I have this vision of the Oval Office having “FUCK FUCK SHIT FUCK”s bouncing off the walls like molecules pinging in boiling water.
It is not uncommon for that now-golden-hued room to hear expletives, but I’m betting that as the days unroll with the word “Russia” in each sentence, the “Shit, fuck, damn’s” have been accelerating and getting progressively louder. (And amusing side note: When searching “trump White House expletives,” the suggestions at the bottom of the page all had Bannon’s name in them. Hilarious… and expected.)
For 100 days, I cried and wrung my hands in terror that someone in the White House would accidentally (or on purpose) hit The Red Button and our world would be annihilated.
During those first 100 days, with every stroke of the president’s pen that removed women and children’s rights, that signed away our natural resources so the rich could get richer, that created enormous doses of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, ordering the confiscation and deportation of people struggling to stay alive and on and on and on… and with every bizarre cabinet appointment, my heart broke and despair settled in.
I was directed by my doctors to stop watching the news because all it did was submerge me deeper into depression. I was joined by millions of others who had the new PTSD diagnosis called President Trump Stress Disorder, our nation’s leader now holding the distinction of being the first president to have an anxiety disorder named after him.
An epidemic is sweeping the nation, causing sufferers to experience feelings of hopeless doom, certain annihilation and cataclysmic collapse. It’s an existential plague manifesting itself by enveloping the stricken in a black cloud of despairing suicidal thoughts. The malady that is striking down innocent citizens left and lefter is … the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. It is literally making people sick.
But now, with the variety of Russian headlines intertwined with you all in that Oval Office, I am glued to the TV, the real news, (what you call the “fake news,”) and I sit on the edge of my seat waiting for the next delicious morsel of information.
“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.
I wrote about my introduction to working with immigrants in ICE Burns: My Early Doula Clients. In 1990-1991, I volunteered as a doula at a Planned Parenthood Prenatal Program in San Diego, California.
El Paso, Texas
When I moved back to Orlando in 1993, I stopped for 3 months at Casa de Nacimiento, a birth center (now closed) in El Paso, Texas. 99.9% of the clients coming through Casa were immigrant women from Mexico, usually Ciudad Juárez. My Spanish, school-acquired, then practiced with the doula clients in San Diego, became second-nature in El Paso.
While Casa gave me an amazing education and taught me many skills, there are lingering worries about being a White person using the immigrant women as practice specimens… a reverse voluntourism experience. I will write about these feelings separately; they are deep and complicated.
I was not as woke about the White Savior Complex as I am now, so merely tried to be the best student midwife I could be. I loved these women and their families. I loved talking to them, learning about their Mexican lives (which were slightly different than the Mexicans’ experiences in San Diego). I purposefully kept my heart open, wanting to be a positive birth worker for the women coming and going through the center’s doors. Those 3 months in El Paso remain some of my most wondrous life memories. While most people despise the city, I found it alive with culture and magic.
Getting from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso for prenatal appointments was often a hit or miss experience for the birth center’s clients depending on which officer was patrolling the border bridge that day.
“It had not been easy: The visa that allowed her to cross back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. is expensive, and she had had to prove she had money in the bank and a reason to return to Mexico to be granted it. The lines at the border between Juarez and El Paso can take hours, and border agents are said to sometimes tear up the visas of women who are noticeably pregnant. Some women end up giving birth on the bridge between Juarez and El Paso because of delays….”
When the border was closed to even those with visas, the pregnant and laboring women, with their families, trudged through the Rio Grande River… day and night… to cross into the United States. They often walked miles to reach the birth center.
Crossing the Rio Grande was bad enough, but the water was/is disgustingly polluted. American maquiladoras rose on Mexican soil years ago as a way to bypass manufacturing regulations implemented in the United States. With so little oversight, the maquiladoras also freely dump their waste, including poisonous chemicals, directly into the river… the same one laboring women were walking through. On several occasions, we would give a river-soaked woman a shower before she felt clean enough to have her midwifery appointment or birth her baby.
I remember one visit down to the edge of the river to help a nursing mom up the slope, the surface of the water had an oil (or gasoline) slick on it as well as scum like this:
All because Border Patrol would feel holier-than-thou and not let people over the bridge even with valid visas.
I’ve not been to El Paso or Ciudad Juárez since 2002, but the border topic, with #45 in power, has a new focus.
In Raids, they are knocking on doors, stopping people in shopping centers, going to workplaces, setting up checkpoints to examine papers and licenses and other vile ways to take, what seems to include, non-criminal folks who have been in this country sometimes for 20+ years.
Hiba Ghalib, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta, said the ICE detentions were causing “mass confusion” in the immigrant community. She said she had heard reports of ICE agents going door-to-door in one largely Hispanic neighborhood, asking people to present their papers.
“People are panicking,” Ghalib said. “People are really, really scared.”
I cannot even imagine how terrifying it must be to hear footsteps outside your door, then even worse if there is a knock.
My Early History with Immigrant Women
I’ve spent an enormous amount of time with birthing immigrant families, most from Mexico, but others from all over Central and South America, as well. From Orlando, El Paso and San Diego, I was a midwife and doula to several hundred immigrants over a 20-year period.
My first experiences were when I volunteered to work at Planned Parenthood as a doula to their (99%+) Spanish-speaking-only prenatal care clients. My Spanish was school-learned at that time; I became fluent over the years. I made many language mistakes along the way.
While the women did not all work, a myriad did, usually cleaning houses and/or being a nanny for White, often English-speaking-only people. The partners (almost always husbands) worked anywhere they could. Plenty were migrant farmworkers.
A White Observer
My care as a doula began by going to all prenatal visits during the pregnancy and visiting their home twice, making sure they had the supplies necessary for the new baby. It was not uncommon to take mom to the store, kids in tow, and buy her bags of groceries because there was nothing but rice in the cupboards. Everything from toilet paper to diapers were needed by my clients. I foraged wherever I could to find what they needed.
It had to have been difficult to have (yet another) White person enter their home and see how they lived. Would I judge? (No!) Would I think they were bad parents and turn them in to CPS? (No.) It was nice after the first couple of women let the others know I was a decent person and could be trusted.
My role as doula continued by going to the client’s home when she was in early labor, then taking her to the hospital as labor progressed. (Doulas do not transport clients anymore because of liability.)
Once in the hospital, I remained with the client and her partner (if he chose to come and/or stay in the room) until after the baby was born, including helping her get started with breastfeeding. I translated from Spanish to English so the nurses and doctors knew what she was saying and needing.
You know how many women choose an epidural for pain relief in labor? Back in 1990, an epidural was not an option for women on Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid).
Do you hear that?
Women on Medi-Cal could not get an epidural for pain relief.
If my immigrant clients thought they might want an epidural, they had to give a $1000 down-payment or it was simply not an option.
The controversy over Medi-Cal rates was highlighted further through news stories about physicians charging Medi-Cal recipients for services. The Los Angeles Times reported on the practice of some physicians and hospitals illegally forcing Medi-Cal beneficiaries to pay cash for epidural anesthesia during childbirth. The physicians named in the story maintained that they had to demand payment from the patients to cover their costs because Medi-Cal payments were insufficient.
My History with Immigrants
Over the years, I worked at Planned Parenthood, overseeing one of their Prenatal Programs, then, in 1993 and again from 2000-2001, went to Casa de Nacimiento in El Paso, Texas, my path towards becoming a midwife. In 1994, I worked under a CDC grant at the Farmworker Association of Florida as a Spanish-speaking HIV/STD educator for female migrant farmworkers.
As we watch the decreasing rights for immigrants in the US, ICE hunting men, women & children down for deportation, my heart aches. I know, because I know, some of the people being shoved out of our country are the women whose hands I held during labor, the babies-turned-children-turned-teens I helped into the world and the fathers who took care of their families working the fields and doing whatever they could to pay the bills.
(For some amazingly strange reason, this post cannot be formatted correctly, no matter if I work in WYSIWYG or HTML; I have tried for 2 days to fix it, to no avail. I apologize for the bizarre lack of paragraph breaks/doubling of paragraph breaks.)
I have a theory (that has surely already been discussed in other places) that the new administration has an entire strategy to create as much turmoil as possible, knowing there would be protests (because the Women’s March on Washington was planned well in advance of the Inauguration), then seeing even more protests with each Executive Order, their idea took on greater and greater maniacal glee.
You learn activism by doing it, they said. One of the main obstacles to activism is the idea that you have to be an expert to do it —
Because there are so many causes to fight, it can be challenging to protest everything one feels strongly about. Surely, the administration is having a field day cheering that fact.
I see people in my own life swirling around, grasping at causes willy-nilly, protesting 1 one day and another, 2 days later. This frenetic energy cannot possibly be maintained. Speaking up, living in crisis mode, changing one’s life patterns, even for a short time can exhaust someone, causing Outrage Fatigue.
Every morning, we wake up to a fresh Trumpian outrage, as the orange one’s fat little thumbs have tapped out the latest vitriol via Twitter before we lift our weary heads off of the keyboards we fell asleep on because we were up past midnight planning how to block his Cabinet, or save ACA, or get to Burr and Tillis, or, respond to Russian hacking. Is it any wonder that some of us are experiencing outrage fatigue?
As the Day of His Ascendence (formerly known as Inauguration Day) approaches, the more the sense of impending doom and inevitability grows. After the election, outrage and disbelief propelled many into passionate, but ultimately quixotic pursuits. Flipping the electors. The Jill Stein recount. As those prospects faded away, and the names and hideous bios of Trump’s Cabinet appointees came out, many geared up to protest and block that odious pack of cronies, capitalists, and cranks from running the country. Lists of committees were drawn up, scripts written, action plans mobilized. The GOP then ganged up on ACA, as Trump fanned the flames. No, no, protest that! many online cried. Russian allegations exploded; Trump kept tweeting. Crooked media! Overrated Streep! All-talk John Lewis!
As sure as I am sitting here, the White House and even much of Congress are devising ways to wreak havoc on America and betting “libtards” will be out en masse protesting within a couple of hours. They are counting on it. So far, we are not disappointing them.
But with the passage of time, people become numb and mute, collapsing with exhaustion, creating an open, wide and clear, path for the “president’s” coup to complete itself. (And I do believe we are in the middle of a coup!)
Long-time protesters each speak about outrage fatigue, previously called burnout, in their stories. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) movement and even the LGBT(QAI+) (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersex, etc.) all find themselves teaching younger generations how to avoid the outrage fatigue that comes with long battles, ones we are surely just beginning with this “president.”
What I Can Do!
I have Bipolar Disorder and struggle with depression and must be hyper-vigilant to not become overwhelmed with sadness and pain, something that’s been quite a challenge the last 6 months or so, increasing each day. I’m also physically disabled, unable to go out into the streets to protest.
But I can write.
Since the Inauguration, I have been sitting back and pondering… considering what cause resonated most with me, which one I would be most effective battling.
What bubbled to the top was Censorship.
As a writer/blogger, I’ve been censored several times, from Blogger slamming my blog shut for having nude women (giving birth and breastfeeding!) to my midwifery licensing organization strong-arming me to “edit” one of the most important blog posts I’ve ever written. (I did and deleted the original, something that still brings tears 9 years later.)
Government censorship has always made me crazy, but it’s been over there… you know, in other countries.
Until this “president” brought it front and center in the United States.
I could enumerate so many examples, but the loudest and most obnoxious recently came from “president steve bannon” when, on January 26, 2017, in the New York Times, he said:
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while….”
You can imagine the response.
From shock to hysterical laughter, CNN’s Jake Tapper gave the best answer of all; an emphatic, “NO.”
My Strategy to Avoid Outrage Fatigue
I have chosen to focus on that one strength of mine… writing… and the topic that most resonates… Censorship.
This way, I will be able to pace myself. During the couple of weeks with this new strategy, I’m finding myself able to see-and-toss the non-censorship posts, news pieces and videos, but am seeing, quickly and clearly, the pieces that relate to me specifically. This prevents news overload, which pulls me down towards depression. It is, sometimes, challenging to ignore the information on the periphery, but as I do, I find myself more and more at peace.
By focusing on my life-long writing skills as my major protesting mechanism, I am able to keep my interest level high and will have long-term focus on the censorship issue.
One last strategy is for me to connect with other writers, especially those who focus on censorship. Companionship fosters support and support can manifest in many ways including encouragement, reminders of the mission at hand and backing each other up when conflict gets nasty.
I’m hoping that as I send this out over the airwaves, it will find other like-minded people, but especially writers. I could use the support and suspect you could, too.
I have often said here that I have a Muslim (Internet) lover/boyfriend, my cub. With all these horrific Islamophobic things happening in America, I’ve seen my saying this in a totally different light.
You know how it sounds when someone says, “I have a black friend/boyfriend/partner,” and are saying in parenthesis, “So I can’t be racist,”… how racist that sounds… how racist it is? It is the same with my making loud declarations of having a Muslim boyfriend. I am clearly professing, “See me? I’m not Islamophobic, but I am a really progressive liberal atheist who can sidle up to a person that much of the world wants to destroy,” making it All About Me.
I find that really disgusting.
I know very little about Islam and discussing it with my cub has taken us into really uncomfortable territory. We’ve pretty much abandoned the topic because my atheism is so contrary to his deep beliefs. I have Googled and read about Islam, sharia law, the different ways to be Muslim, Islam in the United States versus in mainly-Muslim countries and, the really tough part, Islamic extremists and why violence is so important to their causes.
Islam is an incredibly complex and varied religion, much more so than Christianity or Judaism, both religions I know and understand pretty well, having been both in this life. I’ve been told that it can take many years and a plethora of scholars to explain the Qur’an. How does a heathen learn about Islam when it is such a pain in the ass to understand?
Just looking up “Moderate vs. Radical Islam” images for this piece brings intense emotions for me because the hate in the photos and comics are so, so despicable. (Is my cub considered a moderate? A liberal?) I don’t even know what to believe anymore. Is Islam a cruel religion that does not delineate between a Muslim here or in Syria? Are all American Muslims really potential terrorists given the right circumstances and their anger level at how they are treated by Americans? (This is, I have found, one of the most common beliefs and it is excruciating for me to even utter it because I know how my cub is going to hear it.)
For fuck’s sake, how brainwashed am I? Where did it come from? Islam is a brand new experience in my life comparatively. The horrible things I’ve learned have all been based on violence against others… against the LGBTQIA+ communities, women, American journalists, random strangers who’ve made life difficult for the killers… really skewed pictures and stories that have clearly imprinted in my mind.
How do I counter these negative beliefs? I am not sure where exactly to look because the information on the Internet is widely contradictory and, I have learned, laced with radical ideas the murderers use to recruit marginalized Muslims. When I’ve asked my cublet for help, things devolve into major discomfort so we just agree to let the topic go.
I am watching the Women’s March on Washington and while I had learned about Intersectional Feminismpreviously, seeing how women’s lives overlap with race, religion, genders, abilities, histories (jail, being on welfare, etc.) and more, live right in front of me, is profound.
And then, as I am writing this, I see that intersectionality itself has been a controversial part of the Women’s March! Well, the organizers made it clear, to me at least, that intersectionality is a major part of the event.
It did not come without conflict, even causing white women to stay away from the March after they felt left out of the planning and implementation of the event.
“Intersectionality simply means that there are lots of different parts to our womanhood,” Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, explained. “And those parts — race, gender, sexuality, and religion, and ability — are not incidental or auxiliary. They matter politically.”
So, reading about intersectionality in general and the March in particular, I am learning the history.
Crenshaw also pointed out that she came up with intersectionality to address a specific legal problem: As she put it, “To capture the applicability of black feminism to anti-discrimination law.” An example she frequently cites in explaining the need for intersectionality is the 1976 case Degraffenreid v. General Motors, in which five black women sued General Motors for both race and gender discrimination.
I know that understanding where intersectionality comes from gives me context from which to pull.
I was raised completely different than who I am now. As a young girl, I learned the ways of the white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and middle-class world. Yet I am a super-fat mother & grandmother, a femme Dyke, Cubanx/Latinx (knowing virtually nothing about my culture), mentally ill, disabled, a-theist, sex worker, non-TERF feminist who loves a Muslim man and who learnt Spanish as an adult. I don’t know how I would figure out my intersections without all those labels… and the ones I forgot to list.
Watching the end of the March’s rally, I am incredibly happy to see the wide variety of women represented , many of whom do intersect with my identities.
I’m sure the arguments for and against the Women’s March on Washington are being formulated or written about even now, but I am extremely pleased… more than that… excited, energized, inspired… by the speakers, poets, musicians, singers and leaders who were on that stage today.