It’s a whole new world this January, at least in my reality.
I’m still stunned at the results of the election. As I enter 2017 with actually nothing (including health insurance, amazingly) and I watch the Republican Congress debate how best to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and eliminate basic reproductive care and rights for women, I think about what it means to be a woman, an independent human being, someone who works with their hands and their words for a living.
a picture taken last year by Carter Emmart, when we walked
over the Brooklyn Bridge
As a married woman, for 35 years I heard words like “I’m sorry, you aren’t the primary/principal/person with a penis” whenever I tried to call about the internet bill, the bank account, or the mortgage on the house. There seemed to be no awareness in the databases of America that two people could actually be equal, each empowered to act. I find the situation no better as a recently divorced person; even holding my documents that prove that I own a quarter of a TIAA account gives me no more power to speak to TIAA about that account than when I was a married person who legally owned half of it. It’s amazing, but there it is. When they are ready to speak to me, they will. It might be January, it might be March. There is nothing I can do.
I find all of this very tedious; I cannot make headway in my own situation but must actually, truly wait for others to sort it out for me in their spare time. Should I be so fortunate as to survive the delays intact (I’d better not get hit in a crosswalk by an uninsured driver) I will NEVER marry again. It’s sad but true that no symbol of love is worth a woman losing the right to administer her own daily life. And it’s frankly shocking to see that in 2017 women are losing rights instead of gaining equality, to see a bully, a pig, a racist, a misogynist in charge of our country. It’s dangerous, it’s embarrassing.
This is all discouraging, but there isn’t any point in giving in. And, I should say (especially because I have had some very loving emails and a lot of concern for my well-being after divorce) that I am happy. And I am at peace, and I am full of love, and our kids (who are all 19 or older) are fine. I have love in my life (in all ways) and I simply refuse to acknowledge anything else. Administrative problems will work themselves out, and my resolution to run my own life will solve a large part of my future.
with Kim Van Antwerp, one of my beloved CGB co-authors, at MIT
If anything, I’m just more determined than ever to make every moment count. I’m not going to let my work, my life or my actions be driven by the agendas of others; in one way that is a very selfish thing to say, and I apologize, but in another it’s the only thing that makes sense. My children are grown, my parents passed away in the ’90s, and I’m not responsible for the care or feeding of anyone except two cats. So instead of worrying about what other people think I should do, or trying to turn their lives to match mine, or my own to match theirs, I’ve got the luxury at this point in my life of choosing to focus on only doing real work that helps all people. Making real things. Thinking about real problems. I just want to be real, do real work, to put everything I have forward.
What do I mean by real? It’s almost easier to give examples of what isn’t real. Stock trading, global currency manipulation. Racial supremacy. Nationalism, war, hate. None of those things have the slightest coherence, each of them is entirely, 100% made up. Not one thing there has the slightest reality. They may represent real things -stocks, for example, are a measure of corporate health, currency is a measure of a nation. Each are a way to gin up wealth or poverty, but neither are actually real, they are ideas that we’ve all (mysteriously, I think) agreed to fund. Currency is not coherent in the way that a tree is, or a friendship, or the measure of distance from Mars to Venus.
Doriot’s house seems very real to me; this was a gathering last summer after I gave a talk on the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork project at the Mingei Museum.
One could say (and many do) that nothing is real; I subscribe to this idea only partly. The actual physical things in our world are very real to us. The water, the air, the food chain, the kisses of our children are intensely important, intensely real to us. Money, fear, the propaganda of war, these have no existential coherence.
Working on clean water, helping solve cancer, making fusion or wind power, making a seed bank on the Moon, or creating modular radar, understanding data storage in crystal structures, making books on beadwork, figuring out how to use a matter beam, or a surface that can morph, well, those are all real things I can focus on, so I will.
Roald Sagdeev, a friend and fusion energy pioneer, voting his conscience in the
Soviet parliament before the fall of the Soviet Union (the vote was to condemn democracy, whatever that concept actually means.) Stand up to bullies!
Join me, won’t you? Turn away from what isn’t real, and just look at what is. This will be a very powerful response to what is happening. Keep an eye on your people, your friends, reach out to other people you admire. Women, get together. Strong women, find each other, and take hands, unite. We’ve simply got to stick together. There isn’t anything else.
with love, and deep in work,
your friend, Kate