Over at my blog Fannie's Room, where I'll continue to write, I've been posting a series of Election 2016 Fallout pieces. It turns out, since November 8th, I haven't been able to stop writing, whether it's reactions to other people's reactions or analysis of issues I believe contributed to the results. Today, I explore the topic of resistance.
[Content note: violence]
In about 18 years of being consciously, politically active as a resident first of a red state and then a blue state, the only time I've seen anything resembling the widespread despair that I, and perhaps many of you, witnessed on the morning of 11/9/16 was on 9/11/01.
On the evening of November 8th, 2016, right around the time Clinton lost what was an initial lead in Florida, I ordered myself a second cocktail at the restaurant where I was watching the results come in. I had hoped the evening would end in celebration, but I never once took the outcome for granted, despite the polls predicting a successful outcome for her.
During the day, I had been vaguely contemplating what an appropriate celebratory blog post might be. I had already seen some people on the anti-Clinton left expressing sneering disgust at the probability of the Clinton family being in the White House again. I could sense people priming those "Hillary's Win: No Victory For Real Feminism" pieces (to be written by non-feminists, of course, because why give any actual feminist writer a platform to discuss that topic).
As results started coming in for Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, I felt a familiar sinking feeling as in 2000 and 2004, as I previously wrote.
I had another drink. I could see that the night's events were headed more in the direction of "AshaYara at the Kingsmoot" than "Daenerys at Astapor."
And then, I started drafting a post for the next day.
My wife watched the returns with devastation and all I could think to tell her was, "We lived through Bush, we can live through this." Although, I also know intellectually that we have no certainties. And, this: many people didn't live through Bush. Or Reagan. And, I think Trump will be worse than both.
I know, at least, that we can struggle. Or, perhaps, that I must.
In my eyes, the quest to defeat Trump and what he stands for has already begun. Inherent in this struggle is survival. As some in the media ask us to collectively fixate on the navels of angry white people, especially men, I think back to those early Trump rallies when the press would show security escorting anti-Trump protestors out. Trump would encourage violence against them and you could see it on the screen, his supporters cackling with glee in the background. "I'd really like to punch that guy," Trump would boast, while thousands of white faces laughed at their hateful avatar.
The part of me concerned with self-preservation tells me that these people laughed because Trump was acting out their violent fantasies, particularly against the politically correct, over whom Trump's win has become a symbolic victory.
I do not expect that people entertained by Trump's calls to violence will now be nicer to us with Trump in charge. No. They knew exactly what Trump is. It was part of his appeal. "We know what we're getting," they'd say. "He tells it like it is. That's why we love him." And so, on that basis, here is what I believe, via Liel Leibovitz:
"You should treat people like adults, which means respecting them enough to demand that they understand the consequences of their actions. Explaining away or excusing the actions of others isn’t your job. Vienna in the first decades of the 20th century was a city inflamed with a desire to better understand the motives, hidden or otherwise, that move people to action. Freud and Kafka, Elias Canetti and Karl Kraus, Stefan Zweig and Franz Werfel—these were the eminences who crowded the same cafés Siegfried and his musician friends most likely frequented. But while these beautiful minds struggled to understand the world around them, the world around them was consumed by simpler and more vicious appetites. Don’t waste any time, then, trying to understand: Then as now, many were amused by the demagogue and moved by his vile vision. Some have perfectly reasonable explanations for their decisions, while others have little to go on but incoherent rage. It doesn’t matter. Voters are all adults, and all have made their choices, and it is now you who must brace for impact. Whether you choose to forgive those, friends and strangers alike, who cast their votes so deplorably is a matter of personal choice, and none but the most imperious among us would advocate a categorical rejection of millions based on their electoral actions, no matter how irresponsible and dim. So while you make these personal calculations, remember that what matters now isn’t analysis: It’s survival."I will not begrudge those who do have empathy for, and who do forgive, Trump supporters. Those of us who are grieving will do so in our own ways.
I will also offer this: Consider the tragedy of mistaking for "economic anxiety" what could more accurately be attributed to cruelty. Simple, base cruelty. As anyone who's spent any time on the Internet knows, many people are mean at worst and indifferent to meanness at best. All Trump supporters (and those could have voted against him but didn't) may not be deplorables, but they at the very least through their indifference, enabled one to become the avatar of our nation. They overlooked bullying, name-calling, racism, sexism, sexual predation, calls to violence, and xenophobia.
It's hard for me to reconcile that indifference with the contrasting claim that we ought now to all just get along and tolerate all viewpoints, even those with which we disagree.
Are we really all that enlightened if we "empathize" ourselves out of existence when the violent Trump supporters and their indifferent enablers deem "identity politics" (ie - empathy for anyone unlike themselves) too much of a side issue to advocate for? The bigger, more important task now, for me, is to do what I can to protect my community, family, and self from the fallout.
Tangibly, I will continue to write. I will donate to social justice organizations. I will march in Washington. I will continue to have difficult conversations among my social networks. I will resist calls, from both the left and the right, to re-center and coddle the anger of white (cisgender, hetero) men in our political discourse when they are so rarely tasked with returning the favor.
And, I will remember:
"We do not fight solely because we want a particular outcome. We fight because we are worth fighting for. And the fight is important on all levels – for individual people, for what it communicates to our families and friends and communities, for how it changes rules and norms and structures and policies and laws. We fight for what the fight says about and means to us."We fight because we are worth fighting for. And I will fight with you. Stronger together. Still.