It’s yellow, tucked between two sections of “the me journal: A Questionnaire Keepsake.”
Inspired and thinking tonight thanks to Alex Jones and spit-laughing coffee over the secondcivilwarletters hashtag all day, I decided to pick up the little black-bound book for the first time since I bought it.
The page preceding a writing page contains a quote. The first next to the ribbon’s tucked end: “Self is a sea boundless and measureless,” by Kahill Gibran from “The Prophet.” The prompt on the next page: “I am inspired by…” above the writing space.
The ribbon’s origin is here: “When Thales was asked what was difficult, he said, ‘To know one’s self'” by Diogenes Laertius. Prompt on the next page: “Right now I am thinking…”
Oh my. How apropos.
I’m inspired by people like this. And I was troubled before the piece even showed up in my timeline, which timing was also apropos, because she addressed what I had been pondering since November of 2016 — as any white women generally, but for privileged, educated, *professional* white women, how do we do this.
I have a byline in a newspaper. And an editor/publisher, and the journalism credo, unless you’re an op-ed person, which I am not (except here, and not under my byline): “you do not have an opinion. You write the news. Period.”
If I show up at a march with a sign and run into a reader from our semi-rural/suburban burg and that person knows me from a story, what then? My editor/publication is tormented because I’m marching in favor of or against whatever and viewed as a person who can’t write an unbiased story?
Then there’s my friend who owns a very public business patronized by a largely uber conservative clientele. She personally holds progressive views, she’s a feminist, a Democrat, for the most part, a liberal. She took herself off Facebook and moved to another platform, because, she said, she didn’t like all the fighting — which happened on her posts when some of her conservative friends clashed with those whose opinions were more like hers. If someone from her conservative client base saw her at a women’s march? I can only imagine what might happen to her livelihood, which helped put five kids through college.
For my part, I grew up in Jersey. I’ve often told the story of taking on two crusty old senior chiefs when I was 19 years old, after they snarled at me that they didn’t believe “girls” belonged in “their” Navy. Wrong thing to say to a Jersey Girl, boyo. We all learned some solid lessons over that one. I started young, though. My other oft-told tale of taking on bullies happened on the summer camp bus.
Oh, little yellow ribbon, the stories I could tell of times between then and now.
Because I do know myself. It’s something you can’t help when you’re challenged to do it, especially by bullies. Brook’s piece talks about how patriarchy still holds us down, as (paraphrasing) good little girls, nice ladies, who keep their mouths shut and stay in the place dictated to them by men.
I’ve never really done that. See above. I was on active duty when it was a thing for guys to say flat out that women didn’t belong there.
But now, all grown up with businesses and bylines? Where are we? Where does that leave us? Hunkered down, hiding our opinions except under noms de plume, or moving to a fun and poli-free platform page that never mentions conflict?
Perhaps it’s a tricky proposition we haven’t figured out. Maybe it’s easy, but we’re not sure what the fallout might be — or we’re projecting what it could be without giving outing ourselves a public shot.
Some of my other public writer friends are dipping their toes in the pool, torpedoes be damned. One mom blogger I know listed the things she’s doing to fight the horror that’s happening in Washington. I was shocked. I wanted to kiss her. Others can’t. They really can’t. It could be detrimental to spouses’ careers, their kids’ peace.
Which is a shame, and I have to consider with awe the Suffragists, civil rights leaders, peace demonstrators, and all the rest. They didn’t deal with social media, but they sure as hell dealt with very public threats, humiliation, beatings, and jail. They persisted. And here we are.
Full disclosure here, I was a political couch potato for years. That doesn’t mean I didn’t vote and read and know who was who. I did. But there really wasn’t much (hashtag)-resistance going on. I was on my second tour of active duty, stationed in D.C. during the heady Reagan years. I split my time between the Naval Hospital, the Pentagon, and BUMED (the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery). Heck, I even even pet-sat for the Navy Surgeon General’s dogs one weekend when his family was away for a wedding. You can trust me when I tell you I knew a few things.
But nothing slammed down on me quite like watching my shipmates board busses to take them to the port where the USNS COMFORT hospital ship was pulling out to go to the Gulf because no one was sure whether or not we were about to be involved in a war. That ship had been in mothballs before the elder Bush followed Reagan into the White House and decided Desert Shield was going to become Desert Storm. My boss was the guy tasked with cleaning her up and manning her.
The day I got the news, I was standing outside with a friend in the little alcove between the “old” hospital and the newer one when it struck me like a time warp overlay — “Holy shit,” I said to her. “Is this what the beginning of a war feels like?” We stared at each other and smoked cigarettes, a palpable feeling of dread between us. And no words.
I had that same feeling — unreality, fear, uncertainty, devastation — November 9 two years ago.
I had my job back in 1990. I wore a uniform to do it. It’s different now. Now I’ve joined or donated to organizations that are helping — we hope — to try to mitigate some of the damage being wrought by people with no scruples, no conscience, and helped by people who don’t know any better or care to do anything but support them.
I read Brook, and I ponder the points between the tucked-in little ribbon. And I wonder, knowing who I am, and the other women like me, knowing who they are, knowing how we feel, what else can I — what else can we — do.
In any way we can, publicly or privately, though I know. As so many of us always have, we will persist. We will