I’ve loved Biden ever since I came to “know” him in the White House. (I have a soft spot for Delaware; my great-grandmother’s people, the Jeffersons, go back to the 1700s there.)
I laughed with everyone else in the church at the way he began his eulogy:
“My name is Joe Biden. I’m a Democrat. And I love John McCain.”
I was touched at how he ministered to the loss & grief of the McCain family from deep within the loss and grief of his own life, demonstrating the great feminine capacity for vulnerability, compassion and strength so absent in the White House now.
But I cringed at his tone again and again. Not politically speaking. But patriarchally.
He can’t help it. He’s white. He’s privileged. He’s a He.
Entitled to this tone, as a father, a leader, a man from another generation when “men were men,” and “women were women.”
Throughout McCain’s service, words like: Code. Honor. Courage. Maverick. Character. Values. Decency. Respect. Hero. Giant. Belonged to the men. While Mrs. McCain was honored for being steady, supportive, and even: “Saintly.”
The swagger. The power. The greatness. All theirs.
Women weren’t evident in McCain’s inner circle or service because we had arrived too late to the game. Our vote taken away, until this country was well over a hundred years old, and 50 years after men who had been slaves were given the same. Still underpaid and used for unpaid labor to this day, our husbands were entitled to rape us until 1993. Even now, Trump stumps for a congressional candidate who cites among the main causes of societies ills, the failure of women to submit to their husbands, not necessarily intercourse, but the full range of bowing to a man’s authority, everywhere, beginning with the Great White Man in the sky.
Those women who did find a way to transcend–say in sports, science, mathematics, music, literature, art–were dismissed, forgotten, erased.
The history books of my childhood were filled with stories without us, as were the books on the library shelves, and the stories on the television set and in theaters.
I cried when I watched Three Figures on the Big Screen. I had no idea that women were that smart or capable or even allowed to participate.
“It was a December over in my hometown in Mesa,” began the story told by former Arizona AG Grant Woods about McCain. “We were at a Rotary Club. I think it was all men at that time. And you know, these were tough guys.” He pumped his fists as he said it.
Can you imagine if Woods had said, “It was all whites then,” and lifting his chin, added, “These were well to do people.”
All the bitterness of exclusion and marginalization and degradation endured for centuries aside, I was absurdly touched when Biden said, “Women and men,” not just once but two times, “Women and men,” placing us first, at least in a sentence if not in the world.