Grief fatigue. It’s a real thing. Trump’s election. Favorite son moving far away. Trump’s inauguration. Finding a dear friend dead. Helping pack up her house and participate in the memorial. Juggling the work of teaching and student-ing with all of that. So, yeah. It’s been a while. The last time we met here was November. For over a month I’ve scribbled lists of ideas, thinking of ways to continue the Personal Anger series with all the transparency and grace I can muster. There was the reminder of rebirth and resurrection with Easter. I’m swimming again. I watch satire. Favorite son moved back to the area. It all helped.
Then May 4th happened. The Affordable Care Act was repealed by the House. And along with taking health care from a few million people, the current bill will also allow states to permit insurance companies to deny coverage, or charge some ungodly fee, to those with pre-existing conditions. In case you wonder, pre-existing condition applies to sexual assault, postpartum depression, C-sections, and victims of domestic violence. Often known as being human and female.
Stop saying the United States is a Christian nation. Please. Stop!
There is nothing Christian about a system that dialogs primarily with the influential and powerful, and privileges the very same. There is nothing Christian about labels and limits. There is nothing Christian about withholding treatment and care based on a person’s race, gender, religion, income, passport, intelligence, work ethic, or lack thereof. There is nothing Christian about a system that withholds basic human rights from the poor, ill, or marginalized. If you don’t believe me, check out the bible stories of Jesus.
This is capitalistic, marginally democratic, and totally selfish. Call it that. But STOP calling it Christian.
Please. Stop! I said. He didn’t listen. He pulled me down between rotting corn stalks. Built like an athlete, he easily pinned me against the damp dirt. Stop! Don’t! No. I pleaded. He hissed “You want it!” and forced me open.
I have a pre-existing condition. I was sexually assaulted. More to the point: I was raped.
Remember how I began this series? When I met Ken I was vibrating with rage for many reasons, but especially this.
All the Personal Anger I’ve written about so far—violence in response to truth telling, breaking the cycle of emotional poverty, living in man’s world, self-betrayal, striving to belong by behavior and belief—played into accepting that relationship. The one with the guy who raped me.
Growing up in a sheltered, faith-based community, I learned that a girl should be warm and affectionate, or she’s an ice princess. A girl must also put the brakes on because men can’t control their passions. Point of Personal Anger: No one talked about consent!
No one at home, school or church talked about pleasure, desire, or sex except to say that it is taboo outside of marriage and okay after you say I do. Abstinence only, dearie. End of conversation.
Because of my beliefs, I told myself Now that he’s had sex with me, I have to marry him. According to 1 Corinthians 6:16, having sex made us one flesh. No matter that he was violent, disrespectful, and didn’t listen to me. I’d absorbed the cult of virginity. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. He had taken the one thing I had of value.
But the main point of this essay is not about being raped. I’ve processed that anger and worked through recovery. (My relationship with my body today is one of tender awareness and intentional care. I’m vigilant about consent in various areas of my life.)
I’m angry about a culture that still thinks a woman gets what she deserves, that in some way she asked for it. Rape should disgust us. Full stop!
I am angry there was no such thing as dialog about consent: what it is, what it is not, how to talk about it. And that instead of open and often, conversations about consent even today are pretty rare.
We must learn to name personal limits, needs and desires, and create communities where we can express them aloud in safety. When the agendas of institutions meant to protect and serve us — home, school, church, government — don’t intentionally foster this, we became predators or victims, mere ciphers.
This Cipher will not Consent
To the lawmakers who approved the list of pre-existing conditions in the May 4th bill, I am just a cipher. Other ciphers include anyone diagnosed with:
AIDS/HIV, acid reflux, acne, ADD, addiction, Alzheimer’s/Dementia, anemia, aneurysms, angioplasty, anorexia, anxiety, arrhythmia, arthritis, asthma, atrial fibrillation, autism, basal cell carcinoma, bipolar disorder, celiac disease, cerebral palsy, cervical cancer, colon cancer, polyps, congestive heart failure, COPD, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, DMD, depression, DIABETES, disabilities, down syndrome, epilepsy, glaucoma, gout, hemophilia, hepatitis, herpes, high cholesterol, hypertension, kidney stones, leukemia, lung cancer, lupus, mental health issues, migraines, MS, narcolepsy, obesity, OCD, organ transplants, osteoporosis, a pacemaker, paraplegia, Parkinson’s, pregnancy, restless leg syndrome, schizophrenia, seasonal affective disorder, seizures, sickle cell, skin cancer, sleep apnea + other sleep problems, stent, stroke, thyroid problems, tooth disease, tuberculosis, and ulcers; to name a few. Oh, and survivors of sexual assault/domestic abuse.
Think of all the people in your family. Now those in your workplace, school, or community. Who looks “sick”? People who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act say they shouldn’t have to pay extra to cover “sick people”. But people who look sick are such a small segment of the group affected by the current health care bill. Many of us look like we are just fine. As things stand now, having a pre-existing condition is not a medical diagnosis. It’s a societal one. It’s a way to divide, label, and exclude. Instead of health and wellness being seen as human rights, they are seen as privileges. Using labels like pre-existing condition is another way to call out “sick” people as “other”—to say they deserve what they’ve got. It’s a lot like the culture of rape.
Please! Stop! I DO NOT CONSENT. Let it go on record: I do not understand the fear and scarcity that motivates the current government. But that is what it is — fear and scarcity. I will not play by their twisted rules. I am not a cipher. You are not a cipher. You may not have one of the pre-existing conditions, but someone you know does. And one day you may too.
Stop saying the United States is a Christian nation. Please. Stop! Or: Start acting like one. Care for the stranger like your brother, your mother, your child. Live like we are all in this together. Vote as if we belong to each other.