I’ve been pretty quiet since the election.
Not just on the blog or on Facebook, but in my real, day to day life. I work from a home office, so it’s not hard for me to turtle when I need to; I don’t make or take social phone calls, “forget” to check my personal email, put off invitations for coffee or lunch. I blew off pretty much everything but my family and professional obligations, tucked into my shell – pajama pants and a sweatshirt with the hood up – and read and wrote.
“You were up really late last night,” my daughter commented yesterday. I’d accidentally woken her while hustling the dogs out and back in around midnight.
“Yes,” I said. “I haven’t been sleeping much lately.”
“What do you do when you’re up so late?”
Sometimes I want to give her deeper answers than she needs. I want to tell her I’m thinking about her and her brother, wondering what the next years will look like for them. She’ll be 17 when this next presidential term is up; who will she be? What will she have learned? But she’s only 13 now, a confusing age where she strides away from me in stores but snuggles into my side to watch a movie on the couch. So I give her a simple response: “I write.”
“About what?” She wants to be a writer, too. She fought it for years, used to tell me, writing is your thing, Mom, not mine. But sometimes callings find the person and not the other way around. Sometimes a muse can hold two sets of hands at once.
“About whatever is on my mind,” I said. “Writing is how I know what I think.”
Writing is how I know what I think.
I stole and adapted this saying from Flannery O’Connor. The first time I read it, I said, “YES!” right out loud. This is how it works for some of us.
It’s why I’ve been quiet everywhere but the safety of my keyboard, why I’ve been turtled for a week and a half just tap-tap-tapping away.
I’m trying to uncover what I think.
Not about Donald Trump or the decisions he’s making as President-elect. My thoughts on those topics are as set as year-old concrete. The daily updates on his transition are terrible and pretty much exactly what I expected. I’m not above saying, “I told you so,” and all of it is just a great big pile of “I told you so.”
Which is probably why it’s also good for other people that I’ve been hidden in a sweatshirt and not out in the world throwing handfuls of “I told you so” around like candy from a parade float.
No, where I get wobbly is – admittedly selfishly – on the question of what this means for me. What is my place in a country that feels so different to me now than it did two weeks ago? What’s my role as a family member and friend and acquaintance, in a situation where that big pile of “I told you so” has specific recipients?
What does it look like to be a person who’s always ready for battle? My privilege is showing. Sometimes the fat above my waistband shows, too. Both are not my favorite things, but they are realities of this person I am. Good or bad, this where I’m coming from. I haven’t had to step into this space before and I’m not sure how to fill it.
I don’t know yet who I want to be.
I am still so angry.
I wish I wasn’t, but I am. I’m honest about it because I think we’re desperate for honesty these days. That’s some of the appeal Trump held for people, that he – they said – “tells it like it is” and “isn’t PC.” It’s not just in politics, though; we see the same thing in thousands of articles and blog posts about how social media makes people feel bad, that they feel small to see the messiness of their private lives next to the polish of other people’s public personas. The need for honesty is in all the hate on airbrushing in magazines. It’s in hilarious “Pinterest Fail” posts. It’s in conversations between friends where they promise not to judge.
We are desperate to be real with each other.
So, I am angry. In chaotic, unflattering, base kinds of ways. I am angry with everyone who voted Trump.
I’m angry that they believe everything they read on the internet and don’t know the people who are feeding them fake news are laughing at them.
I’m angry at people who get pissed off at being asked to answer for bigotry when they just voted for a man whose platform was flagrantly racist. I am angry when they say, “I’m not racist, but…” and then say incredibly racist shit.
I’m angry at people who are offended by my anger and who think that the harshness of that anger is even remotely comparable to the fact that they voted against people’s rights, like we’re all on equal ground now that I am mad and you are a bigot (or a supporter of bigots or at the very least complicit in bigotry). I am angry at people who think they can suddenly stake some claim in decency when they have just contributed to an event that will undoubtedly go down as a dark and shameful chapter in our history.
I’m angry at the people who keep insisting that Trump isn’t actually going to do awful things he explicitly said he was going to do, and is now clearly taking steps to do.
I’m angry at people who are already talking about “Happy Holidays” and how Trump is going to make everyone say Merry fucking Christmas, when there is literally an entire generation of Jewish children out there who, at 4 and 5 and 6 years old, have enough respect to not ruin Santa Claus for these people’s Christian kids. Children showing more tolerance and respect than supposed Christians, who seem less Christ-like every year.
I’m angry at people who don’t know the difference between journalists and pundits, or who are ranting about SNL or Hamilton when there was an actual meeting of actual neo-Nazis who are actually saying “Hail, Trump!” in 2016.
I am so angry.
I think the path out of this anger, and the path to uncovering who I want to be in this new age, are probably the same.
I just can’t find it.
Two days before Thanksgiving, where does this leave me?
I don’t know yet. Not feeling very thankful, to tell the truth.
I’ve gradually un-turtled myself in the past couple of days. I’ve made phone calls to representatives and sent emails citing my concerns. I’ve signed petitions. I’ve made donations.
I’ve forced myself to read news from a variety of outlets, challenged myself to muscle through a few social media conversations with people who disagree with me but aren’t assholes about it. Without exception, these have been #NeverTrump Republicans, and if there’s a blessing to be had in this mess, it’s the appreciation I feel for their position.
In April, Donald Trump came to my city and I helped organize a counter rally/protest. For quite some time at that protest, I stood on the front line with a woman who supported Ted Cruz. I was like, Seriously??? and she was all, Yes! I love him! and I was, Whaaaaa? And then, yeah, she totally said some things that made me think, Oh, okay, you really do agree with that creepy guy. I told her I was supporting Bernie in the primaries and I probably said things that made her think the same of me.
But when the Trump supporters came and gave Nazi salutes (yes, really) and yelled “Heil, Hitler!” (yes, really) and flipped us off and shouted racial epithets and grabbed their genitals (yes, really) and crossed the barricades and harassed a trans woman (yes, really) – that Cruz supporter and I were united. We chanted the same chants. We hoisted the same signs. And we both participated in this moment:
We responded in peace.
The Black people and the White people and the Latinos. The cisgender and transgender. Christian and Jewish and Muslim (bless the sweet Muslim girls who were so afraid and came anyway). Disabled and abled. Immigrants and natural-born citizens. We were poor and rich and everything in between.
Liberal and conservative.
We were the America we were defending.
I joked to that Ted Cruz supporter, “I guess Donald Trump has proven that the left and the right can come together when it really matters!”
I knew something then, that I forgot when my faith was shaken.
I’m trying to remember it again now.
My plan for now: Choose to be the change. Even if I don’t feel it yet, and even if I’m not sure where I’m headed.
Attorney Lisa Bloom recorded a podcast called Voice of the Resistance. In it, she said something that resonated with me:
“What are your talents? How can you contribute?”
So I made a website.
I wrote like hell, in hopes of finding what I think. I haven’t yet but I’m closer.
I made more phone calls. I donated more money.
I made a publishable blog post.
Tomorrow, I’ll do it all over again.
One foot in front of the other, because there is work to be done and it cannot wait for my fragility and privilege to recover from my shock.
Isn’t the desire to feel okay again before moving forward itself a symptom of that same fragility and privilege? If I let it, this will turn me into an anchor. But I have a choice about that, too.
This morning I read this great post from Dan Rather. In it, he says, “History will demand to know which side were you on.”
Which side you were on.
I like this. It is efficient. It defines what’s needed… and what’s not.
Not how you felt about it. Not if you were okay. Not if you slept well or worried you were overreacting or feared what people would think of you or fretted about how to act.
Simply: Which side were you on. Which side you supported. Which side you took action for.
Which side are you on?