But He Doesn't Like Brown People

But He Doesn't Like Brown People
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This blog post was originally written a year ago.

Grace is the only one able to speak as the adults watch Florida sink from a pale hopeful pink into Shark Week red in it's haste to elect the reality star of Over-Entitled White Male Privilege. Grace is not yet five but she’s smart enough to be worried. Or she’s just picking up on the funeral vibe in the living room. To no one and everyone:

Grace: But he doesn't like brown people.

While Canada (my husband, personal salvation and possible new address) tries to soothe Grace about her skin being the wrong color for our new President, and tries to find out who told her this sad truth, my left hand is being crushed by a screaming, sobbing teenager.

As my gynecologist struggles to extract an expired Norplant from Bea’s right bicep, Bea, our fairly brand new foster teen, screams as if crowning twins. I try to project calm while Bea tortures my left hand and Dr. C's eyes betray a sweaty fear.

Dr. C: She can't be in pain! I gave her Twilight and numbed her entire arm! Why is she screaming?

Since Bea is injecting Drake directly into her brain via earbuds, I doubt she hears me. But unclear on the efficacy of anesthesia that allows one to scream in agony as if IN pain, I search Bea's face for awareness of anything other than primal agony, which she might not be feeling in her arm, but from a much deeper place. I gamble she won't hear me.

ME: It’s trauma.

Bea was thirteen when the Nexplanon implant was inserted in her arm. Barely a year in the foster system, a physician told her she could have as few as one period a year. Thrilled to avoid monthly crippling cramps, and without anyone advising her about the side effects of Nexplanon, all Bea saw was pain and tampon avoidance and a tidy way to avoid pregnancy.

Soon after moving in with us, Bea proudly displayed the implant bulge, surrounded by tidy rows of old cutting scars. Striving to hide my kombucha-swilling aging hipster horror, I dragged her to my gynecologist so a professional could warn her about the side effects of implants.

Bea didn't care. At first. Then, after doing research, Bea wanted the implant out.

Bea: I was too young to know what I was doing to my body. I want it out. Now.

It's hard not to be disgusted that this was implanted in her, not so much for her best interests as for the best interests of the foster system. And I get it. Who needs a pregnant, traumatized 13 year old with no family or support system other than the deeply bureaucratic foster system? However, the wholesale medication and implantation of birth control in young foster children is as disturbing as it is commonplace. In Los Angeles, where we live and 40,000 foster kids languish, meds make them complacent, and birth control contains the problem.

Bea’s Nexplanon removal was scheduled for November 8th. Forgetting it was Election Day, I never imagined I'd be surreptitiously checking electoral results with my right hand while Bea crushed the left.

In repose, Bea's face is clear, sweet and pretty. Her skin is as innocent and unused as an infant's foot. But every day she wakes up at 5am to painstakingly apply layers of cosmetics which comes as close to the definition of warpaint as I've ever seen. She girds herself for daily battle- to bury her past and move forward with as much bravery and concealer and eyebrow pencil she can apply. But now, weeping from the deepest reservoir of pain I've ever witnessed, Bea's makeup runs off her face in a hot stream of furious salty tears.

Dr. C, who looks like Sissy Spacek in scrubs and Crocs, stares at me in blue eyed disbelief.

Dr. C: Anyone in scrubs and a staple gun can insert these implants. Getting your ear pierced hurts more and takes longer. But if the girl is young and still growing, the implant gets embedded in the surrounding tissue and it can be really hard to get them out.

As my brand new teen writhes, howls and kicks at the air with Doc Martens just like I wore in 1982, I pray Bea's catharsis of pain cauterizes the much deeper wounds. While they re-medicate her, I sneak a look at the electoral results and know within seconds we Progressives have been way too smug for our own Priuses.

Silently crying in solidarity with Bea, I’m sadly grateful my mom isn't alive to be horrified by that a megalomaniac predator is more acceptable to her beloved country than a strong, intelligent if polarizing woman with decades of dedicated public service.

As Bea keens and the Southern states fill with bloody red reactionary rage, as Dr. C. and her nurse struggle to extract the evasive implant, my fury at Nexplanon's manufacturer, Merck grows. The very women Merck allege to protect with birth control implants- women from developing countries where regular medical attention and contraception are difficult if not impossible to secure, the very women Merck purports to help are also the most at-risk from more severe Norplant side effects-- like life-threatening blood clots, excessive menstruation, infections at the insertion site, enlarged uteri, vaginal infections, intercranial hypertension and pseudotumor cerebri.

After 2 hours of Linda Blair screams, three more Lidocaine and Twilight injections, the entire Drake catalog, one exhausted nurse, a full wastebasket of bloody gauze and a dark red North Carolina, the hormone-disrupting implant still isn't out. We give up, furious, sweaty and spent. Hillary must be the only woman in the world feeling worse than us.

Dr. C. follows me out so B can collect herself and change back into her clothes. Dr. C assures me she has never seen anyone respond to pain medication and Twilight like this before.

Dr. C: What would cause her to scream like that?

I quickly and quietly tell her as much as I know bout Bea’s short life riddled with sexual, psychological abuse and neglect at the hands of her family. Sexual trafficking. Drug abuse. I stop because I’ve made a gynecologist with 30 years of experience look up at the ceiling and cry.

Dr. C: What's wrong with people?

There are no answers. Bea emerges and she and Dr. C exchange a long sad hug.

We pick up Canada and Grace at my sister's, where people sit silent, watching in mute helplessness as our nation claws back eight years of Progressive Democracy.

Grace wants to go home. So does Bea, who is so drained she can't even get out of the car. Driving, the streets are dark and empty. No spontaneous street corner celebrations like four years ago and four years before that.

Both girls are anxious, scared and scarred for different yet similar reasons. The rest of the night is spent soothing both my at-risk teenager and my adopted Black daughter. They are young, vulnerable, and one has already been victimized beyond what I bear to know.

Bea: I know you guys can go to Canada. Go. I’ll find you.

We make Bea stop watching the news and give her the strongest pain reliever we have and pray she sleeps. Despite exhaustion, wine and scotch, we can't sleep. I brim with worry. Canada overflows with fury. After a sleepless night of dread, the sun actually does rise and the sky is blue.

One nephew texts me about his fears for Grace's future, then protests in the streets of Chicago, a niece protests in the streets of New York City and Bea protests with her fellow high school students, many of whom are children of hard working, law abiding immigrants. And it reminds me of my Doc Marten clad youth in NYC in the early 80s-when Reagan was president. So much creative activism was born from those times. And so it happens again.

Fighting back is our only hope for a future.

After eight years of confidence (and complacency) we wake up to realize that our hard won progress can be erased and rolled back unless we activate the struggle for critical thought, justice and equality.

We must defend the promise of America. Hopefully that fight will make us less afraid.

A week and a half into Trump Nation, hate crimes have spiked, my teen daughter's high school has hired extra counselors to help immigrant students deal with their fears and anxiety for their future. And, in fear of losing Planned Parenthood and insurance-covered birth control, Nexplanon implants are being actively sought out by women rushing to find long term birth control options.

Change is what people voted for, and change is what we are going to get. And it will be ugly, predatory, raw, divisive, just like the winner. Pray for the losers.

In the year since this post was written, the Progressive electoral victories in Virginia and New Jersey, coupled with victims of sexual harassment and abuse bravely stepping forward to stop the cycle of violence and silence and shame and the protests and marches— all help to keep hope and courage alive.

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