Open Letter to SPD Officer Couet

Dear SPD Officer Couet,

We’ve never met. That’s not exactly true, but during the 10 or so minutes I stood centimeters from you on Sunday, August 13, as you propelled me backward with your bike, we never really got formally introduced. I was standing on a public sidewalk, and someone, not you, someone you take orders from, decided I was in the way. I wasn’t the only one corralled off a sidewalk we pay significant sales taxes to freely walk down. In a very technical sense, I wasn’t even part of the extremely valid, anti-fascist, anti-racist, peaceful protest. My heart was with them, but you blocked my body. Indeed, had you and your compatriots not decided I was in the way, there would be no record of my participation in Sunday’s march, no further evidence of SPD’s continued and blatant use of excessive force. But now I have bruises up and down my thighs where you pushed your bike into my body. You were wearing body armor and dark sunglasses. Your name and badge number were written on a piece of duct-tape, stuck to your chest piece. I was wearing a pair of jeans and a crop top. I wasn’t really prepared for the protest. I have been recovering from mono, so I just wanted to be a body for 30 minutes, before I got too tired. I wanted to stand in solidarity and denounce the very same Nazism you protected on Sunday, not let my illness overcome my convictions. I knew my gesture would be small—the absolute least I could do. And considering the arrests and pepper spray that others endured at SPD hands on Sunday, considering the recent murder of Charleena Lyles, my gesture was small.

When you told us to move, I just knew, I wasn’t going to help you. I looked at my boyfriend in silence, and we both knew. We would practice non-compliance. I put my hands in my pockets and I faced you. Why did I do it? I just did it.

You pushed me. You stepped on both my feet, causing me to momentarily lose a sandal. With each push, you yelled “Move Back,” and made sure your orders were followed. During those ten minutes, you never met my eyes. I looked, and I looked, silently, gazing. You were wearing sunglasses, but I could still catch the light off your irises, never looking me in the face. As you pushed and pushed, I thought to myself, even here, even now, you, officer Couet, are human. I will give you humanity by looking you in the eyes. Why did you never meet mine? You would not afford me the same courtesy I was affording you. Maybe you just haven’t read enough Levinas.

I want to be absolutely clear about one thing. What you did, if you had been anyone else, would be assault.

I said one thing while I stood across from you. A debate had begun between the officer to your right and the men to my left. The other officer tried to get out of being accused of upholding a racist system by saying that America is racist, so doesn’t that make us (the people being pushed) racist too? Of course, to him, being called racist is an insult, so he thought we’d be mad to hear him affirm the very reason we showed up in the first place. I have no delusions about how racist I am. Of course, you didn’t know that. You didn’t know that the only difference between my racism and yours is that I acknowledge and fight against mine. But you wouldn’t know that, because we’ve never really met.

I regret breaking my silence to speak. Not because I was wrong or unsteady. But because you weren’t hearing anything that was said. What I wish I had done was sing. I have a good voice. At my birthday parties, every year, my friends push me into singing “La Vie en Rose” by Edith Piaf. I did once on a boat on South Lake Union, so now they want me to do it every year. I kill at that song. But that’s not what I wish I had sung on Sunday. I wish I had sung “Down by the Riverside.” My boyfriend and I have been practicing. I heard a version of it that I loved at a church service in college, so when we started building a repertoire of protest songs, I added that one to the mix. Maybe you’re familiar with the lyrics, “I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside and study war no more.” Of course, swords are really passé, and you didn’t have a shield. You had body armor and a bike. But you get the point. It would have felt really good to sing in the middle of being afraid that the officer behind you, strutting around with his pepper spray out and unpinned, was just itching to use it. It would have felt good to make something beautiful while you were using force, violence, and threats to prevent us from peacefully observing a protest. And you see what you did right? When you pushed. We stopped being the observers and became the protesters, separated from our march.

I want to say a few words about the people who have suffered (not just been pushed around) at the hands of SPD, those who have been pepper sprayed, unjustly arrested, murdered. Charleena Lyles, Che Taylor, John T. Williams. They are, more often than not, people of color. The people on the south side of the street on Sunday, the ones who were more vocal than me, the Black people, they knew that they were already risking so much more than me by being there. I didn’t get to hear from them whether your fellow officers pushed harder or used stronger threats. I know that I had an easier time for being white, that your final statement before you rode off on your bike so recently weaponized against me, “No hard feelings,” may not have been uttered but for the color of my skin. (Also, of course you had no hard feelings. You had all the power and all the protection. Why would you harbor hard feelings for us?). All of this is to say, I know that there are people risking more, people who stayed with the march longer, people whose trauma will outlive the tape I have on replay in my head of you pushing me backward. I know that what I do is little, that I’m opting in with my whiteness when I work toward anti-racism. I know I can leave when I get tired, go through most of the world as if it were made for me (yeah, we’ll a put pin in how you handled rape allegations against Sheriff John Urquhart, and how I can’t escape sexism). But I will keep putting my body on the line, even if it’s just to create a little breathing room between you and the people of color I’m showing up for.

This part isn’t for you, Officer Couet, but I hope you read it anyway.

I know I can write these things because of my whiteness. I know that the potential for white outrage is higher because of my whiteness. I hope anyone who reads this, who finds themselves angry about the idea of a white woman and her white boyfriend being pushed around by riot police infuriating, check yourself. How mad were you when you found out Charleena Lyles and her unborn child were killed? What are you doing to make it possible to prosecute a police officer in Washington state? How will you put your body on the line? Have you paid a Black woman today?

See you around, officer Couet. Next time, I hope I have the presence of mind to sing while you assault me.


Fashion and Feminism


Model: Lorna Foran for 2018 Resort Orla Kiely Collection

For anyone who has ever been confused about my combined interests in fashion and philosophy, please read this from Vogue’s Luke Leitch about the 2018 Resort Orla Kiely collection.

For anyone who has never been confused by the connection between these two interests, this will be an affirmation of all you believe to be true and good.

“Around the time she started incubating the colors, shapes, and ideas for this third edition of the capsule collection, L’Orla, produced alongside Orla Kiely, stylist Leith Clark was transfixed by the Women’s March on Washington. This, Clark said in Kiely’s London showroom, made her connect the dots between the fixedly nostalgic filter through which Kiely envisions her world and the radicalism of second-wave feminism that emerged from the 1960s counterculture. ‘I was thinking about the way that women chose to stand up for peace: outside the Miss America pageant, or when Sacheen Littlefeather refused Marlon Brando’s Oscar,’ Clark said.

As Kiely watched, Clark expounded on her theme and Lorna Foran modeled the pieces. A black velvet and guipure-trimmed dress of a weight Clark had specified she wanted to swoosh ‘in slow motion,’ some micro-corduroy bell-bottoms with matching trucker jacket in soft pink, and a synthetic-shot organza smocked check dress were some retro-woke calling cards. A complementary embellished and piped corduroy weekend bag was perfect for packing those marching outfits.

Kiely’s brand of embellishment-rich retro-femininity predates the recent surge in demonstrative resistance to mainstream misogyny. There are lots of thorny questions to ponder when it comes to contemplating the relationship between fashion and feminism; without real thought and soul and consideration, you run the risk of careless Kendall Jenner/Pepsi–style crassness. This felt true through a subjective reflection of the fourth wave cast in a mirror customarily bent to reflect a time that coincided with the second.”

This is the second designer I’ve come across in the last two days explicitly referencing our current political climate as their inspiration. For one designer, it was naming her dresses after powerful women in government. It’s important to me that the clothes we wear are not disembodied from our experiences. Often, fashion designers are accused of being too insular, referencing only their own industry.

Some History for You

Coco Chanel basically hid out in the Ritz Hotel during WWII and was lover to a Nazi spy. It has also been argued that she even spied for the Nazis herself. She had made a name for herself in fashion and perfume, so much so that when Americans liberated Paris, GIs lined up outside her shop to buy Chanel No. 5 for their wives and girlfriends. So, no one really cared that she was an anti-Semite who cozied up to the enemy. Other women were publicly punished for their relationships with Nazis when the occupation ended, but not Coco. She became even more famous with her tweed suits, empowering women the world over. I do not begrudge anyone their admiration of Coco Chanel. I cannot help but appreciate her maxims and her role in doing away with the corset. However, I think her complicity in one of the century’s greatest evils is a powerful contrast to the example I present today.

A Little More History

When the housing bubble burst in 2008, and there was talk of the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression, I took the opportunity to design clothes based on the Dust Bowl. During the actual Dust Bowl, designers took the stock market crash as an opportunity to make movie stars more glitzy and glammy than ever. Sequins galore! I understand that impulse, the one where we hide from the mess we made with the glamorous lives of actors and the fictions they portray. Of course, my Dust Bowl inspired burlap skirt was in the minority. In mainstream fashion, sequins and beading took center stage, as we saw dozens of red carpet looks harrowing back to the golden age of cinema and the starlet. In 2012, The Artist, a silent film about the rise of the talkie, took home the Oscar for Best Picture, and I felt the empty void of a culture who refused to reckon with its failures.


This collection is unarguably feminine and strong. Note the poses and facial expressions Foran is captured in. It is a manifesto, In Defense of Beauty: the Fundamental Strength of Culturally Prescribed Feminine Characteristics.

Clothing as Revolution

It is also valuable for me to address stereotypes. It is often believed that people in the fashion industry are vapid and dumb. It’s easy to believe that when the craft is presented as fundamentally shallow: a mere presentation of our outward appearance. I contend that it is not. We can read dozens of emotions on a person’s face, whether they are wearing makeup or not. Likewise, we can read a great deal from a person’s apparel, whether they are wearing it or designing it. We expect our artists to be able to make statements about the nature of the world. Art and philosophy go hand in hand throughout history and medium. I often think about the protest music ignited by the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights Movement. There is no ambiguity about the importance of these songs and we accept them both as art and political commentary. Maybe it is because as a society we are so far removed from the production process of our clothing, but every third teenager at summer camp can play a little guitar. Whatever the reason, we put less value on the fact that in the former USSR, wearing blue jeans was an act of sedition, or that in the French Revolution, the revolutionaries were known by their attire, shunning the breeches of the aristocracy for the trouser of the working man. In other words, clothes matter in a political sense.


In the final shot of this collection, Foran is captured wearing a dress with the same pattern as the backdrop, as if to say that tenets of the 2nd wave feminism blend into the broader context in which they were formed. It remains to be seen whether it is the feminism or the context which originated these patterns.

Was it self-preservation that lead Chanel to hide out in the Ritz and seek the companionship of a Nazi? Perhaps. Certainly, the stakes are lower for Leith Clark at Orla Kiely, but her philosophy remains potent. She is using her collection to look at the stages of feminism and the implications intentionally blending the visual cues of the 60s and it’s 2nd wave feminism with today’s increasingly progressive ideals.  It is an undeniably retrospective collection. And so maybe the revolution is not so overt. However, it is introspective as well, in a way that Leitch argues we really need as a culture.

Of course, my question will always be, “does it have pockets, though?” Because for all the visual philosophy, unless we end the pocket gap, it’s just lip service. More on that later.




I confess that these clothes do not resonate with my personal design aesthetic. As many people have commented, I tend to pull more from the 1920s-1940s for my inspiration. But I recognize it as good design, what’s more, as substantive design. There a plenty of moments when our clothes can and even should be frivolous. This is a moment in history where frivolity feels too much like perpetuating injustice, too much like going on a twitter rant, too much like being a 2-year-old in a man’s body, too much like the facade of glitz and glam that have exhausted their appeal for the last decade.


Here is what happens when I look at good fashion.

My heart beats faster. No really. My heart rate increases. I can feel it.

My mind starts to extrapolate new designs based on what I am seeing. This is sometimes immediate, sometimes delayed. Certainly, for the next handful of days, I will imagine and literally dream a variety of new designs, pine after the fabrics, and doodle in the margins of notebooks.

I experience a physical and emotional sense of desire. It’s just behind my rib cage. It makes me breathe a little differently, lean forward in my seat. I consume the image before me, details, composition, styling, silhouettes, fabric choice, colors, accessories. All of this happens in an instant, but the feeling slowly spreads throughout my body and mingles with satisfaction. I am both full and hungry.

If this sounds like sex or getting high or falling in love, maybe it is. I can see some similarities there. Maybe that’s why so many artists’ muses have been their lovers. Just remember that when I say that I love clothing, I am not being hyperbolic.

No One’s Dream Job is Fighting for Basic Human Rights

When I was little, I planned on being a fashion designer. I designed clothes, imagined my runway collections, and plotted how I would ethically run my business. I sewed. I read books on design. I thought about other careers, but mostly I wanted to create.

You’ll notice, if you look at my facebook profile,  that I am not in a creative field. I am a facilities administrator. I won’t bore you with those vagaries, though. If you pay attention to how I spend my free time, you’ll notice it is mostly activism-based. I volunteer.

Right now I am planning two fundraisers for my all-time favorite nonprofit, Puentes. I’ve joined the Democratic Party and attend monthly meetings in my legislative district. I am an acting PCO (precinct committee officer). I have joined European Dissent, Neighborhood Action Coalition, and Indivisible since November, all of which have regular meetings and calls to action. I’m learning protest songs. I’m teaching Somali refugees how to sew.

None of these things are things I was doing before November. None of these things are things I imagined for myself as a child. I still have all my usual commitments involving work, church, a boyfriend, friends, and doctor’s appointments. Before you ask, yes, I am tired.

I’m sitting at my computer, and I need to make a plan about the fundraiser in May (which I hope you can come to). But my brain keeps wandering. See, I love to plan parties. And fundraisers are sort of like parties. Ideas start streaming when I’m in my creative zone. Am I thinking about the best way to get people excited for my event? Am I planning speakers or food or centerpieces? Nope. Tonight, all I want to do is plan ways to get the attractive, single men in my life to meet my best friend and flirt with her (because she’s wonderful), tell her she writes the best poetry (because she does), and make out with her on a back porch at a party where everyone is wearing their best clothes or no clothes at all (I’ve heard they have parties like that in New York). It’s frivolous, unnecessary, and it’s all I want to plan. Not a fundraiser. Not 2 fundraisers. Instead of a fundraiser for undocumented immigrants, what if I could hold a celebration?

It’s not so different for other activists. Most of the activists I know are women of color. I saw a post from one the other day saying that once she doesn’t have to fight for basic human rights any more, she plans to get caught up on mediocre romantic comedies. Another activist friend says to me sometimes how she’d like to own a fabric store. She takes me to Seattle gems and picks out fabric for pillows she doesn’t have time to make. Instead of creating, though, we are all doing the work. We show up and do the work. We’re there because we have enough time, resources, or skills to contribute and because our consciences dictate it. To be honest, I feel like I sacrifice relatively little. After all, I have the mental energy to luxuriate in the possibility of setting my friend up with men she is far superior to in wit and beauty and hope they can keep up for long enough to be a break in the cycle of singleness she both loves and hates. I can step away from this work at any time and have a relatively safe, happy, successful life. That is not true of all the activists I’ve met. Some are inextricably members of demographics targeted by policies that disproportionately disrupt and damage their lives. They cannot step away, or simply stop following someone on facebook because they disagree. It is important to understand that injustice isn’t invented by the victims or by the activists; It is created by broken systems and the people who perpetuate those systems.

In recent weeks I have been varying degrees of outraged when I read about yet another republican who is not holding a town hall because of the volume of adverse phone calls and emails they have received. Often, these elected representatives cite the anticipated presence of paid activists as their reason for not doing their job, which includes being accessible to constituents. I truly wish that I could pay all the activists for the work they do, but most of us are underpaid or unpaid completely. We are not doing this because it pays well. The very notion flies in the face of every piece of traditional wisdom which says that if you want to make a lot of money you should get a degree in finance, business, medicine, or law. What degree do you get to be an activist?

We would rather be doing something besides fighting for basic human rights. We would rather that everyone’s rights were recognized and protected. We would rather there was no need for our activism.

There is, though. There is an urgent need. So expect more marches, more phone calls, more office visits. We won’t stop until you protect human rights or we find someone who will.


In more immediate terms, I think the solution to my problem is not to set my friend up with handsome, single men, but to ask her to read poetry at my fundraiser.



An Ostrich Act

We’re doing it again. We’re pretending not to know racism when we see it. It’s the hallmark of white America. Liberals rebrand, and conservatives outright deny. But it’s all an ostrich act.

The litany of ways we deny people of color their personhood continues into our modern era. Before it was outright, bodily rejection that black and brown bodies could be people. Defenses were made and laws were passed. And in every stage of the struggle, black bodies paid for it. And as we have progressed, after being forced into making concessions, white America redraws the lines, and finds a more nuanced way of clinging to its history, entrenched in white superiority, in segregationism. White people are stuck in a perpetual reticence to acknowledge themselves or other white people as perpetrators of racism. We have never thrown up our hands, knelt before those whose bodies have borne the brunt of our prejudices, and cried out for forgiveness. We have never collectively propelled forward any actionable policy in which we become the listeners, we become the obedient. We have never asked, “What do we do to make this right?” listened, and acted accordingly. Instead, we hedge. I don’t see color. But reparations cost too much. If you’re in jail, it must be for something. If you obey the police, you won’t get shot. Is he a racist, or has he just said some things that sounded racist? We bend the rules as they apply to the humanity of others so that we don’t have to see the ways in which we have violated brown and black bodies. We say this isn’t what racism is, it’s just unconscious bias, and the more we hedge, the easier it is for us to ignore the reality that our president elect was endorsed by the most prominent hate group in America, that hate crimes have skyrocketed since the election, that more than one man appointed to a cabinet position is an outright white supremacist.  And it’s because we’ve been so busy plugging our ears and chanting that all lives matter, instead of listening to the men and women of color begging to please not be killed in the streets by police officers. Just because we’ve done away with the official stance that people of color do not matter, does not rid us of the quiet and insipid policies that disproportionately do harm to them.

Nothing reeks of this trespass more than the news media’s coverage over the last two weeks. There has been an enormous amount of focus on whether various pundits were proponents of the monster, created it, or whether they were simply comfortable breathing the same air. These are not real distinctions, merely obfuscations, meant to normalize that which ought never to have existed.

Our moral well-being, the state of our souls, the content of our character is rotting from our own deceit, and once again, black bodies bear the burden of it.

So we need to say it together, believe it together, act like it together:

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives  Matter.

I try to find threads of hope and kindness to bring into my posts, no matter how dark they are. This is to honor my own sense of goodness and beauty as well as a reflection of the title of this blog: an indomitable grace. Part of me wants to tell you about the conversation I had with a friend last night where we told stories of the powerful and gracious black women we know—women who are simultaneously deconstructing and holding together the universe everywhere they go. We are in awe of them and deeply grateful for their presence in our lives. I am worried that these tender thoughts may only encourage the sense of safety that comes with sticking your head in the sand. So, I am going to leave you with a challenge, an accusation, a mediation, a proverb from black twitter:

“America, [we] racist AF.”

The Monologue

In which I attempted to write something funny and sort of did

I wrote a meta-monologue

a monologue about monologues

and it’s really funny

well, it’s sort of funny

I wrote a meta-monologue that’s sort of funny

and I’m sorry

You can tell I was an existential mess but trying to be cheerful about it

Spotlight. Center stage. One person, female, opens the scene, introducing the story, the characters yet unseen by the audience, who, at first, listens intently. But she goes on and on, and they begin to slump in their seats. She continues, bravely, with a wistful glance here and there, a hand reaching out as though she is talking to someone we can all see. Yes. It is The Monologue. I wonder, as she drones on, is she lonely? I would know, for my life is, as God can see, nothing but a monologue; my own running commentary on my life as I see it. I care not to include the actions or voices of others, and even if I did, no one would join in. Of course it is a lonely place: All eyes on you, but none with you. The stage, the world empty, save one, lonely being, me. And on and on I drone; conjuring up images in my mind like phantoms. The audience grows weary, as do I. I know that a dialogue is much more dynamic, but I cannot find anyone to take the part. I have spent my life alone on center stage, hoping that there would arrive someone to share the stage and bring more life to what I so singly do represent. On and on, the lights don’t fade, but I do. But do not give up hope. The longer I speak the more time he has to realize that it is his cue and arrive. Light would flood the stage, not only me. Scenery and props would come alive to create a world of vibrant life, be it comedy or tragedy the story would be told with passion and conviction. But there is nothing more pathetic than a single monologue.

To the men catcalling me on 3rd Ave between Pine and Pike:

I’m sorry
should I stop what I’m doing,
where I’m going,
my conversation,
my life
to give you my un-
divided attention?
I hear your hey babies, your how you doin’?s
and I wonder,
what could you possibly hope to achieve?
Do you want a smile?
Do you want me to stop?
You think you’re gonna get a date that way?
Obviously that hasn’t really been working out for you
because you’re still standing on the street corner
asking for my name.

You think you’re cool?
You think you’re powerful
‘cause you can stand in the anonymity of faceless crowds
and say all the same words I’ve heard five times today,
before I even got to you?
But I’ve got news for you: I’m the one in charge here.
I’ve got a bus to catch when
at 7:45 am, late for work, and focused on my destination
you think it’s your turn for my attention,
I’ve got a song to listen to,
a bent nail to inspect,
so the most you’ll get is my frustration.
And I’ve got friends to meet,
or an apartment to clean
or dishes to do
at 5:15 when I hear your self-indulging voices again.

And I hear the mumbles, sometimes said too loudly,
of “skinny white bitch”
as I walk away,
unconcerned with you or the rest of your day,
because your tactless efforts have shown
that you’ve got absolutely no game.

I don’t think I’m better than you.
I’ve just got things I’ve gotta do,
and they do not involve acknowledging you.



In which I share something that I wrote more than 7 years ago and feel slightly embarrassed about it
(but less embarrassed than I ought to)
I have Randy Dean, pastor of a small, rural church in Wisconsin, author, and all around bad ass for the inspiration of this short sketch. This was deep in my earnest phase as a person and a writer. You can feel the drama and the rhythm of my words leading to the gloriously hopeful end after every person has bared at least three very personal reasons for grief. So, you’ll also notice this was still in the midst of my emotionally-manipulate-an-audience-to-illicit-the-appropriate-Church-service-response-phase. I had a lot of real angst to manage through during this writing. You see, I had dated exactly one boy in my life, and he wasn’t that into it, so he called things off. In the summer of my abyss, I wrote this.
This is not good writing. I’m not telling a story, even the snippets are just meant to create the strongest emotional response, remind you of your worst trauma, or of somebody’s trauma, and then immediately go “there, there; you’ve got this.” You might cry, even, if you saw this performed on stage with the appropriate music accompanying it.
On the other hand, I have to give to my past self. I was fiercely committed to hope, a trait I like to think I’ve passed on to my present self. In fact, bad writing aside, I find this quite comforting. For one thing, sometimes, like right now, the darkness feels as oppressive as I person 8 says it does while crossing to center stage. How dark is this darkness? How long is four years? And despite its lack of context, the little Biblical text that I borrow from Isaiah 9:2, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light…the light will shine on them,” well that’s just downright comforting.
And finally, I love how meticulous my stage directions are. This sketch was never staged, yet I wrote down in detail each moment of the staged experience as if it had.
Claire Burkitt
8 person cast, 6 of 8 actors triple up on roles. Persons 1 and 8 are the only roles each of the two actors take. For persons 2-7 each line is a new character and should be portrayed as such with different voice inflection and tone qualities. The lines should be delivered with a great deal of emotion because we only get a glimpse of each person’s story and it is at the climax of each. It may be helpful for the actors to expand each of their characters’ stories on their own, so as to have a better understanding of what they are trying to tell the audience in a single line. The end of the skit is triumphant and defiant. There should be no doubt about the victory that is coming. The stage should be dimly lit, so that we can make out the actors faces and little else. Person 1 is played by either a man or a woman. Person 2 is a woman. Person 3 is a woman. Person 4 is played by a man or woman. Person 5 is a man. Person 6 is played by a man or a woman. Person 7 is a man. Person 8 is played by a man or a woman. For the actors’ (persons 2-7) final lines they should pick

one of their characters to deliver the line as. This is not strictly the case, for example “He is not here” would be best spoken as an angel.

Person 1: (Situated CS) And again, shadows fill my vision.
Person 2: “This isn’t going to work out between us,” he said.
Person 3: …yelling, “You’re not my daughter.”
Person 4: …waving his fists wildly and stumbling toward me
Person 5: She said, “I can’t do this.”
Person 6: And she’s coughing and shaking. She doesn’t even realize it’s me.
Person 7: “Why are you even here homo?” they called laughing at how clever they are.
Person 1: And again, shadows fill my vision.
Person 4: “I hate you!” (yelled very loudly)
Person 5: (wincing at each “again” as if seeing the blows
in front of him) And he hit her–again–and again.
Person 3: He said he’d be on time for supper, but he wasn’t.
Person 2: All I remember is a ripping sound. I still can
‘t tell if it was his hands on my dress, or the universe tearing.
Person 6: He told me, “Don’t tell anyone, or-or else–” (stops short unable to disclose the details)
Person 1: And again, shadows fill my vision. (Enter person 8)
Person 8: (Person 8 moves across the stage, is very animated and ends this brief monologue CS, Person 1 stepping aside) And how dark is this darkness, how penetrating and deep. From judging whispers, to accusing shouts, to snide glares. Darkness. Nothingness. Pain, by comparison, is better than the nothingness that follows. So here is why we fear death, yet cannot escape its grasp every single day. Oh, I would give anything for a light, anything for a piece of life to cling to, but how dark is this darkness.
Person 1: And again, shadows fill my vision.
Person 8: (quietly) Shadows, you will not define me.
Person 7: …and then they took the house…
Person 3: Why him? (Desperation in voice) Why war?! He was too young!
Person 2: Sobbing and crying she said, “I don’t have enough food to feed my own children!”
Person 5: …sleeping in cardboard boxes…
Person 4: (hands held up to ears to shut out noise)…so
much yelling…
Person 8: (a little louder and firmer) Shadows, you will not define me.
Person 1: (quieter) And again, shadows fill my vision.
Person 6: He was wearing a seat belt that day, to hold up his pants.
(crying) He was only seventeen!
Person 3: He said he still wanted to be friends.
Person 5: It hadn’t been a problem for the last year, but…
Person 8: (still louder) Shadows, you will not define me.
(All characters shift to hope, joy, and peace. There is laughter and smiling as these lines are given with a sense of gaining momentum and triumph. Lights progressively get brighter, with spot CS on Person 8)
Person 2: Remember that one time…
Person 8: Shadows, you will not define me (exit Person 1)!
I will never surrender to the shadowmaker!
Person 7: I will never leave you.
Person 4: There will be no end to the increase of peace.
Person 3: Do not be afraid.
Person 5: And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
Person 6: …to proclaim liberty to the captives and set the prisoners free.
Person 8: Shadows, you will not define me!
Person 2: They know not what they do.
Person 4: …kept me alive.
Person 5: He is not here. He is Risen.
Person 3: The hope of glory
Person 6: Life more abundantly!
Person 7: The people who walk in darkness will see a great light…the light will shine on them.
Person 8: (As loud as possible, with defiance and victory) Shadows! You will NOT define me!
I have to confess how difficult it was not to edit this to make it more suitable to my tastes today. I really had to restrain myself not to compromise the integrity of this piece. If I wrote this piece today (aside from demonstrating that I had not grown at all as person or a writer), I might include snippets of different kinds of people’s lives–like people of color interacting with law enforcement, undocumented folks, trans folks. Maybe I would shoot for just one laugh before whiplashing you back into all your feels in which one of the actors has to portray the trials and tribulations of a house cat: and she thinks I LIKE chasing orange feathers on the end of a string!

Humanity i love you

by ee cummings
Humanity i love you

because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both

parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard

Humanity i love you because
when you’re hard up you pawn your
intelligence to buy a drink and when
you’re flush pride keeps

you from the pawn shop and
because you are continually committing
nuisances but more
especially in your own house

Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down

on it
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity

i hate you

Why Her?

We live in two Americas.

I have lived in both of them.

When I was in high school, there were rumors of Hillary Clinton running for president. At my nondenominational, evangelical church in Minnesota, the response was one of casual non-enthusiasm.  Someone told me that everyone who worked for her said she was really mean, unhinged. They didn’t say it, because we were at church, but they thought she was a bitch. I believed that person. I had no reason not to. Politicians have stressful jobs and are untrustworthy. Why would Hillary be different?

When I was 16, I asked my pastor what he thought of women being ordained pastors. He was ok with it in some cases, as long as they weren’t senior pastors—in charge of a whole church—but they could be pastors of specific ministries. Even at 16, this bothered me. There seemed to me to be no inherent reason for women not to be pastors (or presidents). I was in charge of the Bible study at my high school. Nobody stopped me for being a woman. Nobody thought I was doing anything important.

I didn’t pay attention to Hillary’s first bid for presidency, not real attention. I lived in France during the primaries, and I discounted everything I heard French people say about the presidential race. What did they know about American politics? They thought I was neighbors with Brad Pitt and Sylvester Stallone. They thought I could tell Bush to end the war in Iraq and it would be so.

I grew up in a republican household. My parents never had enough money. Our cupboards sometimes didn’t have food in them. My parents argued about money. I had the same bed spread until it had been worn to rags, the same sheets, the same towels. We were on the reduced lunch program, paying less than students whose parents were comfortably middle class. We shopped at thrift stores. I had summer jobs and babysat for family friends with children. We barely qualified as middle class, well before anyone noticed the middle class was shrinking.

In my home and in my church, it was a Christian duty to vote republican. My mother who had grown up mainline protestant, a Methodist, had a come to Jesus (the charismatic, evangelical one) moment in the early 80s and voted republican ever since. She couldn’t bring herself to vote for candidates who supported Roe v Wade. My dad was more a fiscal conservative and had been a republican all his life—or so it seemed to me. I didn’t know what homosexuality was until I was in the 4th grade. I thought lesbians were aliens from Star Trek, and I thought gay simply meant “happy” (thanks Shakespeare).

None of this bothered me. It didn’t bother me that a faith that had existed for two millennia had become so entwined with its current political tendencies, that I grew up wondering if Democrats were really Christians (an absurd notion, because both my grandpa and aunt are Methodist ministers as well as democrats). The people I knew were kind. They cared about each other. We volunteered together at soup kitchens. We prayed with each other. They taught me to be patient and kind, even when people were mean. They taught me to stand up to bullies, sit with the uncool kids at lunch. Be compassionate. Seek justice, love mercy.

Then it started to bug me. I was in college. It bugged me that men around me acted like I was dumb when I told them I was majoring in fashion. It bugged me when several of the men in my dorm blocked my departure from one of their rooms, manhandled me, so that another dorm-mate could get in position to pull his pants down and expose himself when I was finally let go. It bugged me that the female professors at my university had to remind students to refer to them as Doctor rather than Ms. or Mrs. It really bugged me when the leader of my former youth group at my church in Minnesota publicly shamed his wife, emotionally abused her privately, sexually harassed me and my sister, lied openly to the teens who attended the youth group, and the senior leadership did absolutely nothing to stop it. I had multiple meetings with the pastor who had known me since I was 8. I spoke to other pastors over the phone and in person, pleading with them to intervene. This man was hurting his wife. She confessed it all late one night to me. I was 21. I had no idea how to help her escape such a man. No one listened. I was incredulous that anyone could be allowed to continue in such blatant misuse of power, especially in a church, my church. I knew and loved these people. They knew and loved me. Why couldn’t they see what I was seeing?

I felt starkly disenfranchised from the church I had grown up in. It didn’t matter what I said, because I was a woman. It only mattered that he was a man, and he was in charge of something.

So I learned more. I learned from the vocal feminists who talked about how sexism played out in their mothers’ lives, how easy it is to demonize a woman compared to a man, how our unconscious biases work, what internalized sexism is. I found a different kind of church, one where the two millennia of history were embraced, where women had free agency, where Mary could hear my prayers and provide a sense of home. I persisted. I grew angry.

My anger was not isolated to the injustice of women. In fact, it was sparked by the death of Mike Brown and the inception of the Black Lives Matters movement. The inequality was palpable. It was sparked again with a live shooter at my Alma Mater where a student was killed and several were injured. It was sparked when I realized how duped I had been, taking out student loans when no job awaited me after my bachelors was completed. It was sparked when learned about the state of undocumented immigrants in detention. By 25 I was completely disenfranchised from the Republican Party.

Then, I was sexually assaulted. It wasn’t for the first time, but it was the first time I had a name for what had happened. I knew I had done nothing wrong, that I had actively declined his advances, and that I still ended up awake in his bed at three am on the day of my 26th birthday with only my underwear on.

It was a textbook case of violated consent. Rape culture had a new meaning to me. Creating a culture of consent meant more than ever.

Still, as election talk rolled around again and it became clear that Hillary would run again, I was underwhelmed. I did not like the Republican Party, but I felt just as betrayed by democrats for selling an education dream that lead me to prolonged debt, for failing to address wealth inequality.  Why wasn’t Elizabeth Warren running? That was the question. I heard it repeatedly. I asked it. She seemed perfect. But wait, there was Bernie. I spent a good portion of 2015 learning about Bernie, being sure I knew how to caucus in my state. I was puzzled when a former classmate of mine chose to interrupt one of his rallies. Didn’t she get that he was going to help our race problem too? He wanted to grow the middle class. That meant the black middle class.

And then I started dating someone. He was for Hillary. He had always been for Hillary, even in the 2008 primaries. I had come a long way from believing that she was the bitch my church-mate had made her out to be, but I was still unenthused. I was going to caucus for Bernie, come hell or high water. He was going to grow the middle class and address the student debt crisis. He had even hired Black Lives Matters activists to his campaign.

My new boyfriend sent me some articles to help explain his point of view. I softened toward Hillary. She’d be good. She wouldn’t be as good as Bernie, but she’s a person and a good politician. My boyfriend did not try to change my mind.

I moved into a house with a family. I saw how much emotional labor the wife in the family put in. I saw how her skills were downplayed. I saw how she took on more than she could bear and did it all anyway. I watched as her aloof husband made threats to his daughter’s imaginary future would-be suitors. And on the night before the Washington State caucus, I watched an episode of Naked and Afraid.

If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a show where a man and a woman who have never met before, take all their clothes off and walk into the wilderness where they have to survive for 21 days. They only get a couple tools, and they don’t get to have any clothes or food. At the beginning of every episode, each participant is given a survival score based on his or her experience.

In the episode I watched the day before the caucus, as was true in every episode, the woman was given a lower survival score. Then, even though she was instrumental in their survival, her score was not raised as much as the man’s. It happened the same way every single episode. And that night, as I watched, I noticed that the women were using skills to aid in their survival that the score did not account for. Survival was measured only in terms of ability to build a fire, catch food, and create a suitable shelter. What was consistently ignored was how women took care of the emotional needs of the men and persevered despite all kinds of physical encumbrances. Over and over, the men would start to break down, make a poor choice that compromised their health, and the woman would get them through it. Yet, their scores remained low.

On May 21st, I woke up knowing that I had to caucus for Hillary. Enough was enough. She had skills that no one had been accounting for, and we needed to give her a chance to show us for certain what they were. So I caucused for her. It was a joy and an honor.

From there, my fondness for her only grew. She does brilliantly in small groups in a way that she does not thrive on a large stage. I read up on her history in politics, her process, her accomplishments. She won my heart and my imagination, and I woke up yesterday morning believing that she was about to be elected the first woman president.

We live in two Americas.

For some of you, the first 18 years of my life resonate. The world, as it is, has a certain order that that should be protected and maintained. You see the people in your church communities and love them. You might even believe you love Muslims and the gays and women who get abortions. When you are so convinced that there is no place in heaven for such people, the best way to love them is to try to prevent them from being them. You are horrified by where my twenties have taken me. You may even offer to pray for me. Thank you for those prayers. I know they are kindly meant. Some of you will have worse thoughts of me. You will grimace at my fondness for a woman you believe belongs in prison. You will call me names that you have called a hundred other women.

Others of you find my first 18 years peculiar, or even offensive. You are excited to see my turn in attitude and may measure my experience as evidence that you have been right all along, that perhaps religion is to blame for the many of the ills of humanity. You feel a sense of affirmation when I say I am a 3rd wave, intersectional feminist. You won’t try to find a way to blame me for my own sexual assault. You won’t ask me what I was wearing or whether I was drunk.

These two Americas don’t talk to each other. We don’t read the same publications or watch the same TV. There is no present-day Walter Cronkite who is the arbiter of today’s news. None of us have the same facts. I forgot. I forgot the amount of anger a woman can incur just for being in charge. I forgot that the subtext for women, no matter how capable, kind, involved, or intelligent, is that we are seen as only partly people, sort of disadvantaged people, slightly handicapped for our uteruses. I forgot the America I came from, buoyed by the hope of equality, of justice, of mercy toward the least of these. I forgot how narrow the scope of Christian charity can be here.

Yesterday, unequivocally, the other America, the America I walked away from, voted for the most bigoted, racist, misogynist, hateful, unkind, deceptive candidate it has ever voted for to date. I could list the particulars, but you won’t hear me, or you have heard it and questioned the order of the universe. History will judge him harshly, and it will judge us all equally harshly. History will not see two Americas, but one, who thought such a despicable person should be executive and chief of such a country.

We get it now; you’re not going away so soon. We’ll consider your tenacity in our upcoming adventures. We’ll reframe our moral high ground. We’ll reframe our user acquisition tactics. We won’t move to Canada or become literary ex-pats. We’ll be right here, helping people who are getting hurt by your candidate and his policies. We’ll be safe havens for the LGBTQ community, for immigrants, for Muslims. We’ll stand in solidarity with BLM, and victims of sexual assault. We won’t stop creating safe spaces for the least of these. We’ll continue to learn about science and how we are affecting the environment. We will be here winning hearts and minds, the way mine was won: with patient conversation, with showing not telling. We will be kind. I will be kind.