First I want to thank you.
Thank you for giving me life even though you were only seventeen and weren’t planning on me. Thank you for staying strong when my father dropped you off with your parents and never returned. Thanks for still going to work and school even though your second unplanned child arrived swiftly thereafter. Thank you for being the sole breadwinner of our family for years while your husband battled a ruthless opioid addiction that he did not want. Thank you for proving that women can do anything.
I know you did not attend the Women’s March–mostly because you’re too busy visiting other women in prisons or helping them get their children back from foster care. I know you don’t care that you are seen as “backwards” because you don’t have faith in Hillary Clinton and you think babies should live. Still, I am sorry. I am sorry that, in your absence from the march, thousands of women in your country have misunderstood your deep commitment to justice.
I apologize on behalf of them because they don’t seem to know what we know.
They don’t know that from 2004 to 2007 more meth labs were found in our hometown (Marion, North Carolina) than any other place in the state, the grand total being 61. Combined with two surrounding counties, our region became home to 34.7 percent of meth labs in North Carolina while comprising only 3.2 percent of the state. And by 2013, 561 meth labs were closed in the state, one of the highest numbers in the country.
They don’t know that in 2013 you became a foster parent and took a little girl that was born addicted to meth into your home. You waited for hours as she blurted vile screams while her whole body turned red and she became short of breath — agonizing from detoxing. You watched tiny blisters form under her skin as she expelled deadly toxins from her newborn flesh. You knew, there was nothing to do except let her literally cry it out. And then you picked her up, you kissed her forehead and you told her that she could do anything.
They don’t know that every Wednesday evening, at Freedom Life Ministries, you sit down with dozens of other women in a remodeled office space at a meeting you’ve titled “Group.” You listen to these women talk about how they’ve ended up in jail, been addicted to opioids or meth or heroin, lost their kids to a ruthless state system, been unable to find work. You sit for hours with them and when they are done you tell them that they are strong and wise and that they can do anything. And then you give them your time and money every step of the way for years as they recover.
The ladies of the Women’s March don’t know how hard it is for these women in our hometown to recover from severe addictions and economic devastation. They don’t know that over 45 percent of opioid prescriptions written in our part of the country are written for addicted people. Or that drug companies have spent more than $880 million in the past ten years on political contributions and advertising campaigns that make opioids more affordable, accessible and attractive to people like us. Or that as a result, half the people we know are addicted.
They don’t know that you get up in the mornings and you drive women without a license to the methadone clinic where they pay sometimes up to $18 per day for an opioid step-down treatment drug. And when they can’t afford it, when their insurance doesn’t pay for it (even though it covers the narcotics), you help them find the money they need.
These women also don’t understand that the per capita income in our hometown is little more than $18,000 per year, that 54 percent of kids at our only high school are categorized as “economically disadvantaged,” that less than 15 percent of our town’s population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, that our local prison is bursting at the seams and more than 70 percent of people incarcerated are there on drug charges (according to its current Sargent, Ray Patrick).
They don’t know that women in our part of the country don’t have the mental capacity to contemplate their white privilege because they are just trying to figure out how to feed their babies tonight or buy a tank of gas tomorrow.
They don’t know that, as a result, you’ve been working to help increase the funding at Freedom Life Ministries via government (and other) grants–volunteering your time to coordinate with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety to discern how money can best be spent to help struggling women.
I’m sorry that your tireless work was so thoroughly unrecognized by the loudest people in the country during the Women’s March. I’m sorry that because you find the idea of a “pussy hat” completely inappropriate, you have been deemed an unaware misogynist. I’m sorry that the people who have not seen you toil as a kick-ass woman for the past twenty years uninvited you to the Women’s March because you care more about an innocent baby’s life than you do your own. I’m sorry they can’t see that you don’t have time for a Women’s March, or time to contemplate all the ways you might be subtly oppressed, because you are too busy telling women in jail that they can do anything.
I’m sorry, most of all, that the Women’s March was not in fact a women’s march at all but a very loud trumpet for a certain kind of progressive woman. And I’m sorry that because you do not subscribe to that agenda, you–the most deeply feminist person I know–have been declared by people that don’t know you, an anti-feminist.
With love,