I don’t know why Avid Reader and others found comfort in my report that I’ve been spending time in a quiet white room, waiting. If an author I enjoyed said something like that I’d expect to hear next that she’d taken a vow of silence, moved to an ashram, or adopted an orthodoxy that limited her creativity to devotional art. I’m not doing any of those things. But it shows a remarkable optimism on the part of my readers to trust that the white room will spit me back.
The engine of fury that drives the wild rant of my writing has settled down to a soft purr. It’s not that there’s not anything to be outraged about, what with the rape apologists, and the so-called Christian leaders of our nation unable to extend a hand of fellowship to the children of immigrants. Not that I’m not delighted we’ve finally overturned Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, that testimony to Bill Clinton’s spineless duplicity, but that act of congressional sanity invites another round of people who hate me telling the world why.
When I think of what I might say about all this, I imagine winding myself up like a toy and letting myself at them in a grinding torrent of words. But I don’t want that wind up inside me right now, because I’m happy. I have some heaviness in my heart, who doesn’t? But it’s the private kind, not anything I need to trot out in public writing. And without the wind up, when I set my mind to those folks—the ones who can’t hold the paradox that a man they admire might also be a rapist; the ones who don’t understand that the correction to selective prosecution of rape allegations is equal, thorough, and vigorous investigation of all rape allegations; the ones who don’t trust the abundance of our country or the depth of their own hearts enough to embrace the stranger; the ones who believe that male desire is an ungovernable force, and thus contribute both to the rape culture and to oppressive homophobia—when I think of all those people in this mood, in this happy mood, all I feel is their fear.
I feel how frightened they are to imagine a world where a man they like might sexually assault someone. What about all the other men I like? whispers their fear. What if I can’t tell by looking at someone, by reading his resume, whether or not he is a sexual predator? I feel how frightened they are that there will not be enough—enough work, enough safety, enough food, enough education, enough healthcare. I understand that their terror-driven is solution to deny these things to someone else instead of demanding enough for all. I feel how frightened some straight men are that they might be the object of someone’s ungovernable desire, and the deeper inchoate terror that male desire might actually be governable, the barely dawning realization that the license they have given themselves in this woman-hating heterosexist patriarchy might reflect a gross lack of sexual ethics rather than a biological imperative.
I feel their fear and it makes me sad for them. But not for me. Because I am not afraid tonight. I have often been afraid and I hope I will be afraid again, many many times over, as I move into unknown places. But tonight I am filled with joy and happiness and hope. Because the light is coming back, because the baby will be born, because the oil burned and burned and burned. Because my daughter has a velvet dress and a verse from the Book of Luke to memorize, because I love my wife with my whole heart, because I sat with my friend after her radiation and saw her humbled awe at this amazing life we live in these fragile, vital bodies. Because the moon is full and the Lady Huskies stand poised to topple the UCLA men’s record winning streak.
And if it were not enough that these fragile, vital young women will throw themselves at the record they desire, will govern the engines of their athletic gifts with brilliance and cunning, this morning their coach, Mr. Geno Auriemma, made me cry. Standing in my kitchen, listening to the white noise of hate and obfuscation droning out of NPR. Then suddenly, a feminist ally, a working class Italian jock making it seem so easy to stand up for women: see the sexism, name the sexism, no apologies. Those losers on the left could learn a lot from this guy. And maybe when they’re not so scared, they might.
“If we were breaking a woman’s record everybody would go, ‘Aren’t those girls nice.’” Just give them two paragraphs in USA Today, you know. And give them one line on the bottom of ESPN and let’s send them back where they belong in the kitchen. But because we’re breaking a men’s record we got a lot of people paying attention.” -- Geno Auriemma, Head Coach, UConn Women’s Basketball
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