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.

152 comments

  • “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.”

    Now see, that’s exactly what I was hoping never ever to feel again.

  • I had to talk a number of people off the ledge at work yesterday. Mostly Millenials, but some folks in my demographic too (people who were young but remember the late 60’s/early 70’s).
    The first thing I told them is nothing is as good or bad as it first seems. The second thing I told them was that they shouldn’t believe the worst intentions about Trump supporters — they didn’t vote for him so we could descend into a racist Dark Ages.If they were asking themselves “How could this happen?” it was or the same reason Bernie Sanders had such a good run — people across the country are totally fed up and pissed off with the system, and Hillary was the poster child for the status quo political system that has done nothing for them. They want to rage against the machine.

    A very close friend who was in line for a very senior position in the Clinton administration and who was at the Javitz center on Tuesday night posted something really awesome on Facebook after the dust settled — –she basically said “This is our democracy. It requires humility. Hillary’s side has ideals, and the other side has ideals too – we are not the divine judge of people’s motivations. When we treat the half of the country that voted against us as undeserving of dignity we lose. Trump voters are not de facto racists or misogynist – some previously voted for Obama or for other female candidates. Many are honorable people who want a better future, just like many Hillary voters. We can’t build common cause for good if we denigrate.”

    So if you are freaking out about Trump either because he won or lost, chill out. Be champion for what you believe in. Don’t be a sanctimonious asshole. Attacking and denigrating people who don’t think like you do only makes you less dignified and less deserving of understanding.

    • These thoughts are expressed with such intelligence and wisdom, I can see why the young’ns would listen to such a voice offering clarity, without judgement. I am of the 70’s, seasoned by the trappings of my era, not all good and not all bad, just as you so eloquently stated. “And, so it goes.”

    • This would all sound so very much wiser to me if we weren’t talking about a President-Elect who is literally a cryptofascist. -_- (And I mean “literally” literally. Read “Ur-Fascism” or *The True Believer.*) Well, this here Texas child of po’ white folks and po’ Cherokee folks certainly hopes all those rage-against-the-machiners are having LOTS of fun while it lasts — because there’s pretty much zero chance that Trump, once secure in power, will tolerate dissent against HIS machine. Know how I know? Because I study history and as super special as we USAmericans like to believe we are, we are still not immune to the consequences of our own decisions. Electing a fascist to high office has historically known consequences. This is going to suck. Period. And the last thing I’m going to do is tell the people who just got an instant target painted on their backs that they need to calm their tits, join hands with Trumpists and sing Kumbayah. You don’t sing Kumbayah with people who just signed your death warrant, no matter what noble reasons THEY think they had for doing it.

  • Take note, when strange adults make your kids afraid, it means they’re inflicting their warped values on your child.

    I’m happy with my vote (Libertarian) and I’m happy with the outcome.

    Let’s keep one thing in mind: everyone is to blame for this. On both sides. While Trump energized his base to a degree, to a larger degree, Clinton sat on her ass because she held the erroneous belief that she really didn’t have to hustle. Whereas Trump connected to those outside his base, Clinton did not. The GOP attempted to use their passive/aggressive approach in trying to control a candidate that they did not like and did not want. What they should’ve done was support the others that were vying for the nomination, but didn’t.

    On the other side, those who anointed Clinton as the next did a major disservice to one true challenger she had (which I probably would’ve voted for in general election).

    Answer me this: What did you personally do to convince people to vote for Clinton? Most of the creative/celebs have a major disconnect with the real world problems that the average person suffers from.

    Ya’ll did this to yourselves, so it’s time for everyone to man up, shut-up, take your medicine, and concentrate on mid-terms in 2018.

    • Amen!

      Most of the creative/celebs have a major disconnect with the real world problems that the average person suffers from. – this is 100% correct.

    • “Clinton sat on her ass because she held the erroneous belief that she really didn’t have to hustle.”

      Hahahahaha wut? She worked through *walking pneumonia*, dude. I drove for one of her motorcades once. These people keep brutal schedules. BRUTAL. They work hard as hell. In election season they *do not sleep.* Say whatever else you want, disagree with their judgment calls, but don’t ever call them lazy. That’s just laughable.

      “Answer me this: What did you personally do to convince people to vote for Clinton?”

      Uh, lessee. Volunteer for eight or nine months, first part-time and then full-time, alongside *both* Hillary and Bernie primary voters — awesome, dedicated, untiring people, often people who were financially struggling in their own lives — but people who knew that no matter what our factional differences might be, Trump’s election would be an unmitigated disaster to us all? Also donated. Spoke out frequently on social media. Lost sleep. Got lung guck from working in a moldy old building for months. Put my creative career on hold. Stuff like that?

      See you and call. So what did YOU do to engage with this election’s process all year that gives you standing to sit in judgment on hard-working Democrats?

      Lastly: You’re assuming there will BE midterms in 2018. I suppose it’s wise to plan for them just in case they do still happen, but I gotta say that’s a pretty darn big assumption, given Trump’s profound disrespect for the rule of law and the Constitution, and the multiple branches of government he just got his claws sunk into. 🙁

  • Just an observation… The post and most of the comments talk about him, Trump, but not about the millions who voted for him, and why. I’m sure many, perhaps most, who voted for Trump see him as deeply flawed: egotistical, bombastic, unrestrained. And yet the ‘hidden voters’ came out and voted. If you care to consider why, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKeYbEOSqYc for MIchael Moore’s explanation.

    A heat map of the country is informative: red in the middle, blue on the coasts. A heat map of the country at the county level is much more informative: a sea of red, even in states like New York, Massachusetts, California, and Oregon. But in these musings the people who are these red marks are ‘they’. They’re bumpkins, rustics, ignorant. You, my friends, are none of those things. ‘You’- ‘us’- we’re elites, the ones who know better. The educated (although the demographics of college voters don’t exactly support that), the journalists, the artists (and writers), the urbanites, the ones with the proper view of the role of government and other institutions, and of openness to others. Except those others, the Trump supporters.

    And no, I didn’t vote for Trump, and nor did I vote for Hillary.

  • While I don’t want to discount the feelings of people who are afraid, upset and sad, has anyone stopped to think about this: While Trump has obvious flaws, he’s a middle finger to the establishment that is largely responsible for where people are, and that’s why people voted for him. I know of at least 5 Trump voters who voted this way.

    And no, I didn’t vote for Trump, and nor did I vote for Hillary.

    • Right, but while you don’t want to discount the feelings of people who are afraid, upset and sad, you are. People are afraid because they are suddenly under threat. That’s not hyperbole, either. That’s real-deal way-of-life existential threat for a not unreasonable number of people in this country. So, that “middle-finger” to the establishment was a middle-finger to people’s freedom and way of life, because the establishment was doing well for people. Oddly, it was doing well for a very large number of people, so to throw a grenade into the middle of it seems more like terrorism or anarchy than anything that resembles actual awareness.

      — c.

      • I get that people are threatened, and given what he said, I can’t blame them. But i see a lot of people saying that EVERY Trump voter hates POC, LBGT and immigrants. That’s not true, nor is that fair. That’s all I’m trying to say.

        • No, but every Trump voter voted FOR that hate. That’s not an exaggeration, because it’s not like he hid it. It’s not like his rabid supporters were not, at every turn, harassing people online. It’s not like the KKK *didn’t* endorse him. They did. This is who he was. This is who he is. This is his literal, spoken-out-loud-not-media-manufactured-agenda.

          So, they may not have voted FOR those things actively, but they did so, passively. They opened the door and they knew what was on the other side, and now that’s in the house and we all have to deal with it.

        • I think the problem is it’s difficult for vulnerable people (LGBTQ people, people of colour, muslims, most women,victims of rape and sexual assault, etc.) to deal with the idea that people voted in someone who has declared himself their enemy, in exchange for the vague promise of “making America great again.” Particularly when the man making that promise has a track record of bad deals, bankruptcy, and going back on his word.

          More moderate Trump voters might not hate POC, immigrants, and LGBTQ people, but it feels like the message they send is that they don’t care about putting them in danger.

          Does that make sense?

      • Chuck, the establishment IS NOT “doing well for people” – that’s exactly why Trump was elected. This is the core failing of Hillary supporters. They think people who would vote for DJT (like Terry Cox above) think they are “ignorant” and only “elites know better.” This condescending attitude guaranteed a Trump victory.

        • the establishment IS NOT “doing well for people” – that’s exactly why Trump was elected.
          Thank you. You articulated what I was trying to say.

  • Dear America, Dear Chuck,

    Oh man my heart goes out to you. I’m Canadian and when I found out Trump won I no longer had to go to the doctor for my sinus infection because my head popped off. All I could think was “Oh America what have you done.

    This morning— seeing all the coverage on the riots and demonstrations all I can say is I wish you peace. This division is exactly what American haters want. Please start giving them pictures of solidarity and cooperation. You are citizens of America. You are all in this country and loving it for the same reason. You are hoping for a better future. Everyone in the world is hoping for a better future and I know many of you feel like the darkness has descended. It hasn’t.

    I know Trump doesn’t represent acceptance and inclusion. But Trump is not America. The people are. It is those who have their nose to the grindstone. It is those who came to America with dreams of a more fulfilling life—of freedom. Those who create artistic vision using words, paper, paint, wood and stone. You are all futuristic thinkers, There are things that can be created out of shit and you were handed shit yesterday. You all had little choice of a candidate. The choice was made please don’t fight each other. Work with each other through this— if you can do that your winning. If you can cross the division the politicians created in you — you are a triumphant people. I don’t know how this will go back together for you. I wish we could do it for you because we do love you. Sure sometimes we call you names, make fun of you and pull the covers over your head when we fart in bed. But we do care for you. You are our brothers and sisters and you are in turmoil. Our hearts go out to you.

    I hope you can leave the fear and judgment of each other out of this mess, and consider each other like words in a novel. Each word complementing the next working together to make sense of so many different ideas. Look to each other to write the book on facing adversity and winning. You got this America. Peace and love baby. If this has shown you anything— it is to work towards what you want and not be fearful of what you might get. Your focus is so important right now. Thank you for your time. Thank you, thank you thank you. Yes this is from an overly polite Canadian

  • Very well said Chuck as usual. I woke up and knew I had to hear your take on the First Dictatorship in the 240 year history of our country. Make no mistake, because that’s what this is. I’m going to write my way through the next 4 years, I’m going to find like-minded people and support local efforts to combat the tide which is to come, and we all will survive and take back our country and make it better than before. God help us all!

  • You all talk about hate. All you did this entire process is hate the folks supporting Trump. Rather than try to understand the why, you choose to hate because they may not agree with you. Many did not want HRC in office because of the corruption that she participates in, that she is so much a part of, that it makes one sick just to think of it. Sure, Trump has said some vile things, and if he has done things that are illegal, may justice find a way to punish him too. Just as justice needs to punish HRC for what she has done. If I had done a tenth of the things she has done, just with classified material (yes, I have worked with TS material), I would be in jail now, and for a long time to come.
    Just think for a moment, HRC and the DNC stole the nomination from Bernie. Doesn’t that bother any of you? For me, a solid conservative, and not, as you will label me as, a hater, a bigot, a (insert whatever here), I respected Bernie the most out of all those running. He did not seem to me to change who he was for political expediency. He seemed to always put who he was out there, a socialist. And while I do not agree with socialism politically, I can respect a man (or woman) who does not check to see what way the political wind is blowing. To have the “establishment” steal the nomination from him (why else fire Wassermann, emails showing collusion between media and DNC and HRC), is enough to not vote for the corrupt person the DNC put up. How bout a fair nomination process next time.
    Just because you want folks to enter this country legally does not make you a racist. Just because you believe in the rule of Law does not make you a fascist. Just because you disagree with someone does not make you a hater. Just because you expect people to be responsible for themselves does not make you evil.
    Trump won. Like it or not, he did. Call him all the names you wish. Call all of his supporters what ever you want. I, for one, want a unified country. That does not entail being belligerent. It also does not entail telling my children, some of whom are too young to understand election ramifications, that person X is blah blah blah. Try being the adult, and explain that there are differing opinions, and rather than going the most negative you can, couch what you say in ways that dont “scare” the children. Shame on anyone who has allowed that clouded thought process to cause harm to any kiddos.
    Lastly, can you all at least give Trump and his administration a chance? Lets see if some good comes from this. I have not been happy for the last 8 years on a number of things that BHO passed. But we are still here. If Trump really does try to pass a law that tries to enslave women, denigrate minorities, or in some other way is morally wrong, I will be standing with you all for a change. Maybe for change from the other side of the proverbial isle, but will still fight for change. I spent 24 years of my life defending your rights to believe what you will, and just because I may not still wear that uniform, I still hold those vows sacred. So, how about we give him a chance, and if it turns out bad, 4 years really is not that far away.

    • “Just because you want folks to enter this country legally does not make you a racist. Just because you believe in the rule of Law does not make you a fascist. Just because you disagree with someone does not make you a hater. Just because you expect people to be responsible for themselves does not make you evil.”

      Putting Muslims on a list. Endorsed by the KKK. Refusing to rent to black people. Pretty racist.

      As for fascism, well, here you go: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/10/21/how-fascist-is-donald-trump-theres-actually-a-formula-for-that/

      Trump has his chance because he won the electoral college (note: not the popular vote, whose gap widens every day). He will get his chance to rule regardless of how I feel about it. I’ll be pleased to discover him doing well by the country, but the snakes are already out of the can on how he spoke, and what violence has occurred and is now occurring in his wake. Do you support that violence? Do you condemn it? Do you condemn how he encouraged it, stirred it, will you ask HIM to disavow what’s happening in schools and in parking lots and on the streets of America against people of color, against immigrants, against LGBT, against women?

      — c.

  • “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.”

    I love this. I always turn to art for salvation whenever the rug has been removed from under my feet and it never fails.

    Thank you for a great post.

  • A few people have said that Democrats–Hillary supporters–did nothing to convince non-supporters to vote for her. That she, and we, did nothing. But I ask you this: what words would you have used to sway the unswayable? Do you cite policy, or logic? Tell a Bernie supporter that she and their candidate voted together 93% of the time, and that the things they like most about him have no chance of passing because we as a nation aren’t ready for them? That a lot of what he wants to do sounds good on paper, but is unrealistic at this point? Tell a Trump or a Gary Johnson supporter that they are voting against their own best interests? That Trump routinely screwed over most of the little people who worked for him, and businesses had to double their prices because he has a habit of stiffing them on the final bill? That even if he brings manufacturing jobs and such back to this country (which won’t happen, by the way) that it won’t help, because most of it is automated these days? Tell them that illegal immigration has dropped substantially in the last ten years, and that you’re more likely to be shot or taken advantage of by a neighbor you’ve known for years, a family member, a friend, than by an immigrant?

    Do you appeal to emotion, and have them reject it because it doesn’t match what they feel?

    You could spend hours refuting a lot of the points Trump made, and it wouldn’t have done any good. One thing that America has proven bad at is thinking for the future. We want some nebulous “change”, and we want it now…whether or not it will make things better. And if it doesn’t have an immediate, obvious effect, there’s hell to pay.

    There are times when words fail. Times when it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, because people see what they want to see. He used the same strategies as Bush did in ’04, in a cruder form. Fear. Baseless paranoia. No realism, no substance. He has no plan, and nothing he can successfully execute. It worked then, and it worked now–and it will probably prove detrimental this time too. In an environment like this, running on emotion, facts don’t matter. This election proved that. And realistically, this would have happened sooner or later. Our mindset has changed very little in the last century. Cite the civil rights movement, all that jazz all you want; all it changed was the form prejudice took, and maybe shifted the target a little. And to do even that much took public death. If Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and others hadn’t been assassinated, do you really think we would’ve made even this much (mostly illusory) progress?

    Give people a path to feel instead of think, to act on basic instinct and raw emotion, let their dark sides rule…how many won’t take it? How many people will stop and consider the consequences, especially if they are not likely to be affected? We listen to the loudest voices, especially if they say what we want to hear.

    Maybe the establishment doesn’t really help everyone…but nothing can. We cannot all be wealthy, especially in a capitalistic system. Our economic style favors greed and those who already have power, not balance or equality. And the thing is, people like Trump have no incentive to try and change that.

    Here’s a reality check: where we are as a country, right now, is among the better positions we could be in. But because it’s not perfect, it’s not enough, and it probably never will be. For some, nothing will be enough. For others…the world has never been fair. But the thing is, thinking that someone like Trump, by virtue of being an outsider, is more in touch with your concerns, will work to fix the problems you and I face, is delusional. He is no better in that regard. He’s a businessman. One of the privileged elite–just as alien to an ordinary man or woman as a politician. And here’s another bit to consider: he has never worked for anyone’s benefit except his own. What makes you think he will break the pattern of behavior he has established over the decades, and act on our behalf? What does he gain from it?

    A perfect system does not exist. What we have now is one of the better options that is actually viable. Some people being left behind is inevitable, and guess what? I’m one of them. But I can face reality; see what’s really there. And I ask you this: can you?

    Trump will be our president. There’s nothing we can do to change that. But if he puts even half of the plans he has cited into effect, we will be in for a world of hurt–and it will be those who voted for him who will bear the responsibility. I hope you can live with that.

  • You all DO realize that Hillary actually won the popular vote, right? She won by something around a million votes… it was the electoral college that gave it to Trump. Not the majority of voters.
    Same thing that happened with Bush v Gore.
    Just say’n…

  • Don’t have much to say about this post other than I found myself in tears reading it, with Tori Amo’s Yo George playing in my head. We are living in strange incomprehensible times.

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