The above photo was taken in May of 2016 by a newspaper photographer as they opened the gates to a Bernie Sanders rally in San Jose, CA. The temperature was already in the 80s early in the morning. It reached the high 90 if not 100s. While I am sweating in this photo, I soon ran out of liquids in my body. Succumbing to heat exhaustion, sheltering under my sign with gooseflesh and a dazed mind made the whole experience feel as physically desperate as it did politically.
At this rally, a young woman approached me with wonder in her eyes and asked repeatedly who I was and who I was with. Not understanding what she was after, I eventually told her that I was an author, and she said, "What you're doing is very powerful. Archetypes are very powerful. Is there somewhere I can go to see your work?" Dressed as Katniss Everdeen from the dystopian novels The Hunger Games, I realized then that I never posted on my author social media about my political beliefs. At that moment, however, after seeing her response, I did. I unabashedly shared my political views. I volunteered for the campaign, I canvassed, and I marched. It took a thick skin that I didn't have going in, for to wear your heart on your sleeve is to open yourself to attack. I had volunteered in an attempt to pull myself out of my first real bout of clinical depression by fighting for something I believed in, and thankfully, it worked. My skin thickened, my heart softened, and with each new experience outside of my comfort zone, I grew.
2016 was a year of massive change both personally and politically. I lost my beloved aunt and my dog. I was cracked open by a mental illness I had never experienced so gravely, and I was remade all the more vibrantly. I traveled, I adventured, I advocated, and I met my current beau in a pub in Ireland. My energy was powerful. Change is a cataclysm for reforging identity.
We are going through that same experience now as a nation. These are birthing pains. We shall overcome and we shall emerge renewed.
My political views do not align with any one party. In some ways, I am a liberal redneck. There was a lot of hatred flung at me in 2016 for simply wearing a shirt, and no, it was not generally from Trump supporters. My mother, sister and I were shrieked at by another woman that we should all be guillotined for marching in the local Pride parade, holding a Bernie banner. This woman's partner was wearing a Hillary shirt. I won't list the rest of my experiences here, but pretending that I didn't see her rabid expression and the veins bulging in her neck as she shrieked hatred at us, continuing to smile and march on even though I was trembling inside, gave me a glimpse, just a glimpse, of what it is like to live without the protection of my privilege.
Where does such hatred come from that we neglect basic decency? That we can fling scornful words at each other? That we can harm one another? That we can kill?
When Bernie lost the nomination in the summer of 2016, I shared my belief that Donald Trump would be our next president. I was laughed at, mocked, and told that I was in with a "fringe group" and that I'd been brainwashed. Now, in 2020, I can say that I was right. I was on the streets. I was talking to locals. I knew how fierce the desire for radical change was, even back then. That desire in the general populace is far stronger now, and the people still are not being listened to.
I haven't posted anything about this election on my professional social media and hardly any on my private. I am in a different place in my life than I was in 2016. There are a lot of health issues going on with my loved ones, including my mother's cancer, and I knew I just didn't have the emotional bandwidth to expose myself to that hatred again and again.
That was a choice I made. Most people of color do not have that choice. They experience it every day. Every day.
The events unfolding in our nation have left me shocked and horrified. The murder of George Floyd should never have happened. Guns should never have been pulled on my friends based on the color of their skin. Even my brother has had a gun pulled on him my police because they decided he looked poor and assumed he had stolen the TV in the back of his truck. Racial and socio-economic profiling is a very real thing and it is getting out of hand.
The police brutality showcased in the past 48 hours turns my stomach. There is no excuse. However, we also ask an impossible thing of our police officers: to serve as soldiers with PTSD on the front line where the "enemy" is their fellow citizens. They should not be allowed to serve on the streets following a traumatic incident. Our force should be rotated regularly to give officers' minds a chance to heal so that their sources of trauma are not repeatedly reinforced.
I don't have the answers. I'm just a girl whistling a mockingjay tune. But I stand with my black brothers and sisters. I stand for the forging of a new America that does not turn a blind eye to corruption and hatred. I stand for our right to non-violently protest and to take to the streets when our voices go unheard.
I stand for justice and liberty for all.