Scalzi wrote recently about the struggle to write during the current burning of America. It may seem like a droll thing, compared to all the horror happening elsewhere, but the fact is that many of us rely on our writing income in order to eat and pay the bills. A state of constant horror and anxiety of the sort created by this administration is negatively impacting the entire country. I’m white, and I was born here, and in that I’m privileged. But I also have a chronic illness that will murder me if I lose health insurance, and I’m a woman. And we all know what this admin thinks of women and sick people, especially those that don’t vote for it.
I drank my way through the first few months of the new reality while I came to grips with it. I explored a lot of different options. And then I had to get back to work. I tried unplugging social media. I limited my use of Twitter. I relied more on Instagram. I only read the news, the real news, once a week. But as the months dragged on and I was calling my state reps almost daily during the ongoing healthcare nightmares, the cold hard truth was inescapable: I couldn’t unplug this reality. I could not get away from it.
I’d hear people talking about the latest horror while at lunch. While at work. Two women at Disneyworld got into a rant about how football players should be grateful for what they had and not create controversy (it took every bit of willpower I had not to lean over and ask what they’d think about the men’s protest if they were protesting against stricter gun laws). What happens online isn’t staying online any more than the trolls did. Trolls grow up to be president.
You can’t unplug when you’re in danger of being deported from the only country you’ve ever known, when you’re worried about gathering for a concert because you’ll be shot, when you’re in fear of your life over a traffic stop, when your access to health insurance is just one or two votes away from being rescinded, when your president is constantly threatening nuclear war because he feels his dick isn’t being sufficiently sucked.
There was some comfort in knowing that even if the worst happened, you felt the leader of your country, at least, had your back. That we were working toward transparency and accountability, even if it was all a lie. There is no filter now, though, no pretense about what America is and who it serves and what it’s for. And it’s funny to realize just how much that thin modicum of “pretending” meant to my feeling of – if not safety – then security. Obama was a smart, good, carefully calculating dude. I trusted him to make the right decision, even if I didn’t always agree with him, even knowing we, as a country, committed atrocities at home and abroad in the name of “security.”
I live in Ohio, and after the election, it was as if racists everywhere felt even more emboldened. It’s gotten worse here; I listen to them drawling on loudly now at lunch tables, without shame, just like their glorious leader. Maybe it’s easier now, that all the racism is out in the open. There’s no pretense. No pretending that America is anything else but the boiling cancer that was scabbed over with pretty words and noble ideas and great speeches. I believed things were getting better because, like many, I believed in the America that Obama talked about. I believed in an America that could be better, even knowing our history, our present.
I’m now living in a country “led” by the very worst of us. He represents everything that is awful about America; all the entitled nonsense, the white supremacy, the robber baron mentality, the staggering ignorance. I’ve looked for a lot of ways out of this timeline, but I don’t think we’re going anywhere positive. People talk about 2018 like it will be some magic parade, but I’ve seen how white minorities keep their power, and they are gerrymandering and vote-suppressing like mad to keep this future. They like it here. It’s comfortable. It’s what they know. It makes them feel powerful in a world that is changing faster than they can keep up.
Much of my malaise, then, is simply knowing that there’s so fucking much of this left. 2018 is not an out. Civil war remains a possibility. There will be more shootings, increasing surveillance, and possibly a nuclear war. These are all very real possibilities, far more probable than some magic 2018. And here’s why: If you put somebody “less bad” in power in 2018, these other people are still here. They haven’t gone away. And they will have tasted power. The only way to overcome that will be to confront it. And it’s very likely to be a violent confrontation. I don’t like that any more than ya’ll do. But I’ve seen this play out elsewhere, and the deeper we go, the more the doors close behind us when it comes to other options.
So that’s the cloud that hangs over my head as I’m writing. It’s not just the daily horrors, even, or seeing the worst in my neighbors and my family come bubbling to the surface; it’s knowing that we’re on a path for a confrontation that we haven’t seen in this country for awhile. And it has yet to be seen whether it will rival what happened in the 1960’s or… the 1860’s.
But something is going to burst.
And while the world as we knew it is breaking apart and sliding into the sea, the reality is that we still have to work. We still have to eat. We still have to get up, after a mass shooting at a concert, and go dance in the street. We still have to live. Because to cease living and working is to give in to the ultimate in despair and terror, and check out of this timeline completely. Which is precisely what all of this horror is meant to achieve. It’s to ensure that good people do nothing. It’s to ensure that good people go away.
My win today, and every day that I get out 500 words or finish a story or review a contract, is that I’m still here. I’m still working.
I’m not going away.
And if we’re not going away… we must go forward. Ever forward.
The only way out is through.