“Hi! So, what’s the messaging for tonight? Will we mention Roger Goodell’s decision to force the players stand? Will we show the people of color here that the dems have their back? I’m so ready to add my voice!”
She’s excited. The GP Democratic party chair texted her with info about a big anti-hate rally. Said she could stop by the dems HQ to meet others, then head over. After the militia meeting in the park and the white supremacist posters all over town the last month, we’d finally say something, loud, so that the people who are targets in this county know we’re not passively standing by. That we have their backs. That we will stand and say so publicly. Her body and spirit cannot bear another day of silence.
She walks alongside the woman from HQ, whose pace forces her to jog intermittently. The woman shouts her response.
“I don’t know!” She’s smiling, eyes forward, setting the pace.
“Okay! So, do we have an overall theme? A focus, maybe? The Goodell decision connects to all the stuff in town. Maybe we could focus there?”
“I don’t know!” The HQ woman repeats. This time she also offers a shoulder shrug.
They’re coming up to the stairs of the city hall building. There are 30-35 other people here. That many people could really make some noise, get some attention, if they wanted to. Such a good turnout for this place. (A protest a few years earlier drew militia members, who stood around the 7 or 8 protestors, intimidating them into silence.) Her heart starts to rev up. She turns to the HQ woman again, but she’s veered off to meet up with some other folks.
She stands in front of the protestors at the second rally of her life. (Her first was last month in CJ; it changed everything). Little groups are gathered on the landing in front of the building, loosely forming a semi-circle around a man passing out flyers to them. She walks up to the man, who seems to be in charge.
“Hi! I’m Cathy! Brian texted me to join you. I’m so glad we’re all here! Can I ask what the messaging will be tonight? How we’ll do this?”
He’s probably late 60s early 70s, maybe more years. She notices now that they all have some years. Lots of white hair. That’s cool. She also notices it’s only white people. That’s par, and not so cool, but we’re in this county. Whatever. She’s ready to stand alongside anyone who will publicly object to the blatant white supremacist politics inflicted on the NFL players who kneel in honor of dead black men, women, and children who have been murdered by white badge-carrying men and women.
“What do you mean” he tosses back. Not really a question, and wrapped in that familiar “here comes the kid” tone. The “slow it down missy” tone. The “she’s just overwrought” tone. The “she’s been watching too much cable tv news” tone. She’s heard this tone literally thousands of times since moving here. The people with years here lead with it.
She smiles, tries to make eye contact, reaching to connect with him. She looks around at the others, smiles. “I thought we might reference Goodell, you know, and show the people of color here what the dems and Joco Indivisible is all about. Maybe we could stand on the corner where all the cars are driving by. We could raise our fists, shout our support for the players, shout our support for people of color, for free speech.” She looks back at the man, hopefully, waiting.
He doesn’t respond to her. He finally meets her eyes, and looks at her as if she’s speaking another language, one he doesn’t understand. His face looks like it hurts his head to listen to her. He turns and starts handing flyers out again. He ignores her, a tactic that stalks hand-in-hand with the dismissive tone, over and over, like waves crashing against rocks, eroding and eventually annihilating a sense of existence.
She notices now that they’re all just kind of looking at her, all the people with the years. As if she’s from another planet.
Her rage rises. The months and months and months of silence she’s been forced to endure. The disconfirmation. The wall of NO she slams into on a daily basis. At this point, she doesn’t really give a fuck what they think of her. It simply does not matter.
“Isn’t this an anti-hate rally? Rallies are where people raise their voices and bear witness. Let’s raise our voices. Let’s speak truth to power, even if power isn’t listening. Because it’s good for us. Because it empowers us. Even here. Especially here! We need to raise our voices to show support to the people of color in this community. We need to join hands with them, empower them, show them we’re here. We are responsible. If we don’t speak up, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves as white people and dems and Indivisible people. It’s our job to speak up!”
They look at her. They say nothing. The man passing the flyers stops a second to squint at her again, then walks with his bag of flyers to another group, away from her.
“Come on! We have a responsibility as white people in this community! We have a responsibility to speak up and support those who are targets of white supremacists in this community! The posters. The militia barbeque last week. We need to say something. That’s what the good guys do. That’s what dems do. That’s what we’re about. That’s who we are!”
“Why, so we can be like them?” A woman’s deep disdain unexpectedly punches her in the gut.
“What?” She looks around. She doesn’t know who actually responded to her. They just stare at her.
“Who?” She asks no one in particular, searching for the owner of the voice. Stares.
She’s confused. It’s like they can’t hear her words. They feel her, but it’s like they can’t see her or hear what she’s saying. Like being in a nightmare where you can’t move, can’t run.
It is slow. As she expresses her outrage, her shame at being a white person like these people who won’t stand up for what’s right, the loose circle of groups begin creeping backwards. Like, the whole circle of groups is moving in the opposite direction. They are looking at her and backing up, very slowly.
She realizes they think she is mentally ill.