Life Preservers in a Toxic Sea

[Content Note: Patriarchy; white supremacy; rape culture; references to drowning.]

image of a turbulent sea beneath a misty sky
[Image via Pixabay.]

I am a strong swimmer.

I swim a mile at least three or four times a week. Length after length, back and forth, sometimes sharing a lane with other swimmers, the pool so full of people that it churns like the sea.

No matter how placid or turbulent the water, even when the surface roils with the movement of other swimmers and I get a mouthful of water when I expected air, I never feel as though I'm drowning.

The only thing that threatens to drown me is the vast sea of seeping venom, oozed by the corrupt and abusive people who are running this nation.

Running it from the halls of government, in federal buildings and private clubs. Running it from behind desks in newsrooms, and from ivory towers in academia. Running it from golf courses and locker rooms. Running it from statehouses, courthouses, warehouses, farmhouses, hen houses, outhouses, and dog houses.

So many men. White men, mostly — with their tokens, their pets, their enablers. Exceptional Women and the bootstrapping purveyors of respectability politics. The fools who believe that proximity to sadistic white men will keep them safe.

Every day, I wake up full of steely resolve, prepared to once again resist as mightily as I can, in all the ways that I can. I take my space among the rest of the resisters, who speak or march or donate or volunteer or write or make calls or lash themselves to fixed barriers and refuse to be easily removed.

And every day, I begin to drown. I take air from the people who swim at my side, fighting, and I give air back to them in turn. We fill each other's lungs with air, as the corrupt and abusive people who are running this nation try to drown us in the sea of their relentless malice.

Wave after wave of chaos, of harm. Of corruption and abuse and lies. Of silencing and threatening and attacking and caging. Of marginalizing and othering and dehumanizing and exploiting and thieving and raping and bombing and betraying.

I tread water in this churning sea, and I struggle to swim. I struggle to breathe, like everyone floating in the sea beside me.

We act as each other's life preservers.

I think about what those words mean, their literal meaning. We preserve each other's lives.

We preserve each other's lives, as vile men try to destroy them. To rescind our rights, to reject our agency, to ignore our consent. To step on our necks, to redistribute our treasure to their own pockets, to deny us livable wages, affordable housing, lifesaving healthcare. To neglect the safety of infrastructure in our communities. To kill us with poisons in the air and water and food and walls. To starve us, to hurt us, to paralyze us with fear, to refuse us opportunities to thrive or even moments of joy.

To try to make us agree with their damnable pretense that we are inferior; that there is something inherently better about white men.

I use the last of my precious breath to exhale a curdled sigh of contempt. For we know, we know, that it isn't true.

If it were, they wouldn't need to mount such a cruel and comprehensive effort to convince us otherwise. To drown us in their sea of bile.

I don't know if we are going to win this fight, but I am going to keep swimming. For as long as I can.

And I hope that while they busily piss into their toxic sea, they continue to underestimate how strong a swimmer I am. How willing we are to keep swimming; to be each other's life preservers.

They don't know yet that we will keep coming, length after length, back and forth, but they will.

They don't understand yet that I have bigger ambitions than "draining the swamp." I'm fixing to drain the entire sea.

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