By Francie Arenson Dickman
If I am going to write about the current state of affairs there is, literally, no time like the present. The Doomsday Clock, the one that’s meant to predict the end of the world, says that we are the closest to “midnight” (meaning, human extinction) we’ve been since the height of the Cold War.
Up until now, I’ve been blocked, overwhelmed, and obsessively studying the stream of material coming out of Facebook. I read Garrison Keiler and Aaron Sorkin and I’m amazed at their ability to articulate and process and say something wise in real time. I think to myself, this is why they’re Garrison Keiler and Aaron Sorkin and I’m just another fan on the feed, another shocked citizen looking for enlightenment and encouragement from the cybersphere.
While Sorkin was able to pen a poignant letter to his 15-year-old daughter on November 9th, all I managed to do was stand in my kitchen in mis-matched socks and dirty sweats because I’d been too bowled over to get dressed. And when my own 15-year-old daughters looked at me with fear and asked, “What’s going to happen?” all I could do was shrug and mumble, “I dunno.”
“Should we leave the country?” they asked.
“Are they going to take away gay marriage?”
I don’t know what to say because I’ve never had to know. I’m a woman from Generation X. We’re the ones who came right after all the wars and civil unrest, the rare bunch who awakened to sexism, racism and the rest of the “isms” gradually, on our own time rather than by baptism by fire. Yes, when I was practicing law, there was a judge who called the female attorneys who approached his bench “Miss America.” Yes, when I was newly married, we had a neighbor who stopped talking to us because we were Jewish. Yes, there’s been Desert Storm and 9/11 and Katrina and the Challenger, I’m certainly not minimizing the national disasters and crises we’ve been faced with over the past four decades.
But by and large, we haven’t experienced, as a generation, an entirely dark era. We were raised by Free to Be You and Me, and we did in fact become doctors, and teachers and cleaners and bakers—as well as mothers who are now looking at their daughters and thinking how the hell can this be?
Yes indeed, my generation has had a relatively peaceful run—which may be why Donald Trump got elected in the first place. We’ve never had any real experience with a domestic enemy and so we were slow on the uptake to recognize and organize. Just one more thing, I suppose, my daughters will—when they are heading to class with air masks over their mouths or cross country for an abortion—blame their mother for one day. “While she was worrying about a crazy man abducting us on the way home from school,” they’ll say, “a crazy man up and stole the entire democracy.”
And we’ll look at each other from our underground silos and say, “Who could have known?”
Who could have known that while we women were busy exercising our newly earned rights like leaving housework behind and leaning in—while I, personally, have chosen to spend my days writing and tutoring and serving on PTAs, and the time in between making sure my kids had lunches and reading skills and moral centers so they’d become upstanding people who were ready to go out into the world to be whatever they want to be—a bunch of white men would decide to turn back the hands of time?
It’s so depressing that the fact that Mary Tyler Moore died last Wednesday, in the midst of Trump’s first week of nightmare executive orders, seems perfectly symbolic. She was, after all, the poster child of the smart and able independent woman.
To the extent that we helicopter moms of today—or the “black stretch pant women of America,” as Kellyanne Conway likes to call us—had our blades flying over our homes when they should have been hovering over Washington DC, forgive us. Forgive us for assuming that our elected officials could be trusted to adhere to the laws and the truths we are supposed to hold self-evident. But don’t worry, we are on it now. We can multi-task. We can babysit the kids and the government, too.
Don’t let my black stretch pants fool you, Kellyanne. I’ve also been Mary Tyler Moore. In an Ann Taylor suit and running shoes I went to work every day as a lawyer. Ironically, I attended the same law school at the same time as you, where somehow I learned about the Bill of Rights and Women’s Rights, about the importance of the rule and respect of law in running our nation. Where were you? Although, really, one doesn’t need a law school education to understand basic civics or the rules of civility. Or, for that matter, reality.
In this new Age of Ugliness, the reality is that while my daughters are asking me what’s going to happen to our country, I am asking myself, what’s going to happen to them? The answer is, I don’t know. Will they throw back to the Age of Aquarius? Will they soon be embracing the 1960’s activism of the hippies? They—along with almost every other young girl—already have the long, straight, stringy hair.
They also have a sense of justice and liberty for all, instilled in them by their parents as well as the parents who, up until last week, had been living in the White House. People are products of their time, and for the past eight years, the message of live and let live has been passed down from on high. The tenor from the top has been one of civility. These attitudes are reflected not only in my children, but in our entire neighborhood. My kids have gone to public schools where students come from all walks of life, where they come out of the closet at the 8th grade poetry slam, where they wear clothes that match the gender with which they identify and no one bats an eye, where kids, many of them Dreamers under Obama’s DACA policy, get educated and go onward and upward to higher education.
We are all American Dreamers. Even now, though it’s 4:00 am and I can’t sleep because the Doomsday Clock is ticking in my ear, I am dreaming of the day that this darkness is behind us, of a day that the President’s values again reflect ours, even of a day that the President’s gender reflects my daughters’.
We will make it happen, my children and I. We will fight, don’t you worry. In our black stretch pants and pink pussy hats, we will take our stand. They can repeal and replace Obama’s legislation all day long. His true legacy is going to be an entire generation of activists, a new generation of freedom fighters, of flower children. The kids already have the hair. Many of their mothers, I hear, have the helicopters. And every last one of us has something to say.
Francie Arenson Dickman is an American mother, writer and citizen. She especially appreciates her right to freedom of speech. Read more of her work at Franciearensondickman.com.
Women of the World Unite, 2014, by Cheryl Braganza. The painting envisions a future where women of all colors and cultures join hands to collectively effect positive change in the world.