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Daylight in Ohio
We did it
Last night I stood in a crowded hotel ballroom in downtown Columbus as hundreds of people around me cheered with joy and cried with relief. Ohio voters, by an apparent majority of 13 points, ensured a woman’s right to abortion.
I was mostly quiet. I just wanted to breathe it all in.
A lot of individuals will take credit for this victory. That’s how it goes when you win. But I am celebrating the tens of thousands of volunteers, most of them women, who showed up for training to collect viable signatures to get the issue on the ballot in August, and then mobilized to get out the vote, twice. So many of the women I met wanted me to know this was the first time they had become involved in a political campaign. That fire in them burns so brightly, and there is no extinguishing it now.
Earlier yesterday evening, after a long and exhausting day, I agreed to join MSNBC’s Joy Reid to talk about Issue 1 as we waited for the polls to close. I looked as tired as I felt, and I knew I’d have no professional makeup or lighting. But, friends, I’ve reached that point in my life. Too much is at stake to worry about looking like the grandmother that I am. At 7:10 p.m., I wanted to remind Ohioans one last time to show up at the polls and vote.
As it turns out, I was more worked up than I knew.
Early in my career as a columnist, I tried too hard to find a softer decibel for my occasional anger. This was a holdover from a lifetime of being told anger is unattractive in a woman, and it remains a hard habit to break. If you struggle with this, too, I recommend reading Rebecca Traister’s powerful, New York Times bestselling book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.
By show time, it seemed inevitable that we were going to win Issue 1, and my fatigue was no match for the force of emotion swirling inside of me. Like many women my age, I have struggled to articulate how it has felt, all these decades later, to be fighting again for a woman’s right to make her own decisions for her own body.
Last night, with Joy Reid, I found my words.
“We are talking about controlling women’s lives,” I said. “They are so underestimating the rage of women. Not just the compassion we have for other women, but the rage we are feeling…Here I am, at 66, telling men they have no business trying to control women’s bodies. They underestimate the rage. You have not begun to see what we are capable of in this presidential race.”
“Was I too angry?” I asked an old friend who called immediately after.
“That would be impossible,” she said.
It may sound corny and overly sentimental to say this, but one of the reasons I agree to these interviews is to leave behind a good public record for my eight grandchildren. Four of them are girls, and you’ve likely noticed how they look mighty and strong in the photos here. That’s on purpose. You already knew that.
Our grandchildren are too young to know or care about how Grandma navigates her days, but someday they might wonder how I spent my time on this earth when they weren’t watching. When they find out, I hope they feel proud.
In 2016, I thought my columnist career was winding down. Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidential race and I would finally stop sharing my written opinion every week and focus on teaching and writing novels. Election night took care of that dream. How would I explain to our grandchildren my silence during this ongoing nightmare of a Trump presidency?
I wrote a newspaper column for another seven years; the first five for Creators Syndicate, and then I moved over to USA Today for two years. Now, I’m here on Substack, where I am free to be all of me. Oh, my.
I’m not suggesting that millions of readers have needed to know what’s on my mind. But I can live with myself knowing I’ll have the right answer for my grandchildren. I want them to know that their Grandma Connie called out the many lies of President Trump, early and often, and that some editors stopped publishing my syndicated column because I wouldn’t stop.
Long after I’m gone, I hope it sometimes emboldens my grandchildren to know this was who I chose to be when, at my age, I could have been virtually invisible.
As Ohio just proved, there are a lot of grandmothers just like me. I’m grateful for their company.
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