What didn’t you do to bury me
But you forgot that I was a seed
– Dinos Christianopoulos
This blog sat silent for a few months, due to work, life, the usual hustle. Guess what? The time for silence is over. I spent November 9th in a haze, shell-shocked. I still can’t for the life of me see what the immediate future looks like. I cannot begin to picture a bloated, ranting, hateful, arrogant, orange reality “star” as the next American president. But my numbness is dissolving, and I have things to say.
Let’s get it all out on the table up front. If you voted for anyone other than Hillary Rodham Clinton, you are – at the very best – an idiot. More likely, you are a racist, sexist asshole who feels that you and only people who look and feel exactly like you have had a tough time of it lately. If you think otherwise about this election, you’re wrong. If you say this election was not about race, you’re wrong. If you say this election was not about gender, you’re wrong. You cannot vote for a neo-fascist, sexist xenophobe and consider yourself to be anything but the same. If you were one of the 53% of white women (53%!!!) who voted for this misogynist, you have serious self-loathing issues and have bought into the patriarchy in ways that you don’t even begin to understand. Please spend tomorrow researching the behavioral health coverage offered to you by your health insurance – or, you know, Obamacare – and start therapy as soon as humanly possible. Therapy is amazing. Everyone should go. Especially you. If any of this offends you, you should stop reading this blog immediately. It’s not going to get easier.
If you did vote for Hillary Clinton – or would have done were you entitled to an American vote – then you are probably feeling much the same way as I have been in recent hours. And this post is for you. I can tell you right now that it may be a little thin on landscaping advice.
I’m an immigrant to this country. My parents and I moved to California in 1979 from South Africa, a country that was at that point breaking under a legitimized racist political regime. Before you think I’m about to launch into a story about how difficult it is to be Other, let me assure you that I’m not. Because if you’ve ever visited the About page of my website, you’ll know that I’m a white woman. My family was lucky to be able to move; we had options when so many people didn’t. I have benefitted throughout my life from white privilege. My immigrant experience was not the same as that of my Guatemalan colleague, who had to wait 10 years until he could join his father in America, after Reagan granted amnesty to migrant agricultural workers. This year I have worn a t-shirt emblazoned with “I Am An Immigrant” across the chest, not because I’m trying to claim solidarity with people whose experience of repatriation has been infinitely more difficult than mine, but because I want to show that there is no single archetypal “immigrant.” The bad hombre that apparently terrifies 47% of this country is a myth, a figment of the imagination of scared and ignorant people.
I started today taking my sons to school. My nine-year-old was flabbergasted to discover yesterday morning (how can it only have been yesterday?) that Hillary would have been our first female president. While he clearly is not the most observant little tool in the box, I feel so heartened by his amazement that a woman has never been president of this country. For him and his 3rd grade fellows, this just makes no sense. I would lay very good odds that 99.9% of the parents at my sons’ progressive, right-on, Northern Californian school voted the right way yesterday, so it would not have been a surprise today to encounter a sea of grief-stricken or angry faces. But instead, as I walked into my five-year-old’s classroom, I was met with seemingly happy, serene, loving teachers; three women and one man of different cultural backgrounds, with smiles on their faces and genuine warmth radiating forth. Don’t get me wrong; these people are not that relentlessly perky brand of preschool teacher who defer to puppets to resolve conflict. I may once have referred to another child as a fucking asshole (only in the earshot of adults, I promise), and was met only with laughter and shrugs. But today it seemed to be an unspoken agreement that none of us would be sharp tongued or sarcastic; none of us could face the sadness of the election result. We instead emitted a little extra warmth and love today, and they created a haven of happiness for the glorious little rainbow of lunatics running wild and free in that play yard.
I spent the latter half of this day in San Francisco, and the vibe was not hugely different. OK, honestly people seemed more tired and dazed than warm and loving, but I felt grateful and tearful pride to move around a city that in truth does not always feel like my own. I’m a London and Los Angeles girl at heart, but today in San Francisco I felt inordinately comforted by the young Latino kid carefully weaving his skateboard down 16th at Valencia; by the old Chinese man crossing Duboce in a floral jacket, white fedora, mutton-chop sideburns and pimp walking stick; by the white woman at the piercing studio with a stud in her sternum and tattoos across her chest, who talked gently to me about working in her garden and tilling the soil.
I spent the night listening to artists talk about their work. The second artist was an articulate and poised black woman – clearly shaken to her core – who spoke about her struggle to reconcile the labor of love that is working the land, to a land that has unleashed centuries of violence onto people. A land that was stolen from its indigenous people, and then forced upon the people of another continent, who were themselves stolen.
I’ll quote Lainey of the brilliant LaineyGossip.com here:
It’s hard to miss the point that was made last night. The point was, as David Remnick wrote in The New Yorker, that the Other is not equal, not welcome, and, maybe, not safe. That point is devastating and it has been taken very personally. Worse, for many, it might feel like it’s true. After all, it’s difficult to keep resisting an idea when that idea finds so many fresh and insidiously inventive ways to make you aware of its existence. … The work will get us to those places, the work will get us what we weren’t given at birth. So let’s keep working. Thanks for joining me here at my work and letting me accompany you at yours.
– Lainey Lui
So what does the work look like? It’s going to be different for all of us. Some of us are activists, some of us are teachers, some of us are parents, some of us are artists, some of us are all or none of the above. I don’t know exactly what the work looks like yet. We have work to do to support the people whose current tenuous support will now be in even greater jeopardy. We have work to do to get a decent human elected in 2020. We also have our own professional work to do, and that is personal and particular to each of us. For me, the work is turning back to making art, to painting canvases, as well as to digging in that soil. It’s raising my sons to be conscious and loving and empathetic, with a wide, open worldview. It’s spreading love wherever I go and to whomever I meet, and remaining joyfully grateful that I live in a state where people are NOT all the same, where we have the opportunity to embrace and be bettered by other people’s experiences rather than cringing from them in fear. Everything I write will fall short, so I leave you in the capable hands of Toni Morrison:
This is the time for every artist in every genre to do what he or she does loudly and consistently. It doesn’t matter to me what your position is. You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you’ve got.
– Toni Morrison