Seattle Speaks

So many of us are in a state of shock, trying to adjust to this new world we’re living in. We are wondering how we’ll fit in now if we’re women, minorities, immigrants, or part of the LGBT community. I know I’ve really been struggling with this.

Fortunately, there’s a place that I have been going once a month to tell stories, and I thought that this month, in particular, this group, full of so many people that I love so much, would be a source of solace for me. I expected it to be a sort of life raft in a storm-tossed sea. Surely in this place, if no place else on earth, my voice would be heard. And I planned to tell an amazing story, one that I thought would be healing for many people.

But to my shock, I was not allowed to tell my story. Politics were declared to be off limits. The moderator doesn’t seem to have caught on to this new world of ours, where we will need a place where all of us can be heard and still accepted. This wasn’t your grandmother’s election. This was more like a political 9/11, whether the person you voted for won or not, and people need a chance to process that.

Instead, the restrictions mount in this group with each passing month, but they’re unequally applied. It’s kind of like our new country in microcosm, and because of that, more and more people are discontented. In his desperate attempt to please everyone, he’s pleasing no one. He doesn’t trust us enough to loosen his grip. Boundaries are required, yes, but they should be equal and not so heavy handed. It breaks my heart.

So I had to leave. I couldn’t stand the thought that I could only speak there if I fit within an ever-narrowing set of criteria. This was the one place in this city that I didn’t feel like an outsider, but my foothold is increasingly precarious.

I now have to decide whether I can take that feeling. There are a lot of people I would miss. But I can feel like a freak and an outsider just about anywhere, without having to lose a day of work and drive in rush hour traffic.

Did I overreact? Yeah, probably. But in this political climate, it feels like all the nerves are on the surface of my skin. I need embracing, not restricting. So instead of having my monthly invigorating dive into my pool of friends, I came home and felt sorry for myself and may as well have applied the pint of gelato I consumed directly to my waistline. Only time and a cooler head will tell if I’ll be back.

Who knows. I may not be welcome. I may not be generic enough. It’s nearly impossible to avoid stepping on toes in a room that is that tightly packed with people. Perhaps the moderator needs to have faith in people’s resilience. Just a thought.

So, without further ado, here’s the story I intended to tell last night. I ask you, is it so controversial that a group of people, who have always struck me as being extremely supportive, would have found it intolerable? You decide.


Yesterday I was at work, trying to figure out how to live in this new world of ours. Everything looked the same, but everything felt different. I was afraid and confused. I was in despair. I couldn’t even figure out how to write my daily blog, in a place where my voice suddenly feels like it’s being discounted by society at large. So I just sort of sat there, stunned.

My shift was going by really slowly. Not a single boat asked for an opening of my drawbridge for several hours. It kind of felt like everyone was hunkering down, trying not to draw attention to themselves until they figured things out. It was eerily quiet.

Then the radio crackled to life, and it was the Boeing corporate yacht requesting passage. I opened the bridge for him, and he passed through. But something surreal happened as I closed the bridge. When I opened it, the street had been deserted, but upon closing three minutes later, I saw that the street was now filled with dozens of flashing red and blue police strobes. And behind them was a massive crowd of hundreds of people. It was like they had appeared out of nowhere.

I finished closing the bridge and then climbed out on the catwalk that is suspended over the street to get a better view. As the crowd drew near, I could hear them shouting, “Bridge! Bridge!” My heart settled into my throat. What was going on? Were they going to occupy the bridge? It happened once before when the occupy movement was in full force. Suddenly I was feeling very isolated and vulnerable. And they were getting closer.

But as they approached I began to hear more of their chants. “Build a bridge, not a wall!” “This is what democracy looks like!” “Refugees are welcome here!”

Voices of inclusion. Voices of unity. Students reaching out and speaking their truth in a non-violent way. The true essence of America at its best. Freedom of speech.

And there were so many of them. The procession lasted a long time and I got to witness it all from my perch. I was gazing down at hope for the future.

And just like that, the ice melted around my heart and I got tears in my eyes. We still have voices, every one of us. We don’t necessarily have to agree, but we all can speak in this country. And the majority of us aren’t going anywhere. We’re here. Together. And somehow we’ll all work this out. These students reminded me of that.

Speaking your truth is a little gift of kindness you give to those who are worried that they may not be able to speak their own. And when your truth is combined with the truths of others, it is very powerful.

Witnessing this piece of history inspired me. Yes, I can live in this world. There’s room for all of us. There’s just a lot of work to be done. I have to say I’m really proud to be a part of Seattle right now.

We still have a lot to be grateful for. Read more about it in my book!

16 thoughts on “Seattle Speaks

  1. One of the things I’ve struggled to get used to in America is just how many topics are taboo here. When there is no open discourse, it’s no wonder the culture takes the turn it does. Can’t even wish someone merry Christmas without risk of offence. I’m not a Christian and still think that’s ridiculous. But welcome to America.

    It will be a tough 4 years but hang in there. As we say in Jamaica, better must come.

  2. Sam Ramirez

    Hi Barb: I’m sorry to hear that your voice was muffled or silenced during the meeting you mentioned. I find that very un-American. This has to be one the most emotionally jarring political environments I’ve every experienced. One of my best friends at work voted for Trump and I never once said “What.. you are crazy? You just voted for a dictator!” I just listened to her reasons for selecting him and she allowed me to share my reasons for selecting Mrs. Clinton. We never argued or criticized each other. We agreed to disagree. That’s AMERICA! Like you, I would also feel uneasy being a member of a group that gradually limited what I could say and how I could express my opinion. When someone tells me that they voted for Trump, I say that, although I don’t agree with their decision, I hope that Trump ends up surprising us by getting some good things done (which I seriously doubt). I also mention that I’m shocked that such a large amount of people support a man with so much hate in his heart. As a Latino, I’m on his hate-list. Why would I support that? I predict that the people who voted for him will eventually regret their decision. I give it less than a year. He’s already displayed his true colors. We’ve already received the storm warnings. Wait until Hurricane Trump hits!

  3. Angiportus

    Is someone peeling onions in here?
    I too commiserate about your experience with the storytelling group. I wonder if you could go back, get some others together and break away to form a new group?
    I yesterday had brunch with a handful of regulars who I usually feel much at home with but who I fear may have voted differently than me. It was a bit strained at some moments but we all managed to stay “diplomatic”; I did say that I didn’t think Trump really had my best interests in mind, and they lamented the transit thing which they are sure will cost everyone w/o visible results. I wouldn’t mind more light rail, but anyway. Your story should be heard, and now it is.

  4. I made a personal rule on my blog NOT to have a political discussion unless it was specifically relate to bikes, cycling or hiking… I had very good reasons when I came up with this rule, but now I am struggling on whether to keep it… I am a white, older, employed male, so none of the things you bring up will touch me personally. But I have friends and loved ones that it will, and that scares me as to what might happen.

    good post and be careful out there!

  5. Martin

    Been there and done that Barb. I know how nasty groups can be that are first seeming welcoming and inclusive and then have an agenda. I run a discussion group and we generally leave politics out because that is a never ending discussion. Bu also sometimes political statements must be made. You were commenting about people peacefully protesting against Trump. You were offering thoughts about that. That’s political and can’t be said in that guy’s group? No free speech there.

  6. I found your story to be much more about your bridge experience and a taking of the emotional temperature of the city post-election, not a “political” statement. I am sure that there must be another storytelling venue/group where you can be welcomed and enjoy the people. I know there are constraints with your schedule as well but there must be a way — maybe start a new group via posting on Meet-Up or seeking a few others to start another group at a more doable time slot.

  7. NorCalGal

    I do not think it would have been offensive to anyone there had they allowed you to voice it. Possibly go to another meeting and ask if you could read it and have everyone vote on so that all can completely understand where the fine line/ gray areas might lie. The key to democracy is voicing and understanding. I hope you can open their eyes and their minds. If not….I agree with Wedgwood in Seattle History. Please don’t allow your voice to be stifled.

    1. Thank you so much. My current plan is to let the dust settle a bit, grieve the loss of contact with many people I considered friends, and then find another venue or create one myself. Time will tell. And while I may lick my wounds for a bit, I will continue to write. That’s a big part of who I am. Thanks again.

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