Stronger Together, But So Far Apart
I am in that rare place as a writer where I don’t know what to say.
I don’t have words. I have the feeling of someone at a funeral or a wake. A creeping numbness is there, punctuated at times by fits of genuine sorrow, anxiety, and a mad-eyed not-actually-funny sense of overwhelming absurdity.
I feel torn in two.
I don’t know how this happened, and yet I know exactly how this happened.
I don’t know how we were so wrong about so much, and yet, I know damn well how.
I know that I’ll be more okay than most, and yet, I know that I really don’t feel okay.
I know that I want to have hope, but right now, it feels pretty hopeless.
It feels hopeless because we let a bully into our hallways. We made him our president. It feels like being a child in a family where the mother has married an abuser, and there’s not much you can do about it except develop your hiding spots and your coping strategies and your eventual exit. All the while praying you don’t get hit, and your mother doesn’t get hit, and that the bully gets his comeuppance somehow or you get out before it’s too late. It feels hopeless because he rode to the Oval Office on a tide of white nationalism and brash sexism — deport this group, grab that woman, build the wall, you can do what you want to them. It’s that last part that perhaps best earmarks his campaign promise above all else: he can do what he wants to them. To us. To you. And he will. Because that’s what a con man and an abuser does.
I also have hope because I know a lot of you out there. We chide our echo chambers, and certainly in this election above all others those echo chambers maybe lulled us into a sense of complacency — or they helped us chase and share bad information. But at the same time, I see a lot of scared people, and amazing people, and I see friends and I see strangers and I see the kind of commiseration that you see after a disaster. I see people willing to stand up and fight for those who are marginalized and under-served and under-heard — meaning, those who will be hurt the most by the results of this election. Those who will be abused in the streets or deported or groped or told they aren’t equal. Those who will have their rights contested and challenged openly, boldly, cruelly. I’m proud of those who stand against that, a firewall of humanity who actually give a shit about People Who Aren’t Them. That is a good echo.
I know that we are stronger together. Even as it feels like we’re falling apart.
And then, I pinball right back to hopelessness. Because even together, those bonds are being tested. We have each other, but it feels like we don’t really have America, not the America we thought we had. The American Experiment may not be at an end, but it’s certainly at a stage where it’s producing unreliable, unlikable results. Democracy has always been subject to its tremors, but this time especially it feels like it’s been hijacked by a con man — a literal cipher who may have ties to Russia, who may be owned by Foreign Entities, whose lies and whose scams were obvious and so garish that I’m still floored that such an overwhelming number of people took the bait and got the hook. We’re in a country where almost literally no one of any substance or intelligence recommended this guy. We had conservative newspapers go hard for Hillary. We’ve been warned in our fiction: cyberpunk and dystopia and apocalyptic tales. We’ve been warned in our history: the fall of Rome, the rise of fascism in the West. We were told time and time again, this is bad, this will crater the economy, this will set back climate change — and yet, here we are. Mostly because, I fear, straight white people just didn’t like seeing so many people who Weren’t Them.
This morning, my five-year-old woke up and he came downstairs and we told him the results of the election. We didn’t really talk much about the election here until he brought it up — it was a topic at school because, of course, children were afraid of Donald Trump. (Take note: when your presidential candidate makes kids afraid, that’s a red flag.) And when we told him Trump won, he got mad. He growled at us, then at the open air, and then ran upstairs and wanted to be alone for a while just to be upset. And he was upset. We pursued him at first but then let him have his time, and eventually he came downstairs and we told him we loved him and that everything would be okay because, and here we inadvertently cribbed Hillary’s own slogan, we were stronger together. He seemed to get that. He was okay after that. He drew zombies and we talked about swords.
There, I think, is maybe the lesson.
Grieve as you must. Growl as you will. Get mad, be sad, accept fear. It’s okay.
Then, find a way forward. Draw some zombies and talk about swords. Find the things that help you cope. Find the people that help you cope. And any who don’t, let them go.
I don’t honestly know where America stands as a country. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe the idea of us as a nation is less important as the idea of us as people, as people who support one another and defend one another from wherever we are. It was never our borders that make us good. (As a sidenote, I see some folks talking about moving overseas or to Canada, and I won’t fault you for that and we are idly considering it ourselves, because I fear our finances will get complex and potentially unlivable under the next four years. Don’t chide people who want to move or who need to move, if they can. And don’t chide people who want to stay. Let people handle this how they need to handle it, even if they’re just talking it out.)
I also know that art will be our salvation, if we let it. I’m unlikely to come back here at the blog for the remainder of the month because nothing I say will feel particularly substantial against what’s actually going on. (Sure, sure, I’ll offer you NaNoWriMo advice while Rome burns.)
But I will say this:
Art can be our way forward. Our writing, our vision, our ideas put out there, our heartsblood put to whatever medium we choose. If ever there is a good time to let art be subversive, it’s now. Get weird. Don’t be safe. Have a message. Bring it forward and into and through the work. Some of the best art, the best fiction, is stuff that has teeth, that’s willing to bite the hand that takes away its food and its shelter and its rights. This is a good time — once you’ve mourned the country you thought you lived in — to hunker down and make something. To resist through writing. To occupy your world with story, song, game, and art.
Your voice is now more vital than ever.
(And then, when the time is right, use that voice to vote once more. Because if we were reminded of something obvious last night, it’s that votes matter.)
We’ll be okay as long as we remember one another, wherever we are in the world. Help each other get through this. It’ll be okay even when it’s not, if we’re here together. It’ll be okay as long as we push back against the normalization of the septic social ideas that have infected us during this election cycle. And once again I feel torn, because I am very afraid, but I also know that fear cannot rule the day, that fear cannot be how we move forward. Fear is how we move backward. Best to you guys, and thanks for reading, wherever you are.
Anyway hey here is an owl who is very cross right now. We are all this owl.