March 9, 2016
A scene from The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd has been relentlessly swimming around in my head. It is toward the end of the book when Sarah is essentially breaking away from her family for the last time, and makes a final plea to her Mother to free Handful, which Sarah’s sister, Mary, finds offensive.
“Mary stiffened. ‘We don’t need you to come here and lecture us about slavery. I won’t stand here and defend it to you. It’s our way of life.’
Her words infuriated me. I wondered for a moment if holding my tongue would help my cause with Mother. Was it ever right to sacrifice one’s truth for expedience? Mother would do what she would do, wouldn’t she? I wondered how it was possible I’d found my words out there in the world, but could lose them in the house where I was born.
It gave way inside of me—years of being here, co-existing with the untenable. ‘Your way of life! What does that justify? Slavery is a hell-concocted system, it cannot be defended!’”
Last night I read this article attributing the ascent of Donald Trump to the “activation” of voters with a high degree of authoritarianism, which is characterized by a desire for order and fear of outsiders. The discussion is really interesting, though I am not nearly as surprised by the research as the researchers seem to have been, and the bottom line remains: Explanation for Trump is not justification.
I know people are scared (Thank you, Fox News and all sensationalizing media). I know they feel threatened, and angry, and impotent. I know they want the establishment to be different, as do I. But racism and misogyny and brute force are not the answer and cannot be justified, period.
We need to find a better way, and we need to start by voting a better way. Sarah Grimke didn’t have that right, but thanks in part to her, I do.