During Saturday’s historic showing of progressive strength and unity, I was not on the streets of Washington, DC or at the National Mall where marchers later gathered. I was not part of the New York City march that was so large that it became an impromptu rally when it became clear that movement was not a viable option. I was not even out in Downtown Los Angeles, the city where I currently reside, where women and men marched toward Pershing Square, their colorful (and colorfully worded) signs held high declaring that they would not be silenced by the likes of The Orange Asshole and the goons he has placed in his cabinet. Instead, I was at home, in bed, where I was for two days straight, nursing a moderate, but persistent cold that was threatening to develop into a whopper of a sinus infection if I didn’t wrangle it. So I took the safer route and stayed my ass inside.
But oh, was my FOMO going strong that day. I wanted so badly to be out in streets, marching and chanting and shouting in solidarity with my sisters in arms, that we are here. I watched online as organizers, artists, celebrities and other speakers took the stage in Washington and spoke out against the tidal wave of phobias and -isms that brought the current president into power. I was moved by the strength and resolve I saw on display, by the power in the voices amplified by our collective outrage.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the necessity of civic engagement in the age of Donald Trump and, more importantly, what long-term engagement with my country will mean for me.
On one hand, I have never been particularly patriotic, and I thoroughly reject notions of American exceptionalism. I acknowledge that this country has made some beautiful contributions to the world, but as one eye sees the good, the other eye can’t look away from the deep ugliness that accompanied the good. “Liberty and justice for all” is beautiful imagery, but as it is currently painted on a backdrop of genocide, slavery and oppression, it loses some of its luster. We fail to see ourselves in the other. We fail to make decisions based on the greater good. We fail to consider the long-term impact of our actions and have consequently created a world run by corporations, money, greed, war, violence and imperialism. Now, my countrymen have elected a man who exhibits all the hallmark signs of pathological narcissism to the highest seat in government, and he is in the process of dismantling many of the good things that our former president (who was no saint himself) left behind.
On the other hand, this country is so intimately mine. Though some of my people came to U.S. shores of their own accord, some were here long before the Americas had their ancient names stolen from them. At least half arrived by slave ship, their histories and languages and identities washed away by the salty waters of the middle passage. This country was borne into existence on my ancestors’ backs, founded on their graves and holy sites, and built through their blood, sweat, and tears. I only exist because this place exists, and so I must do what I can to save it, right? Even if a huge part of me wants nothing more than to permanently decamp to greener pastures and watch the train wreck from afar?
This is my dilemma. I know that reining in Donald Trump’s lunacy will require a concerted and unrelenting effort from us all. I know that in many ways an onus is on me and people like me to fight for those who are unable to fight for themselves. But the siren call of the wider world is strong. Unknown lands — likely with equally violent histories but wildly superior public transit systems and less self-satisfied populations — beckon.
What’s a boy to do?
(Edit: One thing I am focused on doing is turning my writing into a form of activism, so I can have a voice no matter where I am. See Writers Resist for more information.)