As this week progressed, from one solid grey morning to the next, there have been days where the light never came through. It was several years ago I joked with a friend about being photo-voltic; I need some light for my brain to turn on. As California coastal creature, I’m used to the dark spring, but this morning’s rain feels like an old blues tune. And then, there’s Georgia.
The shocking legislative victories all over the Old South, trying to break women’s rights, are so distressing it’s a challenge not to just sit and weep. My younger daughter came into the room where I was working with a sad face. “What’s going on, sweetheart?” I asked.
“I’m really worried about the women in Georgia.” I did my best to comfort her without dismissing her pain. The laws have not yet gone into effect, but whether or not the courts will stop them does not feel simple.
My ex-husband’s family is in Georgia, no, not Atlanta, but the far north part of the state. When I had first traveled out there to meet them, he and I had been dating for almost a year, and I was a working for a large bookstore chain. The trip was a kind of nightmare from start to finish; with rain coming down in sheets and my boyfriend refusing to wait out the storm, we hydroplaned up the highway from Atlanta to Dalton, surrounded by 18 wheelers towing double loads.
When I could see the places we were driving through, I was noticing one thing; there were no bookstores. None of the shopping malls we passed, not of the towns we drove through, no bookstores at all. Plenty of churches, all of them seemingly Baptist, most of the them claiming to be the first. The First Baptist Church was on every street, and every corner, of every town all the way through the state.
I joked that I certainly wouldn’t be able to find a job in these parts. But the lack of bookstores was a lot more than that; to me it signified a life without creativity, without literature, without ideas.
In the long history of the colonies, Georgia began as a slavery-free state. The original settlers on the coast in Savannah wanted to make sure that they did not have an economy based on injustice. Then cotton came in, and that vision was swept aside.
Now, Georgia, along with places like Ohio and Alabama, seems determined to revoke the citizenship of half the people. It’s not about economics; it’s just abusing power for the the sake of abusing power.
Old habits die hard.
This seems to be our civil war, ringing with echoes of the previous one; who is a person, and who gets to decide that? The outrageous corruption that stole Stacy Abrams’ governorship is bending and breaking every law on the books to insure the minority rule stays in power. Now, actual physical autonomy is at stake. The legislation in Georgia makes women the property of the state. They cannot even go to another state without the law following them, This cannot stand.
In almost any other ear, I would be sure that the courts would see this as madness. But these are dark days.
I could pick up a book for comfort; I’d love to dive into some Shakespeare, and find Portia’s speech from The Merchant of Venice; “The quality of mercy is not strained, it falleth like the the gentle rain from heaven.”
But mercy is not a quality I feel in America right now. Just rain.
Charles Frazer’s 1997 novel Cold Mountain tells the tale of a man deserting from his unit in the Confederate Army and walking home. On the way he meets many people, displaced by the war. One traveler tells him “If I had a brother in jail, and a brother in Georgia, I’d get the one in Georgia out first.”
Make that a sister, and I’ll sign up right now.