There are many things I haven’t said too much about in public. The Dakota Access Pipeline, the ongoing shit show of American policing and our war on black folks, BLM, the ever-present cultural genocide of Native peoples, the horrible disrepair of our educational system, the ridiculous state of our healthcare system… there’s just so much. It becomes too much, and there are other voices more eloquent or clearer than mine. I am not given to despair, but I do know when to pause and adjust the burdens that cannot be put down. All the fights are one fight, but you cannot be at every front—and that’s what solidarity is for.
I’ve had conversations with friends about justice and work and economic self-interest, and as the child of a union tradition (there was a UFW thunderbird flag in the coat closet, next to the old shotgun, all my childhood long), I don’t understand—I mean, I really don’t understand—how folks have allowed themselves to be deluded into thinking that they won’t be exploited if they can be. There’s that old saw about Americans never thinking of themselves as poor, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires… it’s achingly, pitifully true. No American thinks of themself as a peasant.
But I have seen friends and family slip from a middle-class existence that afforded dignity and the mortgage to scrabbling to pay bills without the promise of a job. Debts, like hunger, like fear, grow.
And that’s what I think on lately. God knows, I have my own debts, but I have the promise of good pay to allay fear, and the creature comforts of a bourgeois existence to soften worry. (We all choose our own opiates.) But I’m anxious for friends and family, and for the millions who will see their hopes diminish in these coming years. Some—many, even—voted against their own interests, engaging in a madness I cannot comprehend, and while I would like to condemn them with a simple “and that’s what you get, exactly what you asked for,” I can’t. Because life is an ecology, and there’s no way that much suffering won’t harm everyone else, too.
(Did you expect pure altruism? I am not so kind.)
The question, then, is how do we mitigate the damage? I think that the first thing is that we must continue to speak true. When so much of what has been said has been propaganda, slanted perspectives, and straight-out lies, truth is all the more precious and necessary. Truth is oxygen to the fires of democracy.
Education is the fuel of democracy. In a functioning democracy, everyone has the duty of becoming educated enough to participate. This, I feel, is not only a civic duty, but a moral one. How else can you recognize truth unless you know enough to see through lies? If our electorate understood the issues better, it might be more inclined to make rational choices (but this hope of mine is tempered by the knowledge of American madness, of the fundamental insanity of our racism).
These are only first steps, necessary groundwork to build coalitions upon, to raise activism and campaigns upon, to create movements and change. I’m saying nothing new here, either. These are things many of you already understand; I know—we’ve talked about it.
It’s in those conversations that I’ve felt hope. In the righteous ire and indignation and burning sense of responsibility for each other. In that sense of solidarity.
I know that even when I say nothing, one (many!) of my fellows will. This does not excuse me from speaking up, but it gives me space to find my words, to strengthen my voice, and most importantly, to hear others. So many of you already do this, but for those of you who don’t consider that your own agency is of much value—it is, it truly is—I encourage you to find your words, your truths, and to shout them out loud, and to listen to the clarion calls of our fellows as they tell true.
On every front, we must march forward. We must do so knowing that each battle is just one campaign in the fight against injustice. Know your burdens. Know your capacities, your hopes, and grow them.
And the next step?
Vote the fuckers out.
What? Why do you think you’ve got agency and the franchise for, if not to use them? Speak, write, march, shout, run for office, and vote.
Our lives depend on it.