It‘s 2am and I’m wide awake, as I have been many mornings in the last week. There is no end in sight to the destruction of the country I thought I knew. Moves are being taken in every quarter to quash protests, disenfranchise voters, eliminate safety nets, knock the legs out from under air and water safety, gift power to the already empowered. The baby, the bath water and any ethics are right out the window. The Doomsday Clock will likely click one minute closer to midnight.
I keep thinking about history. And how nearly every move being made by the Trump administration is out of the authoritarian playbook. Even on the state level, legislators are taking their cues, ramming through bills to ensure that power stays with them. The people who talk about small government and self-reliance are delighted that Big Daddy is going to save them and stomp on anyone who dissents. A man with a personality disorder, someone who can be flattered into giving unqualified and malevolent people an immense amount of power, is in charge.
I’ve been struggling to get back to novel rewrites. It hasn’t felt important or useful to spend my time there. Instead, I wade through one news article after another. For all the rallying cries, I’m torn between the despair of nihilism and the burning frustration of impotency. This is also not useful and certainly deleterious to me.
Sometimes, when I’m having trouble sleeping, I put on a Harry Potter audio book. Jim Dale is a soothing narrator. On the surface, Harry Potter seems a simple child’s tale of good versus evil, except that the good people aren’t always good and the bad people aren’t always bad. And all along the way, no matter what laws and rules are put into place, subversion happens. Sometimes it’s small bits of sassiness and other times it is downright anarchy. But no matter how many rules are put in place, no matter what destructive forces roam the hallways, the students find a way to dissent. And this is a hopeful message.
I’m feeling pretty powerless and afraid for the future, especially for my daughter. The flurry of robber baron malfeasance is overwhelming and in truth, there is nothing, much to the delight of the angry mob, that I can do about it. I voted. I paid attention. I gave a damn. But it did nothing except get me characterized as a snowflake, an elitist, a lazy liberal living off the government teat, and urban (used as an insult). A woman who wouldn’t even get rated a 4, because my nubility ended about 30 years ago. In the scheme of things, I am nothing and no one, powerless, not wealthy, not influential.
When I think about the dissident, camp, and protest literature I’ve read over the years, I am reminded of the power of the story. And the importance of telling it. A lot of nobodies painted, wrote, invented, composed music, even through the worst of times. And the worst of times is yet to come, I believe. It takes a little time for the ball of shit to gain momentum and size, as it rolls down the hill towards us. Everything that seems like hyperbole and anxiety today will be the norm tomorrow. History tells us this will not end well.
How far it will go, no one really knows. The angry mob will likely crush many of us. People arrested, businesses destroyed and jobs lost, committees designed to suss out dissidents. Neighbors will turn each other in. Troops will come down our streets to round up the next targeted group. Revolts will rise and fall and take its casualties. It seems unthinkable, but authoritarian rulers, no matter where they are in place or time, are terrible in all the same ways and exploit the population’s fears and anxieties in such a way that the snake eats itself.
In an age when the common good sounds like a quaint, old-fashioned idea and the Ministry of Alternative Facts is dominating the news, it’s hard to know what to do with all this anxiety. The anger reignites itself daily. And we keep getting admonished to grow up, get over it, it’s not so bad…and we bargain with ourselves. Some of us are still detoxing from the campaign. Some of us are in an emotional coma. I alternate hourly between righteous indignation and a desperate need for more action.
Getting stuck in this loop is crushing me and writing has become my only way out. I’ve written essay after essay in the early hours. Some angry, some tearful and bitter, trying to find that crack to let the light in. And on the Marauder’s Map of my country, I can imagine the dots revealing themselves, one after another. Writers and poets and artists all working away, seeking the light and, ultimately showing us the way forward. In an age when bad is good and lies are truth, we must solemnly swear that we are up to no good.