My state went up in flames this week. Quite literally. The exceedingly dry climate made even dryer by climate change, conditions inherent to California exacerbated by the earth warming. I woke up on Tuesday morning after the Santa Ana winds tousled and tossed and turned all night, violently. The trees outside my window trembled and fluttered and peppered the street with papery leaves, like tender strands of hair ripped off of a head. I fell asleep to the wind. Morning came and I rubbed my eyes clean, opened my window to let some air into the warm room. A gust of smoke-thick air right at the back of my throat, unbearable. At school, ash littered the tables and cars, sad surgical-esque masks were handed out to somewhat protect our developing lungs. At least they tried.
School canceled for the next few days, our breathing rough, wheezing, pained.
The fires tore through cities, through houses, apartment complexes, bedrooms, nurseries, kitchens, stables. After, the charred, crackly limbs of all of these homes, all of the memories and rituals made there. I watched my state burn, felt an immeasurable guilt. The air by my house was clogged with smoke, but the fires didn’t touch us, were far enough away to keep us calm. Scrolling through the news, lives abruptly and unceremoniously split-ended, animals scraping through the burnt streets, the view from the 405: mountains ablaze, deep dark orange-red, like a preview of the apocalypse, shining above the blackness. Come to California to see how light can destroy. Looking up at the mountains, you’re reminded of the pure violence of the sun, if we were to travel to its core, heat so unimaginable we’d be dust long before we arrived. Fire keeps us warm, fire eats us alive.
All of this came at an ironic moment. The fire consumed my thoughts for the week, but still, I watched CNN, chewed on my cuticles, felt sweat bloom under my bangs. While California burned, Alabama self-destructed. Or rather, a certain political party did. Trump endorses Moore. Moore takes lead in polls. Doug Jones in a tough spot. Republican party a mess. Unbelievable. Moore supporters undeterred by sexual assault allegations.
by sexual assault allegations.
The fragments I caught, I could not quite bring myself to bite down on. I didn’t want to think about it, still don’t, and the election is tomorrow. I wish I could be more active in this race, go out there and canvass for Doug Jones all day and night, but I can’t. Not because I don’t want to. Because of how much this race hurts. How much it aches.
I suppose I should not be surprised. We elected a President accused by countless women of sexual assault, a President who bragged about grabbing women by the - and I will not apologize for the vulgarity, because I’m not the one who should be - pussy. We elected a man representative of the lifeblood of American masculinity: misogyny. Not quiet, implicit, subtextual murmurs of sexism; not something we can sigh off and shake our heads at, or shrug our shoulders uncomfortably, or justify as something else. There is nothing quiet or subtextual about Donald Trump. He may be a fan of dog-whistle politics, but his whistle is a shrieking, ear-covering one. Makes your ears bleed.
No, Donald Trump is explicit in his hatred of women - his hatred of most non-white, non-male people, really - and nonetheless, we saw him, really saw him, and said, we want that guy. Old news.
No. Not really, though. It’ll never be old news.
Roy Moore is most likely, very possibly, a pedophile. He has probably committed sexual assault and sexually harassed more women than he can count. It’s not even that he’s denying it- he’s rolling his eyes, really. Sure, he dated fourteen-year-old girls at the age of thirty, but, well, so what? Not that big of a deal. Or, my favorite - it’s good to date them young, so you can start reproducing right away and have a huge family. Or the million other bizarre justifications Moore and his spin-squad (essentially the whole GOP) have used when confronted. My ability to stomach Roy Moore’s candidacy was one thing, but to stomach his success? His potential victory? That is a lot to ask of a person with a conscience. A lot to ask someone who cares about women, and happens to be one.
Here’s the problem, amongst the many. The party’s support for Moore is much farther than a compromise of morality, more like an entire dismissal of it, and further reveals the undeniable moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the mainstream, elected Republican party. But more so- his success is also a direct slap in the face to women, and really, to teenage girls. Those women that were teenagers when Moore harassed or assaulted them? How must this feel? To know, undeniably, that actual politicians, actual human beings meant to represent you and your country, are choosing to not look the other way, but instead, to look right at what happened to you and shrug their shoulders, unimpressed? And what does it feel like to be a teenage girl right now, in the midst of this mess? It feels like your stomach caving in, heart thudding and escaping you.
If the Republican party supports Moore, they support treating teenage girls like ignorable, unimportant creatures. If you’re sexually assaulted, but the assailant is good for the party, the only option to keep the majority, well, sorry, but you just have to bear it. I won’t deny that the Democratic party has a myriad of its own fractures and problems, but wait a minute. The Democrats, in the face of sexual assault and harassment allegations, get the accused to leave. They take those accusations seriously. This isn’t my opinion; this is the truth that all those accused Democrats have resigned, while the GOP continues to support sexual predators unflinchingly.
I can’t quite sleep right. The smoke from the fires has coated the insides of my throat, and I am coughing incessantly, aggressively, trying to get the remnants of the fire out of me. I am contaminated with it, will be for quite some time, like the whole state is. The firefighters, though, aren’t trying to fight the poison in the air- they’re fighting the origin of the pollutant itself. The fire must be put out before we can breathe clean again. The air is still unsteady, but the flames are dying out.