I was very lucky growing up. My Uncle and his family lived in Richmond, VA, and almost
every year, we would make the drive up from Florida to visit them. Whenever we were there, we would always spend a few days in DC. I took it for granted that everyone had these opportunities, and I also made the most of them. I loved DC. I loved the buildings, the monuments, the parks, the museums. The history that breathes out of every stone wall and whispers to children as they walk through. We were reverent. Partly because we were taught to be, and partly because it just came naturally to stand in awe at the Lincoln Memorial; to get lost for hours or days in the halls of the Smithsonian Institute; and to walk into the Capitol Building with soft steps and a hushed voice out of respect for the men and women doing the business of governing. You idealize things as a child, of course, but the sense of wonder and deference of the building itself has never left me. Wednesday, THE Wednesday, the first person I spoke to was my mother, and her outrage focused on the disrespect shown to the building and its contents. I didn’t take that very seriously, given the potential for loss of life – until I started seeing pictures of the terrorists taking selfies with statues, climbing on desks, trying to steal portraits. I was enraged and sick. “They should have some goddamn fucking respect for that building,” I thought to myself. Clearly, they weren’t raised right.
Okay, so, that was the article I intended to write. Using this picture of me at the White House – the same photo I used in my essay about Hillary Clinton published in 2017. That, and some other photos of myself and my family in DC. But the news kept coming. It got grimmer and more terrifying with every reveal. I came back to my article, and … I needed to go a different direction.
---RECORD SCRATCH--- stay with me?
It was scary enough to think of an attempted coup by a gang of ignorant, greasy, ARMED, cultists but finding out that they were just the distraction was deeply chilling. Those military men were there to cause a different kind of damage. Those zip ties were for taking hostages. The methodical walk up and down benches and desks was a search for stragglers. The beeline to Rep. Pelosi’s office was not a spur of the moment decision. There were people behind this who weren’t caught up in the pseudo-religious fervor of MAGA culture. Those people had an even darker story that they wanted to write. And they wanted to do it on television, in front of us, with as much pain and terror and blood as they could get.
They wanted hostages. They wanted Rep. Pelosi and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, and anyone else they could find and capture. They wanted executions, I’m sure of it, and they would not have made it quick or easy. My husband is one of the first ones who brought up the zip-tie men to me and talked about how we had been minutes away from having live executions had security not gotten the Representatives to safety in time. They took a “trophy” from Rep. Pelosi’s office. They would have taken her head. This scares him, as it should, but I can’t seem to get him to understand the deeper well of fear that I hold in my gut for Nancy, and Alexandria, and Kamala, and Haley, and, and, and, …. He’ll never really understand, and I can’t seem to convey my concern to him without using the word I don’t want to use.
Rape. Do you think those men wouldn’t have sexually assaulted – I’m doing it again. Do you think those men wouldn’t have raped and pillaged before they executed as if it were their sovereign right as warriors? Do you think the same arrogant, belligerent types who felt safe threatening Rep. Ocasio-Cortez with rape in the past wouldn’t have turned that into reality in their hyped-up chamber of violent masculinity?
They would have. They would have taken and taken and taken because they could. Because they were in a blood-frenzy. Because the type of man who sees an insurrection as their divine right and expects to come out with NO consequences isn’t going to turn humane when confronted with women they have both hated and sexually objectified for years. And most of the men watching at home with us will never understand that. They may listen to us, they may even think they get it, but they don’t. The bone-deep terror that we as women share in this world is unique unto us, and we are its keepers.
There were so many women who could have been trapped with terrorists. Representatives, Senators, Aides, Staffers, Reporters, Police Officers – our Vice President-Elect – that I can’t think about it or it would be overwhelming. The men in the room come back and do their jobs despite probably having been afraid for their lives. The women come back and do their jobs despite having been scared. So afraid. Thinking of what could have happened to them and their colleagues. Televised atrocities. Because they know, as I know, that killing would have been the final act, not the opener. I wonder how many are awake at night with those disturbing images stuck in their heads. How many will have those nightmares for the rest of their lives? I will, and I wasn’t even there.
In all of the ways people will deconstruct, analyze, and remember this day, I don’t want us to forget this; to forget that our world is in almost every possible way more dangerous, more terrifying, more violent for women than it is for men – even in this sacred space where they’ve been assured they are safe. Remember the congresswomen and senators and reporters and staffers who came so close to living out their worst fears on a public stage just a few days ago and give them the space to acknowledge what *we* all understand – it could have been So. Much. Worse.