Category Archives: post-election angst

In the World and Not In the World

I don’t even know where to start talking about where I am these days.

This is me, in the world, at the Women’s March in DC.

The other day, my sister and I talked on the phone and she asked what I was up to. That’s kind of a weird question for me. Basically, I told her, I am a person who spends a lot of time in a room by myself, writing.

That all I’m doing, but it feels bigger than that. I’m writing a romance novel set during the fall of ancient Rome. Learning to map the boundaries between imagination and history; wrestling with acceptance that I am not a historian and I will get everything wrong. Trying to get the important parts right: the emotional truth of an event so remote from me that nothing in my life resembles it. “Write what you know,” an English teacher told me once. Great advice. I both live it and ignore it every day.

I’m also mapping my own interior. My life has gone through several seismic shifts in the past few years—things having to do with my relationships and my work—and the dust hasn’t quite settled. Much of the work of settling the dust involves writing poetry. Something that I’m hoping will become my next chapbook.

I’m keeping the lights on, too. I’m writing copy for clients—as well and as often as I can—and I’m happy and grateful that my business continues to thrive and support me. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked extremely hard.

And I’m angry. I am so, so angry at the direction our country is turning in.

Since November, I’ve been walking around in an enraged haze. At the millions of people who voted for Donald Trump. The millions who shrugged off blatant sexual assault, racial profiling, and horrific bigotry on every level to elect this man president. People who don’t want to own that bigotry; don’t want to be called racists or sexists. I’ve written about this already and if you’ve read that, you know how I feel.

My rights are directly in jeopardy, and so are those of many people I care about. There’s a part of me screaming that if I’m writing, it should be to call out the new administration and demand it be held accountable for the human cost of its policies. If I’m not writing, I should be marching. I should be calling my senators and joining the resistance in a real, concrete way that puts me back in the world.

And that’s the problem.

I’ve never been so focused and committed to a book I’ve been writing before. I’ve written four books, but this one is different. It’s better. I’m better. But that comes at a cost—it requires absolute dedication and focus, and a certain turning away from the world so I can really be in this story. It’s hard for me to engage on social media right now, for instance, or think about promotion for my other work. It’s not so much that I can’t find the time; it’s more a question of focusing inward rather than outward. It feels like I can do one or the other well, but not both.

It’s easy to say I have the privilege of being able to consider this as a choice—whether to throw myself into resistance or into my book. I’m white and able-bodied and cis-gender and an American citizen, putting me far ahead of many people directly targeted by this administration. But the truth is, I’m in the crosshairs too. I’ve never felt so threatened about my rights over my own bodily autonomy. I just got healthcare last year after more than a decade of being uncovered, and that’s likely to go as well. And we all live on this planet, which Donald Trump seems hell-bent on setting on fire.

I could just decide to turn off social media, not engage for six months or so, and give myself the mental time and space to finish this book the way I want. But I’m legitimately afraid the country won’t be here in six months—not in a form I recognize.

Like a lot of people, I have strong opinions but not a strong history of activism. I want that to change. I don’t want that to change. I don’t feel like there’s a choice. I’m hoping that in the next four years I can figure out what my activism looks like, and I can write this book and then the next one and the next, well and quickly and the way I want, and that these two drives won’t compete with each other. I have a lot of hopes. Maybe that’s a good enough place to start.

Things I am Tired of Hearing About Post-Election

It’s been a bad couple of weeks. Like a lot of people, I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to cope with the election results. I veer between never wanting to leave my apartment again and wanting to run out into the street and pick fights with people in Trump hats. I regularly promise myself I’ll stay off social media so as not to feed the anger and anxiety I feel on a regular basis—but a lot of the time I can’t stay away. And there are a lot of things I am already deeply sick of hearing.

Some of these things come from the other side—but others are from people who I know are progressives, and who probably mean well. Here are the ones that bother the most (right at this minute).

People who voted for Trump aren’t all bigots. I’ve had some conversations with people in my life who voted for Trump, where they defend themselves by insisting they’re not bigots themselves. They just like Donald Trump’s take-no-prisoners style or, um, his “economic policy ideas,” or they really hate Hillary. To which I say: no. I’m sorry. You don’t get to claim you’re not a bigot if you voted for Trump.

Being a bigot doesn’t just mean you’re painting swastikas on sidewalks and grabbing people’s pussies. It also means that you’re willing to look past actions like those for any reasons at all, including your own (perceived) economic wellbeing.

If things like bragging about sexually assaulting women and insisting we “register” all Muslim immigrants doesn’t have you screaming and running for cover and voting for literally anything else, no matter how “flawed,” including a piece of toast with Justin Bieber’s face on it, then I’m sorry. You just aren’t bothered enough by bigotry to claim you’re not one yourself.

You might not be literally joining lynch mobs or harassing women with headscarves, but you let it happen. You’re complicit. And bigotry needs that wider complicity, that willingness to close your eyes to other people’s suffering, in order to really do its damage.

Liberals didn’t listen enough to the racists. One emerging storyline about why we lost goes something like this: the liberal elite isn’t in touch enough with the white working class. And the white working class is tired of being called racist for thinking there are too many black people on public assistance. It is tired of being called sexist for that gut feeling they have about uppity ambitious women who just rub them the wrong way. It is tired of being called homophobic for not wanting to bake cakes for gay weddings.

We should listen to these people more. We should coddle and stroke them. We should allow their (racist, sexist, homophobic) ideas an equal place at the table. We should not, for any reason, call them out for being what they are (which is racist, sexist, and homophobic). It hurts their feelings.

One of the things I’m noticing is that many conservatives of this bent roll their eyes at the idea of “safe spaces.” That is, safe spaces for gay and trans kids; safe spaces for women and feminism, et cetera. But this discomfort sounds to me like the bigots are upset that the country is no longer a “safe space” for bigotry. They are asking us to make one for them.

Let’s not. OK?

We should “love everybody.” Calls to “love everybody” send me into fits of muttering rage.

I am extremely tired of being told that I should love the bigots. That divisiveness is bad and that intolerance happens on both sides. I reject that. I reject the idea that we should be tolerant of intolerance. I reject that we should be warm and fuzzy to people who think sexual assault isn’t a good enough reason not to give someone the keys to the country. I refuse to smile and make nice to those who think two big root causes of our country’s problems are brown people and “the gays.”

This is not a case of two equal and opposing viewpoints, where people on both sides deserve respect. This is a case of bigots vs. not bigots. It really is that simple.

Yeah, it sucks that Trump was elected, but now that it’s happened, we should all unite behind him. No, we shouldn’t. Now that he’s president, I believe that not one of us in good conscience should “unite behind” Trump’s bigoted, xenophobic, and harmful agenda. Including rolling back the Affordable Care Act, building a wall between the United States and Mexico, and cancelling billions in payments to climate change action initiatives.

The world is watching, and these things will be done in our name. I feel it’s my job to be as vocal as possible in my dissent, and it’s the job of every elected member of Congress with a conscience to do everything possible to stand against him.

Hillary was a flawed candidate. I hear this from conservatives and moderates, but I also hear it from liberals, many of whom think Bernie would have won against Trump. Some people have their panties in a wad about corruption and emails and, I dunno, Benghazi or something. Others say Hillary had “too much baggage” and questionable connections to Wall Street.

I get the liberal perspective on this. I do. I was a huge Bernie supporter; he’s from my home state and I voted for him in the primaries. But we got Hillary. And I don’t see how anyone can say Hillary is too “flawed” to vote for when the alternative is Donald Trump. An avowed racist, sexist and xenophobe whose idea of “Making America Great Again” seems to equal making America white again. A man who thinks it’s okay to grab women “by the pussy” and kiss them without their consent. A man who has sixteen people accusing him of doing all the things he bragged about in that tape and more, including raping a thirteen-year-old. And Hillary is too flawed to vote for? Come ON.

Liberal fear is an overreaction. Since the election I’ve had several female friends tell me they’ve been grabbed, shouted at, and harassed by men wearing Trump hats on the New York City subways. One man came up behind a friend of mine and said “you better watch your pussy, bitch.”

And it’s not just happening here. Here’s a story about middle schoolers chanting “Build A Wall” in a school cafeteria. Here’s a story about a man beating up a black guy and a Muslim student while shouting “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Here’s a map of hate crimes across the United States that have occurred post-election.

Another thing I’m sick of hearing is that yeah, hate crimes are horrible, but these things happened before Trump too—it’s not because of him. To which I say: there’s documented evidence that hate crimes are on the rise since Trump’s election because bigots feel emboldened.

Here’s a story about the Ku Klux Klan holding a victory parade to celebrate Trump’s election. Here’s another one about how white nationalists feel emboldened and empowered by this election. Some quotes in this article that I personally find chilling:

“Intellectual leaders of the movement argue that they are merely trying to realize their desire for a white “ethno-state” where they can be left alone. Mr. Trump, with his divisive language about immigrants and Muslims, has given them hope that these dreams can come true.”

“I never thought we would get to this point, any point close to mainstream acceptance or political influence,” said Matt Forney, 28, of Chicago. “The culture is moving more in my direction.”

“Emboldened by Mr. Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, Mr. Forney said he expected people openly associated with the white nationalist movement to run as candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. The rise of populism and the decline of political correctness, he said, present a rare opportunity.”

For those who feel that liberals have been too “politically correct” and that’s been turning off more conservative voters, this is evidence that political correctness stands between us and movements like these.

And we shouldn’t just be scared because of the rise in hate crimes and the white nationalist movement. We should be scared because of policy. Donald Trump has said women should be “punished” for having abortions, has promised to overturn Roe V. Wade, and the House and Senate are in Republican hands.

They could easily do more to chip away at reproductive rights, which are already embattled throughout the country—not to mention appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court who could roll back reproductive rights for all of us. I’m considering getting an IUD before Trump takes office so I can at least have some say over what goes on in my womb before male politicians who will literally never have to face this problem themselves strip me of that right.

Not to mention Donald Trump’s promises to take away the Affordable Care Act—and coverage for millions of people, some with life-threatening illnesses who could literally die without that coverage—and deport millions of immigrants, splitting up families and sending many back to countries that want them dead.

The bottom line is this: unless you’re a white man in a position of power, you should be scared. We should all be scared.

Liberal fear is not unfounded; bad things are already happening, and there’s more to come. We should not just wait and see what he’ll do, and we should not let our country become a safe space for bigots. We should fight, all of us, in every way we know how. The future of our country–the diverse, inclusive country America could be–depends on it.