out of spite for feeling like someone told me to calm down.
It’s just that I’m so sad that I live in a country where people refuse to acknowledge that it’s okay to be supportive of good, loyal, service minded police officers and also understand that there is an ugly history of brutality and unchecked anger toward black people.
I can’t understand why someone has a hard time explaining to their children what it means to be in a same sex relationship, yet feel it’s okay to openly and outwardly hate another person because of the color of their skin or of their religion or ethnicity. Or believe that it’s okay for them to be deported when they’ve lived here their entire life and know nothing else.
I don’t understand why people refuse to believe in science because they read some fake news story on the Internet and they have allowed the fear of that article to overcome their logical inquisitive minds that know better. The science of climate change doesn't care if you don't believe in it...as evidenced by the events of the past two weeks.
For now, I’ve taken the sign down and have bought a really expensive beautifully carved version to hang proudly in our house – a compromise with myself, and something my husband is completely on board with. If you come into our home, you can chose to have this conversation with us – but odds are if you’re in our home you’re an ally anyway. Because I don’t have time for people who don’t believe in human decency and kindness. And I also don’t have time for people to tell me to calm down.