Friday, January 20th. It’s a moment where I desperately need to pry a thought out of my head. I expect some of you might feel the same way.
My wife has a terrible phobia of bees, wasps, yellowjackets; really, anything that flies and stings and makes a home best described with the word “hive”. Phobia here, of course, having the meaning of “irrational, gripping fear”.
And I know it’s irrational. She knows it’s irrational. She’s certainly come a long way in dealing with said fear, but she struggles with the synaptic DEFCON 1 alarm that sounds anytime her ears pick up the tell-tale buzzing. She will deal with that for the rest of her life. And, though she knows that she’s not allergic, and ultimately the worst she might experience from any of these insects is the potential for a moment of pain, it doesn’t change the fact that her fear is real. It’s something she has to contend with. Such are the odd quirks of brain matter.
That being said, I don’t tease her. I mean, I’m not afraid of the same thing. I don’t have the same visceral reaction she does. I don’t fully understand it with the same clarity that she experiences it, you know? By every current metric, I’d be excused for a bit of light-hearted ribbing. I mean, it would be a dick move, but that’s the crux of not understanding a thing.
But I don’t.
I don’t go what she goes through. I can only frame it in terms of my imagination, yet even if she were not my wife, I’d still not belittle her. Certainly, none of her friends do either. It seems like such simple mathematics when looked at that way. She’s scared of bees? That sucks. What good comes from agitating her over it? I’m sorry that they get to you, so we’ll move on to a bee-free area, yeah?
Because it’s patently unfair of me, her husband, to effectively tell her “I don’t see the problem. Get over it.” Because again, rational or no, that fear of hers is a real and measurable physiological thing. And sure, the fact of the matter is I’m talking about insects that, even at their most territorial aggressive nature, by and large don’t seek out interaction with we clumsy humans.
Could that bee talk, it might say “Yo, I’m getting my pollen on, know what I’m sayin’? Fuck off.”
Thankfully, they don’t talk. Hell, then I’d be terrified of them, too.
You can imagine what my wife goes through, even if you’ve never lived it. That’s a dash of empathy that leads one to be sympathetic enough to see her as a human being, and not want to add to that suffering, irrational or not. At least, that’s the process for a decent biped. There are of course exceptions.
But people? Hoo boy. They talk.
See, I have trans, gay, and lesbian friends and family. I’ve friends from a cornucopia of what the yearly census cites as “minority groups”. I’ve friends from the full spectrum of faiths, and those that don’t subscribe to any particular religion. Both Conservative and Liberal people are still in my life, and know they can call on me. I’ve been blessed to be exposed to a lot of worldviews. Realistically though, I don’t understand what they go through on a daily basis. I don’t experience their fears.
But when I see an incipient President, or those he is entrusting positions of high power to, make comments that demean them, I get their real fear. When I look back on the political careers of these individuals that attempted to criminalize some of my friends on the basis of merely existing, I get their fear. When I see the supporters of these individuals spout things like “Deport them”, because of their faith, or “Lock them Up”, because of who they wanted to marry, or “I will run them over with my car”, because they choose to protest and perhaps block a road, I get their fear.
Not because of a phobia, not because of another odd quirk of human intelligence, but because people talk, and directly communicate that myopic malice in no uncertain terms.
So, I don’t tease. I don’t tell them to get over it. I don’t tell them that they don’t get to be afraid. I don’t have that right.
And, in point of fact, you don’t have that fucking right, either.
My wife’s phobia isn’t tied to potentially losing her her job, or her benefits, or her insurance, and it won’t take me out of her life. It won’t deny her the right to live wherever we decide to settle down in this country. It won’t deny either of us the right to keep watch over the other in the hospital should something catastrophic occur. It will not rip either of us away from each other, separated by leagues or oceans, based solely on what holy book we read from, or choose not to read from.
My wife is afraid of flying, stinging things that don’t talk and usually want to avoid us. I don’t bust her chops over it.
My friends are afraid of people who have flat out stated, by words or deeds, that their goals are punitive measures against those they see as “less”, and they are coming into power structures that will allow them to pursue their intended targets. Their followers have threatened much worse. Not hyperbole or inference. Flat. Out. Said. And then, with no comprehension of what these friends endure, some have the gall to say “Get over it.”
They said it before today, and sadly they’ll parrot it after today. Because they’re not affected by that real, measurable, and by every definition rational fear of losing their own agency. Get over it.
Get over it? How about you get some basic humanity back into your worldview?
Some won’t. The funny thing is, those people won’t even notice it when—not if—it ends up stinging them on the ass.