In the face of despair

Monday morning I woke up feeling the most despondent I have yet since election night. Well, since after election night. That night was pretty bad.

But I’ve had a sort of energy since then, maybe a bit manic, that may have been propping me up. Yesterday, I woke up and read the news as I usually do, and it hit me. We are in for four years of unmitigated crap. I don’t like this feeling, so I’m setting about to figure out what I can do to, yes, make myself feel better. Here are the problems I see, in big wide generalizations that surely don’t address all of the important issues. And here is what I am doing about them, personally, locally, and nationally.

  • Trump’s campaign, whether incidentally, demonstrably, or even intentionally, has made it okay to be a misogynist, racist homophobe.

What am I doing about that? Personally, I’m wearing a safety pin, both to provide outward evidence that not everyone is an asshole, but also to remind myself to be more intentional in my interaction with folks who might feel targeted. I live in Kansas, and I don’t run into many marginalized people, which makes it all the more shameful that I have not reached out.

There are any number of good groups, locally, I am sure, to which I could give money, or energy. There’s a Social Justice committee at my church, and I am hoping they will help me identify places I can give my time. Our church does a great job with hunger issues and Islamic outreach. That’s a start.

Since the election, Tiffany and I have become monthly givers to the Southern Poverty Law Canter and Planned Parenthood. SPLC counters and protects those who are singled out and attacked in hate crimes. Planned Parenthood provides ongoing health services and support for women and poor families throughout their lives.

  •  Trump’s Presidency will roll back much of the progress we achieved under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The trending of the nation’s voting counties towards the right will lead to more challenges for real people’s lives. The economy will provide less for more. The influence of Trump’s white supremacist friends, his oligarch cronies, and the opportunistic extreme right will turn actual, real freedoms upside down.

In a nutshell, he has the full power of the Federal Government, for at least two years, probably four, to enact the agendas of his friends and supporters.

What can I do about this? I can stay active in politics. I work in state level politics in Kansas, where we actually had a retreat from conservative positions this election. We’ve seen the destructive results of unfettered extremist ideology here, and Kansans have chosen change direction. There’s much more work to be done, especially to make this a lasting change, and I will keep working at it.

We’ve also opened up our pocketbook on this issue, becoming first-time monthly supporters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The ACLU works to protect civil liberties at the local level with an eye towards national influence. The NRDC protects the environment, among other ways, by fighting laws and regulations that affect our future on the planet.

  • In two and four years, the country will vote again. The chance that we could continue down this path is frightening, and must be prevented.

Personally, while I’m not cut out to actually run for office, I have skills and experience that would be useful to those who are. I will continue to be active in politics, in get out the vote efforts, in supporting candidates who will change this direction. I’m well versed in local issues (and the maxim that all politics is local is unquestionably true) and yet I will work to explore issues I don’t know much about.

I plan to learn more about how the Democratic Party works nationally, what can be done to support those local Republicans who are on the right side of the issues I care about (remember, I live in Kansas), and how I can encourage more people, especially women, to step up to public service. Is there anything more awesome than Tammy Duckworth’s smile?

I’m encouraged by the number of people who are looking to get involved, and the number of groups stepping up to offer them an avenue, from established groups to new ones.

This is how it starts. That’s how you defeat despair. You do something.

How I’m doing: 2016 election edition

It’s been a hell of a week, I won’t kid you. I spent the entire election season being pretty confident in Hillary Clinton’s victory. I guess, I fell into the trap of believing my experience of the world was shared by everyone. Clearly, I was wrong. And intellectually, it seems stupid of me now.

But I believed she’d win, she’d be the first female President, and that much of the progress we’d made under Obama would continue. Because, you know, the alternative was too unbelievable to imagine. But on election day, with no real reason, I began to get nervous. By evening, as the polls were closing, I couldn’t stop thinking about election night in 2000, when we were at a bar watching the returns, and someone looked up at the TV and asked, “Hey, where did Florida go?”

It seems a small mercy now that Tuesday night’s returns were consistently disappointing, with a long slow slide into a Trump victory, no false hope moments to raise us up before dashing us back onto the rocks. (The Nevada win was too late in the evening, at least for me.) But I felt numb, and kind of… blank. I was up until 1 am, just after John Podesta announced that Hillary would not be speaking. I went to bed knowing the outcome, but when I woke up at 4:30 am, I checked anyway.

I work in politics, albeit at the state level, and I live in Kansas, so I’m predisposed to crappy political news. I have spent the last few days reading and reading and reading, and thinking, and talking and thinking some more. I think this immersion in the reactions of others, like a sort of shock therapy, has replaced my mourning period. I’m not much of a mourner anyway (I’ll call it “wallowing” when I’m pissy), and I just didn’t want to dwell on it.

Now I find myself itching to do something. I’m working on understanding, and understanding will reveal the things that need to be done, I know. But until I get there, I need something tangible, some action, some difference to make. I feel, energized.

It may all come crashing down, I suppose. Some day I’ll break down in the middle of walking the dog, or at the bus stop waiting for my kid. But there’s just so much to unpack, I think I’ve got some time.

Don’t get me wrong, if I sound blasé. This outcome is horrifying to me, in every way. If I stop to consider the real consequences, to people, to our country, and to the world, I can feel the gibbering panic creeping in at the edges of my vision. But these last couple of days, I feel great. Like I have purpose, like I’m coiled and ready to spring. It’s weird. It’s interesting. And I intend to take full advantage of it.

Where is this horse you speak of?

It has been a little over a month since I have written any fiction. Not a word. But I am getting back on that proverbial horse.

A little over a month ago, I was offered a half time job by a friend, and I took it. Thus a third, part-time career was born. I am writing words for a small, local, moderate political organization. It fits me politically pretty well (I’m an unabashed Liberal, but a registered Republican), and there is a desperate need here in Kansas for anyone with a modicum of sense to speak out. I am encouraging people to be getting on that. I write for our social media properties (see, jargon!) and also “craft” our marketing message. And I’ll be blogging once we get our new website up.

So, you know, getting paid to write!

And even if it isn’t getting paid to write my fiction, I do get to put words together, and that part has been fun.

But.

I’m here to do this. I quit my modest but better-than-this paying job to write fiction. And this past month, I have not done that. It’s been the usual cocktail of work I want to do, work I’m not sure I want to do, personal motivation issues, Life Stuff To Do, and now Job that Must Be Done.

But.

I am up, and I am at ’em. And it is five in the freakin’ morning.

And I am writing.

Where are the protest songs?

We’re doing our morning chores when Washington Bullets by The Clash comes on the iTunes mix, and after about half the song, my wife (who did not bring The Clash to our marriage) asks from the other room, “Is this the Clash?”

Inimitable. But it made me wonder, for the umpteenth time in the last four years, where are all the protest songs? What happened to music as a political outlet? And don’t give me John Mayer. That song could have been so much more than it was. Poking sly fun at your own fan base is one thing, testifying against your irresponsible government is another. I want the latter.

Maybe we just don’t hear it on today’s radio. Which is a whole ‘nother rant.