I’ve been going about my life, screaming internally, and people keep engaging in regular conversation with me and all I can think is, why are we not screaming? Why are we not actually just yelling and breaking things most of the time?
Every time I respond to “how are you?” with anything other than screaming, I feel guilty. Complicit.
But how can I scream? How can I ruin everyone’s day? How can I ruin my family and my life? You can’t keep your job while reacting rationally to the world around you, unless you identify with the protected elite. The rest of us have to choose between social order and social justice.
Order is winning.
It’s morning in America, and Barack Obama was wrong.
I have expressed and repressed a large number of feelings since Election Day. I am scared of a Trump presidency, but if liberation is my aim, I should not have been satisfied with a Clinton presidency. The machine of death that is the United States of America should never be satisfying to anyone who supports the people. Still, I am scared of a Trump presidency. There will be domestic violations that could have been avoided. There will be violence that could have been avoided. There will be families put in harm’s way that could have been relatively safe, or at least hopeful for the future.
But that’s not what keeps me on edge.
What keeps me on edge is the miraculous capacity humans have not to scream when they ought to.
Was there ever a day during slavery when black people did not deserve to scream? You think there has been a day since? Was there ever a day, after Europeans arrived, when native people did not deserve to scream? You think there has been a day since?
We tend to throw out words like oppressed and marginalized as though you should be able to have theoretical, emotionally detached conversations about those who ought scream but don’t. As though being marginalized is mostly okay but just annoying, you know, statistically. As though it’s not worth saving a life if the technique can’t be applied broadly and mindlessly to All Conceivable Situations. Who told these people that abstraction was the highest form of thought? Who told these people that context was vulgar? Who told these people it was acceptable to take our current state of oppression as a given? Who told these people that it was pro-justice to do nothing because the options seem too risky to those not already at risk?
Marginalized people deserve to scream, to cry, to break things, to escape however they choose. I’m not talking about what is or is not a good idea. I’m not talking about what is legal or healthy. I’m saying that when you are pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed, your mind and body change, your needs change, you may cease to act “reasonably.” This is a human reaction and it is something we normally empathize with. We respond more compassionately to the child who hits the bully back than to the child who is the bully (though perhaps all people deserve compassion!). Yet we have no compassion for the reactions of the marginalized when we are the ones doing the pushing.
The human spirit is resilient; that’s what they say. It’s certainly true, but is it a good thing? The human spirit can endure great pain, but sometimes that endurance is seen as a sign that the pain isn’t there. The human spirit is capable of not screaming when it ought, if screaming would be counter-productive. But sometimes the absence of those screams is taken for complacency and complicity. The non-screaming oppressed have already made a Huge Compromise, do not ask for more. Do not take that as a starting point. Remember, we’re not really free to scream, are we?
Progress is the softening of that which keeps us from screaming. Progress does not change the fundamental need to scream.
The election of Donald Trump was a declaration of civil war from modern white supremacist people who felt war had already been declared on them. We need to scream. We need to obstruct. We need to fight. We need to resist. We should feel no obligation to “compromise” where we have already compromised.
What has me on edge is the human spirit, is Clinton’s concession, Obama’s call for a peaceful transition, The Huffington Post’s self-censorship, talk of “waiting and seeing” of “giving him a chance,” the seeming correlation between wanting justice and wanting to be indiscriminately fair.
There are always so many distinct paths to inaction. When I was preparing for a Clinton presidency, I worried that people would be so satisfied, they would fail to push for more. I was worried about complacency. Now that we’re facing a Trump presidency, I’m worried that people will get burned out feeling like they can’t possibly do enough.
I have read good posts on what we should do now. The list includes writing Congress, supporting responsible media, donating to organizations which fight for the marginalized, educating oneself on how we got here, and keeping safe spaces. These are all good things, but they are also things we should have already been doing, things we should have done if Clinton had won, and things that simply don’t feel up to the task.
Many people think one vote doesn’t matter, how do we convince them one dollar does? How do we keep people motivated to make seemingly small efforts and to keep it up over time, if we can’t prove it’s “working”?
What has me on edge is the scenario where you have oppressed people unable to risk screaming, you have pro-justice dominant people fretting over logical and moral consistency, you have regular liberals feeling like there is nothing they can do, and you have Trump’s America establishing its “greatness” all over our rights.
For a while now, people have talked about staying woke. Well, woke don’t matter if you don’t act. We need to stay more than woke.
If we want justice, we must stop being reasonable. We must throw out all our notions of the right way to do things. (Academics, purge your belief in meritocracy.) This is an emergency.
Do not negotiate with racists. Do not negotiate with bigots. Do not compromise on justice.