Wednesday, November 16, 2016

On (fiction) writing during the apocalypse

I've seen a lot of discussion online about whether fiction writing still matters, post-November 8. I have wondered the same thing. Who cares about our carefully crafted worlds, our beautiful sentences, our quirky yet lovable characters, when the American experiment may be at an end? Shouldn't we be doing something with a more immediate effect, that reaches out to more people than those who already agree with us?

Here's the provisional conclusion I've come to. We need to keep writing, no matter what it is that we write. We're going to need good stories to get through this, including stories that aren't overtly political. (And by "good," I mean by the same definition as we used before November 8--nuanced, not overly didactic, respectful of the reader's intelligence, etc.) Let's not censor ourselves. Someone else may try to do that soon enough.

However. Let's also not kid ourselves that fiction writing represents a sufficient form of defiance in this new era. We're all going to have to be braver than we ever were before. We're going to have to feel scared and sick a good part of the time, as we push ourselves beyond our previous limits. I had to fight with myself just to call my liberal Democratic Congresswoman's office yesterday--I'm that phone shy. And I'm going to have to do a lot more than that. I'll have to be ready to protect people who are being harassed or threatened or even physically attacked (even as I may be a target myself, though that's less likely). I'm going to have to march, and do many other things I haven't even thought of yet, but which will scare the hell out of me, and which I may try to find excuses not to do, because I'm so scared, and still partly unwilling to believe that any of this is really happening.

So I must not use my "liberating" or "subversive" writing to excuse inaction in other areas. But I also must keep writing and reading--for respite as well as inspiration. We will all need both, in abundance.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thoughts on Day Two of the Horror Clown Show

Like almost everyone else, I believed the polls and the polling aggregators. They said don't worry; I didn't worry. I worried a little, only because the unlikely outcome was so awful and unthinkable. I donated money to Clinton and the DSCC repeatedly, but I didn't phone bank. I should have. Maybe it would have helped. But I was pretty confident that we would pull this out, and that on Wednesday I'd be giddy with relief and proud of electing our country's first woman president.

Then the impossible happened. And now that I have finally managed to get some sleep and choke down some food, I'm beginning to get my head around how and why this was not only possible but highly probable. Of course, there isn't one simple reason. This was a perfect storm of reasons, absent any one of which we'd probably have another President Clinton. White racism and sexism. White women who, it turns out, feel their race privilege is more important than their bodily autonomy. Media false equivalence. A Democratic candidate who embodied the establishment, against a Republican propped up by the establishment but authentically voicing (because he really feels it) inchoate anti-establishment rage. Cowardly, opportunistic, dissembling Republican leaders. Pollsters who missed the true story, badly, and those of us who wanted to believe them, so we did. Comey. Russia. Wikileaks. Clinton's strategic missteps. On and on.

Of course, as many writers and thinkers I respect have already started doing, we need to talk about what to do next, and then act. Not once, but over and over and over till we are sick of acting, but still we must. Life as we knew it is now over. It not only can happen here--it did happen here. It is happening. How do we stop it?

Slate has posted a number of articles with concrete suggestions, like this one and this one. We can also donate to the ACLU, and Greenpeace, and numerous other organizations protecting human rights and the planet. Blue Staters  and even Red Staters can push their legislatures to do what California's has already done: vow to resist the regime and protect all residents.

If we're in relatively privileged positions, it also behooves us to listen--really listen--to those whose very lives a Trump presidency immediately threatens: people of color, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, sexual assault survivors, immigrants, disabled people. Do not say, "Don't worry, it will be OK." It will not be OK for these people. Do not say, "I know exactly how you feel" and then start detailing your feelings at length. Listen quietly. Offer a hug. Then promise that you will work to stop this shit.

And then stop this shit. Every day.