1. “Don’t worry, it’s only four years. We’ve lived through worse.”
A whole lot can happen in four years. This year alone, at least 353 POC have been shot and killed by police. Since Tuesday, there has been a nationwide string of racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic physical attacks which are a direct result of Trump’s election. While heteronormative, white, christian, american men might be (MIGHT BE) as physically safe as they were last week, the rest of us are faced with an increase in the abuses we’ve been facing for centuries.
The attitude that we can wait this out and it’ll be better next time would make sense if our favorite American Idol contestant had lost. And it’s easy to fall into the American Idol attitude if, like many people, your political life is limited to TV and the internet. Politics becomes an abstraction, a theory, an entertainment. Wins are symbolic, emotional wins. Losses are symbolic, emotional losses. But for people who have been and will continue to be victimized by the State, particularly its latest incarnation, politics is physical. We don’t have the privilege of compartmentalizing politics, or of waiting four years for someone who better represents us. Our politics sometimes involve TV and Facebook, yes, but they CONSTANTLY and ACTIVELY involve our bodies. On the street, at work, at the store, at a bar, we are constantly in a political situation because our bodies are constantly and unavoidably being subjected to oppressive power.
So when someone says, “We’ll be okay in four years,” I hear, ” What difference do a few Queer bodies make? A few Black bodies? A few female bodies? A few immigrant bodies? A few Muslim bodies? WE’LL be okay in four years.” Many of us are not okay, and will not be in four years unless there is organized action.
There’s nothing wrong with looking to the future; it’s important to maintain hope. But hope is only useful because it motivates action. Otherwise it becomes acquiescence. And those who could otherwise wait it out must take part if this action is to succeed. Politics must become physical for everyone. I hope we will do our best to make sure it is.
2. “Love Trumps Hate”
There was a beautiful, symbolic protest at the capitol building in Albany. Signs, chants, the megaphone passing around. I think we all felt safe, and got a much needed chance to gather and speak our minds at the end of a hellish week.
At one point a self-identified Black, Native, Queer person took the mic and spoke passionately about the legitimacy of righteous anger. They said that the oppressed should feel justified to use whatever means necessary to liberate themselves. It was a truly heartening thing to hear. Immediately after, a white woman took the mic and said, “I disagree.” She said that anger has no place, that we need to remain calm and nonviolent. She said that’s there are angry, non-peaceful people, and then there are “good people.”
Mental clarity is useful. Development of compassion is unspeakably important. No truly radical movement has ever existed without an immense well of courageous love to sustain it. However, cultivating compassion and open-mindedness is meaningless unless it leads to action. I will not protect my friends simply by feeling love for them or their attacker. Immediately following the election I heard endless calls to remember our “oneness,” and not to add to the anger and divisiveness that the election represented. Posts reminding me to find inner peace, that I should respond to violence with tenderness and a deepening of pacifism. Shockingly, I’ve seen people insist that we not refer to Donald Trump’s history of sexual assault because this kind of “insult” only encourages hatred.
Immediately, some of the more problematic aspects of 1960s counterculture are brought to mind. But let’s remember that the Vietnam War didn’t end because John and Yoko stayed in bed. It ended because the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) refused to stop fighting, repeatedly putting their bodies in danger and sacrificing them, single-mindedly seeking a successful revolution. Closer to home, the Queer Liberation Movement was burgeoning. Despite the narrative preferred by the State and the co-opted Gay Rights Movement, that struggle was not passive. Whatever success Queer Liberation has had was a result of compassionate people, mostly trans women of color, engaging in physical confrontation with police at the risk of death and imprisonment. I would see it as a disservice to those women to take a purely pacifist position.
Of course, it would be wrong to insist that everyone take the risks that the Stonewall activists took. However, if we sit in a position of privileged safety and tell a threatened and oppressed group not to resist by whatever means necessary, we are collaborating with the oppressor. The idea that peaceful resistance is the only effective resistance is a myth propagated by oppressors. An abuser will not stop being abusive because his victim loves him.
However, rest assured that if I decide to use force to protect myself or my friends, it will be out of love. I can understand my attacker AND hit back. I can feel compassion and rage at the same time.
Here’s the thing, straight white liberals: You fucked up. You lost. Your solutions are no longer acceptable. So now it’s time to listen to the people you and your conservative cousins have marginalized. If you can’t help then at least get out of the way.