It’s been a week since the world officially turned upsidedown. We knew it would happen. We’ve had since November to gird for battle. Many of us knew it was coming before the election results rolled in. Still, there was no way to do anything but hang on to lunch during the rollercoaster onslaught of El Jefe’s first week in office. Protests, arrests, headlines, tweets, orders, bans, more protests, more arrests, bills, calls, weeping, screaming, hysterical laughter, more protests, more calls, hate crimes, distraction, chaos.
Given that I’m privileged enough to have citizenship, the lead up to inauguration day meant that rather than panic over my immigration status, I’ve spent weeks stressing about my disappearing income, evaporating health insurance, disability application, the world my son will inherit, and how to survive without avocados if Congress enacts a 20% tax on imports from Mexico to pay for the damned wall.
I’ve also been suffering from impenetrable writer’s block. Instead of writing out my angst, I succumbed to the impending inaguration by getting ferociously ill, a feverishly pathetic, I-can’t-breath wheezing kind of sick that felt like an allergic reaction to the impending police state that would soon choke the life out of us all.
Needless to say, my creative juices were completely dried up, withering into oblivion each time I coughed or checked my Facebook feed. Yes, there have been moments of inspiration in Trump World Order week 1. The crowd hopped the barricades at the NYC Women’s March and meandered off route, waving signs, chanting, cheering in waves like a crowd at a baseball game, and disrupting midtown traffic for hours. The National Parks Service went rogue on Twitter, posting pics of Trump’s tiny inagural crowd and inspiring a civil-servant revolt as dozens of federal agencies created “Alt” accounts to fight back against presidential gag orders. Then again, journalists and legal observers were arrested on felony charges at #J20disrupt protests and the House violated its own protocols in order to slam through discriminatory legislation. When I try to inhale deeply, I realize that I still can’t breathe.
I mourned my lack of expression. It wasn’t always this way, I thought. I used to be able to write through moments of crisis with midnight poetry and feverish dissertation chapters. I took on the #52essays2017 challenge in good spirits, delievered my first post and immediately brainstormed my next installment as a meditation on the merits of bushy pubic hair. Then I got completely frozen. It turns out that my pussy was afraid. Afraid of speaking, afraid of being seen, afraid of the rising tide of racist misogyny that threatens to engulf my most tender places. I may have opened up to my lover, but my pubic hair and inner thoughts decided to stay under wraps, safely inside non-provocative full-coverage clothing. I self-censored before the Bannon brigade could come for me. Or so I thought.
It turns out that I’ve been writing madly on Facebook, of all the crazy places to post one’s thoughts now that Homeland Security is tracking our feeds. I’ve been debating right-wing relatives, posting statistics and resources with considerable commentary, messaging long missives to friends and family, venting, offering support. Even in a disabled body that struggles at street protests (I went to the NYC March and suffered for days afterward), I’m doing my damnedest to navigate this madness and do my part for la lucha.
Today, I’m giving myself a break. Yes, I was totally blocked, sick, cowering with a box of tissues, waiting for the world to end right up until inauguration day, but I made it to the Women’s March and got seriously inspired by the witty signage. (My favorite is still WE SHALL OVERCOMB.) Since then I have been writing, quite a lot. It just doesn’t look like a five-paragraph essay.
***********************************************************************Strangely enough, I have a grumpy, misinformed relative to thank for this outpouring of words. It all started with his “Planned Parenthood sells baby parts” reponse to my photos from the Women’s March and my indignant, lengthy reply:
“For the umpteenth time, taxpayers never pay for abortions at public health clinics, that has been explicitly prohibited since 1976. Clinics that receive federal funding, like Planned Parenthood, provide screening for cervical and breast cancer, general physicals, birth control and HIV testing, counseling, and referrals to other medical providers from dental to cardiologists. Clinics never sell baby parts; that is right wing propaganda and the people who circulated videos as ‘proof’ admitted to doctoring footage and settled a case for libel.
“There were hundreds of other issues, all related, besides pro-choice that were represented at the marches. Personally, I didn’t wear a pink hat, mostly because I don’t like pink, but people still have the right to wear whatever they damn well please, at least for now. Politically, I vehemently object to Trump espousing sexual harassment, axing funding for programs supporting domestic violence and sexual survivors, axing funding to the arts, sciences and humanities, axing health insurance for millions and degrading coverage for the rest of us, cutting taxes for millionaires and raising taxes for the rest of us, undermining public education, authorizing insane profit for oil companies while stiffing millions for clean water and farmable land, etc., etc., etc.
“The fact that March attendance in DC alone was triple that of the inaugural crowd is telling. The fact that over 2.5 million people turned out nationwide and that there were over 600 sister marches globally is equally impossible to ignore. The fact that Trump and his staff blatantly lie, rig press conferences featuring “alternative facts” (meaning, “I am officially lying to you and asking you to believe everything I say”) and rapid-fire tweets in order to distract us from major policy issues is terrifying. The fact that right wing neo-Nazi groups are now on the rise in Europe directly claiming that they are inspired by Trump, that is also terrifying.
“There’s more, much more, but honestly I no longer have time for extended discussions since I’m trying to figure out how to get coverage for my pre-existing conditions before that evaporates, am considering if it will be necessary for my son to change his name in order to avoid getting flagged by Homeland Security, and am in the process of trying to move away from areas served by NY public utilities so I can ensure my access (in the absence of a nuclear conflagration) to free clean water, reliable power, and a place without impending rampant homelessness to raise my family.
“I remind you that when Reagan cut funding for mental institutions (among many other domestic programs), we ended up with a bunch of shell-shocked vets out on the streets, many of whom froze to death during the first hard winter. Another heartless onslaught like that is what I’m worried about. Real people really die when Republicans choose to fund endless war over schools and safety net programs at home. Have you ever looked at statistics on federal budget priorities? Veterans get squat, schools get peanuts, public health, Medicaid, social security, welfare get fractions of pennies on the dollar for what we spend on military, including weapons that are now being turned on citizens.
“That’s a piece of why I showed up on Saturday, and why I’m committed to staying engaged with ongoing activism. I care less about elections and more about policy but Republicans now control all 3 branches of government, leaving us with no balance of power. Whenever that happens with Republicans in charge, it guts the domestic economy, transferring all possible resources to the top and leaving the rest of us hanging out to dry, or die.
“I’m a scholar. I study historical and cultural trends. That is my job and I’m very good at it. I’m tired of being discounted as a liberal drone, libtard, communist, watermelon, coconut, hysterical woman just because I spent the time and effort to educate myself on topics that fascinate me, because, frankly, I was smart enough and worked hard enough to pay my way through school on scholarships, part-time and summer jobs, and a handful of loans. I don’t tell doctors how to practice medicine so I highly resent people telling me that my opinions as a cultural scholar are invalid.
“In the past, the US government really has engaged in mass deportations, internment camps, assassinations, infiltrations, unjust imprisonment, and dozens of other aggressive actions to undermine civil liberties. That’s what I’m worried about, and what I will fight against, just as I have been doing for my entire career. That is the greatest act of patriotism that I can contribute to the country that I love, even as I critique unjust governance and fight to defend constitutional, civil and environmental rights. That’s all you’ll be hearing out of me for a while since I now understand that I have a lot of work to do.”
Sigh of relief. The floodgates were open. The next day was shorter, still intensely political, and obviously inspired by protest chants:
National Parks have gone rogue, defying Trump’s climate gag order. Badlands and Golden Gate tweeted climate facts from official accounts this morning, tweets were deleted, then @AltNatParkSer went up and got 102K followers in 7 hours, climbing 2K every 5 minutes in the evening hours. Science March in the works. Hopefully the EPA soon follows suit. Park rangers to the rescue!!
A few minutes later it was:
Stay woke. Sign up for Indivisible.com Download Countable & Votespotter apps. Follow Sarah Kendzior for analysis (because anthropologists know their shit). Oh, and since the White House shut down public comment line, folks are now calling Trump hotels and sending lots and lots of post cards to Congress and the White House.
#TheResistance #RebelAlliance #AltUSNatParkService #BadHombreLands
On Thursday I had yet another debate with the same right-wing relative after I posted about The Economist downgrading the U.S. to a “flawed democracy.” When he trotted out his standard retort that we live in a republic rather than a democracy, I blasted back:
“The U.S. is a democratic republic just like Mexico, Italy and dozens of other countries in which people vote for representatives to national government according to state or regional lines with an underlying structure of state and local governance to balance it out. We are now ranked equal to scandal-ridden Italy, the beautiful country of perpetually unstable economy where a billionaire bought all the press, got himself elected, made tons of profit, and created economic and political chaos. See rankings on report http://www.eiu.com/public/topical_report.aspx?campaignid=DemocracyIndex2016 and compare it to definitions of government type on nationmaster.com. We are now in the same category of flawed democracy as South Korea, Botswana, India and Indonesia. That doesn’t bother you?”
Yesterday I woke up in creative mode and took notes from my right brain: “Excited about America Chavez, Marvel’s new queer Latinx superhero. Waiting for America skivvies to add to my collection…because Linda Carter was the original Chicana Amazon. #WonderWomanChones #BrownGirlMagic #SuperheroPatriotsResist“
Right after that came: “New word of the day = Matriotic. When someone questions your patriotism because you critique jingoistic patriarchal crony capitalism in avid defense of the environment and women’s rights, you can reply, ‘Yes, I do love my country, La Madre Tierra. I’m very matriotic.'” In typical FB egoism I checked how many people liked my post (22 and counting) and then went back to brow-beating myself for not writing an essay.
This morning I woke up with these words: “What are fighting for? This week we have been under assault by an incoming administration using shock and awe tactics. People are mobilized in protest and trying to stay informed. This is good. But rather than endlessly raging against, remember to take a deep breath and envision the beautiful world so many of us have been fighting to build our entire lives.
“Freedom. Justice. Equality. Children. Joy. Self-determination. Trees. Community. Clean food. Animals. Clean water. Interdependence. Clean Air. Housing. Art. Education. Music. Health care. Trees. Fairness. Love. What are you fighting for?”
When I saw the headline about a mosque set on fire the same day the Muslim travel ban went into effect, I posted: “I’m calling on witches to get creative about how to protect vulnerable congregations, such as mosques and temples. You know they’ll come for us too, but we’re harder to find since we tend to hide in the woods.”
A friend expressed her anguish and asked what can we do to counter the growing madness and I replied: “We pray harder. As if our lives depend on it. Because they do. We circle and sing. We contact the local mosque, synagogue, LGBTQ center, women’s health center, immigrant rights center and ask how to best help them. Then we stop in with a plant or cookies, show our faces and say, ‘Thank you for being part of my community.’ Front line workers are really tired and need backup before they implode from the stress. We keep practicing love in the face of fear.
“We’ve been preparing for this all our lives. Now we are ready. We fight with pure love, total conviction that people are good, the world is safe, we are one family. That may mean putting our bodies on the line once registries and round ups start. For now, we tell the local mosque that we want to be part of their rapid response community support system, we host someone who’s been injured or needs a safe place to stay, we provide healing services for members of the congregation. It’s time to come out in a different way, connecting with groups that we are not ‘part of,’ making real alliances, not just to organize a March but because we genuinely love our neighbors. That’s what we do.
“Love is such a radical act. There actually is no enemy, just a bunch of frightened people who think that their world is coming to an end because queer brown people are taking over. We are. But with so much love.”
And that’s why I write. With ever so much love.