It is not fair that children have to live on this planet with monsters who disguise themselves as parents, teachers, cousins, uncles, family friends, coaches, philanthropists, world leaders.
A few days ago, in light of verified monster Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest for the sex trafficking of children, I was hijacked by emotion—namely sorrow and fury. In bed late at night, I longed for sleep as my body struggled to contain the hurt, the outrage, the deep despair.
For the first time, I let myself read the sworn testimony of the Jane Doe who accused Trump of raping her when she was 13 at one of Epstein’s parties. She said he also raped a 12-year-old girl. Her testimony was corroborated.
Can you imagine? If the man who brutally raped you when you were a child—who tied you up, hit you, sexually violated, and threatened your life—was the President of the United States of America? Would you ever be able to look at the news again, ever be able to leave your home? What if your dad wore a MAGA hat and your neighbor had a Trump sign in their yard and your best friend probably voted for Trump because she didn’t like Hillary? Even after literal dozens of sexual-abuse allegations—many of them officially corroborated—were brought to light?
I’m angry. I’m angry for the girls who became women who have to live through this nightmare—or not live through it. I’m angry that people in my life—people I adore—voted for and donated to and still to this day worship at the alter of DJT. I’m furious. I will never not be furious. I get that folks’ politics are formed by a clusterfork of psychological and sociological factors, and I know that it’s a very rare human who can make such a ginormous mistake as voting for a pedophile and then repent. I get that egos are inherently fragile. I get that people are imperfect and ignorant and only capable of so much emotional processing. I don’t care. It’s not fair. My rational-brain understanding of human psychology takes a backseat to the lived experiences of victims, to my almost-unbearable outrage and debilitating sadness.
I am not one of the 1 in 5 women who was sexually abused as a child. In that way, I was/am lucky. I did experience other traumas throughout childhood, as we most (or maybe all) did. I’m working through them in therapy because, while I am not responsible for the hand I was dealt, I am responsible for how I play my cards. I’m currently processing some really tangled ideas, and I’m eager to unknot them. My (brilliant) therapist, however, thinks I need to, I don’t know, hurl the jumbled mess at the wall first. Stomp on it. Scream at it. Throw it off a balcony. She is practically begging me to allow myself to feel some rage, particularly toward the adults who did kid-me wrong. It’s much easier for me to take the blame myself, to make excuses for the adults, to rationalize, to “try to take the compassionate route”; I swear, any day now, my therapist is gonna lose it when I again mention that “I was reading this Buddhist text . . . “—because it’s straight-up a way for me to avoid confronting my personal anger.
Another way I avoid confronting my personal anger? Fighting for social justice. Feeling anger on others’ behalves. Putting that righteous anger to good use—in protest, activism, advocacy, education.
A friend of mine asked me if I consider teaching to be my “highest form of rebellion.” Through teaching, I get to be a positive force in kids’ lives—or at least try to be.
The other day, I offered a small sandwich cookie to a six-year-old student of mine, S. “No thank you,” she said. “I don’t want to get fat like my sister.” Her sister is four.
“That’s not a very nice thing to say,” I said gently. I grabbed my belly through my shirt with affection. “I’m fat, and it’s not a bad thing, is it? Some people are fat, and some people are medium, and some people are thin, and it’s all good. All bodies are good.” And then I went back to teaching phonics with a smile on my face.
Later, I would feel grateful for the opportunity to model fat positivity for a little girl who’s only been on the planet for six years and is already entrenched in fatphobia. I would also feel a heavy hopelessness and grief for her. My thirty-second interaction with her is a drop in an ocean of hate. Even if we count my happy, proud, loving, successful, body-positive, fat-woman presence in her life as a win, it’s still so little compared to the opposing forces. S will almost certainly develop an eating disorder over the next decade. She will cry in fitting rooms and count calories and believe she is unworthy of love. I know this to be true because it was true for me; that last one still lingers, even after all this time. That’s how childhood trauma works; it encodes itself on our bodies. It gives us mental illness and autoimmune disease and dysfunctional relationships. It is aggressive and unflinching; it even wreaks havoc on generations beyond us.
So, yes, I’m sad, and I’m mad. For all the Jane Does, and for all of the girls and women whose actual names I carry in my heart every day. For S, and for all of my students—the abused, the under-loved, the struggling, the sick, the tired, the anxious, the ticking time bombs, the ones who are “strong” and “mature” and “surprisingly fine.” For all of them, because they all have to live in this scary, unjust world, and they deserve infinitely better.
I’m beginning to allow myself to feel sad and mad on my own behalf, too.