Guest Essay

A Resistance of One’s Own.

Mary L. Keller. June 30, 2018.

In her classic  essay of 1929, “A Room of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf articulates the material needs of space, good food, even wine,  access to knowledge, and time required for women to achieve their potential as writers of fiction. Her first sentence is the objection she anticipates to her public lecture on women and fiction: “But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction—what has that got to do with a room of one’s own?”

I, too, anticipate the objection even as I dare to write. Her first sentence marks the hurdle with which I wrestle each time I think about speaking, acting, marching, protesting—“But, you may say, . . . .”   I anticipate being questioned in ways that I nevertheless never anticipate well enough to shut down, and thus find myself speaking, acting, marching, and protesting on my heels thinking “Are you really still talking to me like you have the center of truth and are presenting it to me?  How do I get out of this position in which your very certainty places me as an object in need of your knowledge?”

I did, in fact,  dare to interrupt a mansplainer on Sheridan Ave who came to tell me and three other informed and intelligent women of his concerns that we were feeding the belly of the beast of division.  After minutes of listening to concerns we were already discussing before his arrival, I said: “Do you mean to mansplain to us? This does not feel like a conversation to me.” My friend and I both laughed, saying “We are old enough that we will tell you!” playing the appealing laughter card–as if to soften the truth by laughing that we are mere crones who let the cat out of the bag, rather than roaring with our power to see that silence was being asked of us.

Nevertheless, I grant that this man’s question to us—Does your protest increase division at this time of division?—reflects my own questions about what to do in Trumpland; once the separation of families became a thing–I PROTEST!,  and then Trump signed an executive order that I knew was not solving the issue–I still protest, don’t I? “But, you may say, Didn’t you know Obama did this too? Didn’t you know Trump signed an executive order? What do you say about abortion if you’re worried about separating children from their mothers?”

The energy I put into one day’s presence on the street nettles my brain like the voice in the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; “Do I dare, or do I dare? Shall I wear my trousers rolled?”  Am I fussing with the tiniest of civil actions in the face of a grave, ugly, dehumanizing injustice that makes for a no-brainer STAND UP and VOICE the RESISTANCE! moment?

Today I ordered John Dear’s book on Nonviolence in the Time of Climate Change –if I read that then I will know when to stand, my little narrator says.

Because, you see, self-doubt is part of critical thinking. Appreciating the power and depth of one’s illusions is part of Buddhist insight. And, self-doubt is part of women’s historical legacy of remaining the second sex. Instilling self-doubt in another person is the gas lighter’s tool par excellence, deployed by the abusive partner.  To be a person who seeks daily to come to clearer thinking by challenging my assumptions seems unwise in Trumpland, where the bully does not question but rather “acts first and asks for permission or forgiveness later.” Seize the day. Grab the pussy.

Trump reflects and reinforces the human will to repress self-doubt while inflicting it on others: he shifts us further from what we once knew of governance by invoking fake news, mocking expertise, mocking disability, and crossing lines one thought uncrossable, just to see what we will tolerate, taking a step back once Laura Bush’s moral outrage stung the Republican party to plea for the executive order.  Thus normalization two-steps toward inhumanity: two steps forward, one step back. The next two steps will come tomorrow, or maybe tonight in a tweet, or maybe on Melania’s jacket, or maybe that’s not a thing, or maybe it is a thing that I should not deign to address because women should not be judged on their clothing . . .

I feel like I am being puppet-ed if I do and if I don’t stand in protest. I trust that violence against one’s neighbors always lurks just under the skin of human being, and thus my calculus: is protest reaction? Is reaction stuck in the field of propoganda because it shines no light in Trumpland?

Silence is not an option; yet art requires patience, and this is not a time with time for knowing where and when to stand. Moliere wrote comic satire for King Louis XIV. Do I dare? On what stage does one stand in absurd times? We joyous warriors do discern a resistance of one’s own, encouraged by our Wyoming Rising colleagues, appearing where we do, when we do.  We dare, we dare to be otherwise, and I dare more often with your variegated gaits in this resistance. And yes, I finished off a pint of ice cream on a porch of one’s own.

— Mary L. Keller examines struggles for meaning and power at the interfaces of cultural difference.  Even when she’s feeding chickens.  


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