One of the things that has always stuck with me from my early days in college was a discussion amongst my Jewish friends about what to do if (when) the wolves came. Do you have friends you could hide your children with? (This was before any of us had kids, but this is an old, old worry, and my friends had inherited the legitimate anxieties of generations and generations.) Do you trust them? Can you really trust them? When do you flee? What’s the best way for getting out? How do you fight? We were all of eighteen, students at one of the world’s finest and most prestigious universities, smart, privileged, young, and full of agency, and we were having a real conversation about what we were going to do when they came for us, because that was a real possibility in all of our minds.
It was a mark of my friends’ acceptance and love that I was privy to that discussion—I’d only recently made the choice to become Jewish—but they knew that this was a part of it, this kind of awareness, this knowing, marrow-deep, that the knives may come again. And so my friends honored my choice and when they spoke their truths, they included their fears, too. I thank them for that welcome and solidarity, among so many things.
Of course, that knowledge wasn’t a surprise. Queer kids, brown kids: we know that, too. Vulnerable is a constant drum beating a heavy line in the music of my life.
Later, when 9/11 came and so many others felt as if gravity had shifted, I felt horror, but no surprise. The nature of the world as I understood it had not changed. I did not feel newly vulnerable. I did not think that I had been immune to loss, and I had no innocence—or ignorance—of the fact that people in the world wished me dead, or at least in my place: under their heels.
So this election outcome is also not a surprise, although it’s a horror.
In some ways, I’m thankful that we can all speak plainly now, when there’s no room for equivocation. This election is a shit show, and the man elected is a dangerous fool who is evil in the real, banal way that evil so often is. The narcissism of his self-regard, the myopia of his views, his fundamental incomprehension of the nature of the office and his apparent readiness to abuse it, the untold harm his rhetoric has already brought, and his policies will bring, the division and rancor and hate he foments… it’s a vileness that is petty in spirit and mean in soul.
And a nation stood up and elected him, out of fear. Overwhelmingly, a white electorate chose him, out of fear. And what are those fears? Fear of other ways of being and loving and worshiping the divine, fear of other peoples, other colors, other languages. Fear of being treated like they themselves have treated others for centuries. Fear of having to face the fact that often their success has been predicated on hamstringing their competition before the start of the race—with laws and terrorism and a pervasive social disdain based on the implicit belief in the inherent inequality of others. Fear of knowing that they are being left behind not because they aren’t welcome in our shared future, but because they are clinging to the anchor of their own hate.
What cowards, the lot.
But the economy! say the apologists for the white folk who overwhelmingly elected this abomination of a leader. Or, but they feel disenfranchised! As if people of color don’t care about the economy or aren’t actually being disenfranchised by the engines of far rightwing power. Please.
If it were truly about the economy—and if his plan actually would help (it won’t; it really, really won’t)—then everyone, regardless of color, would have gone for it. But it’s not. And you, whatever your color, know it’s not.
Take note how quick the “mainstream” are to throw the white working class under their bus. The working class that voted for Clinton, not for this nightmare. (Shall we not mention that it was those who are well off, the ones who won’t suffer their own desserts—at least not at first… but the wolves will come for them, too—who voted this flimflam man into office?) How quick to blame the minorities, the poor, the very people who have been promised suffering, for a choice made by those who will have proudly chosen to feed the wolves.
This particular trick that the Con Man-in-Chief has pulled off is really quite remarkable. He’s sold a dream of an America that never was to white people who feel they deserve it, who are owed it, god damn it, even—especially—at the expense of their neighbors of colors, who aren’t real Americans, and are lazy or illegals to boot, or not even really people. This is their rhetoric, this is what the neo-Nazi white supremacists that have rebranded themselves as the alt-right sincerely espouse, and what millions of people have supported whether they don white hoods or not. Most amazingly, he’s taken advantage of the internalized racism of many people of color who, through mental gymnastics I can scarcely comprehend, think they’ve made friends with the wolves and won’t be dinner. For those particular folks, I have not only the word cowards, but also fools.
I have a rage in me. It is a hurricane. It is built from injustice seen and lived, and hurt, and hope dashed, and fierce determination to see justice for all, and the simple honest fact that if I do not fight, I will be made less than, I will be stripped of dignity and rights, I will be pushed out of my own nation, I will become legally subhuman, I will be killed.
And my family, of blood and choice, will suffer those fates, too. And strangers in Sandusky and in Flagstaff, in Helena and in St. Louis, in San Francisco and in Biloxi, and in the tens of thousands of small towns you’ve never heard of, like the one where I was raised, will suffer, too.
And so I have a hurricane in me, a rage that burns bright, which I hope will clear a path and light a way to a safer shore. I hope you have a fire in you to guide you.
I don’t know how, but I know that when the wolves come, I will not be easy meat.