While we hurry towards Election Day, we need to understand that we are not simply turning another election cycle or another year. This is the end of an era, and we will all be better off when it’s over.
Alice Walker’s short story, “The Flowers” gives us summer through the eyes of a young girl, happily playing in nature, gathering wildflowers, until she steps on the completely unexpected corpse of a lynching victim. Her understanding of how he died, and why, signals the end of the season.
There is no innocence left in our social calendar, only a willful ignorance. People who say they are glad to have a woman as a candidate – they just wish it was another woman – are being willfully ignorant of what it takes to play and win in international politics. They are also overlooking the fact that feminism is what got her a seat at the table. She’s not a candidate for sainthood, she’s a candidate for office. After the 96 years that women have had the right to vote, this nation needs to prove our principals are more than the paper they are written on.
The internet is so rich with stories of women telling their truths about abuse right now, it is a field of wildflowers. Every tweet, every post, carries the fresh scent of a secret let out into the light at last, an insult acknowledged. Story after story of harassment, assault and rape.
This past two weeks millions of women tweeted to Kelly Oxford about their experiences being assaulted, signing onto the hashtag #notokay in response to the male candidate’s boast of sexually assaulting women. It’s created a rare moment when women can tell these tales without being shamed into silence. This is no longer about the Republican candidate, this is about the whole culture of patriarchal privilege.
These stories, to use a very un-summery expression, are the tip of the iceberg. We can take this knowledge, and share it, and use it to change everything.
Researcher Bonnie Bassler’s renowned TED talk “How Bacteria Talk” presented the concept of quorum sensing. Bacteria send chemical communications to each other, so they know when they have reached a mass large enough to be effective, and then, they all change.
This is what creates bioluminescence. Bassler states “When it’s alone it doesn’t make any light…when the bacteria is alone the molecules just float away and so no light. But when the bacteria grow and double and they are all making these molecules…And when the molecule hits a certain amount that tells the bacteria how many neighbors there are…all of the bacteria turn on the light in synchrony. That’s how bioluminescence works.”
So, we have a candidate who is a woman, and we have a conversation online expanding hourly about the physical dangers (not to even weigh in on the intellectual and emotional abuse) of being a woman in the society. This is quorum sensing.
If we can truly work together, woman and men, we can create a culture where equality is valued more than dominance, where different is not perceived as less than, and where causing other people pain is no longer a sport.
We all know that summer is over.
So, we come together to create light. We can elect the woman who said “Women’s rights are human rights,” a concept that many of our laws and apparently, many of our men don’t understand. We can uphold our laws and be seen as equal citizens. We can be the poll workers and the voters and the candidates. And when everyone feels physically safe we can pause long enough to talk about why that happened.
It happens because we go to the polls and make it happen. It happens because people named Alice and Kelly and Bonnie are respected and listened to.
Summer is over. Now comes a harvest.