Wednesday, November 9, 2016

today, i'm just sad

Sometimes we just need to have a day to grieve. Today's my day. Tomorrow is tomorrow but today I'm grieving. Today I'm mad, today I'm sad.

My mother and father came to this country from Mexico. She is from a border town called Mexicali, where a lot of her family still lives and we try to visit once a year. My mother came on a student visa and then eventually got her permanent resident card under amnesty declared by Ronald Regan. In fact, her pregnancy with me helped her establish her residence here. She's still a permanent resident.

My father came here illegally, under a semi-truck and crossed at the Mexicali border. He became a resident also under the amnesty declared by Regan and up until the recession was a union welder at a company repairing trains that transport goods across this country. He loves this country and a few years ago he became a citizen and registered as a Republican.

I've grown up knowing both languages and always feeling like an American but still culturally Mexican with my mom speaking Spanish to us at home and attending a Spanish church. I was very American at school, deeply patriotic, and luckily, a smarty pants. Those smarty pants helped me find my way to AP classes where my history teacher preached and preached that education was the absolute key to a good life. So I applied for college. My mother had no idea how to help me and her culture couldn't comprehend my desire to attend and live on campus. She was a major bitch to me my last few months at home and I didn't understand why. I later learned that she has a hard time processing hurt and it manifests as anger. Unfortunately a quality I very much possess but working on. She didn't even want to help me move in on the day I was to move to school. She came to her senses at the last minute and never quite told me she was proud of me to my face but from what others tell me, she was proud.

My father on the other hand, could only just tell me he was proud and do whatever he could to take me to visit campuses and even scrape together for the registration deposit for Biola University, a private Christian school in a majorly white suburban neighborhood. My dad would come visit me weekly and bring me some cash while at school, he ended every phone call with "I'm proud of you."

I didn't get to Biola on my own. Odds were stacked against me. My mother was raising 5 kids by herself so money was tight and obviously we had no savings account to pay for day to day life much less pay for college. We were on food stamps and welfare and my mom worked full time. Somehow that didn't even register, I heard of these things called "scholarships" in my high school of predominantly poor Latinos, packed to the GILLS in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Yes, that LAUSD. I was on the meal plan program like so many were. I was surrounded by Latinos whose parents were all working class and felt the way I felt. Luckily, the Lord kept me safe and I spent my time with good kids who all were smarty and wanted to go to college. And a bunch of us did.

I applied for Federal Student Aid and I got it. I applied for the Cal Grant and I got it. I applied for a scholarship from my school that encouraged diversity and I got it. And to cover the rest, I applied for a student loan. And there I was, little Mexican girl at a mostly white school. My best friends were white. I dated white dudes. I felt the culture clash but embraced the feeling that I finally belonged amongst my fellow Christians and my fellow film students. Bunch of guerilla film makers and still like family to me. We talked about the quadruple screwed-ness that I was walking into upon graduation: a Christian, Latina, Female, in an industry dominated by liberal DUDES. I wrestled with all four of those factors of who I am during school and after school. I found solace in my individuality, feeling it gave me an advantage not a disadvantage. Not a hindrance, but a benefit.

And they embraced the Latina girl part. The Christian part was much more of a challenge. I found like-minded God believing filmmakers and had great chats with my non-believers. I still do. I do have to sit in rooms where they bash Republicans and Evangelicals with no regard for who's listening, assuming everyone thinks the same. I would have to remind them often who I was. Sometimes with words, often as simply as the testimony of my marriage and my character.

Being a woman in the industry and experiencing sexism is much more subtle. I've risen to a top position in my field and am thankful I never had to fight for wage equality, we all get paid the same. But some stuff does come up that is more internal than anything. Like making sure that I can negotiate and play hardball to manage our sometimes million dollar budgets and that means telling men decades my senior No and making compromises always making sure I am "nice" because otherwise we fall into being labeled "a bitch".

Being a bitch is easy, I'm a hard ass Latina but being kind and fair is just as easy. Because I'm a Christian and because since I was a kid fairness and equality has been something that has been ingrained into me since hearing about injustices in the world and those done to our environment. Been an environmental kid since little, tried to recycle, volunteered at an aquarium in high school. Anytime my mom faced gender crap within her church I was outraged. Anytime anyone was treated unfairly I hated it. Always have, always will. I never felt inclined toward any party and have been an independent voter from the get. Couldn't fit into either party what with my weird me-ness. All the parts of me that I described above. Then I got married to a white guy and had a daughter, so now I was a wife and a mother on top of all the rest. Oy vey.

And then one magical election year all of those things that make up me were attacked/ridiculed/ marginalized. My Mexican people were called awful things. Immigrants were to be feared. And being a woman became such a heavy discussion as the first female major party candidate became a reality. Out of the mouth of the member of one party they came and people seemed outraged but as we learned on Tuesday night, they didn't care. It wasn't enough to not vote for that person. My country's election of that man told me in not as many words that it didn't care about me. In their hearts they didn't care enough, they were not outraged enough, they told me that these words don't matter no matter how awful they are. But let me tell you how very much they mattered to me. And how very much they hurt me the first time and they killed me when the rest of the country agreed.

The president-elect admitted to sexually assaulting women. And that's when it hit me like a ton of bricks and made me cry the darkest tears. And in case you never knew anyone that has been a victim, let me tell you my story.

The reason my mother was a single mother was because my step-father sexually abused me and my sisters for years. He was taken into custody in 1994 after someone from school was told about it happening by one of my sisters and the child protective services stepped in and took us from our mother. We were in their custody for a month before we went back to live with our mother.

And here is the kicker: my mother knew. I had told her years before my step-father was taken into custody what he had done. He had told me never to tell anyone but I knew it was wrong. I was about 7 or 8. All she did was confront him and I don't remember if he ever did it to me again. But she stayed with him. SHE STAYED WITH SOMEONE SHE KNEW ABUSED HER OWN DAUGHTER. Let me say that again. She knew what he had done and SHE STAYED. He was more important to her than I was. And it's only through years of thinking and wrestling with it that I am certain she was a victim of abuse as well, that fear that they live in thinking they deserve it and they can't escape and you'll never make it on your own. Single woman you can't do it.You can't, you need a man. She fell for that lie and her children paid the price. I've had to live with that betrayal for most of my life. That I was not valued enough by my own mother. A mother, who's only job is at the very minimum to protect her children from anyone who wants to hurt them. She did not do her job. She failed. She prioritized a man over her daughters. A man was more valuable that we who were once in her own body, we who were held by her when we were tiny.

It's a betrayal I must admit is always at the back of my mind with every fight I have with my mother. Of course you don't care about me. I've never been a priority to you, mom.

And that is the very feeling I felt last night. As though millions of voices had cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. And silenced by those that were supposed to protect us. Our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, ourselves. That is the betrayal I feel at the hands of my country. Women came out in spades telling their sexual assault/abuse stories and I came out to facebook as a survivor myself. If one good thing came of it, it was the conversation of how women are treated by men so often and how often men get away with it. Oh boy do they get away with it.

But nobody looked me in the eye and told me that I didn't matter and that what I went through didn't matter. They didn't have the guts. They did it behind my back in a voting booth.

And that is why I grieve today. That is why I took it very personally. As a child I was violated against my own will and then when I spoke up, I was silenced and things moved along as though nothing had happened. As an adult, the very same thing happened again at the hands of my country.

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