“Often, the pioneers who clear the paths do not have the honor or privilege of running along them.”- Faye Wattleton
What I was thinking about yesterday is how similar I actually am to Hillary Clinton, even though she keeps appearing to me in dreams as inauthentic. She is inauthentic out of a lack of choice, or so she feels. In other words, she felt her authenticity didn’t get her heard back in the early ‘90s; the world wasn’t ready for her as she was yet, it seemed. So she moved to the center to pave a path in, to enter the boys’ club. It’s not the path I want to run along and not the path, I think, she wants truly to run along, but she has cleared way. Now there is room behind her for more path-pavers and path walkers, the ones who truly will walk the way they want.
I imagine how soul-crushing that must be, to run along a path that is not fully of your own choosing, but Hillary seems to be able to forge it, anyway. She and I are different in that way. We have different missions in life—different reasons for being here—and neither is wrong. And, without her, I would have less of a path. Or, for example, without Alice Walker coming before me, it’s like my words would be entirely powerless, falling on deaf ears. Ms. Walker has paved the way. And Virginia Woolf, of course. She has, too. She killed herself because she felt she wasn’t being heard, couldn’t fit in in her lifetime and I have felt similar feelings: that I don’t belong, that I’m not being heard, but I realize that that sentiment is not reserved for this lifetime; I am meant to speak out—and to find listeners surrounding me. We all are meant to be heard, and to feel heard.
This doesn’t mean I don’t—or you don’t—have a path to forge; we do. But we will not do it hopelessly. We will not do it desperately. We will not do it, dragging. We will stand tall and walk through and all will come.
I also realized it is part of my job to make sure every path-paver feels heard; in other words, to use my work to help create a space where all women path-pavers feel comfortable being who they are; where they are accepted in the full embodiment of what they stand for. I want no more Rodham-Clintons who have to go off-kilt, paving their way to the center when, really, they belong on the far left. When, really, they stand for children’s welfare and women’s choice and migrant workers’ rights and not anti-flag burning. (Clinton co-sponsored a bill in the Senate banning flag burning.) After all, if we cannot burn our flag, how can we feel comfortable displaying our dissatisfaction, our extreme unhappiness with the way at hand, should we find ourselves feeling that way? We shouldn’t be bound to loyalty to a singular and unquestionable government; this land must earn loyalty from us. Because, after all, the only loyalty we should truly hold is the one to all people and all lands: our oneness is the truth behind the facade of our divided governments and divided peoples and divided lands. But that’s a story for another time.
So will I support Hillary? Yes. Not only because she is a woman, but because she is a competent woman, and because many of her lingering leftist—progressive, conscious—values align with mine. Because she is more capable of the job than anyone else running—and she happens to be a woman.
I also know that she is a path-paver, so when her words have me, sometimes, in disappointment, I will understand. That does not mean that I will not hold her to better standards, that I will not ask for more (because we, on the outside, the agitators for change, cannot accept the center as the way; there is no middle path that will satisfy us), but I will know that, deep in our consciousness, Hillary Rodham Clinton is shifting us toward the way, the way called for by our souls, even when she doesn’t appear to be walking it fully herself. Hillary will make way for every peace-embodying, strong and spirited woman who wants to rise to the presidency. And not just the presidency, but every office and in every home. After Hillary, we will have to, even if only a little bit more, take women seriously.
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Last night, I overheard my dad listening to the pre-game news before the Yankees came on. The sportscaster was excited for the night’s matchup, proudly reporting that So-and-so would be back on the pitcher’s mound tonight “after violating the baseball league’s domestic violence rule.” He went on to talk about how Mr. So-and-so was rearing to go, certainly ready to get back out there, and how we was going to rise spectacularly to the occasion and take down the other team. (He certainly has some rising to do given how far he fell.)
What I couldn’t believe, though, was how this news was reported. In a passing statement, like a passing, uninterested glance, the reporter swiped right past the fact that this man, this Mr. So-and-so, had abused a woman in his home—her home, possibly. Where were the details? It’s like the reporter so swiftly wrote over Mr. So-and-so’s sin for him and took the life out of his victim: she was just some pre-game statistic, her personhood run over and replaced with only the words “violating the baseball league’s domestic violence rule.” The reporter gave her no name, face, story, empathy, compassion, or strength. The story told here was one about a proclaimed excellent pitcher, not a man in violation of his manhood, a man who “allegedly” pushed his girlfriend up against the wall of their home, choked her, and then fired eight gunshots in the garage right after the “incident” to release his pent-up anger. (Too little, too late, am I right? Or too much, too late. Either way.)
You see, we have brushed women so far out of the way that we’ve forgotten, even, that violence against them matters; that it is not ok and, most importantly, that we shouldn’t glorify the spineless un-men, the manless men, who have forgotten who they truly are and where they come from. Who have forgotten so much what it means to be a man, forgotten that they are one with everyone and everything else, that they stoop so low as to be violent against the women they should have joined together with in trust and comfort and mutual support and aspiration.
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In 1982, Hillary Rodham changed her name to Hillary Rodham Clinton, grudgingly (she had been married since 1975, using only Rodham to define herself). On the campaign trail for her husband in his Arkansas gubernatorial race, the first time around (he ran twice, won once) she adamantly insisted upon her right to her name, her independence, and her professional life outside of her husband’s. When Bill lost re-election, campaign advisors pinned it on Hillary, saying that he lost, in large part, because she refused to take his name. What they were implying, but not saying, was he lost because she refused to shut up, sit down, tie her hands and become the submissive wife. Because she didn’t declare herself his property. Because she didn’t play the part Arkansas voters wanted. Grudgingly, she added an addendum to her name, a Clinton after the Rodham. Her husband’s staffers and the media quickly dropped the Rodham from their daily vernacular, creating the Hillary Clinton we know today.
What gives us the right to choose for women how and who they should be? To run over their own will, their own volition, without listening to their voices? Because they have voices. They have presence. Hillary Rodham certainly did (and Hillary Rodham Clinton still does). The woman whose personhood was denied, so egregiously, by Mr. So-and-so certainly does. She is not a victim, but a survivor, whose tale has now fallen on deaf ears, becoming only a passing phrase to transition the reporter from Mr. So-and-so’s one month absence (how could one month do justice to choking and gun shots?) to his triumphant return that evening. If he could, it seems the reporter would have skipped that statement entirely, that passing phrase, but he needed something to briefly explain So-and-so’s absence, to make the sentence he had begun spitting out complete. Ah, the English language, how feisty! How demanding!
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So what is the moral here?
The moral is that, one, women matter. (All people and living beings matter.) Women have presence and voices and brilliant talents, and we need to recognize them. Women have worth, simply by being who they are. And, two, we need to give comfort and support to the path-pavers. Or, at the very least, we need to recognize their role, their work toward the cause. Whether we agree with them or not, we must, if only for a moment, bow our heads and see that their mere presence is pushing us forward. In the case of the presidential election, we don’t have to vote for Hillary Clinton if we do not want to, but we do need to thank her, even if silently and in our own ways. We need to acknowledge her in our spirits. She is furthering the cause, making it possible for more women who match more closely our vision of our female president to rise to the occasion. Maybe our female president, the one we may have envisioned and imagined for years, is more left—or maybe more right than Hillary. Maybe she is more brown, or any other variation on the spectrum of human beingness. Maybe she is gay, trans. Maybe she stands more proudly or more loudly for climate change—that is, for changing the mind- (and spirit-) boggling direction of our planet.
In other words, maybe she looks more like us, whoever we each are. Maybe she projects our personal values better—again, our stands for something very individual here. Either way, there is a woman within a few paces of the presidency. A competent, strong, capable, experienced woman. For that, we should celebrate, no matter who we are and no matter if we want her to win or not. Celebrate, for a path-paver is in our midst. Who knows, maybe you’ll rise next?