this one is for my mother
I’m not one to watch convention coverage. I think the only time I’ve ever watched it, willingly–as an adult–was when Barack Obama was elected. Because I had seen him, a while before that, give an incredible speech that gave me hope. It was the one and only time I didn’t regret watching anything political.
Truth be told, I hate politics. As an INFP, it’s my worst nightmare. This massive charade that happens every four years where people lie and promise anything to be elected–and everyone fights about the lies and promises. I hate that, up until Obama’s election, our country was almost exclusively run by rich, white men. I hate all of it. Every single thing about it. It makes me cringe.
Most of all, I hate what it does to me. See–despite hating it–I feel compelled to watch and engage it because I actually give a shit about my country. It’s one of my values. And we INFPs fucking show up for our values. I remember going to register to vote the minute I was able to, and I have always been an activist at heart. Ask my 4th grade teacher.
But politics–man, they piss me off. The more I talk about it, the more mad I get. And when I’m talking about things, it’s because they matter to me–it’s because I have stories and connections to these issues. It’s not hypothetical to me.
And sometimes, for a minute, I lose my mind and go there–to that place I hate so much. Only to reign myself in a few minutes later. So, mostly, I avoid these things. And I tried to last night–mostly because I hate this year’s politicking more than any other in the history of my lifetime. But–of course–I got pulled in. A near miss is in Philly now, repping Colorado’s Bernie delegation. (Yes–he is one of the ones chanting. He is also probably mad at me). He’s a good, decent man who believes that Bernie is the second coming and that he was robbed. For the record, I was a big Bernie fan. I am 99% with him on the issues. (No, really, I took a quiz). I own two Bernie shirts. Unheard of for me. I loved him until I didn’t. And mostly, it was because I hated the people–men, mostly–who thought that supporting Bernie meant tearing down Hillary. Which–I get–and wasn’t really that disturbed by…because it’s a dogfight. Until the attacks against her became about her gender. Until they started questioning her qualifications to lead–when they embraced Obama–despite his lack of experience. When they painted her in very specific misogynistic ways. And I jumped off the Bernie bandwagon when he did nothing to address this misogyny. Maybe because it was too risky. Maybe because he shared their closet misogyny. I don’t know. But it stopped me cold. And just as I could never ever support Trump because he is a racist, classist, sexist imbecile…I couldn’t support a candidate that didn’t kick intolerance of any kind to the curb in his own following.
I am not the only woman who feels that way. And if you really want to know why Bernie lost–that would be why. It was a failure to lead. It was a lack of integrity. It was a lack of guts and a lack of a foundation in put up or shut up. When you look at all Bernie’s plans, there is little substance. Like Trump, it’s a bunch of talk. He says he’s this or that, but when it mattered–he didn’t hold his own supporters to the ideal of decency. And that, my friends, is what I needed from him. The worst part–though–is how little regard so many male Bernie supporters have for women’s experience. When I told men how I witnessed Bernie Bros doing despicable things, they dismissed it as bad behavior–but not misogyny. As a woman, though, it was so clear. And it was clear to every woman I talked to about it. And it was deeply troubling. As troubling to us as the attacks on Planned Parenthood. Because as much as we experience sexism on the daily–these were are friends…so-called good, liberal men who were supposed to have our backs. And even they engaged it and condoned it. Just like Bernie.
But that is not what this blog is about.
And then there’s Twitter–because always Twitter–and all the people who spoke about Michelle Obama’s speech last night. And so, I found her speech and watched. And remembered something about what matters. Which is why I’m writing this now–and why I waited to write it until today.
Michelle Obama’s speech moved me to tears last night. But not because of the reasons many were moved. It was because it made me remember my mother. Just as the day it was clear Hillary won–I was overcome with an emotion I didn’t realize I had. That the world was shifting–that–if I ever had a daughter–the idea of a female candidate for President wouldn’t be ridiculous as it was my entire life. I was this mix of overjoyed, proud, and overcome with admiration for this woman who fought so hard for something that should be so simple. It really didn’t matter to me what they said about her. I had never been a huge fan of Hillary–but, in that moment, I saw her. I saw what she did, and I was so fucking grateful.
The year my Mama got sick, John Kerry ran for President with John Edwards. I remember he came to my old neighborhood–knocked on doors–and I remember my Mama calling me–breathlessly–saying he had stopped by and given her a pin.
My Mama loved John Kerry. She was a member of the generation that was inspired by Kennedy. She’d lived through the civil rights era and grew up in a highly segregated, sleepy little city in North Dakota. She’d never seen anyone who wasn’t white or Native American until she left North Dakota to meet my father.
Mama had a child when she was 13, that died at birth. And another that died when he was two, in her early 20s. She was taught that a woman was only worth being a wife and mother. And she made that her life’s work–along with cleaning up after people at various hotels. She was a damn good mother. But she never believed in herself. What she didn’t do for herself, she poured into me. Into this belief that I could be anything–that there would be no barriers for me.
She wore John Kerry’s pin till the day she went into open heart surgery. He had lost weeks before, but I never told her. Her heart was already broken.
Last night, I thought about all the things my mother has missed since she died that day in December of 2004. Not just in my life–but in the world. She would be so puzzled by technology and likely never would have adopted it–opting instead for me to do things for her. She never would have imagined a black president let alone a female nominee. She would have called Barack her Honeylamb–yelled at the TV over Trump–liked Bernie–but voted for Hillary.
And she would have cried watching Michelle speak. Because everything my mother ever did was for her child.
But last night, I thought of my mother–of the world I live in now–with all these open doors–with all these options…and all these obstacles too. And I thought of her strength and her loyalty–even on the edge of death. I thought of all the things she sacrificed. All the things all the women in my life have sacrificed. And I wept.
Because for me, everything was for her. And I just wish she was here to see this. Even just the possibility. But in so many ways, I’m so glad she’s not here to witness all the rest of our collective broken hearts.
In a few weeks, I will open a duffel bag filled with my mother’s clothes–plus a few scrapbooks and my baby book–full of locks of my hair from the time I existed.
In that bag, I will eventually find her John Kerry pin and the cow slipper socks she never got to wear for after her surgery. And I will decide if it will join me as I walk through yet another door without her.