Dear girl: On this Inauguration Day
Today is a historic day. I wish I didn’t know that. God, wasn’t it so much easier to be 12? All I remember from that time is dirt on my hands and blood on my knees, as I spent all my free time along a creek in the middle of nowhere. If I focus really intensely, I can mostly recall the conversations I created between my dolls and the dreams I schemed in my treehouse. I remember tasting the food my grandmother gave me and the sound of my uncles’ laughter as my family sat in rocking chairs on the back porch, the smell of summer hot on our skin. I remember decorating the Christmas tree with my beautiful mother, and wanting only ten more kittens. Yea, that was a great time. I didn’t know anything about politics, or what it meant to be pro-choice, or that some boys and girls had different, predetermined destinies based on the ideas and prejudices of others. I didn’t know anything about today’s kind of day.
But, actually, I did. At twelve, I knew who the bad people were. I could taste the cruelty in the voices of unkind people, and I recognized the damage of lies and hypocrisy. I didn’t understand humans who thought money was more important than people, and I was scared of men who thought a woman’s place is not eye level to theirs. I read George Orwell’s Animal Farm and I understood the metaphor that the pigs represented the oligarchical walking among us. I couldn’t have explained it, and I surely didn’t understand how political processes work, but I knew what was right and what was wrong. I probably wouldn’t have liked today as a 12 year old any more than I like it as a 29 year old.
Today is a historic day because our country has to drink the poison brewed by a short-sighted, belligerent few. On this day we put into power someone who objectifies, humiliates, and assaults women. On this day we give the reins to someone who vilifies an entire group of Americans based on their religion. On this day we watch the ascent of one who marginalizes men and women of color. On this day we bestow the most powerful title onto someone who ignites foreign discourse while being in the pocket of an enemy who violated our democracy. On this day we elevate a person who is cheating the country for personal appearance. On this day we provide a platform to someone Americans are afraid will steal from the country for personal fortune. On this day we grow closer to confirming a cabinet full of hatred for the 99%. On this day we hit the start button to the loss of our democracy; where it is possible to appoint humans intent on dismantling the protections to our health, to refuse equal treatment to children with disabilities, and to privatize innate rights in order to satisfy political vendettas. On this day, the list of what is wrong feels endless. On this day, really, it feels like we are screwed.
I write this letter to make 12 year old me feel better. I want her to know that this day does not represent anything about me and 65 million other Americans. I want her to know that I intend to stand against the stripping of women’s rights, of environmental protections, of shortcuts designed to ruin anyone who isn’t in a high income bracket. I want her to know that I vow to get involved in the political process, to read the news- to really read between the lines, and not simply focus on what the headlines say- and to be a better example going forward. I want her to know that I do not support the inept group of people who are ignoring our Constitution in favor of personal gain and political rivalry. I want her to know that I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I want her to know that many of us don’t believe religion is grounds for denying entry into our nation, or that doctors can deny medical treatment based on personal opinion. I want her to know that science is important in all parts of our lives. I want her to know that the quality of her education and health insurance shouldn’t be dictated by her bank account. I want her to know that she can love whomever she wants. I want her to know that the world is cruel, and that if she can’t find a kind person, she should be one. I want her to know that she didn’t grow up to be a powerful, independent, sometimes-funny scientist for nothing. I want her to know that, damn it, her world is not going to be ruined. Today is just like any other day. It’s only 24 hours.
That doesn’t mean you can get complacent, girl. Oh no. Quite the contrary. If Michelle Obama, Jane Goodall, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Helen Keller, Marie Curie,, Sandra Day O’Conner, Cleopatra, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Gloria Steinem, Virginia Woolf, Rachel Carson, Sally Ride, Helen Gurley Brown, Susan B. Anthony, Rosalind Franklin, Jeannette Rankin, Boudicea, Princess Diana, Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, Ellen DeGeneres, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Amelia Earhart, Golda Meir, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, and Malala Yousafzai have been able to impact the world during their short time on earth, there is nothing you can’t do. In 24 hours, these women had ideas, implemented changes, took action, and changed the world. I mean, think about it- in 24 hours, a giant ball of gas and rock orbits the larger ball of gas and rock we live on. That’s pretty excellent. However, 24 hours is a small portion of our legacy. It’s just another day.
So, girl, woman, and friend, to you I say this: today is a historic day. It’s not the one we imagined for ourselves, and it definitely isn’t a particularly good one. But it does mark a rebirth of intention, one that we should have never let up on. One that we must fight for, laugh for, hope for, and plan for. I can’t sugar coat everything, of course, because irreparable damages are really coming to our environment, to our education system, to women’s rights, to our justice system, to minorities, to our pockets, and to our opportunities. However, we are We The People. The next time we can vote is not far away: in the many 24 hours between now and 2018, we can do work like the many men and phenomenal women before us. Be like the humans who have looked challenge in the eye and changed the world. Who have been first. Who have been better. Who have rewritten history for others and not just for themselves. So, promise me that you will be proactive and fiery, that you are going to be powerful, and that you will be unaccepting of that which violates your life in any way. Stand up for the 12 year olds coming behind you, and those who have gone before you. Be vigilant, be yourself, be better, be the change. Hopefully, then, we can share in a better kind of historic day.
All my love,
Imogene Davis is a wildlife biologist and a Whoa ambassador. She is passionate about the environment and educating others on the importance of topics like Leave No Trace. You can find her on Instagram and the web.