In the last few days, in the wake of the storming of the Capitol my mind is a constant jumble of thoughts, memories, prayers and fears. My anxiety may have started even further back, before the pandemic hit, before I lost my job and a huge chunk of my identity; maybe it began when Hilary lost the election to Trump. I went to bed thinking about how much my life would be different ten years from now, now that we finally had a woman president! Then, as my alarm went off on my phone and I saw headlines that induced head pounding panic, my heart raced. I felt panic; as if Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn was going to come in and give me five minutes to pack up my stuff. The rest of the day I was glued to social media looking for answers as to how things got so off course during the night. Then I read my friend Will’s Facebook post: “Turns out we were the ones in the bubble.” Was it true? How did I not see or know that the entire country was this divided? Or that the division had this much power. As a feminist I was enraged that people were so afraid of a woman being President, they’d vote for anyone that had the pre requisite male anatomy. And to me, that is why we lost the election. Maximum female empowerment had to wait four more years. But Donald Trump?
As Trump’s term continued and the Me Too movement worked to carve a bigger swath of her path and pull back the curtain on the “white man elite,” my bubble was apparently doing just fine. To be fair this wasn’t the first time that I recognized my bubble. My husband always points out where we live and how I’ve lived is not representative of the rest of the country. Living in DC and the DC area for almost 11 years now, I noticed how different North Carolina looked to me on my visits. I noticed conversations were not centered around work and/or news topical, the way they are in DC. This is not a judgement but an observation of how and when that bubble began to take shape. But I didn’t know how to change that and frankly, part of me thought I was lucky in some way to live amongst such like-minded peers. Validation? Perhaps.
After all, I moved to DC; a single 34 year old with no husband or ex-husband or kids, and that was normal for women my age in DC, not always so in North Carolina. I felt in my element and excited to be living and working in the nation’s capital. Saturday and Sunday mornings were filled with “urban hikes,” grabbing coffee and walking to the lion cages at the National Zoo, or down Embassy Row, Rock Creek Park, the monuments around the Tidal Basin, the White House and the US Capitol. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself when it comes to the ‘norms’ of DC but there is something sacred about living in the nation’s capital. When the President’s motorcade drives down Connecticut Ave toward Dupont Circle and the buses have to stop and you can’t get off, until it passes. When your friends and family come to visit and you go to see the Constitution, or the Vietnam Memorial or President Kennedy’s grave. The history of the city when you walk past the Ford Theater and remind yourself this is where Lincoln was shot. Or when you cut over from Dupont to Adams Morgan and look over at the entrance to the Hinkley Hilton and realize Ronald Reagan was shot on this sidewalk.
When I saw the men and women climbing the steps and inching further and further, all I could think was: They aren’t even supposed to be that close to the Capitol?? When they were inside, walking into the rotunda, I was standing in my living room yelling: “They’re attacking, we’re being attacked!” Cue Red Dawn panic. I looked at my husband and wondered ‘what the hell is happening??’ As with most of our jaw-dropping, blood boiling, tear inducing and rage clenching events that have transpired these last nine months, I wondered how did we get here?
Lately I tell myself to think not about how but when did we get here? Have we always been here, in this much contention? I asked my parents, aunts, etc; is this how it was in the 60’s? The answer is an overwhelming “it’s worse” and “this isn’t change, this is a time bomb.” And they are right. The protests of the summer, the riots, the podcasts, the op-eds and the 24 hour news cycle; these platforms aren’t disseminating information, or educating the masses, but making us weary. They subverted us into some tired submission with coverage of the Coronavirus and how it became the new political ping pong ball. That after we pulled our kids out of school, braced and buckled under a lock down that we’ve never imagined, wondered where we could buy groceries, if we could afford groceries… we watched a black man murdered on TV by a police officer. We somehow find ourselves viewing a siege on the nations capital and still we are waiting for change, waiting for answers and waiting for it to be over.
The murder of George Floyd set off a summer of intense debates, division, widening the aisle between me and you, us and them, and the “basket of deplorables,” whose numbers were growing right before our very eyes at every major tv news worthy event. The contrary circus was in town, our new normal and the ring leader is the President of the United States.
We stayed home. We ordered in and tipped big. We washed our hands and wore our masks. We hiked, we rode bikes, we got a blow up pool that only two of the three children could fit in at one time… I did playlists of Mexican music on Taco Tuesday. I invented the Meg-arita. We watched the protests, the news coverage, the trials and we remained silent when friends and family posted information about Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and my favorite: “Defund the Police.” Well I tried to remain mostly silent, I should say…
I am the wife of a police officer. My best friend is a police officer. The father of my children is a police officer. He’s my favorite date night, the handyman, my Santa Claus and my Valentine, and he’s a good guy. Most days I do not think about his occupation, I do not worry about him or where he is, or if he’s going to come home. I can tell you from my experience that being close to someone who is a police officer does change your perspective. Of course it does. I cried yesterday for the families of the Capitol Police. I cried for their silence waiting for an inquiry or commission to clear the men and women just doing their jobs. I prayed to God, to ease the pain of Officer Sicknick’s family. The worst of the worst fear we all carry came true, killed in the line of duty. I am not ambivalent toward his profession but in situations like unrest at the Capitol or kicking in doors not knowing what is on the other side waiting for him: I can do little more than pray for him and his fellow officers. But as the political storm and pundit pounding of the media stirred more and more to point the finger and defund agencies, I realized maybe here I can help.
I lost my job in April. My husband became our sole income provider: a wonderful time for the country and legislators to start a new battle cry of “defund the police” and how we now had to explain to our kids that didn’t mean dad was going to lose his job. What we didn’t tell them was that in July my husband was to receive a raise; a raise that was now sorely needed in our newly one income family. Negotiations were done and my husband’s pay increase was days from being finalized. But now the cries of “Defund the Police!” rang in the ears of county officials. How did I get here? How do I not have a job? How am I now scared for the financial future of my family. How can I make it stop? My bubble had burst.
I was transparent. We talked to the kids. We nodded and approved when they researched their positions and voiced them. We understood, or my husband understood, when they said they don’t tell their friends that he’s a cop. I learned that All Cops Are Bad (ACAB) was something the youth were taking to heart, mind and social media. I evaluated and re-evaluated my position on the issues at hand, changes that felt like they came on the hour. As I was trying to wrap my head around how I felt or leaned, I was clarifying or organizing a stance that I was now associated with for being married to a police officer. I received DM’s and messages from women, wives of police officers about how our silence was not a lack of support. How not all cops are bad, we were married to the good guys. Women I had never met. While I read posts of family and friends about police reform, no knock warrants and defund those racists cops. The police were under mostly verbal fire from what seemed the entire country they were sworn to protect. Police officer became synonymous with racist. No matter how brown my husband’s skin was, he was still one of them. He didn’t quit his job, did that make him an enabler to behavior that he never witnessed first hand? My husband was unshakeable for everyone’s right to voice their opinion. He was easily able to ignore the comments that were baseless and/or uninformed. He wanted people to have an open conversation with him about Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s decision not to prosecute all the officers in the Breonna Taylor case. We wanted to talk about the laws that were broken. Thru my conversations with my husband I have learned he isn’t immune or unaware of the biases in this country by the police and people of color. He has a front row seat. I imagine he sees the nuances of certain situations in his career. Just as if he were a man in a corporate office and watched how his female colleagues are never chosen as team leads, how competent busy women are the first ones asked to help clean up after the office party, or unwillingly privy to “locker room” talk when riding in the car after a lunch outing. These examples are not to make light or draw some ‘no comparison’ response but rather sometimes complacency is validated by preservation or simply following the herd.
My husband and I are liberals. We agree with the need for reform. Social work and policing had become too close for comfort voiced by both agencies and the public. Police budgets were/are not working in tandem with community outreach budgets. But the cops don’t allocate the funds, its the elected officials, I’d allow myself to say on a social media thread. I began to realize many of my social media community took little notice of these local elections, or knew little about which agencies actually managed municipal funds. Those that hold the purse string hold the power, and that’s where I shifted my focus. I began to review the county and state websites for all the elected officials and their bios. I had a head start with my civic minded husband being employed by the county. I volunteered and signed up. I now serve on one council for education and a commission for women’s issues. I found myself applying for all county government and state legislative jobs. No interviews… yet.
My catharsis these days is writing, researching and learning about getting on the ballot in 2022 in my county. I am trying to immerse myself in state legislation and volunteering. I realized I could no longer be affected by the unfolding events without taking action. I no longer said no to myself, and used the reasons: I don’t have a law degree, I am not smart enough, I don’t have time or money. There are never going to be perfect circumstances, or a point arrow sign telling me which path is for me or now is the time.
We cannot be so desensitized by the events of last week, last summer, or the last ten months that we continue to only watch, post and march for a change. The change that I know I am calling for and the changeI believe we all want to see. New law and order that takes research, planning, patience and real understanding coupled with yearning for working toward the greater good. We have endured in a pace toward that progress that seems nothing more than a collective shoulder shrug. We are now days away to the end of four years of a corrupt, self serving and criminally negligent administration. We don’t even know where we are in a global pandemic and we can’t count the ripples we know we will continue to feel for years. Our nation is in search, in need of people to get involved and use our diverse voices to start a conversation that moves us forward on a road of real change, rather than standing on one side or the other and going nowhere.
We still have more hurdles to overcome and the hurdles will keep coming. I have realized my path and am drawing motivation from these events. If the historic moments we’ve experienced and their effects on my life that I have just shared with you have not inspired you; well, that’s ok. For me, in these last nine months, I have learned that I am ready to work harder than I ever have for cohesive progress in our country, our government and my community.