Remember the Ladies

If you were alive on September 11, 2001, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when terrorists brought down the Twin Towers. I was teaching school. When one of my frightened students asked if our country would be okay, I assured her we would, then added, “but the world will never be the same.” That’s how I feel about the 2016 election.

All week I have circled this post. What can I possibly write about this election that hasn’t been said a thousand times? No one wants to read another opinion about Trump or Clinton. This election has left us all exhausted.

Tomorrow we will wake up with a newly elected President, and half the country will feel cheated, unheard, disappointed, even distraught. Either way, I will be one of them.

Going into this election, Clinton made me proud to be a woman, to be an American, to come from a country that applauds diversity and respects human rights. Her campaign evoked a positive, inclusive vision for America. Early on, I decided to vote for Clinton not because she is a woman, but because she is the most qualified candidate in history. Her list of accomplishments amazed and inspired me, and I believed her leadership would continue advancing our nation towards cleaner energy, better healthcare, workplace equality, respect for minorities, help for working parents, equal educational opportunity, a healthier environment, and so much more. I believed we could become a kinder and more compassionate nation. Clinton gave me hope. She still does.

Meanwhile, our nation watched with bemused bewilderment as would-be Republican presidential candidates duked it out, stunned by Trump’s bullying but never believing he could possibly rise. But when he did, those who had said they would never support a man like Trump, suddenly turned and gave him their vote—even members of my own family—simply because he is Republican. Even more confusing: Because Christians have co-opted the Republican Party, Republicans believe Trump is “God’s” candidate—a bewildering, hypocritical delusion. And as my fundamentalist Christian father finally admitted, “I don’t want a woman to be our President.”

This morning, I am trying to make sense of this gathering storm: Of Trump—the narcissistic billionaire bully whose campaign has given voice to toxic masculinity and misogynists, racists, and bigots, whose message spreads conspiracy theories, lies, hatred, and fear. Of Republicans—once a party of “family values”—now chanting “Lock up the bitch,” calling Hillary Clinton a “cunt,” burning churches, spreading violence, preventing minority voter registration, beating up Republican anti-Trump protestors, threatening Clinton supporters, and insinuating that if Clinton becomes President, they will assassinate her. These are Christians, supporting “God’s” candidate. This is why I left the church.

This is more than politics. This is a fight for human rights, for decency and character. This is a battle against exclusivism and racism and xenophobia and homophobia and jingoism and misogyny—the virulent hatred of women—unbridled and unabashed, born from the bowels of religious belief. Though not one ounce of Trump is grounded in religious faith, zealots have glommed onto him like flies on feces. They feed on his apocalyptic vision of Hillary as the anti-Christ bent on destroying the planet, inspiring nationally syndicated radio host Alex Jones to declare that Clinton smells like sulfur because she is a “psychopathic demon from hell.” According to Jones, during the debates “God” sent Christians a sign of Hillary’s demonic possession: A fly landed on her cheek. Jumping on the evil-woman bandwagon, a San Diego Catholic church declared that it would be a “mortal sin to vote Democratic” and that “your immortal soul and your salvation are at stake.”* This is religious fanaticism; and as we have seen in the Middle East, religious fanaticism breeds terrorism.

This election has shone a spotlight on an ocean of hatred filling our country. For as long as I can remember, black Americans have insisted that daily they face the pain of racism; and now, for the first time, I understand their fear (as do millions of immigrants, other minorities, and LGBT). To live in a nation that elevates a man like Donald Trump has triggered in me and in women across our nation the terror and trauma of past sexual assaults. That half of our nation could dismiss Trump’s sexual assaults stuns me. He admits forcing himself on women, kissing them without permission and grabbing their “pussies.” Next month, he will be prosecuted for his alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl (after facing two class action suits this month for defrauding students of Trump University). I feel violated all over again, demeaned and dismissed. The message is: Women Don’t Matter.

Men do not realize or understand the fear many women feel: We live in a rape culture. We’re on high alert when we walk to our cars in a dark parking lot, hike alone on a mountain trail, go to a bar and drink with friends, walk across a college campus, serve in the military alongside men, live alone, jog alone, do anything alone – all of these are risky propositions for women. Men think nothing of this. But it’s not just about rape: it’s about uninvited touching and groping, physical and emotional abuse, sexually-degrading jokes, sexual innuendo, sexually-suggestive comments, wolf whistles, upskirting, objectification, the beauty myth, discrimination, glass ceilings, under-representation, less pay, dismissive and degrading language, condescension, mansplaining, sexism, misogyny. Nearly all of us experience at least one of these every single day. To elevate Donald Trump to within spitting distance of the Presidency is a declaration that all of this is okay. And it is appalling and ignorant for women to uphold this man, vote for this man, declare they would disenfranchise women to elect this man, and wear t-shirts inviting this man to grab their “pussies.” Knowing that almost half of all Americans want this man to be President of the United States terrifies me. I thought we were much better than this.

On November 9th, we will have to face the fallout from this election. We should be celebrating another milestone: Our first female President—the most qualified President in history. A momentous and proud occasion! A demonstration of Democracy at work: Anyone who has prepared and put in the work—female or male; black or white; Atheist or Catholic—can rise to the highest office. Instead, we face the very real possibility that, indeed, anyone can become President, even a corrupt businessman masquerading as an inept “politician” (if we can even call him that)—a man so incompetent, he doesn’t even know the correct date of our elections. But beyond Trump’s buffoonery emerges an insidious threat: Trump supporters filled with hatred and bigotry, believing that “God” is on their side. No matter who emerges as the victor tomorrow (or next week or next month), women and minorities will suffer from this Christian jihad—Trump-inspired terrorism. I’m not afraid of ISIS, I’m afraid of right-wing bigots. With guns.

Republicans already have promised an obstructionist government, opposing President Clinton at every step—no matter what the cost to our country. Even though the Constitution of the United States deliberately separates Church from State, Christians have co-opted the Republican Party and base our secular laws on Biblical scripture. According to them, “God” says no to same-sex marriage, abortion, birth control, homosexuality, women as priests, preachers, or President. How is this any different from Islamic fanaticism and sharia law?

After this election, we Americans will continue to struggle between a Republican religious mandate and a Democratic secular ideal. So what will our country become? A fascist, theocratic state, or a liberated democracy; a country that erects walls, or a nation that celebrates diversity; a people that rewards men for sexually assaulting women, bullying journalists and political opponents, stealing from contractors, skirting tax laws, and discriminating against minorities, or that honors those who uphold our laws, have integrity, and show respect and compassion for others?

This election has revealed the true colors of our neighbors, family, and friends, and deeply wounded and divided Americans. Our next President must try to heal and reunite this nation. Trump has shown that he doesn’t care about unity—he builds walls and division. Clinton strives for connections and compassion. People who have worked for or with Clinton describe her greatest strength—listening. That’s what we need to heal.

I would love to end this post on a positive note, but I just can’t. The joy I thought I would feel as the first woman becomes President is gravely overshadowed by the Cult of Trump, beating the drums of a rigged election and casting the shadow of an illegitimate presidency. The Cult of Trump will call for Clinton’s impeachment, she’ll face investigations, they’ll chant “lock her up,” she’ll face obstructionist Republicans. Experts already are calling this a slow coup—the gradual undercutting and overthrowing of our President. This is not going away.

Clinton is not a threat to our country—Ignorance is: Fear. Hatred. Violence. Bigotry. Conspiracy Theories. Lies. Partisan Politics. These will destroy America. Our political system is broken because politicians are more concerned about political infighting and cronyism than helping our country, exacerbated by a ratings-driven media that grab our attention with violence and conspiracy theories.

Former FOX talk show host Glenn Beck recently realized how his incendiary comments had hurt America. He changed his ways after hearing Michelle Obama condemn Donald Trump’s vulgar behavior: “It doesn’t matter what party you belong to—Democrat, Republican, Independent—no woman deserves to be treated this way.” He finally understood. Where once Beck had called Obama a racist and Clinton a “stereotypical bitch,” he now regrets his words and insists we must listen to others to understand. His former followers now threaten Beck for denouncing Trump, for describing the mogul as “dangerously unhinged.” Beck observes: “We’ve made everything into a game show, and now we’re reaping the consequences of it. . . . So much of what I used to believe was either always a sham or has been made into a sham. There’s nothing deep.”

Our nation has struggled mightily throughout this long election. Though it has felt as if our nation is unraveling, I believe these battles are the growing pains of a young nation moving toward maturity. Whomever we elect today will lead us tomorrow—either toward walls and darkness, or freedom and light. I’m not naïve enough to believe that Clinton can solve all our country’s ills—we’ll all have to pitch in and help her do that—but I believe she will lead us in the right direction, if the Republicans will let her. I’ve also lived long enough to know that our choices define who we are, as individuals and as a nation. And now we must choose. Former Presidents, Republican senators, 370 world economists, even the Pope all stand behind Hillary Clinton. Supporting Trump are his children, Scott Baio, reluctant Republicans, the NRA, the KKK, and Ted Nugent—a man I once booed at a rock concert for yelling, “Buffalo has the best pussy in the world!” For me, the choice is clear.

On a hot August day in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment came before the Tennessee State Legislature. Thirty-five other states had already ratified the amendment: One more state was needed to give women the right to vote. But it didn’t look good. Each side “showed their colors” by the rose in their lapel: yellow roses represented Suffragists, while Anti-suffragists wore red. Judging from the number of red versus yellow roses, it appeared the amendment would be defeated 49 - 47. After the first roll call, one representative changed his vote, creating a tie. After the second roll call, the vote remained deadlocked: 48 – 48. Tempers flared. Nerves frayed. A third roll was called. When Harry Burns, the youngest member of the legislature, was called to vote, he felt in his breast pocket a note that he had just received from his mother, who wrote, “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage!” And though he wore a red rose, he said Aye! and delivered the right to vote to women.

One hundred and fifty years earlier, Abigail Adams had written to her husband John Adams, future President of the United States, and urged him to "Remember the ladies" when fighting for America's independence: "Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies . . ."

If you are on the fence, feeling cheated, unheard, disappointed, even distraught, I ask of you this one thing: Please remember the ladies and use your vote. We need your voice!

Thank you.

© 2016 Ellen Antonelli

* The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego denounced this proclamation.

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