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On Kippot and Counter-Protests

Allison Darcy
August 14, 2017

by Allison Darcy

I BOUGHT this covering of blue beads to teach in; I had declared learning as the sacred thing it is. I wear it now, try to brush my hair around it in a way I feel beautiful in, give up. My husband walks in and calls it, in his gorgeous and growing Hebrew, my ‘kippot.’

“That’s plural,” I tell him.

“I know, but I like the word better.”

At the vigil --- that is, the rally, which includes three minutes of lit candles, my own a shabbat candle wrapped with foil the way we used to at camp --- I wonder if kippot is truly the better word. Why wear this? To be seen as what I am. Today, maybe I am plural. Today, I wear this to show I will represent those here who are afraid to. Today, I wear it to devote myself to my people: my people, who are left out of protests and vigils that are about us but planned thoughtlessly on Saturdays; my people, who are accused of political beliefs we do not universally hold; my people, who are not named by the President; my people, who have survived; my people, who need the help of others.

A man waving a red flag shouts over the failing microphone. First, he is alone and we are smirking. Outcast; pathetic. Then, more come -- some of them are women, which surprises me. They look like the skinny and frustrated punks I have been friends with on the fringes of my life; in high school, I could have leaned with them against a wall or sat on a picnic bench after the city curfew. They are merely disruptive and on the other side of the street, until they aren’t.

Standing near the back with my kippah clear to the outside, I hold the knife which I brought at the last minute and look over my shoulder every third heartbeat. I stop hearing the rally’s speaker (a veteran of the Air Force who went to the Art Institute after his release, gracefully musing about complementary colors), and try to hear what they’re saying.

I reach up. Take out one bobby pin. Take it off.

There are some times we need to decide that our safety matters more than our statements. There are some times our values and strength tell us fifteen seconds later to pin it back on.

We sing ‘This Land is Your Land’ and realize none of us know the verse. The crowd unanimously and without discussion decides to sing the chorus over and over to drown out the shouting. During the next speaker, somebody runs over and grabs the microphone. They introduce themselves as ‘Q’ and say, from what I hear, “You have no right. With who you really are, this land is not your land.” Here is how the world works: a failing microphone doesn’t care for your politics. Here is what we hope for our future: a crowd of people will always be able to drown out one.

I came here to mourn and so this has not given me what I wanted, and this one small Shabbat candle, well, the wind won’t let it light. So I stand taller, raise my head and hope this holy thing I have rarely worn is seen by those who need it. I try to listen, try to step back, try to learn. I think of my people and wear my kippot for all of us. If I am allowed to call this a prayer, blessed are You, Adonai, thread of all which we call the universe.

Allison Darcy is currently working on a MA in Religion and focuses on Jewish feminism and material culture. A relatively new writer, she’s had work accepted in recent months in Nat. Brut, Write About Now’s litter, Poetica Magazine, and Vagabond City. She tweets at @_allisondarcy.