This is one of those posts that took me a week to write. First I was too emotional. Every time I even thought about the words I cried. For hours. By the time I could think the words without crying, I had that "I've been crying for a week headache" that kept me from writing them down. Finally when I thought about writing them down, I was afraid to because I was worried if I didn't get them just right someone would think I was insensitive or racist or out of touch.
Finally, I realized this whole story started with me being scared and I'm really fucking tired of being scared. The last thing I want to feel right now is scared of my own words and perhaps sharing them is the only way to get over that. It might cost me some name calling and lost friendships. Sometimes the price you have to pay for getting your voice and soul and life back is high. So this is my story, the way I lived and felt it.
Last Friday, I sat on our living room couch in St. Paul bawling. Riots had started near our house the day before. I'd gone to work with Eddie then because it didn't feel safe at home, but now I was here without him, terrified in my own living room. I turned on the TV and happened to switch to the news at the moment George Floyd's fiance learned his killer was charged with murder. She sunk to the ground, bawling.
I bawled too, overcome with compassion for her. I remembered all the moments I sunk to the ground after my mom's accident, most of them caused by learning something about the man who hit her. One when I heard he was the fire commissioner and his many friends in connected places had helped him get off on accidents before this. One when his manslaughter charge was reduced to "cutting in" because there "wasn't enough evidence." One when he was later charged with multiple counts of child molestation and I realized one of the dates was after her death. That one came with the guilt that if maybe I'd done more to get him sentenced perhaps I could've saved a child some pain. There was another when he was later released from prison because, of course, magically, the children wouldn't testify. The big one came when I looked back at the court record of the accident and realized it had been changed to "non-fatal" just like she never even existed. I remember thinking when I saw that, "He gets to live and she doesn't and that's so fucking unfair."
It was at that moment, though, that I also realized something else- I wasn't living either if all I was doing was spending all this time curled up in a ball, crying. They could erase her life from a court record, but they couldn't erase it from me. And I could spend the rest of my life bitter about a man who got off too easy, or find some sort of forgiveness in my heart and go back to living.
So I cried with this poor woman because I know all that is ahead. All the moments that are going to bring her right back here on the ground and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.
At the same time I had the police scanner running on my phone. The looting had moved to within 1/2 mile of our house. It was my only way to know if it might be time to flee. So I cried for that feeling of fear, because I'd fled this house in fear once before too.
I ran for office in this district four years ago, hoping to make a positive change. Crime was moving in, businesses were moving out. I thought maybe I could change that. So I knocked on doors, hundreds of them, often in neighborhoods so dangerous people would tell me I shouldn't be there alone. I kept at it for months, actually hopeful I might change some minds even though the incumbent always won this district by over 70 percent. A few weeks before the election, I came home in the middle of the day to find our door damaged and slightly open. All of the hair on my entire body stood on end when I realized there was someone in the house. So I fled. It was all I knew to do.
Later, after the dog searched the house and the police left, Eddie and I were finally allowed in to survey what we had lost. I didn't realize it then, but I had lost so much more in that moment than stuff. I'd lost the ability to feel safe there alone. On election night, I was secretly relieved to lose, because honestly, I'd lost hope too.
Four years later, here I was last Friday, sitting in that same house, terrified again. We'd tried a lot in four years to make me feel safe. Security cameras, motion detectors, Jiu Jitsu lessons. As I sat on the couch crying, I realized none of it had worked. I was still scared if Eddie wasn't home. I was still scared riding my bike to work. I was still scared running on the trails nearby. To be honest, I couldn't remember the last time I hadn't been scared. That's the thing with fear. It follows you. It hijacks your brain and your body and before you know it you're just scared all the time. And I was exhausted from being scared all the time.
So I kept crying, partly out of compassion, partly out of fear and partly because I didn't think I could express this to anyone without seeming really selfish and insensitive. Perhaps this last one is the saddest for me. I knew that people would be outraged that a white woman would compare her mother's accident to the murder of a black man. I knew that there would be people who would read that I was scared and remind me that since I'm a white woman at least I don't have to be scared of cops. To those people, my story doesn't matter. The way I got to this place of being torn apart by fear and grief while also trying to find compassion- it won't matter to them, the same way George Floyd's story clearly did not matter to the cop that killed him.
We are living in a world right now where we pay a lot of attention to words but very little attention to stories. We are so busy telling each other how to act and how to speak that we have forgotten how to understand. We share memes and quotes online, but rarely share the story behind why that particular saying matters to us. Our thoughts and opinions are based on what our "party" tells us to think, not on who we've become because of the life we've lived.
This morning, I actually saw something on social media that basically said even silence is racist. I'm sorry, you can call me whatever you want, but I cannot consider silence a negative thing. Why? Because when we are finally silent, we can actually listen. And when we finally listen we can understand. And hopefully once we understand, we can move forward toward something positive.
Thankfully, we bought this crazy old house in a small town in MI a year ago, so this week I was able to escape here. I won't lie. I didn't just show up here and stop being scared. I wish it was that easy, but the mind doesn't work that way. So while I enjoy sunsets and bike rides with friends, hold hands with little kids and join a lonely neighbor for dinner, I'll remind myself to be silent sometimes. I'll take some time to listen to people's stories because that's the only way to truly understand them. If I do that, we can all move forward to something more positive together. That's what my mama would've wanted.