The Depths of Her Silence

"Censure"
10" x 20" mixed media on canvas
Sometimes, you have to fight for peace. 

This quest is often a requirement of intellectualism. Pursuing knowledge doesn't always make you arrogant or egotistical. Sometimes it just makes you mad as hell. This is how journalists and activists are made. They've spied the truth bleeding from behind the mask of our societies. 

I've spoken before about my explorations in public libraries as a child. Librarians love a child reader. They give them free rein over the place. I'd been reading dictionaries and Britannica encyclopedias from the age of 4. So at 9, I was already an avid reader of adult mainstream fiction. I loved the reference section, particularly medical books. 

My first introduction to the reality of racism and misogyny came from reading books written by eloquent professors and doctors who earnestly believed non-white races never reach intellectual maturity. 

These authors never expected women to ever read these volumes either, much less a little girl like myself who watched medical surgeries on the brain. I never forgot the childhood panic of asking my grandmother to explain why I was an anomaly. I actually had a few days of mental anguish over when I would start having fits of hysteria like "most women" and why my cranium measurements were too large for higher intelligence.  

I thought every word of these books was factual, concrete, and uncontested. Finding out this was not the case all but guaranteed I would always pursue words with the precision of a warrior. It also meant peace would continue to elude me.

The more I researched, the more enraged I became. Era after era, the institutions built to serve the people resorted to tired tropes of overt lies, subtle omissions, elaborate spin, extortion of the middle class, and telling the poor to pull up bootstraps when they don't even have shoes. I took up the mantle of the underdog in my writing, those like me who were predicted to fall through cracks elites refuse to pave. 

None of this brought me peace, though. 

I thought exposing and addressing injustices would quench the rage that has always driven me. It just added more fuel to those internal fires. Those same fires often spilled into my social life. As a result, I burned out more than once. It's because I wasn't fighting for peace then. 

I was fighting to be heard.

In 2005, I had a reckoning. A miscarriage and the worst racial incident of my life at that point occurred on the same night. It woke me up to the invisible truth I'd ignored for years -- that being a woman was an even greater sin than being brown. I'd never been more vulnerable staring at my child, who never even had a first breath, while being berated by people with hatred and derision. I morphed into a pane of glass after that, waiting for permission to break and knowing none of it would have happened if I'd been a man. Even now, I don't really talk about it. 

Such things exist in the depths of silence, 

the well from which all artists drink. 

It's easier to tell you how I found out I had Lyme Disease, my doctor went on a rant. First, he told me he thought my request for the Lyme test ridiculous. Then he waved the folder in my face, saying he would likely find how bad my liver was in the file and that I should just admit my sinful addiction issues before I embarrassed myself. I endured a five-minute lecture on the behaviors of "my people" and substance abuse in silence.

When he ran out of steam, I asked him if he'd ever read Chaucer. The question stupified him. He stared at me slack-jawed and asked what I was talking about. So I said The Canterbury Tales contained the story of the drunken friar, a caricature based on the fact that most distilleries in medieval times were run by churches. I told him it hardly seemed fair to proclaim the evils of alcohol when the church itself promoted its use for centuries. 

My educated response shocked him into actually looking in my file. After a few moments of reading, he said without ceremony, "You have Lyme Disease." Then he walked out.

I never reported this incident, but the nursing staff did. The doctor was ultimately fired for multiple offenses of treating female staff and patients with hostility. The insults differed. The gender target did not.

Inhuman indignities like these are my scars. 

As a woman, I have quite a few of them. I've been a Camille from Sharp Objects in my own life with skin invisibly tattooed by the brutality of moments rather than my own hand. And like Camille, my scars still burn sometimes, especially when I hear pretty, empty speeches and grandiose, underfunded solutions regarding the hate still running rampant in our communities. 

You know, there are no playbooks explaining how to live in a world that says you have a white voice, skin that's too dark, and a body missing the balls to make it. 

No, we just have those bootstraps.

So as an homage to the bootstrap crowd, I wear boots whenever possible, black on most occasions, and own a katana. The first is a middle finger to those who climbed the same glass staircase to make it, but chose to lock the door behind them. The second illustrates the difference between a color and a person. And mastering the third requires skill whether you have balls or not.

Come to think of it, I haven't once raised my weapon in anger against anyone because of my experiences. I haven't dehumanized or killed innocents in retaliation for all I've suffered. People who do those things are fighting to be heard. They use angst and bloodshed as their mediums on a canvas made of lives to dominate and terrify. In the end, they are simply black holes armed with the gravity of hatred. 

I chose to be an activist through silence. 

Words and art are my mediums on a canvas of introspection. The Arts hold all we are, have been, and dream to become. Using them is how you fight for peace. You become a bright light breaking down barriers through conscious ideas and expression. That's why the arts are suppressed in every totalitarian regime: Golden Ages aren't nearly as profitable for the powerful as Dark ones. 

I say all of this because I'm watching people make excuses for hate again, both passive and overt. I'm seeing us slide back into the same routines that we knew were detrimental even before Covid. It's supposed to business as usual once we're all vaccinated.

Well, our Earth can't afford more "thoughts and prayers" regarding the corporate exploitation of our oceans, land, and sky. Our female populaces are also more than just incubators for the dreams of men. More women will have to step forward to close the Pandora's Box that Humanity has opened with its knowledge. The increase in female subjugation across the globe during Covid won't make this any less true. 

None of this can be achieved with hate. 

I feel like so much of the world wants to go back to the grind of inauthentic living, senseless consumerism, mass shootings, and rage. I just can't do it. 

Not when I have a book on my desk boasting 10,000 years of art that only mentions 5 women from cover to cover and two decades' worth of journalism notes on mass shootings carried out by a majority of male perpetrators. Not after watching just how many governments are still deciding that men are better equipped to make decisions regarding female lives and bodies. And certainly not while the Earth is screaming her lack of consent through every environmental cataclysm we force upon her. 

Conscious living is required now. 

Live your truth & harm none.

Respectfully, 

O.M.


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