Monday, November 14, 2016

Reflections on the End of the World

The night It happened, I was at a party. We had the TV on in the background but were mostly just drinking and chatting in a circle, all confident that even if there were some unnerving flashes of red across the screen, those were just temporary early results, and blue would soon pull through. We had the bottles of champagne all ready in the fridge once the first female president was announced. Personally, I was mostly ready to celebrate the election cycle being over. Over the months it had caused me deep anxiety, occasionally threatened to damage friendships, supplied immense distraction from work.  

It scarcely needs to be said that the party did not end well. By the end, we were drunk and in panic-stricken tears, hugging each other and making slightly incongruous comments about how it was a pleasure to survive the apocalypse together. My phone was blowing up with incredulous, terrified texts, with pleas from Canadians to come home. The days immediately following would feel like a long fever dream, a cycle of laying awake at night in a shaky cold sweat, waking up in the morning believing, for a moment, everything is fine, then feeling the physical impact of reality striking again in a nauseating scourge of red. Previously, I had no idea what a plastic, disingenuous, and almost threatening character normal everyday greetings like “how are you” and “I hope you’re okay” can take on during such times of emergency. I and many close to me have all experienced physical symptoms of illness. 

In March, my amazing radical partner had organized a rally against Trump at Columbus Circle, right outside the Trump International Hotel. Thousands of people came, and we thought we were fighting more broadly against the misogyny and xenophobia that Trumpism espoused, because surely he could not actually become president. Today (I am writing this on Sat., Nov. 12), I see that a year ago in my Facebook Memories, we had cheered on a black woman defiantly reading a book during a Trump rally. Her resistance mattered, we thought. In the months and weeks leading up to Nov. 8, already a time when I felt physical revulsion whenever I saw his face or his name on my computer screen, the New York Times and all major media polls were still predicting a Clinton presidency, even as high as 95% just days before. 

You know all this. But the facts—that the polls had all pointed to Hillary, that all in my circles had succumbed to the collective delusion of a female president--still confound me. On election day I was excitedly composing in my mind the leftist articulations of critique against the Democrats I would post on social media after she won, when it felt safe to do so again. 

I thought I was miserable and anxious a week ago; now there is a new order of misery. One that is spreading aftershocks of hate and racism and fear across the country and the world. One that is leading my students to break down crying in class and bring in books to read under the table because they needed to emotionally dissociate from the election conversation. One that is making misogyny, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and perhaps above all Islamophobia a routine and energizing function of the dominant political powers. One that is fracturing families, already causing people I know to cut ties with their loved ones and cancel holiday plans. I myself am very angry at white evangelicals.

Over the past few days, I’ve attended protests, I’ve cried, I’ve screamed, I’ve hugged, I’ve marched for hours, I’ve waved my fist in angry defiance at the Trump Tower alongside a crowd of thousands, enjoying a few brief moments of solidarity and hope. Not My President, we chanted, and Black Lives Matter, Pussy Grabs Back, The People United Will Never Be Defeated, My Body My Choice. Protesters waved signs that said things like “My Rapist Voted for Trump.” I have also given a talk on a medieval poem, The Isle of Ladies, that displays the necessity of feminized resistance to the dominant male regime, even when such resistance is materially futile. I’ve seen formerly apathetic liberals commit themselves to action, and academics awaken to the insufficiency of critical theory as opening avenues of possibility. I have found my only solace in unexpected hugs, caring and compassionate and unexpected texts and gestures from friends, and my students who are confused and scared yet desperately seeking answers and committed to act for change.

I’ve also seen the same people comparing Trump to Hitler on Monday claiming on Thursday that we must be acceding to work with him. I’ve started to glimpse how quickly normalization can happen, how once the rhinoceros storms through the city enough times, it becomes a part of the terrain. I can feel it happening within myself on an emotional level—because how else can one go on? But I resolve not to weaken my commitment to collective justice and working toward new possibilities for change in the coming years. Things are not okay, but within this not-okay-ness, perhaps other good things will emerge.


I mean, if these girls exist, there's got to be some hope, right? (Taken/posted with permission)










2 comments:

  1. I feel exactly the same. It helps to read the expressions of others who are sane and going through the same thing. We will fight. We will scream louder than the bullies and racists. We are a group of educated people who understand history and know how to organize, so the advantage is ours, ultimately.

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