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

  • This keeps going round my head this morning here in the UK: ‘America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.’ ― Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835). Now England and the US has gone fascist, who are the good guys? The last time this happened it took six years of world war to stop it, and it was stopped because America stopped it. Horrifying, and depressingly inevitable. Game over, I’d say. Take care.

    • November 9, 2016 at 11:03 AM // Reply

      Not inevitable, Far from it. The good guys are still here and always will be. We just need a moment to take a deep breath, cope with the massive wave of horror and disbelief that has washed over us, regain our equilibrium, then figure out how to rally the troops and carry forward the good fight for the true and decent America we thought we were living in–that we KNOW we can live in. This election may feel like a defeat, but in reality, it’s a clarion call for the millions of Americans who, by their own actions, daily embrace equality, fairness, tolerance and kindness, especially towards those who have been targeted by the sick hatred espoused by Trump and his fear-mongering followers. I may sound like a dewy-eyed idealist, but believe me, quite the opposite is true–I’ve been around long enough to have learned the hard way that, in the end, we all have a hand in creating our own reality. So, we can choose to wring our hands and gnash our teeth in despair, OR (in keeping with the water theme I apparently have going on here) we can choose to become a ripple, that tiny, relentless wave that spreads and connects with others to become the giant tsunami capable of drowning out the ugly threat of hatred that is lapping at our shores. I’ve made my choice–how about you?

      • By some incredible coincidence, the book I am drafting this month is titled Tsunamis. You/v struck home. Count me and my ripple in – and since I’m large-framed enough to be called names by the (Shudder!) President-elect- but-not-by-my-vote, I imagine I can make quite a ripple.

  • For someone who didn’t have words -you had good words. Thank you.

    However…Somehow…the fact that today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht is making the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

  • I felt literally sick last night, but I’m old enough to remember Y2K, nuclear war drills in elementary school, and my friend going out to buy a gun to protect himself from the civil unrest he predicted after Obama was elected.

    The fact is, the president’s powers are not that sweeping. He influences policy, but only if he has a cooperative congress. It will be interesting to see if this Republican congress will work with him.

    It is his poor grasp of international affairs and his control of the military that scare me the most. And that open SCOTUS seat.

    • I am afraid, too. I am embarrassed to be American, even though I didn’t vote for this bigoted bully. I worry about our relationships with our allies, and I am especially scared Trump will have a vengeful finger hovering over a nuclear button.

    • I’ve said this elsewhere, but I’ll say it here too. I have nothing but vitriol for the Great Flaming Grabby-Hands Cheeto and his aspirations to dictatorhood, as well as for the Johnson supporters who shat their votes into a black hole rather than give them to Hillary in the states where she lost the electoral votes by just about THAT much.

      BUT to bright-side it for those of us contemplating the bleak line of succession once Cheeto 1 is sworn in:

      a) The Executive branch has less power, by design, than Cheeto 1 thinks he will have.

      b) The VP has less power, by design and at least a century of tradition, than Cheeto 1 thinks he’ll be able to delegate to Cheeto 2.

      c) Cheeto 1 might think Congress is his by virtue of a short-term (mid-term elections 2018 FTW!) GOP majority, but the GOP hasn’t been his for a while now & winning the election ain’t gonna change that.

      (cont.)

      • d) The Joint Chiefs of Staff aren’t toy soldiers to be swept off the board and replaced by gilt piles of shit cast from yes-men molds. See item a in previous comment..

        3) Cheeto 1 has NO stamina, NO tolerance for frustration, NO talent for diplomacy or leadership, and NO ability to distinguish between States’ rights, the Constitution, and his id.

        I predict a lot of orange baby-hand flailing and temper tantrums. Which is pretty much what got him elected but simply won’t do moving forward.

        We’re not going back to the 1950s.

        We will get through this.

        Yes, there is impending grimness on the horizon, but don’t breathe the Cheeto dust.

        Don’t despair.

        We can’t afford complacency in any form.

  • November 9, 2016 at 9:38 AM // Reply

    Thank you for finding those words, Chuck. I haven’t been able to find any to express how I feel. Grief is the exact feeling, and fear. A desire to hide at home, lock away a world that stopped making sense.

    Art harder–it may be the only thing we have to hang onto.

  • Thank you for this, Chuck. Someone wrote in my FB group this morning: “They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds.” It’s a Mexican proverb (which, in itself, seems fitting) I am trying hard to take it to heart as I mourn for our nation.

  • Thank you for this. I am beyond shocked. I am horrified. When you grow up, as I did, with an abusive narcissistic bully, someone like Trump brings up everything you worked so hard to escape. I just don’t understand how millions of Americans could believe that someone like this can actually make things better.

  • Hello Chuck. I know how you and a lot of your fellow Americans feel. I’m British and was shocked, saddened and repulsed by the result of the UK electorate’s decision to vote for Brexit – with anti-immigrant, anti-EU, specious, disingenuous number-crunching just a handful of the dubious means used to fuel the Vote Leave hysteria. We’re still reeling from that decision, I’m still very angry at many in my family who voted out for their petty, parochial and ill-judged reasons…

    If it’s any consolation, many of us in the UK have been disgusted by Trump and his supporters, and we’re depressed and upset at his triumph (my wife was in floods of tears this morning, and my 10-year-old boy said incredulously, “What, that guy whose name means ‘fart’ is the president of the United States?”)

    This nationalistic, sexist, racist, homophobic (fascistic) sentiment has been creeping insidiously across the globe for some time now. I guess it was always going to rise up.

    But the idiots have not yet won. And your words crystallised much of what I’ve been feeling post-referendum and on the afternoon of this woeful day; and feeling the company of other like-minded people is reassuring.

    Thoughts are with you and your fellow decent Americans.

    Best wishes.

  • Thank you, Chuck.

    It’s been a rollercoaster. I went from terrified and numb, to plain terrified, to angry, to sad, did a loop-de-loop back to angry, and have now come full circle to hope.

    I choose to have optimism for the future. One man can’t break this country. Not if I have anything to say about it. And I will be saying everything that needs saying, over and over, as loud as I have to, to fill the airwaves with love, compassion, and understanding, until there’s no more room for hate, and mistrust of ‘those that aren’t like me.’

    I won’t be quiet while my friends and family, most of whom are immigrants, feel like they’re not welcome in this country.
    This week has seen the anniversary of Kristallnacht, but also of the fall of the Berlin wall.
    We will come out stronger and better at the end of this. I will repeat that mantra until it’s true.

    Thank you again for having the words when so many others don’t.

  • Chuck, you’re in the same place today that I was on the 24th of June (post-Referendum day).

    I know the sense of dread, I couldn’t speak to anyone, just ewanted to crawl in a cave and lick my wounds.
    Now, although life here seems to get worse every day there are a plenty of us who are back in the game. We know it’s a terrible slog, but we’re determined to make our country a fair and decent place to live again.
    There will be light at the end of the tunnel.

  • I want to wrap myself in these words because they’re like the indescribable hug you need in a moment beyond realization. They’re the hand on the shoulder that steadys and grounds and says, “You are not alone.” I, for one, needed that this morning.

  • Thank you for your wise words, and for your encouragement to pursue art. Through it, we can help recreate the world.

  • I sent out two tweets very early this morning:

    #1 To the wizarding community: throw a protection spell over your friends and neighbors who may need it.

    #2 Dear America: I continue to respect the office of our president, but reserve the right to dislike the person who fills it.

    Everything else I was and am feeling, you have given voice to in your blog. Thank you.

  • We feel the same here over the pond, Chuck. Our country shot itself in the fucking head last June and now your country’s shot itself in the fucking head and swallowed a bucket of poison for good measure. Deep breaths and work on hope. There are plenty of good folks in both our countries. Love and Hugs.

  • As always, you’ve given a wise voice to a complex and foundation-shattering situation. I’m going to join B-Dub and color me some zombies.

  • Thank you for saying this. I know many, many people are crushed today, but the election felt intensely personal to me as a person of color, a woman and the mother of black children in the state that made this outcome possible. It felt like a hand-delivered message of contempt. The honesty, encouragement and humanity in your post are what I needed at this moment.

  • Chuck – you are experiencing the same sense of disbelief and denial some of us felt in the UK after the Brexit vote, and for the same reasons. A tide of popular sentiment surfed by individuals who not only told lies, but when confronted with evidence to the contrary said “I think we’ve all heard too much from experts.”

    But you’re right. If the good guys keep being good then we’ll come out the other end. Things need to change, but to be honest I don’t know what the fuck they are or how to do it. Let’s hope someone does.

  • There are more good people in this world than bad. That’s the first thing. Second thing is, here we are, so we’re going to have to deal with it.

    But honestly, right now, it’s a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.

    I’m choking over here.

    Yep, we are stronger together but right now, the chasm is so fucking deep and wide, and we’re on that precipice, and the guy who’s supposed to pull us back from that is–

    We know what he is. So yeah, I’m afraid for this country and where it . . . we . . . may be headed.

    But like you said, we can’t allow fear to stop us in our tracks. We can’t give in to that. We have a voice and we need to use it, loudly and clearly. We need to exercise our rights to free speech. We need to remain vigilant against threats to hard-won freedoms, liberties, and rights. We must not be complacent.

    And we have to have hope, because hope carries us in our darkest hours. Thank you for this post, Mr. Wendig.

  • thank you, chuck. you’re always a bright spot on my time line and a wonderful voice to help ease a rat’s nest of emotions both during the election and at other rough patches.

  • My wife told me the news when I woke up this morning, and I surprised myself with the shrug that was my response. I went to bed thinking, “Please America, don’t shit the bed on this one.” Woke up dirty.

    My daughter is curled up on the couch. She’s too young to contemplate the ramifications, younger than Bdub by more than a bit. She doesn’t know that she should care; there is no conversation about it. I find myself wondering how much cash I’m going to have to stuff in a mattress in order to buy her uterus out of slavery.

    What the hell is going to happen in the Supreme Court now? I tremble.

    I’m clinging to the notion that there is no better time to be a white male child of privilege than now. This is the way to weather the storm. Shitty, shitty, shitty, and it fosters that insular, head-in-the-sand management philosophy that appears to be winning with the population.

  • Bless your heart Chuck, and bless the hearts of all Americans who didn’t vote Trump. Lots of us in the UK (the ones the Brexiteers are STILL calling ‘Re-Moaners’) know your pain and confusion right now, and we feel for you. We know how it happened, because it happened to us, and we know you guys did all you could.

    If it’s any comfort, in one way we in the UK are about six months on from you in our grieving process, so we can tell you from that perspective… it won’t be as bad as you fear it is right now. It’ll still suck, unfortunately, but it won’t be quite as apocalyptic as it probably feels like it might be today, or for at least the next couple of weeks. The Trumpiteers will get their ten minutes of feeling like “Yeah! We stuck it to da Est-ablish-MENT, dudes!” and then even they’ll realise they’ve elected an orang-utan to run their country for the next four years. With any luck he’ll get bored and quit after a couple of years, once he realises Congress actually WON’T let him do whatever the hell he likes.

  • We must go forward, and do our best to ensure that this country that could be so great does not become the largest third-world monarchy in the western hemisphere. It’s our duty to demonstrate to our children and grandchildren that decent people rise above the bullies and the people so steeped in fear they lash out at anyone different from them.

  • Today I start shopping for a new church because members of our pastoral search committee and congregation decided that they would rather risk going for years without a pastor than call someone who is a person of color or someone who won’t attack gay people.

    You are not exaggerating about it feeling like a funeral. Eight years ago, I buried a partner, a sibling, and became homeless all at once. People at my workplace saw I had no protectors, and someone there physically assaulted me. Six lawyers refuse to represent me before I gave up. I fled that town and shook the dust off my feet. I thought nothing could ever make me feel that low and hopeless again. I was wrong. Now I see there has always been the potential for everyone around me to experience that level of suffering at the whim of the nearest racist or misogynist or homophobe. I deluded myself that people who acted kindly to pasty-white me (my people are the color of freshly-hatched maggots), wouldn’t be raging with violence inside. Eight years ago sedatives could knock me out. Today I can’t feel their effect. It has been a painful year and an excruciating 24 hours.

    I work two jobs: one is for a newspaper and one is for a research journal. People in both parts of my professional life have been on the receiving end of threats on and off over the years. Both groups have dedicated their lives to reporting events in the world around us. I wonder how much time we have left. Please humanity, prove my fears unfounded!

  • My art is going to be stronger, more meaningful and with much more optimism. Art is therapy and a good escape. Right now I’m going through the many processes that feels similar to when a close friend dies unexpectedly.

  • And as a woman … it’s even worse. I thought we’d come a long way since the 80’s when a fellow teacher thought it was fine to pinch my ass. Guess not, when our new president thinks it’s fine to do a full-frontal grab.
    As a Christian … well, I’ll be praying regularly for us as a nation, and for our world neighbors.

  • November 9, 2016 at 10:43 AM // Reply

    Thank you. Like you, I was astounded at a child’s grasp of things. My eight year old grandson told his Mom that he didn’t want Trump to be president because “He wants to build a big wall and be mean to Mexicans.” The kids got it. But they don’t know the fear. We have been “us against them” for so long, we can’t think any other way now. And the sad part is, “them” is now the guys across the street.

    But, as so many have said, here and in other places, we will go on. We don’t have a choice. We will be sad and hopeless and confused. We will be strong and forward-looking and clear thinking. We will be all of that, in turn, and we will work through it. I wish I could think it will be easier than we fear, but I honestly don’t. I just know we will come out on the other side.

  • I’ve said elsewhere that the fight begins here. This would have been true, either way, because Trump stirred up massive bigotry in the US. Remember Trump has, at best, 6 months in office where he can do the most damage. After that the government is into mid-terms and then the next presidential election and everything becomes about getting votes instead of making changes.

    The damage can be mitigated. I’ve watched Trump’s language and promises. They shift to suit whatever he thinks will stroke his ego or get him what he wants. Remember that he went from “Crooked Hilary” to “the good she has done for this country” literally overnight. With the right pressure, even manipulation, he can be eased back from the worst of what he’s threatened, and the rest would probably take too long to achieve.

  • There really are bogeymen. You’re surrounded by them. You’ll see them standing in line at the grocery store, getting their news from the headlines of the ENQUIRER, you’ll see them through their front windows in the blue light of Fox news as you walk through your neighborhood, you’ll hear them mumbling scripture as they breathe the same air you’re breathing inside the walls of your church. We’ve always feared they were there. Now we know it.

  • Chuck, your comparison to a mother who marries an abuser is dead-on. It’s exactly how I feel.

    My children are also afraid. When I told them who won this morning they got in bed with me and didn’t want to get out. I told them we’ll be okay–we’re lucky to have a government that is built in a way that doesn’t allow the president to have too much power. Knowing this helped them. It doesn’t help me.

    We as a country have validated and empowered an outwardly racist, sexist, religiously intolerant man who brags about groping women. I am very sad.

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