“A state of human life vaguely defined by the term “Universal Peace,” while a result of cumulative effort through centuries past, might come into existence quickly, not unlike a crystal suddenly forms in a solution which has been slowly prepared.” – Nikola Tesla
If you follow me you have watched in real time an artist having a prolonged PTSD episode, triggered by the election of a man so vile and unfit for the job that the mind boggles. And while the mind boggles the heart tears itself into shreds, the body tightens, a rictus becomes the only semblance of expression.
Friends, I was terrified, not for myself, but for all of us, and for marginalized and targeted people specifically: Muslim, Black, Latinx, Trans, Queer, Female, and even sometimes “The Jews.” That my personal venn diagram encompasses several of those identities is some reason for fear, but mostly my terror was at watching the rise of fascism so clearly, and feeling, as many have, like Cassandra: a being able to see the future who no one will believe.
Many people were in this state – I was not special in this. Some people were afraid for themselves, being the first ones targeted, some people were afraid for others, some afraid for everything. We were all reeling, watching the incremental progress we’d all fought so hard for being dismantled at a pace that left us breathless and unable to cope.
My own PTSD is generational. In living memory, my family was shunned, persecuted, attacked, arrested, enslaved, starved, tortured, and murdered. My grandfather was at Bergen Belsen, the only member of his immediate family to make it out alive – in a coma, weighing 78 pounds. I grew up with these stories. Stories of the camp, the barracks, the nazi officers who helped them, the nazi officers who hurt them, watching his mother die, watching his brother starve. Other kids may have gotten stories about fishing, or whatever granddads talk about. I grew up on the holocaust.
There may not be another holocaust, there may not be concentration camps, but I don’t need those things to happen to be outraged now. The current situation is bad enough. We already have immigrant detention camps. We already imprison more people per capita than any other country in the world and we already know that a disproportionate number of those imprisoned are people of color. Outrage inducing racism already exists, it’s just getting worse.
For the first few days after the election, I couldn’t breathe. I sat in dark rooms, rocking back and forth, mumbling incoherently. At one point I heard a voice ask “Are you ok?” and I realized the voice was my own. The answer was “No. I’m not ok.”
And I may never be “ok.” Not while fascism, racism, terror, violent misogyny reign. Not while laws meant to protect us are destroyed and new laws meant to harm us are put in place. Not while the state uses police to kill unarmed people of color who inconvenience white stability. Not while trans people are denied basic human rights, access to bathrooms, and even the right to exist.
So I am not “ok,” but I am no longer living in constant terror like I was in the first few months after the election. I am scared, yes. Angry, oh very very much yes. But there is also so much love. So much inspiration. The resistance is strong, and bright, and dedicated. So many of us are ready, because we’ve already been resisting, this new administration just gave us a bigger target to push back on. The racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, anti-science, anti-life beliefs are so strong with the current “powers” that we don’t have to explain them like we used to. If there is a gift it is that the blinders have truly been torn away, and all the things activists have been advocating for are real, are necessary, and are long overdue.
The resistance isn’t starting, it is continuing.
In my most hopeless moments, and there were many, I held on to that quote at the start of this post. A state of peace, of equality, of freedom, could come about suddenly, due to the work of generations of people. Even if we cannot see the benefit of the work we do, we must do it, because we don’t know when that final piece may click into place. We are always one moment away from justice, from mercy, from peace. Even when we feel so removed from each other that our world is tearing itself apart. Even when it feels like hatred is winning, fascism is winning. Even then we work for what we know is right, because what else is there to do?
That quote helped get me through the darkest of the times. Watching millions of people wake up to the resistance helped me through. Meeting people all over the world who are working away, as they always do, to make the world a better place helped me through. Watching my marginalized friends continue to exist and resist helped me through.
All over the planet, scores of intelligent people are working on solutions for our problems, whether in science or in social activism or in art. So many people are engaged in actively making the world a better place that there is hope, even if every news feed is covered in the sickly, horrible faces of men filled with hatred and power and the desire to destroy our lives for their own momentary profit. There are more of us. We are stronger than them. Our desire for life burns brighter than their desire for personal gain.
We are the solution in which justice and equality might suddenly take form. We exist. We resist.
I see you, living, loving, resisting. I see your struggle and your hope. I see your anger and your fear and your dedication to human rights.
I am not ok. None of what is happening politically is ok. But I see light, I feel light.
And it is you.