I'm not a political person. I mean, I am, kind of -- I spend a lot of time thinking about feminist stuff and social issues. But my stances are mostly intellectual; I stop short of real activism, of righteous indignation. I sigh, I roll my eyes. I don't scream or rage. And when it comes to donkey-elephant-pull the little lever-whatever electoral politics, I am completely tuned out.
It wasn't always this way. As a teenager in suburban Oklahoma, I was righteously indignant. I started petitions, screamed along to Ani Difranco lyrics, fought the good fight every time one of my classmates called something "gay," or a teacher explained to us how God said, "Let there be a big bang." I attempted to bring a chapter of the Young Democrats to my highschool, and started a Gay-Straight Alliance that promptly fizzled when I couldn't find an adult sponsor. Day after day, I shoved against a tidal wave of ignorance so powerful that I might as well have been pounding my fists on water. To be a young girl in the misogynist, homophobic Bible Belt was to be infuriated, and scared. In my insulated little world, I had no allies and everything I believed in my bones to be good and right was deemed wrong and inappropriate.
I guess at some point I got tired. After all, my anger never got me anywhere. I turned 18, moved somewhere where people thought like I did, and grew apathetic.
I let slip recently that I have never voted. I usually tell people that it's because I have only lived in overwhelmingly Republican and overwhelmingly Democratic states in which my vote seemed sort of pointless. That's true, but also maybe I am scared of my anger, afraid of feeling like that powerless little girl again. So I avoid the entire infuriating world of politics, funnel my time and resources into bettering the world through volunteerism, and I'm happier for it.
Except that anger doesn't just go away when you avoid feeling it. My therapist assures me it's in there, simmering and bubbling and waiting to express itself in what I imagine to be a meltdown of shitshowsian proportions. I have never really, for instance, felt anger at the perpetrators of my rape. I feel, instead, deeply ashamed of myself, somehow embarrassed to have found myself a victim of sexual assault. Because here's what happens when I get mad: The rage sputters up from my stomach and burns futilely in my throat, leaving me frustrated and gape-mouthed, unable to turn an internal emotion external. And without an escape, that anger turns right back around and settles into my stomach as shame. That's why, when someone is rude to me, it becomes another piece of kindling on the fire of my perpetual self-loathing. Why I attempt to destroy myself with substances when hurt rather than lashing out at those who hurt me.
But lately the old fire is starting to flare up inside of me again. I joked yesterday to Corynne that Todd Akin's repulsive, mouth-breathing, moronic (see? angry) comments re: legitimate rape may actually have been enough to repoliticize me.
"Things are that bad?" she joked.