In 1976, I was 12-years old, in the sixth grade at D.D. Eisenhower Elementary School in Sayreville, NJ. I was a good student, and received an award for perfect attendance that year. I was a lieutenant on the safety patrol. I was a Girl Scout. I played shortstop for the Red Devils. I had short hair, and I wore cheap red sneakers that came from Pathmark grocery store. I wanted Pro-Keds, like everybody else had, but my parents said no. This caused a real problem for me because it meant I would be ostracized by my friends. But I really don’t think my parents could afford them. So, Pathmark Specials it was for me.
The ridicule came fast, and my friends decided that I wasn’t cool enough for them anymore. They began to torment me. I remember walking home from a Girl Scout meeting one afternoon. Several of us lived on the same street, and we walked home together. And they decided that my best friend and I should fight, you know “beat each other up”. But as I recall, neither of us wanted to do that. Somebody pushed and grabbed my brand new Avon hairbrush from my back pocket and threw it down the sidewalk. It cracked in a couple of places. I hated that. I still hate when my stuff gets ruined.
The next day at lunchtime recess, I found myself in an even more frightening situation. The sixth grade class consisted of about 90 students. With the exception of about five girls who were as unpopular as I was, the entire class chased me around the playground and the large grassy field. A couple of the more aggressive girls came after me, pushing me around, and then one came along and slide tackled me to the ground. At some point, I fought back, and of course found myself in after school detention with the rest of them. My teachers saw me there and couldn’t believe it. I did my time and walked home, alone.
That was 40 years ago. You’d think I’d be over it by now. I thought I was, until this past week.
On Friday night I played a gig here in Bethlehem. It was a small bar gig, which I don’t book very often because I hate competing with the noise. After a week of post-election shock, I really was hurting, and that was causing depression. I knew I wouldn’t be able to engage with an audience, and I just wanted to stay home. But, I rallied, and from the moment I walked in the door, I started to feel anxious. It was hard to breathe. I was catching fragments of conversations about the election, but I couldn’t piece any of it together. I had no idea who was friend or foe.
And then it happened, I looked around that room and I was 12 years old all over again. I was the shy girl in the corner at the middle school dance that none of the boys would talk to. I was the girl at the ice skating rink with the funny name, and the boys would skate by and sing out “Dina-Farina, Dina-Farina”. I can still hear the tune of it in my head. Then I was the naive 17-year-old working at the movie theater, who bent over to pick up a coin that one of the boys (intentionally) dropped on the floor so that they could judge who had “the nicest ass”. I was the 18-year-old high school senior nervously auditioning to sing with the studio band – all boys. I was the very frightened 30-year-old woman being berated by her narcissistic male employer and his bumbling sales manager. I was the 36-year-old woman apprehensively walking into a Sheetz store with her girlfriend in the middle of gun-toting conservative rural Pennsylvania.
I’m just one of the examples of what has happened to the marginalized people in our society. I can’t tell you what Muslims or Latinos are feeling. Of course, I can’t tell you what everyone is feeling. I’m certain that it’s far more terrorizing than my fear. But I can tell you this: Donald Trump’s treatment of women has gone unpunished, his verbal abuse of others has gone unrepudiated by his supporters, and that has brought out pain and anxiety of a history that many of us have been dealing with for years. He has given a voice to the virulent people who need to be validated in their hate, and he has not denounced one iota of the attacks on the marginalized.
Some people are saying “give him a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised”, and they “hope he succeeds”. Well, I do not want Trump to succeed as president. I want him to crawl back into his slimy tower and do penance for igniting this firestorm. Nothing will ever take away what we saw and heard with our own eyes and ears. As I read somewhere this week, “A woman does not have to reconcile with her abuser”. I’ve been the victim of more than one male abuser, and I’m disgusted that I have to relive those feelings, particularly when that has been inspired by the president-elect of the United States of America. I’ll repeat that. The president-elect of the United States of America. The highest honor of service in the land.
As I read my social media feed, some people are asking if we can unite and be nice to each other. I think that will take a long time. There is a dirty stain on the American flag right now, and it’s gonna take a whole lot of elbow grease to get rid of it. If you don’t see the stain, you have terrible vision.
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to bewareThere’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behindWhat a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our sideParanoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraidStep out of line, they come and take you away
Stop, children what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s goin’ ’round.
For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield 1966