Today, I walked past a rally to take away my rights.
I walk past a group of people – whole families, with toddlers chasing each other and rolling in the grass, with little girls about to get their first periods, with mothers carrying newborns or putting their arms around recent graduates – who have gathered together to declare their hatred for women. They are cheering. They are yelling. “Amen!” holler the husbands. Wives thrust their block-lettered signs in my face with contempt written on theirs. They look ready to spit on me as I climb the stairs to the library
It’s a beautiful day today. This is the kind of day that leads me to worship. It tells me how perfect the creation is, even though I do believe it’s still evolving – ever different, ever changing, always perfect. It makes me grateful that I have eyes, and ears, and skin to feel the earth. It makes me believe that Eden only disappeared because we stopped looking for it.
Their signs are bright; their robes are black. A young man with a camera phone silently glances at me and then returns to his task. They’re screaming about whores who want other people to pay for them to have sex. Whores who hate children, who hate life. Whores like me.
I’m a graduate student. I use birth control because I can’t afford to buy a bed for my child, let alone food, clothing or toys. I use birth control because religious fundamentalism made me suicidally terrified of pregnancy. I use birth control because I am a loving person, who would never subject a child to a life with a traumatized mother and an empty stomach. I would never bring a child into the world to show her what homelessness feels like. I use birth control because I would never use my example to teach my daughter that being a mother is a curse that truncates her dreams. I use birth control because I like children and I believe they deserve to grow up with freedom and opportunities.
I’ve never seen a Klan meeting, a lynching, a crusade or a Nazi rally. I’m too young to have stumbled upon any of that. If I had, I imagine I’d feel the same way I do today as I pick up my books from the library and try not to look at the frothing crowd as they cry out that my freedoms invalidate theirs.
“YOU WANT US TO PAY FOR YOUR SELFISH LIFESTYLE!”
You don’t know me.
I used to be one of you.
“YOU SHOULD MAKE A SEX TAPE SO WE CAN SEE WHAT WE PAY FOR!”
If you were dying today, would you record this rally for your children?
“AMERICA IS ABOUT LIBERTY-”
Yes, I grew up believing that, too.
“-AND YOU ARE TRAMPLING ON OUR FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE!”
What about mine?
“LET’S WIN THIS COUNTRY BACK FOR GOD!”
And take it away from women.
I stare at the mothers, wearing their long linen skirts and leaning on their strollers. Has your husband ever denied himself sex to save your health? I wonder. What if that young woman doesn’t really want another child? What then? I can’t see their eyes through their dark sunglasses.
I stare at the children. A cute little boy in a cowboy hat is straddling a railing like a horse.
If I say hello to you, you might tell me I’m dog meat.
He is exploring his world. A world that his parents have made so tiny. I wonder if he will ever tear down the walls and escape.
I’m not wearing a prairie skirt.
I am not a person to you.
I am wearing shorts.
You think I’m going to hell.
I remember the glory of the sun on the day the towers struck 9/11. I remember the birds singing against the odd silence of the downed airplanes. I can feel the hatred bubbling like a fog among the crowd. I look up, away from humanity, and try to breathe in the clear air instead. I try to feel the peace, wondering if the poisonous vapors will choke it all out by the end of my lifetime.
“FREEDOM!” yells the crowd.
They can take our lives.