I received an email on Wednesday from a friend in Australia, very upset about the results of our election, can’t understand how it could have happened and aware of the global implications. My husband and I have been traveling, for the past two weeks, in Canada and upstate New York. Here’s what I wrote to her:
…I will tell you about our experiences today in a little town called Seneca Falls, in upstate New York. We timed our drive back home to spend 2 days here; it’s the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement and we were hoping to celebrate at the national park that commemorates the 1848 meeting where a group of women drew up a Declaration of Sentiments based on the Declaration of Independence and began the hard work of convincing men and women that women needed to vote, which didn’t happen nationally until 1917. Seneca Falls is kind of a hallowed place in US women’s history. Well, it wasn’t going to be that kind of day. I almost expected the flags in town to be at half mast! Every woman I met here looked at me and said, How are you feeling today? and we commiserated. I met a woman with 2 toddlers in tow who said it just felt like the right thing to do today to get in the car and drive here. At the Women’s Rights National Park there were wonderful exhibits about the truly revolutionary women who started the movement.
At one point, I turned around and there was one of the great names, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, all dressed up in one of those voluminous black dresses they wore and she smiled at me. I walked over and began to talk to her (a park employee dressed up as Stanton), and she took us next door to the chapel where that first convention was held and, never breaking character, talked to us about the women and the convention, told us stories about Stanton’s family, and answered our many questions. We kept her there, just the two of us, for about an hour. It was so wonderful, especially since I’ve been reading and writing about the suffrage movement right now for the book I’m editing. It reminded me of the teaching in one of the Jewish texts: “you are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to desist.”
So there you are. Hillary didn’t complete the work, but she certainly didn’t desist from trying to move us forward a tiny bit. We’ve suffered through several dreadful presidents in the last 40 years–Reagan and the 2 Bushes (Bill Clinton wasn’t so great either) and we are still reeling from what they did, especially Reagan and Bush 2. There’s so much misogyny in this country that I don’t believe we’ll have a woman president in my lifetime and actually, I didn’t think Hillary was electable until she faced such a dreadful opponent. We just had 8 years of a great president who could only accomplish a fraction of what he wanted to because Congress is so racist and dysfunctional. So now we’re going from the great intellectual to the great dunce. Madness lies ahead.