Petra Quince (petra_quince) wrote,
Petra Quince

at the laundromat

Because it is my very favorite task to procrastinate, I had a lot of laundry to do today before a weekend trip to Vermont.
[cut for violence]
Luckily for me, the place wasn't too busy. As I poured out Tide and set my wash cycles, I discreetly watched my neighbors maneuver their carts around and fold their t-shirts. One woman had a long conversation with someone, a prospective student from the sound of it, about her experiences rowing for her college. Three Hasidic boys, who I took to be brothers all around the ages of 10 to 14, came in and started unloading bags of wash by the laundry card machine. One of them hung up his hat on a cart. My laundromat has two big TVs, sometimes playing sports or news or sitcoms. This morning was CNN. It started as background but soon reversed to foreground.

I never watch TV news on purpose. I hate The News. I avoid it for the same reasons I steer clear of news radio - the bad stuff, and there's so much of it, makes me feel sad, infuriated, depressed, helpless. Not to mention the way the content is cut into wee bites, in exciting shapes and high-contrast colors, for maximum consumability. I strongly dislike that complex tangle of unpleasant feelings it stirs in my gut. Instead I read the papers online. Or political blogs, or Metafilter. When I want to, I can get longer stories with more complexity, more nuance. And when I don't feel like handling it, I can skim, or stop reading for days at a time.

But today, I couldn't tune out The News. That particular bright news anchor affect cut through the relative quiet to inform me that Malala Yousufzai stood up without help today. CNN had a doctor on, pink fingers pointing out on a model the particular ways Malala's brain was likely damaged when she was shot in the head.

And I lost my shit, right there in the laundromat, holding a hot fluffy towel. I'm sure most anyone reading this knows about Malala. She's the teen girl who was almost murdered for saying she deserves to go to school.

I don't write about politics, most of the time.  Because other people say so perceptively and persuasively what I struggle to formulate from a handful of inchoate impressions. Because I don't write much, in general. Because there's always something more fun to think about. But today.

I'm on vacation this week, which is why I was doing my laundry on a Friday morning. I work and collect wages and benefits, including paid time off. I listened to a woman talk about playing a sport while she pursued higher education at the school of her choosing.  From Malala's blog: "This time round, the girls were not too excited about vacations because they knew if the Taleban implemented their edict they would not be able to come to school again." I watched a young Jewish boy watch a woman on television talk about how another woman, Secretary of State, will probably not run for President of the United States of America, but might instead concentrate on her work with women and children. I listened to smarmy commercials. In one, a black man talked about how another black man had improved the country and another ad in which a white woman talked about how he hadn't. I folded my clean clothes. "Since there was no tuition on Friday, I played the whole afternoon. I switched on the TV in the evening and heard about the blasts in Lahore. I said to myself 'why do these blasts keep happening in Pakistan?" Today I'm wearing jeans that show the shape of my legs and a shirt which exposes my elbows and collarbone. Some of my clothing is dark, some of it is brightly colored and patterned. Some are skirts that fall above my knee. Other pieces show my wrists, my ankles, the tops of my breasts. "My friend came to me and said, 'for God's sake, answer me honestly, is our school going to be attacked by the Taleban?' During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it." I took my things back to my home which I share with an unmarried man and another unmarried woman, and picked up the mail. My female roommate and I both received mail addressed to us, not our brothers or husbands or fathers, inducing us to use our votes a certain way.

I don't have a takeaway. The News is often ugly. The problems it presents are complex and resistant to easy answers, which are so often applied only to compound the problem. All I can think to do right now is - just to think about it. About the uncountable tiny actions of my day and how many people - how many girls and women, particularly, - were shot, beaten, cuffed, locked up as criminals, put away as insane, slandered, silenced - who published papers, arranged talks, held sit-ins, wrote books, made signs, marched, wrote letters, reported, studied, ran for office, who defied their family, friends, religious leaders, communities, and governments, who wouldn't shut up, how many of their uncountable tiny actions it took for me to have my ordinary day at the laundromat in Brighton, MA, in 2012. About Malala in a hospital bed in the UK, miles from her home, her body and her life permanently altered. Her voice is so powerful, so frightening to some that they tried to kill her to shut her up.

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