On Thursday morning I was very much in my head while sitting on the trolley, listening to Ani DiFranco’s madly terrific new song “Alla This.” The song is partially about the intersection of the personal and the political, with Ani at one point delivering the following:
i won’t rent you my time
i won’t sell you my brain
i won’t pray to a male god
cuz that would be insane
and i can’t support the troops,
cuz every last one of them’s being duped,
and i will not rest a wink
until the women have regrouped
I already love the song as much as anything she’s done this decade, but at her concert earlier this month that verse sent a thrill through my body – in eight lines it succinctly hits commercialism, religion, war, and feminism. Amazing.
The verse ended as I stepped off the trolley, and my mind began to wander. I thought about Ani’s constant challenging of the patriarchal status quo, and how any form of discrimination ultimately connects back to that hegemony.
In the distance between the trolley doors and the stairs to sunlight somehow that rolled into my wondering about the Iraqi citizens, and if life has actually improved for those that exist outside of the patriarchy both of that nation and of the force the world is imposing on it.
I wondered, what about the gays and lesbians in Iraq? I knew nothing about this group, though I was sure they existed. What was their life like before the invasion, and what was it like now? While I am advocating for the rights of my lesbian friends to marry are their Iraqi counterparts struggling for the simplest of rights – for the ability to exist as themselves without fear?
Sometimes my brain and the internet do a peculiar zeitgeist tango, where the same day I wonder about a topic it shows up in my daily reading, and sure enough when I got to my desk CNN was running a story entitled “Gays in Iraq terrorized by threats, rape, murder.”
As it turns out, as the Iraqi government came unmoored the situation of their GBLT citizens deteriorated. Any hint of their sexuality risks not only their own lives, but the lives of their entire families.
What a terrifying closet to be trapped within.
Just a day later I was at the Philadelphia Theatre Company to see Elise’s brother in his weekly theatre lab.
One of his classmates – barely a teenager – wrote a brilliant play about how bullying can go too far, as the actions of a few are enabled by the inaction of their peers at large. Here the result was the death of a young girl at the hands of her tormentors – their faces unimportant, as all of her classmates were complicit in her fate.
In the play’s last scene Elise’s brother acted as a federal agent, gingerly interrogating one of the girl’s classmates, getting nowhere. Finally, grimly, he asks her:
“Is it true that the girl who was murdered had a crush on you?”
And then, brilliantly, sparking immediate tears in my eyes as much for his delivery as for the line itself:
“Have you ever heard of a boy named Matthew Shepard?”
So powerful, and from the pen of a girl half of my age. Vital proof that we still have some terrifying closets of our own, whether their doors are open or closed.
As the lights came up, Ani’s voice rung out again in my mind as the voice of murdered girl, of those Iraqi men, of Matthew, and of Larry.
i will not stand immersed,
in this ultra violent curse
i won’t let you make a tool of me
i will keep my mind and body free
bye bye minutiae
of the day to day drama,
i’m expanding exponentially,
i am consciousness without identity