This letter was read aloud on February 20, 2017 at Mining Light: Not My President's Day (Madison, WI) and at THIS MACHINE: Not My President's Day (Twin Cities, MN) as part of Badandnasty.com's resistance performance series.
Letter (or Breach) February 20, 2017
I wrote this first as a love letter. And then I realized it still wasn’t for you. It was still for him. I can’t use him to talk about us because I’ve been better to him all along. He has had my trust, my love without conditions.
I’ve never known us to have that.
We were never safe together, you and I. I have parsed us out into pieces to scrutinize and find hateful.
But we must have, somewhere in our long, dark past, being alone together, we must have loved one another, in the way I know only how to love him.
And him. And him.
So when was the breach between us? So long ago that we don’t know a time that we weren’t parsed out and distrustful of our pieces.
Too much sugar, not enough. No cumin. More. Turn right. No. Put the plant outside, in. In the light, out
Was it 3 months and 12 days ago? No. Election day wasn’t the breach. That is a time when it was named.
James Baldwin says that “everyone wishes to be loved, but in the event, nearly no one can bear it. Everyone desires love but also finds it impossible to believe that he deserves it.” The pieces of me can’t believe that I deserve it. 53% of me, believed on that day, 3 months and 12 days ago, that I didn’t deserve it. More importantly perhaps, that you didn’t. When I turned away from that love, that love I couldn’t bear, I sacrificed your chance at it too. You fought for us, 95% of you, an overwhelming portion of yourself, fought, as you always do, for us. And after you fought, you told me how my fear and silence had hurt you.
But the breach had happened—I couldn’t hear you—shame is noisy and broken hearts are selfish. I did it because I trusted him more than the pieces of us. He felt whole. He spoke the most—whispered and yelled and gave praise and took it away. I needed him to know that I trusted him.
Loud speakers and soft speakers. Love songs and novels and newscasts. Louder. Bus drivers and bosses. Yes. Yes. I said yes. I will. Yes.
I want to find the breach.
Was it in the 1980’s when I left you to your own devices, because AIDS hadn’t taken my lover or mother and I was afraid, afraid my voice would call it to me.
Wash your hands, don’t. Watch Degrassi Junior High. Fat Albert. Roman Quimby. Don’t.
Was it in 1970’s when I left you at home to take care of my children while I marched for my rights but only part of yours? I didn’t know there were parts that I couldn’t know. I was so new to this chant I was afraid I would lose it if I asked.
Come. Wait, I’ll come back for you. No. Stepford Wives. Race riots. Stop. Childless by choice. Single mother, plastic plants in the office don’t need water. Stop.
Your body is a battleground. Yours too.
Mary Daly didn’t write Audre Lorde back. That still matters.
Was it the 1890’s when Ida B. Wells asked Frances Willard to speak out against the rampant lynchings and she would not? When I chose temperance, Christianity, and silence? I thought I was choosing to survive. I was wrong.
Dry. No. Wet. The Strange Fruit weren’t yours. Not my ancestors. Yours. That doesn’t matter. You’re wrong. Click. Delete. Silence.
Parts. Percentages. Pieces. Identities. No. Your humanity is an entirety. It is whole and indivisible from the world. Your humanity is bound to mine. Mine to yours.
So now I am writing you, hoping I can begin to mend all this parsing I’ve been doing, of myself and you, of us. I will listen to you. I know how to listen. How it leads to love and things radical and new. I won’t believe that I am wrong. I won’t believe that the place in me that is you is wrong.
We lost our ability to name the nameless in one another and with that silence we grew scrutiny and mistrust. You told me, that it is not our differences that divide us, but our silence—silence borne of, and nourished by fear.
I am afraid. But I will no longer allow silence.
In love, fear, and hope,