January 20, 2021—Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ Inauguration day that almost wasn’t. I’ve got to tell you that I was so nervous about the fulfillment of the promise of that day that I could barely breathe. (It didn’t disappoint.) I plopped my chubby ass down on the couch in front of my TV at 11:00 a.m. (along with a husband, a bottle of champagne, caviar, cheese and crackers) and didn’t move (except for a few quick bathroom breaks—after all, I am 72, and my bladder is the size of an apricot) until the last bombastic explosion during the climax of Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” song at 11:00 p.m.
Somewhere around the middle of President Biden’s inaugural speech I started to bawl like an abandoned baby just wanting to be held, and when the President got to this passage in his speech, I heard what he was requiring of me as a good citizen—a good Christian, and it resonated loud and clear:
“But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility.
“As my mom would say— just for a moment, stand in their shoes. Because here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. There are some days when we need a hand. There are other days when we’re called on to lend one. That is how we must be with one another.”
At the end of the inauguration, I raised a glass in tribute to hope, healing, and unity in America, and posted my congrats on my Facebook page:
“CONGRATULATIONS PRESIDENT BIDEN AND VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS! For the first time in four years, I am able to exhale. You both are truly an answer to a culmination of prayers for restoration of sanity, truth, and righteousness. God bless you both, and God bless the United States of America as you lead us in healing, unity, and restoration of integrity to the Presidency and our nation.
P.S. I wore my pearls today in honor of you, Madam Vice President. I am so very, very proud of you!”
It didn’t even take 24 hours before my first hater struck. He was MAGA, he was White, he was male, he was self-righteous, he was angry, and he was entitled. He felt he had every right to attack my faith and my intelligence as an educated, accomplished 72-year-old Black woman, and every fiber in my being wanted to “clap back” on Facebook and rip his face off while simultaneously puncturing his butt with a new a-hole. And then I remembered something significant about my attacker: But for the grace of God, go I. Instead of attacking back, I blocked that White man’s assault (sent him into Cyber Hell). Rather than let him draw me into an argument on Facebook (each hidden behind the manipulative algorithm skirts of Mark Zuckerberg), I have chosen to answer my hater in a more controlled space.
Dear MAGA White Man (a.k.a, “Hater just be hatin’ cause he thinks he can”):
I know you! I haven’t seen you or talked to you in over thirty years, but I do remember you. In fact, we used to belong to the same cult, back in the day—some fifty years ago. We weren’t close or anything, but we did enjoy each other’s company when our paths crossed.
You were different then—full of hope and promise that we were going to save the world in Jesus’s name. You were shy and unassuming, but your eyes always twinkled with joy. I remember, unlike most people I meet, I was always glad to encounter you.
About ten years after our initial church affiliation together, I ran into you in another town while visiting a mutual friend. You and your lovely wife invited my husband and me to your home for an evening of great food and wine. It was a lovely dinner, full of laughter and sharing of artistic endeavors. As we ate dinner on your deck under a perfect starlit night, I remember being in awe of your talent as you proudly displayed your most recent artwork. At one point, late in the evening after much wine, you confessed that since our youthful adventure in a church we attended some ten years before, you had suffered much pain and sorrow. You spoke of how you had struggled financially for years just trying to make ends meet, and it had been a great strain on your wife and children. But a miracle had happened! You had come into a windfall of a large sum of money a year before, and thought you and your family were finally going to be able to participate in the American dream.
But life has a way of fucking with us—as I know all too well. At this point in the story, you began to cry and your wife took up the telling of your Odysseus journey. She couldn’t explain the “why” of your choices, and no one who had not walked a mile in your shoes could ever possibly apprehend your decisions over that previous year. Your mother had died unexpectantly, and your wife’s body was diagnosed to be riddled with cancer. You did as we were taught to do: pray for another miracle. After all, bad things didn’t happen to good people—or so we thought. Somewhere in your fog of grief, your wife said you started assuaging your pain and lack of control over the vagaries of life by carousing the dark dens of crack and heroin in a neighboring city, and in less than a year, your newfound wealth—your children’s education and your wife’s medical treatments—was snorted up your nose and shot into your emaciated arms.
Then your wife said something to me I will never forget: “We had suffered the death of his precious mom, the threat of cancer plagued us, and we had lost all our money—we were at rock bottom. But I decided that I was not going to lose my man like this. There was no future without him. And so, I—a White woman from a small town, scared of my own shadow and shaking like a leaf in the middle of a gale storm—combed every crack house in the city looking for him—frantically searching for him—until I found my wasted husband and dragged him home to heal.”
I remember saying something stupid like, “I grew up in the heart of the ghetto, and I wouldn’t have had the courage to do what you did.” Your wife said something I will never forget: “Oh yes, you would have found the courage because ‘perfect love casts out all fear.’” At the end of the evening, we prayed together. Prayed for your continued recovery and for the healing of your wife. Prayed that what the “canker worm had eaten would be restored.” Prayed that all our lives would be blessed in the future.
That was thirty years ago. We lost touch after that. I’d seen your profile on Facebook once, but I didn’t follow your posts. Saw just enough to notice that you were still clinging to the false doctrines of our cult days, which I had summarily rejected*. I also noticed you were a real MAGA Head and Trump worshipper. I gave you grace by not attacking you (never commenting—not even a horrified emoji face) for your beliefs on your FB page. Imagine my surprise when you attacked my faith on my FB page—accused me of not believing in Jesus—simply because I congratulated President Biden and Vice President Harris on their election win. You did so not knowing what I’ve been though in life and not having spoken to me in several decades. At first, in my anger (I ain’t gonna lie—I really wanted to smack you upside your head and rip off your testicles), I didn’t remember our dinner of years ago. All I could think about was coming after you with both guns verbally loaded. But before waging my attack, I contacted a few old mutual friends to “kvetch.” They told me that they had lost touch with you now that you’d become such an anti-truth, Trump idolizer. However, they did mention that they heard you had fallen back into drugs for a while, lost everything again, and the cruelest cut of all was that your lovely wife had died. They said that you’d gone nuts (their words, not mine).
That is when my reactive anger against you dissipated, and I felt great sorrow for you. All I could think about was: “But for the grace of God, go I.” We both entered that church 50 years ago needing a place to belong in the calamitous, cacophonous, driftless years of the 70s, but never realized that it would turn into a cult and that that cult would make your mind a fertile ground for the MAGA doctrine. We were full of so much hope and expectations. Both of us had and have suffered great losses and disappointments since then. I fled the religion of our youth* losing my best friend and church home, but I feel it has made all the difference in the grace with which I see the people of the world who don’t look like me, don’t worship the same god, and who don’t belong to the same political party.
I’m sure you think I’m as blind as a bat at noontime, given your political and religious bent. I only ask that you remember our shared humanity before you write me off—when we cried together, prayed together, and hoped for the best in each other’s lives all those years ago. There was no disdain for my “liberal” beliefs on your part, nor was there any knee-jerk reaction of horror for red ball caps at the mere sight of their appearance on my part. We were just humans trying to find our way back home.
Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to sit back and bask in the hope I see for us all (you and me) as Americans in this new administration—not to mention the possibilities from Kamala Harris’ win for my future granddaughters. I know you’re pissed, old acquaintance, because you think the election was stolen from you. And I think if your group had managed to overturn a free and fair election, my vote would have been stolen from me. You think your man was chosen by God, and I think he’s on a mission from Hell. There you have it! We’re at a stalemate here—never to agree, I suspect. But we are in the middle of a war against an unseen enemy that is ravaging our nation and could kill us all if we don’t drop our ideological weapons and band together. Our only chance of survival is to unite on the fertile grounds of our shared humanity and give this new administration a chance to lead us to higher terrain and healing. Anytime you’re available, I’m ready to call a truce and to speak of love found, love lost, and hope that springs eternal. Maybe, just maybe, we might find common purpose and incentive to coexist.
God bless—From: Someone you once broke bread with.
*If you are a victim of a church or a religious experience gone nuts, I have walked a mile in your shoes. Check out my second memoir, Fleeing Oz. It might be of help, and if it is, please drop me a note and let me know.
Eleanor Tomczyk is an author and a humorist who is an award-winning voice-over performer. In 2011, she created the blog, “How the Hell Did I End Up Here” which features mostly satirical posts that have thousands of readers around the world—although she was recently banned in Pakistan (for real!). Tomczyk’s three books were featured in a recent book festival: “Monsters’ Throwdown,” “Fleeing Oz,” and “The Fetus Chronicles—Podcasts to my Miseducated Self.” Currently in her 70s and living life like it is freakin’ golden, she is a consummate storyteller and much sought-after motivational speaker. If you don’t believe me, just ask her!
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