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About Last Tuesday

  I’m going to be talking about politics, and if you’ve been paying the least bit of attention, you know exactly where my thoughts lie. If you’re less than good at the whole reading-between-the-lines thing, my first novel repudiates fascism, my second explores responses to domestic violence in a neoliberal market, and my last one is about the co-option of civil rights struggles to tell stories of white people humping. My villains have ranged from a manipulated authoritarian to a swirling, murderous mass of white male privilege. If “filthy lib” alarm bells are going off in your head, then you are free to leave.

  Like many people, I was shocked and disheartened by the results of last week’s election.

  But the primary emotion I felt over this was a clawing, abyssal fear; fear for women, for the LGBTQIA+ community, for immigrants and their families, and others already marginalized by a supposedly progressive nation. It left me swimming through the week, mourning for and with people that will bear the brunt of sudden, unilateral determinations on the extent of their rights, such as the simplest notion whether or not those rights exist at all.

  I work with people from all different walks of life, and I saw their fear and anxiety as the future looms. People I worked on writing with divulged that their friends and family were in danger from any number of fronts. Women—some strangers, some not—took to social media to tell of increased instances of men grabbing them. I saw my class of freshman students—most of who fall into at least one category of groups denigrated during the 2016 campaign and many into several—look at me in despair on that Thursday after the election. I struggled with what to say to any of them, as everything seemed so ineffectual.

  That is, I struggled in the finer details. I knew exactly how to respond broadly:

  “I stand with you.”

  I stand with women.

  I stand with immigrants and their families.

  I stand with the LGBTQIA+ community.

  I stand with communities of color.

  I stand proudly with the idea that Black Lives Matter and that the freedom of religion encompasses all of them.

  “I stand with you.”

  Others less affected by last Tuesday’s election will turn away from you. They will emphasize that you should show empathy toward those who have displayed no willingness to do the same for you; they will demand that you must always take the higher road while having no expectation for your tormentors to be better. Many will eagerly seek out reconciliation at your expense because they may not have to deal directly with the ramifications of their decisions. They will wring their hands over your protests, because—as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out in one of those quotes white folks always seem to forget actually fucking happened—moderates always value order over justice.

  Your protests are reminders of their accommodation, their willingness to ignore racism, sexism, and bigotry if it means they get tossed an occasional crumb. Your protests tell them that they are complicit, and they are bothered by that complicity only when they must think about it. It requires them to reconcile their comfort with others’ hurt, and rather than deal with that, they would much rather you stay silent.

  Do not remain silent. Do not let them indulge in that complicity. Make them understand that while they may not be throwing the rocks, they are certainly watching them being hurled. If they respond to that revelation with hate toward you, they never were as good a friend or ally as they claimed to be.

  I will never tell you to not be angry over what is happening. I will not tell you that you are wrong or that you are overreacting. I will not take from you your right to feel, to respond. I will only offer counsel if it is sought and never seek to explain to you your experience. I will respect you at all times, and will defend you even when you can’t hear me. Your fear is my fear.

  I will stand with you.

  To those who would seek to chastise me for my words here, who would ask that we ‘wait and see’ rather than prepare for an onslaught, who would seek to devour others in a quest to lay blame and adopt the mantle of “World’s Best Liberal”, I see you. We all see you. We see where you are placing blame, particularly who you demand to take responsibility for last Tuesday’s loss despite the blood, sweat, and tears that they had put into this campaign. I hope that you see some element of the privilege that allows you to look at others’ real concerns and terror and dismiss it while at the same time denigrating the work your brothers and sisters have done.

  And make no mistake: this fear isn’t from a fundamental misunderstanding of campaign rhetoric; rather, this is fear because we know all too well what that rhetoric is. It’s not that we think some kind of bait-and-switch will happen.

  We are afraid promises will be kept.

  Which is why, if you voted for a campaign that utilized bigotry so frequently and openly, it is up to you to prove to your friends and family that you are not a bigot. I am not (and I would wager most people so affected by this situation are not) interested in your defense of your decision—you made it, you own it. If you want to prove to yourself and others that your vote somehow didn’t include an endorsement of those unseemly parts, simply saying “But I don’t really like that part of it,” isn’t enough. After all, you are placing other people’s fundamental human rights below some other policy line.

  Now, it is up to you to condemn the wave of racist graffiti and violence that is erupting in this aftermath. You’re going to have to condemn sexist and racist language slung around at family gatherings. You will have to make yourself uncomfortable, day in day out, to prove that you will not tolerate anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and other bigoted deeds and words of those around you. Simply being not-racist doesn’t cut it. You gotta be anti-racist in this world, and believe me that is a lot harder than it sounds.

  If you can not manage that, then I guess there’s nothing more to say.

  And if you get to here and you are furious at me for what I’ve written in one direction or another, then I suppose I should just reveal that I doubt I’d think very much of you at all.

  Sorry about that.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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