Watching America From a Distance #BelieveChristine

Reflecting on American politics while in France


Christine Blasey Ford

Yesterday was a hard day to sit in France and to be away from America. It was Thursday, September 27, 2018 — the day of Senate hearings around Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of being sexually assaulted by Judge Brett Kavanaugh when they were both in high school.

With France’s timezone six hours ahead of that of the east coast, and nine hours of the west coast, it took me awhile to internalize the solidarity with all of my friends, family, and communities in the United States. It was during my mid-late afternoon here in Lyon that morning began in D.C. with the Senate hearings. It was when my Instagram and Facebook began to flood with hashtags like #WeBelieveSurvivors and #CancelKavanaugh and with articles, video clips, excerpts, readings, and other formats focused on the issue. Since I don’t have any American friends nor really know any American here in Lyon, I went throughout the day not really talking about this with anyone. It was weird to acknowledge that a monumental proceeding that will live in history books for decades to come was happening back at home, while I was here strolling through the typically European cobblestone and narrow pathways, past people nonchalently enjoying their smoke, wine, and conversation that buzzed about. And rather than seeking out a new concert or bar to try out in the evening last night at 11pm, I opted to buy a bottle of wine and just sit in the kitchen of the apartment to stream the hearings.

I imagined the parallel version of yesterday had I been in the states. I would have gone into work in the morning, and this would have been a major topic of watercooler conversation with my colleagues; we would have mentioned the severity of it and have scheduled meetings around the hearings so that we could stream it remotely from our computers, all the while continuing to concentrate on the day’s work, if we were successful, at all. At some point during such a shitty day, I would have likely texted a few of my friends to try to meet up in the evening to decompress and to support each other. Maybe we would have gone to Telegraph because of their ample, communal patio seating with a decent selection of beer and burgers. Emphasis on the word “communal”, for it would put us in direct, physical contact with others who’d palpably feel as we did; even if we never spoke to them, we would know that the whole crowd felt equivalently tense, disappointed, nervous, anxious. After a few hours, I would have driven home and stumbled through my front door and plop myself in front of my laptop computer, checking Facebook, the news, Twitter, and Instagram again for any new updates, insights, and conversations.

It’s easy for me to imagine what it’s like to proceed through a day like this in America. A day where you go about your normal routine with work and personal life, set against the backdrop of a major political and social events elsewhere (or everywhere?) in the country. It’s because we have a lot of those days. For some, those days cut them directly, whereas for others, they feel more like a bruise. With struggle and oppression come resistance and empowerment. I think that is why the entire nation gripped itself to the courage and heroism of Dr. Ford’s confession.

It’s hard to follow the dialogue around Kavanaugh’s possible confirmation to the highest court of the country because it reiterates the despicable privilege that white, straight, male America strives desperately to maintain. It makes me angry, and also sometimes powerless. Nevertheless, I felt proud to also learn about the various protests and acts of resistance echoing and rumbling through the multi-faceted, varied landscape that is our country. The people who risk their safety to speak out about experiencing sexual assault and violence in the workplace, on college campuses, in intimate corners of a home, and elsewhere. Those that listen and support, even if the ways in which one supports may not always be clear. Those that begin to acknowledge how their current or past behaviors have perpetuated misogyny or sexual violence, and seek to unlearn and untrain such habits. Those that begin to see what a more just world could look like, and then slowly walk towards that path.

Being far away from America on a day like yesterday reminded me of the heart and soul that people posess so deeply to fight even despite the seemingly insurmountable hierarchy undergirding our entire society. I’m nervous about the results of today. But to help me deal with it, I want to focus on what I’m capable of doing for my country in the skill I know best: drawing. So I’m going to continue to try to draw and make art to help spread messages and build awareness and empathy.

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