Writing Doors


It’s been a fucking week, hasn’t it?

I don’t usually get overtly political on my writing blog, because I recognize that it’s largely shouting into the void of the internet, but politics at this point have intruded into most aspects of my life in probably the worst way possible.

When I look at what happened in America on Tuesday, I do what I usually do when presented with crisis: I don’t attempt to normalize it, I pull back further and further until I can see the historical cycle. The human race is extremely cyclical, perhaps to a depressing point. You don’t even have to go back many hundreds of years to start noticing the patterns, they crop up mere decades ago.

People think of Reagan as a unifying figure, or at least many adherents to his economic principles and foreign policies do. Even my fellow leftists kind of thing of him as this malevolent force that somehow managed to unify the nation for a few bad years. If you go back and look at newspapers from the first time he was elected, the 49.3% of people who did not vote for him were terrified. Some called it an election of the KKK back into power. Voodoo economics were thrown around like crazy. His empty suit folksy rhetoric was skewered again and again. I’m one of the believers that he left the country in much worse shape than he found it while taking credit for the rippling successes set into motion by his predecessors.

Go back to the 1920 election. Warren G. Harding. One of the worst – hell, if not THE worst – president we’ve ever elected swept in and had a massive, sprawling corruption machine running that did untold damage in just three years before some hoary elder god took mercy on the nation and sent a cerebral hemorrhage racing along.

After Reagan, things very slowly began to get better, civil rights made advances, the spectre of reaganomics was slowly pushed back.

After Harding, a series of housecleaning attempts by the democrats eventually led to FDR and his first-maligned, then-beloved mandates that dragged much of the country kicking and screaming into a bit of a golden age.

Things eventually get better. Particularly disasters built around a cult of personality, when that personality is of an aging man who doesn’t take particularly good care of himself. When the head is gone, the snake melts away for some time.

And you know what?

None of that really matters.

No matter how much searching and application of logic and hand wringing I do, I can’t make a good thing out of this even in the long term. The consequences of ignoring climate change alone completely change this game, and that’s before even getting into waves of celebratory violence targeted at the marginalized in ways that are probably going to make the post-Brexit attacks look like a picnic.

I’m legitimately terrified for many of my friends stateside. They come from all races and creeds, and I’ve always found myself in the company of awesome gay people. And the vice president elect thinks that you can cure gayness by electrocuting people enough times, and that you should funnel money from disease studies and treatment programs to do so. I’m terrified for all the women I care deeply about in a place that just tacitly approved of a man who thinks violating women is funny and socially acceptable to talk about at length.

Even if it does get better, and this is one of those plot arcs that goes “darkest before the dawn,” it’s going to get much worse and push people to a breaking point, and I feel remarkably helpless to do much from the other side of the world. I’m donating money to various aid groups that will attempt to mitigate the worst of the damage, and I vote from abroad and keep on my representatives to actually represent me, but there are limits to what I can do as a person

My good friend Chris wrote a post dealing with similar topics from the midst of the mess. He talks about words as weapons, and leveraging the powers of language to aid others, and how you have to fight with what you’re given just as the bards of old might have. I agree with him completely.

I’m coming at it from words as sanctuaries and hiding places, doorways into other worlds. I know that when I was suffering from depression and various medical maladies throughout my younger life I spent a lot of time hiding in the Discworld, and hanging out with Morphius in the Sandman comics, and seeking advice from the heroes of Middle-Earth, they gave me a place to retreat to and gather my thoughts and consolidate my mental strength between battles.

Right now, if you’re one of the groups considered fairly safe, go out and be a shield for others who aren’t so lucky. If you’re one of these target groups deemed okay to go after, be careful, take care of yourself, take care of as many others as you can. Be there for other people and help them. Healthcare is probably about to get very, very bad and there will be a lot of people who need aid. LGBTQ+ friends are understandably horrified and looking for safe spaces, as are a wide variety of folks without Trump-approved skin tones. If you can provide a safe space, do so, even if it’s just a spot at the table and treating them with respect and dignity and reminding them that they have the same rights as anyone else and you’ll fight to help them retain those rights.

But take care of your mind, too. Give yourself a little bit of opportunity to escape. I’m not using this as a craven way to shill my book, but it genuinely makes me feel choked up that a couple of people have told me that losing themselves in some of my short stories made them feel better this week. Go out to the library, find some books, watch some movies that make you feel okay. Replenish your strength, build your fortitude back up. If you can make art, do it and let it help others. If you know people making art, join in, build sanctuaries of the mind for people to rest in.

It’s a shitty balancing act and in a perfect world no one would ever have to be in it, but just be acutely aware that while you should help others as much as you can, you can’t keep the world warm by burning yourself out. You might give them a brief burst, but better to kindle yourself into a steady blaze that doesn’t ever extinguish.

I’ll be doing what I can from here, even if that just amounts to trying to make people feel better with dumb fantasy stories, and staying up late consoling people on chat, and throwing money into at-risk charities to try and staunch the sucking chest wound that I feel like my homeland has become. Obviously, if any of you can think of anything else I could do to help, please feel free to reach out.

4 thoughts on “Writing Doors

  1. As usual, powerfully and beautifully written, Aaron. This was a very surreal, very scary week here in the States. I may be naively hopeful, but I am holding out hope that enough electoral college voters will go against their mandate and vote with their consciences instead.

    Your words here encapsulate the fear of a Trump presidency so well. Many folks in my immediate family are gay, and I dread to think of what will happen to their civil rights now. As a woman who has experienced sexual assault (which, sadly, is far far far too common — I would run out of fingers and toes to count on if I enumerated the people I personally know to whom something has happened), Trump’s unabashed heralding of rape culture horrifies me. I fear for my friends who are people of color. Their systemic mistreatment by police can only get worse under an administration that blatantly ignores the voices of marginalized people. As a trained economist, I also fear greatly for our economy. Trump’s anti-trade populism is exactly the opposite of what we need to thrive economically. Finally, I think the thing about him that incites me the most (and that’s a hell of a competition, because nearly every word from his mouth incites me) is his fascism. Free speech is quite literally threatened by him. If you say something good about him, he praises you. But the second anyone – even Fox News hosts! – makes even the slightest bit of constructive criticism, you’re “stupid,” “moronic,” or “crooked.” It’s silly for me to think this way, but there is a legitimate part of me that fears what would happen if Mr. Trump ever happened to stumble upon this humble little corner of the blogosphere and read this comment. I mean, I know it’s an unrealistic fear that he would ever see this comment (or posts like yours). But what if? What if he did? He is so easily inflamed that I would legitimately fear backlash.

    Anyway, I’ll stop my rambling comment here. I just sent you an email – I can’t wait to escape into The Shadow Box.

    x Charlotte

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like to think that the US government is so labyrinthine that most of his most egregious stuff won’t be able to pass. We have so many checks and balances that it’s hard to get things passed even with a majority, and we can do things like re-districting in 2020 if we seize enough governors in 2018, there’s always the option of increasing the size of SCOTUS to 13-15 to mitigate any far right judges he and Pence throw in there, there’s even the possibility of impeaching justices if we control both senate and house if they are found to be working a personal agenda instead of interpreting the constitution. It’s not the end of the world or the end of the country, but I think it really does signal an end to the American Era of unquestioned dominance.

      Like I said, honestly, most of my major concern comes from the message of tacit approval this sends to the absolute dregs of society. They don’t see that he lost the popular vote and even less Republicans voted this year than they voted for McCain or Romney, they just see it as a mandate that the country is okay with painting racial and sexual minorities as targets.

      I get nervous about speaking out too, but then I hop on twitter and I look at heroes of mine like NK Jemisin or Saladin Ahmed who actually run the risk of being targeted with KKK-esque violence and they’re still speaking their minds and ranting up a storm and trying to help people, I can’t really justify hanging back myself then.


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