Has it been almost a month now? Truly?
Still the election, yes, I’m sorry… I have a feeling I will need to talk about this for a while, especially since it’s not only “the election” but also the continuing reality as it unfolds.
In July, I wrote that every election year the media tells us that it’s the end of the world and we must vote for a candidate to save us all (which candidate depends on who’s talking). And that this election was no different.
I had to go back and think on that a while. Was I completely blind?
But, no. I think I can still stand by those words, for the most part. For what anybody knew in July. And here’s why:
Every election year, I am harangued by political rhetoric, and every election year, the conservative line of the Republicans really starts getting ugly. It is always ugly to some degree, but it certainly gets much more amplified around election time.
Every election year, I get an earful of hate. I get reminded over and over again, by Republican political leaders and pundits and Republican voters, including and sometimes loudest by the Republican candidate for president, that I am (and those I love are) Other. And that I am hated for it. And that I deserve to be left behind, driven out, or locked away.
“It’s an old trick: the powerful encourage the less powerful to vent their rage against those who might have been their allies, and to delude themselves into thinking that they have been liberated. It costs the powerful nothing; it pays frightful dividends.”
“[Trump]’s a marketer. His big lies are like his buildings: he doesn’t build them, he just slaps his brand on them and tricks the press into promoting them for free.”
Full Frontal December 5, 2016, Samantha Bee
It’s nothing new to Donald Trump. Did you hear the rest of the Republicans who ran for president? Have you listened to conservative talk radio at all for the last decade? And it scares the bejeezus out of me. Every four years.
Every four years I worry if this is still the dominant narrative in this country. Is this the year when hate will be accepted in broad daylight again, and I will feel afraid all the time? Have all our gains towards claiming our humanity been illusory?
I was born and raised in rural Texas. I don’t live there anymore.
Once I went back to my hometown after a two year break. The moment I got off the plane, I remembered. I remembered, and I wondered how I had ever managed to forget. Every moment of every day, people are watching, and judging: Do you fit in? Do you follow the rules? Do you follow them completely?
The pressure is visceral. I feel it in my body, in my bones. It is a weight that never lets up. My stomach shrinks down to the size of a dried pea. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. Everybody watches you, including the ones who love you. Especially the ones who love you. They want to make sure you’re okay.
That first night I dreamt I stood in an empty auditorium, with God waiting behind the curtain. I dreamt that if I didn’t convert back (to Christianity, to “being” neurotypical, to “being” heteronormative- ie, to “being” what I was “supposed” to be) that instant, that God was going to eat me.
I knew it was a dream. I was lucid enough to know I was dreaming. I was lucid enough to think that being eaten by God was so outrageous that it was a tiny bit funny. And yet I was still completely terrified. Because I knew it was real. I knew that the dream was symbolic of my reality. I knew that society was telling me: Conform or die. And society wasn’t fucking around.
America has an ugly past, and it pretends otherwise. White elitists swooping in from Europe, using poor whites (who had been thrown off their own lands in Europe by other white elites) to massacre the indigenous nations, while using enslaved people of color as free labor to build up a new nation. Genocide, slavery, lynching, eugenics, internment camps, mass incarceration, (ableism, sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia) etc. Lots of etc. And if you weren’t white Christians, god help you. But if you acted like white Christians, and did everything they said, you might be tolerated or allowed to be an exception (held up for all the world to see how equal and just America truly is).
It hasn’t really changed. Yes of course it has changed in, say, means, openness, things like that. There has been progress. Just, things aren’t all that different when you go looking under the surface.
The underlying dynamic is still there, ready to come bubbling back up into the open. And it does bubble up. Police brutality, rape, filicide, mass shootings, etc. Most of the time, though, it stays in places where people can conveniently deny and ignore it; it works away in secret, shaping all things, while people continue to gaslight each other about our history.
About our present.
About what our future might be.
Every four years I wonder, is living in a blue state safe enough? And I am reminded that I live, actually, in a military city. It might be in a blue state, but neighborhoods all around me are quite red.
I have equated blue with people who aren’t actively out to get me. Would they protect me, though? Because red is not entirely people who are out to get me; no, most of the red is people who don’t care about me at all. Red is those people who agree with the hate: some of whom will act on it, and some of whom won’t stop the rest. Blue is people who don’t agree with the hate, but how committed are they to standing up against it? YMMV.
I have extreme privilege in being white. Nobody has ever once looked at me and thought I was other than white. I have no pigment whatsoever and am constantly sunburning through SPF 50- I am unavoidably white. And I have extraordinary privilege for that.
I can pass. Not for very long, and not very well. But I am privileged to be able to pass at all. I do not proclaim my identities in places where I don’t feel safe, and people don’t necessarily peg me as anything specific on their own. I can fly under the radar, or, well, it’s more like people can see me but they don’t necessarily know what the hell I am. Most of the time I can pass because people write me off. They see a woman, and think she is rather odd. As long as I go along with what they want and act invisible -as long as I appear nonthreatening to them- they don’t pay attention to me. That’s as close to passing as I realistically get.
And every intentional act of invisibility is an act of erasure. It’s being so afraid of what other people may do to you that you do it to yourself. It’s a kind of death. It’s, “people would kill me for being trans, therefore I must bury the trans part of myself.” It erases you from the inside, and what is left of you is a lie.
It’s like The Nothing from The Neverending Story: “A hole would be something, no, it was Nothing! And it got bigger, and bigger…” ; “a force of absolute oblivion that erases everything and everyone it touches from existence and leaves no trace whatsoever… Every Fantasian that it erases gets turned into lies and deceits that manifest in the normal world….” (/here).
That’s no way to live. That’s no life at all.
And sometimes to be invisible means to not interfere. To not speak up when hate is acting all around you? To be therefore complicit in the violence? To enable the perpetrators? To not protect the victims? How can I do that? How could I do that and live with myself? How could I ever expect anyone to stand up for me?
That’s not how this works!
And it’s all besides the point anyway, as my kids cannot pass, so that’s not even an option for them. Nor can I act invisible and still secure the supports and services necessary for us as autistic persons to survive.
But every four years (at least) I wonder, if the tide turns, what other options do I have? and How can I/ Can I keep my kids safe?
It’s not a new question for me at all.