Dear President Trump,
Over and over yesterday at the NMAAH I was confronted with the stark reality that at the founding of our nation, women didn’t count at all. We weren’t considered citizens, we weren’t 3/5s, we had no public (and little private) voice or power. Absolutely, many white women lived comfortably and benefited from the genocide of Native Americans and slavery and we cannot whitewash these realities. But the roots of today’s rampant sexism and misogyny are found in the statement “All men are created equal…” All men; not all men and women, not all people. All men. They meant all white men, of course, but still, the bottom line was that only men were considered equals of one another.
The poet Maggie Smith has a short stanza in a recent poem (“Small Shoes”) I think is apropos here and it goes: “Is it not a crime / unless we call it a crime?” The relevance is that if women were not considered citizens or real people then how could there be crimes against us? Now we have laws on rape, domestic violence, and hostile work places but for more than half the life of our country we didn’t have such laws and women couldn’t vote, hold property, divorce, etc. And the laws we have now to protect women (mostly) are not especially well enforced. The old, entrenched mindset that women are second-class citizens allows you and the HW’s of the world license to grab us wherever, however, whenever you want. The ultimate enabling, opportunity facilitator.
I learned yesterday that Susan B. Anthony felt so betrayed when women were not granted the vote at the same times as black men that she said white women deserved the vote more than they did. It was an awful thing to say, but I remember being crushed as an 8 year old reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln and finding out that while black men were given full citizenship and voting rights under the 15th Amendment, women were not. I was really angry with him. I didn’t begrudge black men their voting rights but it still felt terribly unfair and was profoundly disappointing that Lincoln didn’t come through for women too.
We all need blessings to help us reckon with our troubled, troubled history and the terrible growing pains we are having as we try and right these old, old wrongs.
May we be safe to see our past and present with clear eyes.
May we be happy to work toward a more perfect union.
May we all be healthy enough to step up and to step back as needed.
May we realize we are all better off if every one of us is treated as precious and invaluable.