As a child, I frequently suffered from canker sores. Have you ever had one of those? They can be nasty. Most of the time, my canker sores were the result of brushing my teeth so passionately that the toothbrush slipped and stabbed me in that space between my gum and the inside of my cheek.
The initial stabbing was always more gentle than the resultant canker sore. Those bad boys were painful. So very painful.
I once stood in line, late at night, at a CVS, behind a gentleman who was nursing what must have been an excruciating tooth ache. Standing before the cashier, he piled Extra Strength Tylenol, Anbesol, and some sort of temporary tooth filling composite on the counter, then waited for his purchase to be rung up and bagged. In the minimal vocal exchanges between the man and the cashier, the man with the toothache was extremely careful not to move his mouth too much, lest his tongue graze the offending tooth.
He had the look of a person in agony. The tooth had compromised him, draining the color from his face and the pep from his step. He needed a doctor but, for reasons I can only speculate, CVS was the best option at the moment.
After I’d made my purchase and walked outside, I saw the gentleman in the driver’s seat of his vehicle, hunched over the steering wheel, a grimace on his face, jaw cupped gently in the palm of his hand.
I’ve known that type of pain. I remember holding the inside of my cheek between my top and bottom molars, hoping to protect my canker sore from any wrong movements that might send piercing pain through my own jaw. Those of a different generation might say I was favoring that side of my mouth — protecting its temporary weakness from further damage and pain.
Anbesol did a great job of numbing the pain of a canker sore. I’d use the foam-tipped applicator to soak the open wound in the magical potion. The entire area would go blissfully numb, long enough for me to forget I even had a canker sore. I could eat and talk and whistle and sing, as long as the Anbesol was doing its job.
But eventually, the Anbesol wore off. It usually wore off right in the middle of a bite of a sandwich and the searing pain that followed was the first reminder to me that I had a sore and needed to be careful.
For the past year, I’ve gradually stepped away from conversations about politics and the person who currently occupies the White House (I call him 45). You may also have noticed I’ve decreased my engagement with people who voted for and/or support 45. For me, keeping my distance and holding my peace has felt akin to dousing a canker sore with Anbesol. It’s the best treatment I’ve discovered so far, for what I have found to be a deep and persistent wound. Smarter people than I would say I’ve drawn boundaries for myself. Others might tell you I am favoring my sanity.
So, here is the first time I’ll publicly state it was profoundly devastating for me to learn that people I have known and loved, voted for 45 and continue to support him. In many cases, I can excuse their November vote. But, the continued support is inexplicable to me. And, I know it’s “only” politics, please don’t get me wrong. That part of it I get. I’m not surprised at all that this is America. I’ve always known this is America. I just didn’t realize (call me naive) how wide the gap that still remains between me and so many others. I knew there was a gap. I did. But I guess I thought we were hundreds of years apart in our thinking, rather than light years apart from one another.
Favoring my sanity by stepping away is like being soaked in Anbesol. I forget about 45 altogether, for long stretches of time. But then, I’ll overhear a snippet of an update — shithole nations is the latest — and it’s like the Anbesol has worn off and I’ll say out loud, “I had forgotten all about him!”
For now, forgetting is good. Protecting myself from painful reminders of wounds that lay gaping open is wisdom.
A few years ago, my husband took me to Germany, to see the little village there where I was born. As part of our journey, we rode in the back of a sedan while a tour guide took us to see an idyllic-looking suburban community with tree-lined streets and magazine worthy homes. It was just like any middle class community you might imagine in your mind, except for this: during World War II, if you or I stood at the kitchen sink in one of these homes, with a window looking out onto the back yard, we would have seen — just over the rise of the hill — a stop on the railroad. At that stop (and we’d be able to watch as we cleaned plates from that morning’s breakfast), soldiers loaded Jewish mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends, teachers and bakers, bankers and jewelers, into packed railway cars that were headed to Auschwitz.
There was never an uprising from the people at the kitchen sinks, looking out from their windows onto the railroad stop. On our trip to Germany, I stood beside the train tracks and let my gaze rest on a window at the back of a house just a few hundred yards away. I don’t want to ever forget that.
America sends drones to bomb countries across the ocean, killing children and mothers and pregnant women and soldiers and teachers and neighbors and friends and bankers and bakers. America does this while Americans protest in front of Planned Parenthood.
America kills unarmed black men live on Facebook and the killer walks free. Perhaps, “I feared for my life,” should be a new card in the stack in the game of Monopoly. Collect $200 from the man over there who can’t breathe.
America builds, defends, and maintains monuments to traitors who lost a war and then wonders why “those people” riot in “their own neighborhoods” forgetting those neighborhoods can’t ever really belong to “those people” in the first place. But they aren’t truly America’s either, right?
America grabs your pussy, makes you give her a blowjob, and gives her penis a standing ovation, praise the Lord.
America drinks us dry and makes us bow the knee, then whines about Beyonce’s Lemonade and Colin’s posture on the sidelines.
America opines about land of the free in her acceptance speech for Most People Incarcerated in All the World.
America does not see color. Except for red, white, and blue. And white. And black or brown if it’s on the “wrong side” of town.
America backlashes and blacklashes and whitewashes it all so her children can snort it instead of smoking it.
The wound hasn’t healed, yet. And even though it’s not my wound, I’ll drench myself in Anbesol until the opiods make their way from your system and the jarring pains of withdrawal finally wake. you. up.