Her most recent book, An American Queer, a collection of “The Amazon Trail” columns, was presented with the 2015 Golden Crown Literary Society Award in Anthology/Collection Creative Non Fiction. This, and her award-winning fiction, including The Raid, The Swashbuckler, and Beggar of Love, can be found at:
Our Only Hope
The calamity of this election has confirmed an unimaginably deep disturbance in our society. As always, the progress we have made brought along with it a tailspin of backlash. In the endless cycle of history, there is no choice but to press on immediately and cohesively toward our goal of an inclusive society.
I’m not going to write about the monsters poised to devour the United States of America. I’m not going to predict the plans of the cabal of exclusion, nor point out that we just chose to put into power our very own ISIS-without-turbans.
I will write about a dawning consciousness that it wasn’t only the monster-elect himself we needed to fear, but the mob response to his purposely seductive words. The combination of deliberately dangerous words and poorly informed people can destroy our democracy.
I’ve read that the Republican campaign consulted with linguists to rouse that sector of the population. Author Renee Bess writes, “It’s hard for me to believe that Trump knew, in an empirical way, what he was doing. He might have simply stumbled upon ‘pay dirt’ when he gave his first couple off the cuff speeches. He saw he was being successful, so he decided to stick to his script.”
Given the man, I think Renee’s correct, and his handlers were canny enough not to get in the way of the effective stampede of repetitive scare words. His followers were all too glad someone wanted to champion them, even someone the like of whom has never insulted the nation by presuming to govern it. This walking ego of a power and money hungry man with his misguided hair and exaggerated New York accent spoke like an actor playing a huckster on the Coney Island midway, a make-believe man of the people.
Like many others, when the election was called, I became too ill and despondent to think. In her poem “Wild Geese,” Mary Oliver comforts her readers. “You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.” I could only let myself burrow deep and far from the fray.
Quivering like a scared rabbit, I thought, run for the hills! In our burrow, my sweetheart and I talked of moving to Ireland, and of not wanting to go anywhere at all.
I finally got on line. Tony Valenzuela, Executive Director of Lambda Literary, wrote to members, “Our LGBTQ books and the authors who write them are part of the solution to ensure our community remains strong. Readers and publishers are part of the solution as well. We at Lambda Literary are going to continue doing this work stronger than before… The next four years may be full of outrage—Lambda Literary wants to be a source of light for our community.”
These were the first words that raised my spirits. Maybe as high as a candlewick. I’d been trying to write and could not stay awake. I was nodding over my computer, periodically passing out.
Then someone posted these famous Toni Morrison lines: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
I received an email from our small town local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Our tenacious chapter president is reaping the rewards of her work. She wrote, “…the election has sparked a huge interest in…NOW. We have had more than 20 people contact us today expressing interest in joining NOW. Frankly, this is totally unprecedented.” Perhaps aware women have declared this election to be our final insult.
The New York Times reported that, although the incoming administration is acting to repeal it, “More than 100,000 Americans rushed to buy insurance under [The Affordable Care Act] on Wednesday, the biggest turnout yet during this year’s sign-up period.” This stirring in the populace, could it be a sign that we—and our legislators in DC—will fight to keep our health insurance from being gutted to benefit already big pockets?
The day after the election, that very next day, GM announced layoffs of 2,000 workers in two of the states that elected this new president. Will the laid off voters make sure everyone they know votes in two years? And get out the vote for active, hard-working, smart, caring candidates like Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders?
It’s said that history is cyclical. We need this cycle to be short-lived. We are many; we are powerful. Never mind the demonstrations and the memes. Support NOW, support Black Lives Matter, support The Audubon Society, support Social Security Works, Standing Rock, LPAC, just get out there and work—work together—to make Congress as blue as the blue on our flag.
In the words of Princess Leia from the first “Star Wars” film, “Help me Obi Wan Kanobi, you’re my only hope.” Obi Wan, of course, is all of us.