I awoke to the truth, that as a writer, every new story I tell will be tainted with this country’s new reality. I was never naïve. I vehemently opposed the prospect of a Trump presidency from the moment rumors swirled of a candidacy. I have lived long enough to know that hate has a face and I know what it’s capable of. But this knowledge hasn’t prevented me from having a deep difficulty in processing those that find joy in this while so many others are hurting and scared, and how these malicious goals have now been realized. We let our guard down as a country and placed hope above the known reality. My wind is gone for now. This is who we are and always have been, but it doesn’t have to be who we become in the future.
Can we change who we are? Laws do not change people, they only attempt to compel them into compliance and provide punishment if they don’t. They are unable to vacuum hate from a darkened soul. Now we see the real prospect of the lifting of these fragile protections with a White House inhabited by those who have demonized the protected. Those tiny things, these laws, are so easy to lift and toss when the only hands on the job are the ones with a distain for decency.
How tenuous we’ve always been. The cracks have always been there. These cracks were chasms to so many, but were unseen or ignored by the majority. We tried to fill the cracks with education and platitudes, but the roaches kept slipping in anyway. Now they are rushing in. For every one who makes his presence known with a snatched hijab from a Muslim head, messages of “Make America White Again” scrawled on doors, swastikas painted in public places, there are a thousand others screwing up the twisted courage to do the same, and a million still ignoring or rationalizing it. They’ve turned the lights on themselves and they aren’t scurrying. They now have the strength not to hide.
The change must come from the streets, from each of us. Our leaders will acquiesce, so we must replace them. Our friends will be complicit, but we cannot let the formality of manners and the desire for comfortable dinners silence us. However uncomfortable it is for you to challenge and attempt to educate someone you love, consider the lives of those damaged by this awakening of wickedness. Use your voice and whatever platform you’ve been given to effect change.
All I’ve given myself in defense are words. As writers, this is often our only tool. But we must learn, if we haven’t already, how to weaponized our voices. We must not roll over and normalize hate, racism, and fascism. We cannot only wear safety pins and make supportive or angry comments on social media. When the voice of a truth teller is silenced, a thousand more must rush in to take their place. We cannot let negative words or acts go unchallenged.
But alone we cannot succeed. We need to sustain those better equipped to fight and better suited to support. Open your homes and your hearts to the victims of hate. Open your wallets to those protecting our liberties and providing care. If you cannot afford to give money, give your time to groups fighting the fight. Pins and posts are not enough against a roaring machine of hate and intolerance. If we sit back silently, we will take moments of calm as the machine losing power. But as we now know, those are moments it is refueling. Stay vigilant.
Steve Howe is the Nonfiction Editor for Blue Mesa Review. Originally from South Dakota, Steve has lived in many cities around the country and now calls Albuquerque, NM home. He is a second year MFA student in Creative Nonfiction, though he also explores poetry and writing for the stage. Steve’s writing has appeared in The Rumpus and he is currently working on a series of essays exploring various social issues through memoir.