In my mind there are many doorways. Most of them are closed up tight. Behind them is a panoply of — well, who knows what, really, but most of what’s there are various collections of Bad Thoughts. In there are Worries and their big brothers, Fears, and their unruly cousins, Anxieties. I compartmentalize. I give them their rooms and trap them inside.
Lately, the locks have been breaking and the doors have been opening. (It’s like that scene in Ghostbusters, where the — ahem — villainous EPA man demands the containment unit be purged of ghosts. They give in to his demands. And it’s bad.)
Behind these doors are apocalypses big and small, and these variable armageddons play out in the frame of each doorway and so now I’m tasked with simply trying not to look. It’s as if I’m wandering through a museum inside my own head, and some displays and exhibits are simply too abhorrent to view. So I walk past, my eyes closed, mumbling something about, “Oh, what’s over here?” And I find a better, nicer thing to look at.
Obviously, as of late the doors that have been opening contain a variety of Worries, Fears and Anxieties over what’s to come under our unpresidented president. The signs are not ideal. Historians have seen a lot of this before. We don’t know if we’ll get a Berlusconi or a Hitler. We don’t know if he’s just gathering a team of kleptocrats who will (as is his way) run up a tab and stick us all with the bill. We don’t know if he’s really going to try to put up a wall, or register Muslims, or somehow try to put journalists in jail. We don’t know if the alt-right — who are actual Nazis, by the way — will continue to have a voice, or worse, actual power. We don’t know if Russia owned one election or if they own our coming president. Did they hack us just to make us doubt our own democracy? Or do they have a hand firmly up his ass, puppeting him around even still? We don’t know what will happen with climate change — will private enterprise pick up the slack and continue that way because the tide has turned, or will this administration willfully deny the tides, since denying facts and science and reality in total seems part of the official program?
Will there be figures of conscience to lead us out of this madness?
Will there be those we can trust to stand by us and do right even when it is difficult?
Will this be a four-year-blip of woeful ineptitude, or a years-long parade into war, or a new depression, or maybe worst of all, a totally functional autocratic regime where democracy is a thing we talk about in the past tense?
Will there be camps? A white nuclear flash? Boiling oceans? Zombies? Angels?
And in that gap, in that empty doorway, any fear can flourish.
Fear, of course, has its evolutionary value. It can mobilize us to protective action.
Fear, though, can also hamstring us. Especially when we’re caught without a way to mobilize.
In this way, fear paralyzes. And so does pessimism. Over time, the Bad Thoughts get out of their cages and they start to weigh us down. It’s important to deal with that. It’s important to find optimism. It’s important to have hope.
Which sounds incredibly twee, of course. Hope is so simple an idea it’s almost glib, a throwaway luxury. It’s something a politician can say to get votes, it’s something you’ll hear in Rogue One to earn an uncomplicated thrill, it’s punchy shorthand without nuance, without teeth. And yet, it’s also the thing that literally saves us time and time again.
Without hope, I don’t know who we are or what we become.
I wrote a book called Invasive*, and in that book is a protagonist, Hannah Stander. Hannah works for the FBI as a consultant, a futurist who helps them see the unexpected threats waiting down the road. She’s the daughter of doomsday preppers, and so is an anxiety-driven character uniquely poised between the Scylla and Charybdis that is crushing pessimism and sheer, bloody-minded optimism. She knows that every advance we make, every step we take, has the chance to go very very right, or very very wrong. We can split the atom to power the world, or split it in half. Even a single knife can be used to whittle a branch or cut a piece of fruit — or it can be used to gut your neighbor and steal his fruit. We are constantly making choices based on angels and devils. We are forever walking the line between evolution and ruination.
In the end, I needed Hannah to have hope.
Every time she’s beaten down, I need her to get back up again.
I needed her to have a way forward. A reason to move. A reason to survive.
One of the things I gave her — one of the tools — was the Dust Bowl.
That is to say, I gave her the Dust Bowl from the 1930s here in America. I studied the Dust Bowl effect for another novel of mine — the cornpunk YA novel, Under the Empyrean Sky — and certainly it’s something you’ll see if you poke your nose through a little Steinbeck.
If you’re not overly familiar, I’ll give the broad strokes: the Dust Bowl was the result of over-eager agricultural exploitation in the middle of our country (and Canada). Over 150,000 square miles of land were overworked with unsophisticated farming techniques. Drought struck. The dirt became dry, and stayed dry. Then it became dust. And that dust got swept up in massive “black blizzards,” some of which even reached the East Coast. The entire middle of our country effectively died. On one Sunday in 1935, over 20 of those black blizzards raged. People couldn’t see a handful of feet in front of them. The very air choked them.
You ever see pictures from the Dust Bowl?
Go ahead, Google it.
You’ll see walls of dust.
You’ll see tractors buried in it.
You’ll see filthy people with masks on.
It looks like a dead world. It looks like the goddamn Apocalypse.
And some people thought it was. It helped worsen the Great Depression. It sent actual plagues of insects and rabbits into towns looking for food. Great black dust-storms raged in the skies.
It was the fucking End Times.
Except, it wasn’t, was it?
The Dust Bowl ended — not necessarily naturally, not on its own, but with new leadership (FDR and his New Deal for America, taking us out of Hoovertown) and agencies like the FSA and the Soil Conservation Service and the Forestry Service, we were able to tackle the core of the problem. Farmers were retrained in new agricultural techniques to stop erosion. Trees were planted as windbreaks — sorry, 200 million trees, just in case you want a number in which to find some proper awe. New grasses were planted to anchor the earth. It took time. There was a bit of a bounceback in the 40s, but another drought in the 50s made some fresh hell. But by the 1970s, the area was transformed. The middle of the country was not dead. It was thriving.
And that’s what I gave to Hannah.
I gave her the Dust Bowl — not as a memory, for she was too young for that — but as a point of historical relation. Something she could look to and, strangely enough, find some optimism. That optimism is guarded and cautious and grounded with iron spikes of reality, because of course the Dust Bowl wasn’t some random event. It was us. We did it. We made it, caused it, worsened it. Just as we (and Hoover) helped worsen the Great Depression. And of course, it’s not like that time was easy for anybody. People lost their livelihoods and others lost their lives. Disasters are like that. They’re not good. Nobody wins.
But it is a sign that we can survive.
And we can learn.
The thing we think is the End of the World isn’t that, after all. It’s the end of something — or at least, a troublesome pause. But the Apocalypses we expect and predict are rarely those. They are transformative. They are terrible. But they rarely end everything. They often form new beginnings, terrible and transformative as they are. The Dust Bowl came, caused in part by us, and it took time, but with industriousness and indomitable will — and smart leadership! — we found our way out of the black blizzard. We stumbled free of the dual apocalypses of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. With FDR, we leveled up to something better, something greater.
That’s the optimism I’m clinging to. It’s not the kind of optimism that just waves it off and says enh everything will be fine, because it won’t. History is clear on that point: it’s never going to just be fine. History is full of tumble and tumult. But history is also full of our response to tumble and tumult, and the long game is one where we persevere.
One where we become better than we were before.
This, I think, is that moment for us.
Things won’t be fine.
Things might get really, really bad.
But we can survive them. And we have a chance to come out better than we were before.
That is the key.
At least, it’s the key with which I close and lock those doors once more. It’s the way I keep the Worries, the Fears, the Anxieties, at bay. The key is hope. The key is always hope.
* shameless note: INVASIVE remains at its $2.99 holiday price: Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks. Hey, shut up, writer gotta eat. And drink. Okay, mostly drink.
48 responses to “The Key Is Always Hope”
‘Auguries of destruction be a lullaby for rebirth’. ~Key to Twilight
I am so grateful for this and the many posts you have written on this, Chuck. You are a good man and your message is helpful. Thank you for these reminders. May they keep coming. We will need them time and again as we watch the event horizon expand in front of us.
As always, you put things into a manageable perspective. Sometimes we just have to widen the focus, step back and look at the nightmare from a more distant view point.
Yes, Chuck. A googol times yes. However, where do we start? There are a thousand starting blocks, each pulsating with tremulous, angry energy: police reform, tribal lands, women’s rights, and on and on. I think it begins with us and with them. With the concept of THEM. The evil, human, stupid concept that there’s an US and a THEM and that if we could just take THEM by the lapels and shake them and jostle some cells in their pineal glands to squirt the right neurotransmitter into the right area to quiet their amygdalas and shush their “Hillary is running a child sex ring in a DC pizza joint and I am so outraged about that is that what I’m supposed to be outraged about today or is today for being outraged at Starbucks for red coffee cups?” fear and anger, we could show them that US is right.
Well, no. Because it’s not about reason. It’s not about policy. It’s not even about His Magisterial Orangeness. It’s about US. Liberals, progressives, what have you. We’ve spent 30 years marveling and wondering with awe and fear and pity why conservatives in small towns and rural areas and evangelical churches so faithfully, zealously vote for people who send their jobs to Honduras and try to shred their social safety net while passing tax cuts for billionaires. And we’ve got it wrong. They’re not voting against their interests. They’re voting because they despise liberals. Or more to the point, what they perceive liberals to be.
After 30 years of propaganda, the fruits of the howling abyss of wasps and magma that are the brains of Alex Jones, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and their peers, liberals are the enemy to conservatives. We’re not real Americans. We’re Soros-loving, America-loathing socialists who want to murder babies, open the floodgates to brown people, ban Jesus, and melt all guns into restraints for virtuous (read: white) working folks who resist having their lives controlled by Big Bad Gubmint. Most of all, we’re elites who look down on, scorn and feel superior to the simple folk. So they hate us. They happily, willingly, giddily vote against anything that we support and try to tear it down even if it’s in their best interest, such as Obamacare. It’s human nature to need an enemy and to want someone to look down upon. That is why, even in the wake of Trump goose-stepping into the White House, they remain filled with rage and bent on vengeance.
They really, really hate us, and see this as their chance to make us pay for—what? Eight years of Obama? Calling them yokels and mouth-breathers dumb enough to vote for a cantaloupe-colored mannequin spewing fantasies more outrageous than anything my nine-year-old could concoct? I don’t know. But they’re mad at us and they mean to make us pay. And pay. And pay.
That’s what this is about. Hope begins when we recognize that and find a way to heal that divide. When we sit down over dinner and beers and don’t talk politics but simply begin to recognize that we are all human beings who basically want the same things…that liberals don’t have horns or kneel before a photo of Saul Alinsky every night before bed, and that conservatives aren’t all ignorant racists. That we’re a lot more alike than different, and most of us are decent people, not Facebook caricatures.
Millions of people at dinner tables, connecting. That’s what hope looks like.
“Millions of people at dinner tables, connecting. That’s what hope looks like.”
Having grown up in the Midwest, I love this, but I know us. We’ll bring hummus and arugula and gluten-free-non-gmo-organic-vegan food to that table and they’ll bring pot roast and jello salad. We’re the same, yes, but we’re a different same and they know it. They can smell it. And they likely won’t eat it. The trick is figuring out how to blur the line of duality so we recognize the us in them, and vice versa. How do we do that? How do we not come off as smart-ass, uppity liberals? And how do we not view them as inbred mouth-breathing religious nuts? This is going to take more than hope. It’s going to take hard work and a willingness to own our labels (and drop the ones we use) to truly break bread together.
I agree. We have to be better. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to take overcoming our natural desire to say, “But, see, this is why my idea is really better for you, can’t you see that?” We’ve got to find a way to have compassion and restraint and as you say, the willingness to drop all labels. As long as we see each other as “libtards” and “gun nuts”, we’re sunk. The plutocrats will rob us blind and steal our liberties. We have to see each other as people. That’s why I think we come together and just talk and share, but no ideology or politics.
Beautifully written. Exquisite, in fact. I wish I could believe it could work that way. I have relatives who would throw me into jail if they could for being gay. They would take my friends’ teaching jobs from them because they believe the propaganda that gays are pedophiles, despite all research to the contrary. They are truly impervious to facts. It’s really, really, REALLY hard to connect with people like that. And guess what? I have no desire to! It is dangerous for my health and well-being. So my hope, my work, must exist elsewhere.
I respectfully disagree with you. “They are impervious to facts” is both ego-based self-deception and indicative of the problem. First, ego-based self-deception. It’s a truism that activity intended to evoke change falls into one of two categories: you can do what makes you feel good about yourself, or you can do what works. The first is infinitely more satisfying and usually achieves little; the second is difficult and dirty and asks you to sit and listen to people upon whose shoes you would not cross the street to spit. That’s why the people who do the second well wind up being great figures whom we assassinate: King, Ghandi, RFK, etc.
On the Left, we tend to do the first. We demean conservatives and say things like “They are impervious to facts” because it both makes us feel better about ourselves and absolves us from taking the second kind of action, the one that makes our blood pressure rise. But it’s in the second that change can happen, and that is where the problem comes into the discussion. We know that we’re right, and I know that. The ideas of the Left—tolerance, income equality, racial equality, strong regulation, strong environmentalism and so on—we KNOW they are the keys to a growing, healthier society and world. But we cannot come to the table with conservatives and lecture them with “facts” because they won’t listen to us, because they see us as the enemy.
So we have to be better than they are. We have to sit down and NOT talk facts and politics. We have to set ground rules and expect everyone to follow them: connect, don’t lecture. Learn and understand each other. The idea is to help conservatives see us as human beings, good people who are not the enemy, who don’t hate them, who don’t want to destroy their way of life. That’s the only way we can get them to listen to our ideas. It will be very hard and require a lot of restraint. But we can do it. We HAVE to.
“impervious to facts” may be an overstatement in many cases, but “unconvincable” (if that’s a word) doesn’t seem to be. I have asked some literate conservatives how they suggest we try to make these connections and I have gotten absolutely zero suggestions that go beyond “come and grovel and tell us how wrong you are.”
in one case, someone basically said “the Trump voter knows that the things progressives are trying to do are – in the main – good for people who have less than they do, and don’t – in the main – actively harm anyone else. they just resent that they aren’t getting those benefits themselves. they would rather nobody have them.”
the progressive side keeps trying, keeps suggesting, keeps saying “well how about this” and the conservative side keeps saying No. No suggestions, no amendments, no “how about this instead” or maybe “we could try changing this thing instead of throwing the whole thing out,” just … no.
and now it’s not only No, it’s NO and by the way all the programs that actually make America great? yeah, we’re going to tear those to pieces for the financial benefit of our already-rich cronies, and you are all going to be fucked harder than you’ve ever been fucked before.
so I’m going to keep asking “what do you suggest” because everything WE suggest gets rejected. sitting down to dinner together is a sweet fable but when so many of us are afraid to be face to face (specifically: tell me how a progressive woman or non-Christian or gay person or non-white person is supposed to approach a person who bought into an overtly racist, sexist, pietistic, homophobic storyline) it’s a little hard to manage.
If i can recommend something that ive picked up to try and wrestle with this; Broken Heartland by Osha Gray Davidson takes a close loook at…not exactly how to bridge this divide but more…what the situation is, at least among the rural communities where a lot of extreme radical right wing stuff has taken root, especially in the midwest. The author calls it “the rural ghetto” and its at least given me more to think about, and im hoping it will help me find something actionable.
I’m a quiet reader of your blog but once in a while your words strike me at the shouting place and I’m all “Yes! This!” as I hit copy or forward or read paragraphs to my beau. I’ve felt myself wilting under the probability of too much much, losing the hope that I normally cling to like a flea to a dog’s tail. I know I’m lucky. I’m a white woman living in blue California. But still…
Speaking as a Brit here. What I think the administration is expecting is for people to sit and complain for the next 4 years. Instead, think what you can do. What do you do best? What can you do that will have the most impact? Do that.
Best of luck. Most of the rest of the world is with you.
Your posts have been really awesome lately. Thank you for the hope!
And a lot of nodding to Eldonna Edwards for the point about breaking bread around the holiday dinner table….
Actually, I wrote something similar for Rose & Thorn Magazine some time back; empathizing the need for Hope in one’s writing – no matter how much you torture your characters. I think it’s extremely important to maintain, even if you’re living in a GrimDark world.
As I said to someone the other day, we’ll see what happens and then we’ll figure out how to deal with it.
I’m currently reading Invasive. I love the dustbowl analogy. I was thinking, though, part of the reason that the dustbowl isn’t such a dustbowl anymore is because of all the groundwater usage in the Ogallala aquifer. Apparently drilling started in earnest in the 1950s and increased steadily into the 1970s. I’m sure the tree planting and soil conservation methods helped a lot, but the groundwater part of the puzzle is likely important, especially since it is a finite water source in a part of the world where the aquifer is not replenished at a sustainable rate. This article is pretty good for more info: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-ogallala-aquifer/
Yes, Chuck. Absolutely.
Right now, here in Ireland, activists have seized an empty building that had been taken over by NAMA in the wake of our side of the global recession. They’ve made it a safe and welcoming place for Dublin City’s homeless and are stocking it with food and supplies. It’s an amazing story to see.
We can fight, and remind everyone that the world can be better.
[…] posts about how to create art and make cool stuff in a time of trouble, as well as the need for hope. That is true for all of us as creators, but I say this as well: it’s true for all us period. […]
Yes. Or as your post reminded me today, and as Emily Dickenson said:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314) Related Poem Content Details
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)
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Obamacare has been a great blessing for me and my family. We now have higher premiums, higher co-pays, and best of all an $8,000 deductible. This is definitely really good for me and my family! I am thrilled with the much improved care (oops, me and my daughter can’t really afford to use the insurance I’m forced to buy, but hey, it’s what’s best for me and my family). And gee, I really don’t have any better use for all that money! It is absolutely what’s best for me and mine.
I’m sorry your insurance costs went up. The whole program was flawed and could be improved. But I know an awful lot of people who were denied coverage before who can get it now, and think the high cost is worth it because as – for example – a cancer survivor, continuity of care is important. We can hope that the new administration will actually put forth a plan that preserves coverage options and doesn’t cost so much.
And we can wonder why the McConnell Congress, instead of proposing amendments to fix the ACA, simply voted again and again to repeal the act altogether.
fwiw I could get coverage from the state of California for approximately 1/3 the cost of coverage under the group policy my employer buys. We might wonder why and how the insurance companies, possibly the most profitable industry in the U.S. and one that produces absolutely nothing, can get away with charging so much.
Yes. There are flaws. It works better for some groups than others. Part of the reason it doesn’t work as well as we’d like is because healthy and young people have decided to just go without and pay the $500 fine for not having insurance, because they can count on their health being good (and don’t have to think about the people who don’t have that luxury).
But. You take your car to the mechanic before you take it to the dump. Nuking the ACA is not the answer.
Nickie, I’m glad you agree that there is literally no better use of your money than keeping you and your family healthy. That’s something I think all Americans would agree with. I’m sorry to hear that you can’t afford to use the policy you’ve purchased. Have you considered Medicaid? Most of the people in my family have used it at one time or another, and it’s really been helpful even if it’s only temporary assistance. My dad just recovered from a two-year battle with a post-surgical infection in his shoulder, and I don’t know how we could have paid the hospital bills without it.
That’s not the fault of the ACA, though. That is the fault of the insurance companies.
“And of course, it’s not like that time was easy for anybody. People lost their livelihoods and others lost their lives. Disasters are like that. They’re not good. Nobody wins”
It’s important to acknowledge that while nobody wins in a disaster, some people lose more than others. I really want to cosign the “we have to have hope” attitude, but when it dovetails with the “things will be bad, and some people will die, but ultimately goodness will prevail” attitude…I start to have problems. That’s not a knock on you, or this post. But it IS a knock on what I see as a general trend of cishet white people, usually men, trying to give the “okay, some people are going to get screwed, but we can get this past this” pep talk. They’re not trying to be glib, but they’re not being particularly empathetic either. It is easy to say “they’re will be terrible suffering for some” when that suffering will, for the most part, be fairly removed from your everyday life. But for the people who are marginalized, and for whom the suffering will be very real, hearing people in relative positions of privilege and power say, yes, there will be collateral damage, but we’ll be stronger in the end, is simultaneously terrifying and infuriating.
I’m queer and FTM trans. I had planned to start transitioning in the coming year. I have to rethink that now, with this new political climate. I’m trapped in one of the most conservative areas in one of the most conservative states; our neighbors just to the north passed an anti-trans bill earlier this year. (Yes, the governor who signed it lost the election, but do you think that will stop them? The state legislature is already doing everything in its power to insure that the incoming governor is hampered, and that true power still lies with those who pushed this law in the first place.) Our vice-president, whom Trump has entrusted domestic policy to, believes in fucking reparative therapy.
Beyond that, the views of Trump supporters I have engaged with on the subject of transgenderism have been truly frightening: I’ve been called an “unnatural” “abomination” who “sins against God;” I’ve been called a “rapist” and a “child molester.” The most charitable are simply think I’m “confused” and need to be reeducated with religious doctrine so I stop offending God with who I am; the worst think I’m a perverted psychopath who targets children. All of them agree that I’m lying when I say that being trans isn’t a choice. I already know that any anti-GLBT protections I enjoy now will be stripped from me; soon it will be legal to discriminate against me in all sorts of ways, from housing, to employment, to medical care. I will be a second-class citizen. This terrifies me less than the specter of hate crimes and violence that fake-news, anti-trans rhetoric has stirred up in people, making them think it’s okay for, say, a noted alt-right troll to out a trans student and imply she’s a rapist while giving a talk at a public university, because, well, who stopped him? Not the university.
I fear living with a target on my back.
And I’m WHITE. I can’t even begin to imagine the anguish of Black people who will continue to see their loved ones gunned down by police, and who, with racist Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General, will never even have a chance of seeing justice done. Or of Mexican immigrants, living in fear of mass deportations, being separated from their family, having to endure detention centers rife with human rights abuses. Or of Muslims, who will face mass surveillance on a scale unseen up until now, whom Trump has already as president-elect suggested should have to register with the government. We already know that American citizens were subjected to kidnapping, torture, and indefinite detention by the CIA during the Bush years; it’s not hard to imagine such policies intensifying under Trump.
It’s fine to say “Things won’t be fine. Things might get really, really bad. But we can survive them.” But remember that there are those of us who for whom survival is not guaranteed. That’s not pessimism, that’s realism. If you want me to start believing in hope, you need to understand why I am afraid. You need to understand that something which is hypothetical to you is very real and very personal to me. You need to tell me that I am not collateral damage, that my life and the lives of all marginalized people are not simply acceptable losses. I’m already seeing Democrats discussing Clinton’s loss say things like, “well, it was our mistake to defend trans rights” because apparently acknowledging me as a human being deserving of safety and the basest level of human rights is negotiable even for people who claim to be my allies.
All you folks telling me I “have to have hope that things will get better”? Show me you’re in my fucking corner and I’ll have hope. Fight my battles with me and I’ll have hope. Care about me as an individual instead of as nameless sacrificial grist for the great, grinding gears of political progress, and I’ll have hope.
We are not just hypotheticals; we are real people. Please, just…remember that. Remember that we exist and do everything in your power to try to protect us. Don’t just consign us to the role of victims in some future-historical tragedy. Don’t mourn us in advance; try to help us NOW.
There’s not much I can say, except solidarity. I was brought up Anglican and thank goodness my version of Christianity doesn’t condemn. You are what you are, and I have nothing but admiration that you are acknowledging that and choosing to live on your own terms.
I agree, and it’s vital to realize this. But the only other ways to go with it are:
a) everything’s going to be fine, without the caveat of IT ALSO MIGHT GET REALLY BAD
b) nothing’s going to be fine, which is a very good way to just say fuck it and roll over.
I don’t mean to minimize suffering by saying it’s going to get bad before it gets good — but I do think that’s what’s going to happen, and yes, that awfulness will disproportionately affect the marginalized more.
At the same time, if we don’t have hope for all of us, even while acknowledging how bad it can get, then I don’t know what else to do. We have to have something.
I don’t have any real hope on a personal level. I hope the world survives, though.
The thing is, not all of us will survive this, and those of us who are most in danger know it.
Americans got through the Dust Bowl, two world wars, the worst of the AIDS crisis. They got through it, but not everyone survived. Many people who WERE able to survive did so because they were more privileged in whatever way helped lessen the blow of these national catastrophes. And in none of those cases did a thin-skinned egotistic Nazi-pandering racist pussy-grabbing MONSTER have the GODDAMN NUCLEAR CODES.
STOP. FUCKING. NORMALIZING. This is NOT comparable to previous American tragedies. This is different. This is worse. I don’t need hope. Hope isn’t going to keep people from harassing me or stop Trump from nuking the Middle East or save the environment. We need *action.* We need anger and outrage and not just the hope that we can merely *survive* this.
Privileged people will doubtless survive this, but so many of Trump/Pence’s proposed policies and his supporters’ priorities are aimed at culling the underprivileged. Whether it’s registering Muslims, deporting immigrants, or axing the ACA and denying healthcare to millions, they have made it clear that they want to purge America of all “undesirable” elements.
I can say that I may very well be dead right now if not for the Affordable Care Act. If it’s repealed or welfare reduced or medical coverage cut down or any number of things that make fiscal conservatives happy, people will die. They won’t die of hate crimes or in wars, but they will die of suicide, of being denied coverage, of being denied preventative care, of being forced to deliver dangerous pregnancies, of being denied coverage for preexisting conditions, of being denied the basic accommodations they need to survive in the bodies they have.
Hope is useless without action. Survival is a privilege. Don’t wear the safety pin if you’re not prepared to be a safe person and an active ally and ready to take on all the responsibilities and dangers that implies.
************hope is a nice message. I’m objecting more to the other bits. Since the dude was elected, I’ve been like, “I swear to god, if I hear one more privileged person be like ‘we’ll get through this!’ and ‘we’ll survive this!!’ i’ll lose my shit,” so I guess today was the day I lost my shit. Bye, shit.
I’m not normalizing it. If I were normalizing it, I’d tell you how this was normal instead of describing it in potentially world-ending terms. I’m describing this as both a disaster and a tragedy, and one that requires effort and leadership to overcome. That is not a normal situation.
Hope isn’t just a nice message, though — it’s the essential seed inside the anger and the action. You don’t take action if you don’t have hope that it’ll have an effect. Hope is vital, even if that hope is dinged and dented and dust-encrusted.
Yeah, hope can be a “seed,” but…underprivileged people are often forced to choose between taking action and maintaining their personal safety and that of their families, so frequently, hope alone doesn’t do shit. More on that later.
I think that by basing much of your post on a historical comparison, you have, albeit inadvertently, normalized Trump by acting like this is comparable to previous events in American history. Yes, there are similarities; this country has never been free of hate.
But what we are seeing now is NOT — and I really cannot emphasize this enough — like anything we’ve previously seen in American history. We have never had a foreign power interfere in an American election before. We didn’t have nuclear weapons during the Dust Bowl. We didn’t have climate change accelerating at an alarming rate past the point of no return. After legalizing same-sex marriage, we now have a Republican-controlled Senate, House, White House, and soon-to-be judicial branch; Trump’s picks will dictate Supreme Court decisions and American justice for the rest of my lifetime. I could go on. Actually, I think I will. Comparing Trump to any previous national disaster is like comparing Barack Obama to any other Democratic President. You can make some parallels work, but at a fundamental level they are incomparable.
This is not like history. This is something different. Not normal, not really comparable to the past. And, by comparing him to that past, yes, you are normalizing. You don’t have to say “this is normal” to be normalizing. What you did end up saying is that yeah, this is just like other national disasters, but we’ll get through it like we’ve weathered everything else. (Which is…normalizing.)
**********((And if you’re going to compare him to national history, I’d really like for you to compare him to the Nazis instead of the Dust Bowl. I’d like you to draw those comparisons between his anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-non-Christian, anti-immigrant, hyper-nationalist, anti-disabled rhetoric and the motherfucking bonafide Nazis — except now it’s Nazis with nuclear weapons and the full force of the American (and Russian) government and military behind them — because that is a more appropriate frame of reference. Your Dust Bowl analogy portrays Americans as victims of inevitable environmental, political, and social issues that were set in motion more or less without their control. But Americans actively participated in bringing Trump to power. This didn’t just *happen* to us out of ignorance of proper farming techniques. Trump was brought to power by the actively malicious who hated minorities and by the passively malicious who decided that that hate wasn’t a dealbreaker for them. Nobody WANTED the Dust Bowl to happen. But many Americans actively supported Hitler and terrorized American Jews, just as many have supported Trump and ripped the hijabs off Muslim women. Your analogy fails to turn the spotlight on Americans and hold them accountable for what’s happening right now.))**********
So, what do I want? I want allies to stop telling me I’m overreacting.
I would actually settle for allies to stop saying it’ll be OK, that we’ll survive this (like we have things in the past). That is platitudinous. It dismisses our concerns and ignores the fact that this is literally life or death for many Americans.
I want to be listened to.
If you’re going to make a historical comparison, I want you to acknowledge that not everyone survived the national tragedies you describe and that not everyone who is reading your post will survive this one.
I want you to look at my comment and consider how your post reads from the perspective of a queer, disabled, female person with a mental illness before you jump to defend yourself and your intentions. (Because intentions are not enough.)
I want hopeful writers to include links and calls to action at the ends of their posts; otherwise, it’s just more feel-good “allyship for show.”
I don’t want to hear about your goddamn book; I want to hear that you’ve donated to the Trevor Project or Planned Parenthood or that you’re running a sale where X% of the proceeds from “Invasive” will go to the Environmental Defense Fund. You have the platform; you can do it. So do it. And encourage your followers to do the same.
The danger of posts emphasizing the *feeling* of hope or outrage over the need for *action* is that often, our sense of guilt is satisfied by simply reading about what we need to be doing. Posts like this let liberals pat themselves on the back and feel like they’ve done their good deed for the day by engaging in the discourse, or whatever. Don’t fall into that trap.
Hope is not enough. Intentions are not enough. I want you to stop putting the onus on terrified, underprivileged people to have hope and start putting the onus on yourself and people like you — privileged allies — to GIVE us hope. Through action and active listening.
Think pieces about hope don’t give me hope. MEANINGFUL ACTION from allies gives me hope. So many of us are in a place of despair right now, and often our ability to act without compromising our personal safety is severely limited — so hope doesn’t do us much good anyway — and I need you to hear that. I need you to realize that you, white male popular author person, are in a unique position to give us back the hope that has been taken from us *through action.*
Because actions speak louder than words.
And because as an ally, sometimes the best thing you can do is shut up and listen.
I honestly don’t understand the American health system. It was enough to make my husband and myself (two separate offers) the opportunity to live and work in the USA. We would have had more opportunities and a better standard of living. Except for one thing.
We’re British, and we’ve had the blessing of the NHS all our lives. I have a lifelong chronic condition that requires regular monitoring and appropriate medication, with the occasional surgical intervention. As it is, it’s perfectly manageable, and if I need treatment, as I did in a flare-up a couple of years ago, I go to the GP and s/he refers me on to the appropriate surgeon or specialist. The last thing I worry about is the cost.
I’ve paid into the NHS all my working life, and in order to receive both medical treatment and an old age pension from the government when the time comes, that’s all I need to do. Payments are compulsory, and are taken at source or with taxes. I pay £12 per month, plus at the end of the year, extra proportionate to what I earn (I believe currently it’s 12% of taxable income). Low earners (under £150 per week) don’t pay.
I can go private if I want. That will buy me swift treatment and a better hospital room, but the rest is the same as the NHS. Every doctor in the UK is required to work in the NHS, so the treatment is the same.
The NHS has been “in crisis” as long as I’ve been alive, but it’s still there. There are similar systems in place all over Europe. Universal healthcare is seen as a prerequisite of any civilised society.
And yet you don’t have it in the US. Healthcare is ridiculously expensive. I honestly don’t understand this. The USA is, as some citizens proudly proclaim, one of the wealthiest countries in the world. So why don’t you have something as basic to human civilisation as universal health care?
Thank you for listening.
I have the same concerns, LW. I’m disabled and on state insurance. I’m terrified for my life and the lives of friends and family. But I don’t think Chuck is normalizing. He’s right that all we have is hope; the fear becomes overpowering without it. As someone with anxiety, I have to temper the storm of what ifs with hope. It’s not sweeping things under the rug—it’s getting those who are immobile with fear or anger moving again. Chuck is saying this is serious, but we still have hope; we can still do the work and turn it around. It won’t be easy, and there will be casualties. But it’s not impossible.
I was actually willing to give George W. Bush a decent chance 16 years ago, even though I suspected we’d end up in a war and a recession before the end of his presidency. History proved me right, albeit I had no idea it would be this bad. Conversely, I’m not willing to give Donald Trump any kind of chance because he’s already proven himself completely unfit, both temperamentally and ethically, to lead one of the largest, most powerful nations on Earth. If he gets upset by Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of him, how will he react when some foreign leader tells him to fuck off? Even Sarah Palin didn’t get upset with Tina Fey – at least not publicly.
I’m quite certain we’ll end up in another, even worse recession – perhaps a depression – and a war – perhaps Syria. With growing evidence that Russia somehow hacked into the U.S. elections, I cannot and will not respect Trump as president of the United States and am extremely embarrassed and disgusted that he’s in that position.
I now wish for the Yellowstone super-volcano to explode and wipe us all out.
One day at a time, and sometimes, one minute at a time.
‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Faith in…..yourself, your family, friends, your god.
Hope for a different and better future.
Love everyone so far as you’re able and then a bit more.
And in the original, love was equated as charity, the giving of one’s self to show compassion for others.
HOPE. My new ass tattoo.
Thank you for this. Truly. I needed to read it.
For just under half of the people of this country Trump is their hope. I know a lot of them and I like quite a few of them. I am not sure if it is they who think differently or it is I.
Prior to Trump they were pretty desperate. One of my hopes is that they haven’t been led down a gilded path. I can not see how he is going to fix their problems. They are myriad and a lot more complicated then most believe.
There is no market for coal so how do you help coal miners.
Farming advances since world war 2 have changed the face of so much of this country. Walmart didn’t help much either. No one can change that without putting a strain on the amount of food farmed.
For many of us, urban dwellers, there will be inconveniences but not enough to kill our hopes and dreams. For those who actually felt that Trump was their last hope failure might kill their hopes and dreams.
Have charity in your heart for those people too. They are also our brothers and sisters.
Thing is, there is a market for coal almost as much as there is one for farmed goods. You can’t make steel without coal, and you can’t beat the prices for a heating material. There is a narrative, however…a pervasive one…That democrats are anti-(your livelihood here), and that the EPA is the Third Reich. This is a narrative openly supported by modern republicans. I think there’s a way to bring the country over from coal without putting the boot to the working class in states like West Virginia. I think there’s a gradual, responsive way to cope with our current environmental, and economic realities. But it’s so easy for politicians to tell people that it’s all or nothing, and that the other side wants Nothing (that is definitely true on BOTH sides). So our problem is misinformation, ignorance, and really poor education. We can’t yet handle the information age, we’re still too dumb for it. I seriously doubt trump will solve any of those problems. Only thing he’s good at is pretending he always knows exactly what’s going on. It’s sad and pathetic. Poor little rich boy.
Anyone inclined to suffer hysterical fear over the upcoming Presidential inauguration would do well to stay away from social media – it is a cancer on the fabric of our society, and generally a font of hysterical, fact-free fear-mongering.
Well said mate, well said.
[…] Source: The Key Is Always Hope […]
Every 80 years or so the world as we know it has to end. Eighty years ago the Dust Bowl happened. That’s too much to be a coincidence, I’d say. Can’t wait to see what’s next!
Wowwww Chuck, that Dust Bowl looks exhilarating.
*builds time machine*
Thank you for this.