As a progressive in a deeply conservative state, I find myself, way too often, wielding signs to protest legislation on bathroom bills; allowing guns in parks, schools, and bars; defunding of women’s healthcare; or various other draconian laws being proposed in the name of “state’s rights” or “religious freedom.”
Two weeks after the inauguration of America’s 45th president and days after the first “travel ban” was put in place, I was standing with throngs of furious protestors inside the state capitol building on a rope line just before the governor’s State of the State address. As legislators passed from meeting rooms to the House Chambers where the speech would be given, I leaned over the red velvet barrier, pointing and chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Directly in front of me, two state troopers stood shoulder to shoulder, making it clear that if I pressed any farther forward, I would be removed.
Senators and representatives streamed past, refusing to engage with the masses of angry constituents.
I screamed frantically at the long line of dark-blue suits with graying hair and finally caught the eye of a red-faced official who paused long enough to observe me like a caged lion. “Lives are at stake!” I yelled. “Lives are at risk because of you! People are suffering! You have blood on your hands!”
He tilted his head, paused, and cracked a cocky smile that said, clear as day, You’re a nut job. Too bad for you, young lady, I have all the power. He turned on his heel and walked into the Chambers with the swagger of a man unfazed. Foaming at the mouth, I howled along with the chants rising up around me, “No hate. No fear!”
And then the dam of tears broke. They poured over my cheeks and down my blazing hot neck.