Join Prism Book Alliance® as Edmond Manning goes Outside the Margins today.
There’s a point—midway through the movie—when the villain wins. He snatches Frodo’s ring. Ursula steals the mermaid’s voice and begins cackling.
Do you hear cackling?
That was Trump’s victory speech.
The thing about those movies, however, when the villain takes power, it’s not over. And despite our big threats to flee the United States or refuse to participate in what can only be a corrupt democracy, we have to go to work today. We have to pay our bills, raise kids, walk the dog. Get new prescription glasses. The world keeps spinning, though the angle feels slightly more askew than a few days ago.
While watching movies like Star Wars, a judgey corner of my brain complains the fate of humanity wouldn’t rely on four plucky rebels if only a handful of people had recognized the early warning signs. “Listen, Vader, no fucking way are we building a death ray to incinerate a planet. That is batshit crazy. Just, no.”
I guess we tried that.
We tried to stop Trump with democracy, and that didn’t work.
But that doesn’t mean we shrug off this loss, and say, “Better get started on that planet-killer death ray. Alderaan isn’t going to incinerate itself.” We are not a ragtag bunch of pirate Goonies fighting the grown-up establishment—we are the adults. We are the Empire. Yes, it’s terrifying our new leader is “the least racist person I know,” (his obscene fondness for this phrase exceeds any grotesque skit SNL could produce) but this is our guy, now.
(Gosh, did you ever dream—in your wildest dreams—you’d feel nostalgic for George W. Bush?)
I am not a philosopher. I can’t outline political maneuvers to block his hate laws (and they’re coming—don’t act surprised) or develop social justice strategy. Hell, I’m nowhere near that smart. But I do have a few ideas on how we could prepare for what’s ahead.
- Stop pretending this is a movie. This isn’t Disney. This isn’t The Empire Strikes Back. I know, I know…my whole blog setup was…I get it. It’s easier to distance myself from reality by pretending I’m living dystopian science fiction. I’m admonishing myself right now to jump out of hyperbole, and deal with the real world. Trump is no Darth Vader. He’s worse. He’s real. We can’t be content to watch, horrified, by what unfolds over the coming four years. When Trump’s shit hits the fan, we can’t cross our arms, nodding at those people, and with bitter triumph, proclaim, “You elected him.”
He’s our problem. We have to participate.
- Apologize to all your international friends. They’ve been patient with us, grimacing in a metaphorical strained voice, saying, “Do the right thing, America.” Apologize. You didn’t vote for Trump? Fine. Apologize anyway. Your international friends deserve that apology. They’re as deeply impacted (or more so) by our new leader. We need international friends, both now and in the future. Apologize profusely. Here’s a template for that apology: “I’m so sorry, (insert friend name). I have no explanation. We’re idiots.”
During the election, we all read the Facebook meme’s bullet-pointed parallels comparing Trump to Hitler. It was uncanny. Now, Hitler’s Germany seems less of a future threat and more like a cookbook recipe where we’ve already whisked together half the ingredients. To avoid creating the exact same holocaust, we need to move beyond the simple bullet points and study the economic, social, and political forces creating that perfect storm. We need to discuss how we—as a nation—avoid the blaming frenzy advocated by a charismatic hate leader. We all nod solemnly when hearing the trite, overused phrase, “Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Well, yeah. It’s time to deeply learn history. No, seriously. Get a fucking book.
Study racism. We want our political leaders to dismantle our shameful institutional racism (both past and present). They can’t. Even if she won, Hillary couldn’t do that for us. That comes from individuals who call it out when witnessed, and all of us taking responsibility. If we want to avoid having our nation whipped into an ethnic-cleansing rage, we have to dismantle institutional racism. Person by person.
I’ve had individuals point out my white male privilege, and I didn’t like it. I felt shame. I felt accused of a crime I didn’t commit; I just happened to benefit from the crime. (Which is perpetuating the crime.) I felt simmering anger with the person(s) who brought my privilege to awareness. I felt like something was taken from me, and it was—looking at my privileged life negates my self-invested notion that good things happen to me in life because, gosh darn it, I was super good at being me.
In those defensive circumstances, I want to argue, “Hey, I’m gay! I’m oppressed!” And, sure, that’s true on some level. I’ve experienced street terror from an almost, imminent gay-bashing. Once, at a red light, someone hopped out of the car behind me, ran to my window, and repeatedly screamed, “You fucking faggot, I hope you die of AIDS.” I ran the red light to escape. I’m an outcast within my own immediate family (even though they still love me, which—trust me—is confusing as hell).
Still, denying I benefited from being white and male is the battle cry of our new president, who only received one million dollars (or fourteen million—still unclear) from his father. Trump isn’t going to dismantle racism in this country. He’s going to build a bigger wall around it.
We have to look at our shit. We have to dismantle racism (and misogyny, and fear of trans people using public bathrooms, and hatred for fill-in-the-blank) so Trump doesn’t have emotional sway over us.
One way to study racism is to read more books by non-white authors. Learn about “the American experience” from folks who aren’t super pumped to “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” It wasn’t “great” for quite a number of people.
In October, my book club chose The Sellout by Paul Beatty for November’s discussion. If the title sounds familiar, it’s because on October 25th, this book was selected as the winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize. (It was one of the book club contenders in October because it was on their short list.)
The story is brilliant satire about being black in America (as well as the best kind of page-turner). Beatty’s skillful employ of the n-word, and the sheer deliciousness of his skewering political correctness is hilarious and, at times, a painful mirror. A black character offended by Huckleberry Finn rewrites the entire book and gives it a new title: The Pejorative-Free Adventures and Intellectual and Spiritual Journeys of African-American Jim and his Young Protégé, White Brother Huckleberry Finn, as They Go in Search of the Lost Black Family Unit.
The book is fucking brilliant. Waggish. Ecentric. Heartbreaking in a few points, and deeply humanizing. Black people aren’t better than white. White people aren’t better than black. We’re all terrible together.
The author inspires me to become a better writer because the way he tap-dances with sentence construction and artful word choice is four levels more advanced than my best writing. He also makes me want to give up writing altogether, because what’s the point? Someone already mastered this skill.
Challenge yourself more.
These are going to be my mantras for the next four years. To dismantle hatred, I have to be a better, more educated person. I have to be more compassionate.
- Pet your cat. Or dog. Dogs work fine, too. We must practice gentleness during this crisis. Receiving and giving love from animal friends is a gift, because they can’t argue politics. We must be gentle with ourselves, with others. Any conflict I’ve successfully navigated with a friend or stranger has never been won with clever strategies or proving myself right (although, that does tend to be my go-to strategy), but with gentleness. By trying to genuinely understand the other person’s perspective. Practice whatever makes you feel softer and kinder toward people. We need our compassion to blind our enemies until they are no longer enemies.
Follow Obama. Whatever you think of his politics or in-office achievements, the man extended an olive branch to his greatest detractors so many times he probably got a repetitive stress injury. They made racist memes about him. Questioned his birth country (which was never in question). They made insane accusations. Threatened impeachment. He kept focused on healing and pulling the country together. Just because he’s leaving his official capacity doesn’t mean he should stop being our leader. The man practiced what he preached. Through crisis and heartache, the man said, “I will go. Send me.”
Laugh. You know who is super easy to throw-off balance? Rile up into a frothy rage? People with no humor. With no ability to say, “Okay, let’s calm down.” We need laughter. We don’t need derision at Trump’s many missteps (and let’s face it, there will be many). We need laughter that comes from making fun of ourselves, from watching kids spill ice cream on themselves, and reveling in kittens attempting ridiculous jumps, the laughter that reveals joy.
Volunteer. One might reasonably guess the national government will cut a number of valuable programs dedicated to helping the less visible, more in-need citizens. We have to be ready for that. Instead of bitching about what should be happening, we have to pick up the slack. Let’s not wait for this to happen. Let’s start volunteering now so that when it happens, we’re there. Ready.
You think you’re terrified of Trump?
Imagine what non-white Americans feel right now. Or trans teenagers. Or women. Or anyone who is afraid of nuclear war. Or economists who fear the complexity of a global market dominated by a guy with a solid reputation for financial ruin. Yeah, I think that covers everyone. You and I have no problem imagining terror.
But can we imagine our strength during these tough times ahead?
Can we imagine triumph?
We simply must find ways to salvage our relationships, with each other, with Trump supporters, with an international community who is rightfully crossing their arms at us, right now, saying, “You assholes.”
The presidential legacy of the next four years could be unmitigated global disaster.
This could be when we finally figure out how to work together.
I can’t promise a happy ending. I’m reeling in shock. I’m not feeling enough Pollyanna energy this post-election week to break out the hopeful show tunes. Fuck, I don’t even like musicals. However, I am willing to work with people who like musicals, if that’s what it takes.
We have to do something.
We have to try. [image 1]
About Edmond ManningEdmond Manning is the author of King Perry, King Mai, The Butterfly King andFilthy Acquisitions. He spends a great deal of time standing in front of the fridge with the door open, wondering why it’s not stocked with more luncheon meats and cheese.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
|This post may contain affiliate links.
|Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews. The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.|