Fear

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The first one was in my neighbor’s yard across the street – the Biden/Harris sign looking like someone had taken a bat to it. As I drove through Swarthmore, following Yale Ave to Swarthmore Ave., I saw dozens of Biden/Harris signs all showing evidence of– what? I imagined a carload (or caravan?) of angry, ignorant white men, their misplaced rage simmering, waiting for word from their inspirational leader, Donald Trump. They are “standing by.”

It reminded me of an incident at Wawa a few weeks ago when another customer freaked out that I, a white- haired, white woman, was wearing a Black Lives Matter mask. Then there’s the house on Crum Creek Rd. in Upper Providence, the short-cut from Media to Lawrence Park, where the road turns right and the farmhouse on the left has full-size cow sculptures grazing on the front lawn. Across the street, a rather ramschackle property sports next to the road four 4’ x’8 plywood panels where the owner has written in paintbrush the top ten most popular right-wing conspiracy theories from “Dems kill babies” to some vague reference to Jews. When I stopped to take a picture, a man came out of the house, shouting something at me, something metallic in his right hand. I avoided eye contact and slowly moved on.  Was it a gun? Is he part of one of PA’s fifty-plus militia groups who, before the virus, held one of their statewide monthly meetings at the Sproul Bowling Lanes in Marple?

Our lives and our futures are at stake with the increased presence of armed militia men acknowledged by authorities as the biggest terrorist threat to America.  Their plans to kidnap and kill the woman governor of Michigan, plus the range of irrational threats from right-wing conspiracy theories and the misinformation and lies spread by the propaganda media, and ignoring the facts of science and reality, are harming so much that was and could still be America. Apathy is not acceptable.

I started to write a poem based on Trump’s policies (or lack thereof) being responsible for not preventing a thousand (or more) unnecessary deaths.  I considered for the title, “Typhoid Trump: Mass murderer in chief”whose actions suggested depraved indifference to human life, enough for a warrant for manslaughter in most states.   Thinking about the violence behind the Biden-Harris sign bashing, I knew that the poem would exist only in my head.

I am afraid, very afraid…

Judith Trustone
Swarthmore, PA
Judith@Sagewriters.org

PRAYING FOR THE PREYED UPON

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by Judith Trustone

JudithTrustone.Wordpress.com (blog)
610-328-6101

We can all see her in our mind’s eye
Dumped by her captors to die holding her wailing infant, she staggers across the grueling desert, choking on her swollen tongue and teeth left broken from the fists that had subdued her.

She’s desperate for water for her and her baby, her teenaged once-budding breasts now withered and empty in the cruel sun. 

She has only a few occasional drops of spit to offer the hungry infant.

Terrified by their brutal attempts at making her compliant, she’d begged the hired coyotes not to kill her baby as they’d held a gun to the tiny head, laughing at her terror, forcing her to accept them without resistance into her sore, struggling body, both of them, one debasement after another as she submits to protect the tiny being with her very life.

Would the child remember?
She’d fled the murderous gangs in her blood-soaked former Central American paradise with her fretful new baby daughter, just days old. They’d named her Maria after her mother who’d been raped and murdered by the same gang of thugs, one of the many reasons she was fleeing in terror.

The young mother had watched in horror as her husband was slaughtered in front of her, and it was only a nearby explosion distracting the killers that had enabled her to escape to the waiting coyotes. They’d already been paid all the money they had to escort the young family to freedom in America despite the tales of the dangerous trip to an unwelcoming destination. 

Would the child remember?
She and her newborn had traveled alone with the coyotes, her only choice.Her sobbing, hungry infant had caused her to be abandoned by them; they’d claimed her baby’s cries had gotten on their nerves, their lame excuse for killing. They’d left her barely conscious, raped and beaten,  kicking sand on them both.

Would the child remember?
The mother was alone with her pain and her grief, guided during freezing nights by the moon and the stars, protected only by a shabby blanket, sheltering in burrows where she could, finding sustenance from the occasional cactus. Her only thoughts besides the profound numbness, a feeling of cement in her soul, were of a dream of life in America, safety for her daughter, a chance to live decently, to prosper, to get an education for her and her daughter, to have the space and support to heal, to grieve and maybe once again feel joy.

Now her brown body is covered by a torn garment and insect bites, bruises, dirt, crusted semen and cuts from her rapists. Had baby Maria been watching, screaming in her mother’s arms while she was being assaulted?

Would the child remember?
Feeling abandoned by everyone, even God, she scoops up the sunburned infant,  and sobs a raspy lullaby as an avalanche of salty tears flow, dampening her baby’s sand-filled hair, both their sobs of anguish blending, unbearable to hear if one were listening.

All the mother’s belongings and papers are gone with the cruel menalong with the water and food to sustain them on their final miles to freedom.

Beyond exhaustion, she resists the urge to give up, to curl up on the burning ground.Her baby held close to her battered heart, staggering on, a bloodied Warrior Woman, determined to start a new life for her and her child.

Overhead, vultures circle patiently, following her blistered footsteps. 

Suddenly she believes she is hallucinating, for there in the distance, she spots on the horizon what must surely be a mirage, a border fence where good Samaritans have stashed nearby jugs of water and cans of food for which they would be arrested! 

She forges ahead in disbelief and wonder toward a mountain of precious, life-giving water, gallons and gallons, beside sparkling cans of nourishing beans. She hadn’t eaten in days and was often delirious, hanging on only for the sake of her precious baby.

From a deep reservoir of whatever incredible strength mothers have to protect their babies no matter the cost, the young woman begins to run, hope springing as it eternally does, propelling her toward the possibility of life.

Baby bouncing on her skinny shoulders, gasping, sobbing with relief, doubting what she’s seeing, she draws closer and closer to salvation.

Suddenly stopping in shock, her voice hoarse and dry, she screams, “NO” and sinks to her knees in the hot sand, unable to believe her eyes.She can’t comprehending how anyone could do such a cruel thing by pouring out the water and food, taunting desperate refugees by leaving piles of empty jugs and cans that can lead to only one thing:  deliberate murder.

Border police had dumped it all out, laughing for the television cameras, following the orders of their despotic president.

Her mind ablaze with only hot light and unbearable pain, she stops, staring in disbelief. What human being could have done this? Pulling the baby up to her face, she screams, disbelieving,  an endless scream as Maria’s little head lolls on the tiny neck. The tiny baby has finally stopped crying…

We can all see them in our mind’s eye…if we’ll only look…

What does “Black Lives Matter” mean?

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The other day I stopped at the Wawa on Fairview Rd. near Swarthmore for my morning mocha cappuccino. I was wearing my “Black Lives Matter” mask that I’d gotten at the nearby Dollar Store. Next to me at the ordering screens was an older white woman with a mask dangling from one ear. When she finished, she turned toward me and when she saw the mask on my white face with my white hair, she gasped in horror, shaking her head no! no! no! and sending such a wave of hatred toward me that I felt it like a punch in the gut. Her loathing was so strong it seemed to take all her will power not to spit on me!

While over my eight plus decades I’ve been next to friends, colleagues, protesters, fellow activists and neighbors more times than I could ever count as they were subjected to subtle and vicious attacks of racism, I could only protest; my voice was usually ignored unless I wrote about it publicly. I’ve seen racism in politics and policies for most of my life, and have seen our distorted history books and the systemic racism legislated to create the horrific inequities that make America the white supremacist country that it is today, so well-delineated by Michelle Alexander in her book, The New Jim Crow. I took some deep breaths and looked this terrified woman in the eye with compassion. What could I possibly say to her? I caught myself wondering if she had a gun…maybe in her car? I try my best not to think in these ways.

Feeling powerless, I grabbed my coffee and left, shaken at the thought of how people of color are subjected to this kind of barrage of personal, political and legal hatred every moment of their lives, where once they step out into white America, their bodies are no longer their own. Yes, institutionalized racism in every aspect of life does cause health problems in people of color!

A couple of days later, I was talking with my son, Eric, who lives across from Herbert Best VFW post 928, a headquarters to law enforcement motorcycle clubs in Folsom. He said that on Saturday, a gathering of about 75 protesters were to gather in support of Black Lives Matter. When the got to the park, they were blocked by about 50 bikers, armed with Trump signs and a Confederate flag, protesting involvement of overpaid athletes who “took a knee against police brutality”, their scary visages threatening violence. No mention of guns was made in a brief article in the Delaware County Daily Times. There is a video of truckers “burning rubber” surrounding demonstrators in black smoke.

The marches went around the edge of the park, continuing on to the municipal building at Rte. 320 and MacDade Blvd. where the bikers again blocked their entrance. Both groups ended at the Ridley Twp. police station where they apparently disbanded without further incidents.


What is it about the Black Lives Matter movement that evokes such fear and hatred and propensity for violence so close to the edges of our town, which for the most part hasn’t dealt with much more serious things than the theft of yard gremlins?

Why did my mask of support evoke such irrational fear in a woman who knew nothing about me, only that my skin and my hair were white? I confess for a moment I had a blip of prejudice crop up in me when I thought “She’s obviously a “Karen!” I wouldn’t let myself hold onto that thought, stomping it out of my head with some deep, releasing breaths. But I was still scared, and confess I was hesitant before I went out with that mask on again. But I did.

But who are these people? What fears have molded them into haters, killers, and supporters of a regime that is killing them through lack of a national plan to fight a virus that knows no politics. How have we come to this? And is there any way, considering who is in charge, of coming out of this violence and fear, and moving toward a new vision of a new America that works for ALL?


Judith Trustone, Co-Director
Global Kindness Revolution
Swarthmore
www.Trustonekindness.com