Sunday, November 13, 2016

Breaking Silence

I have never before said anything political here. Not because I don’t care—I do, very much—but because I prefer to tackle difficult topics either face-to-face, with all the nuance of expression and tone to aid the conversation, or else in indirect fashion through my fiction.

That's why in the weeks leading up to the US presidential election, I said little online, and in fact began avoiding the internet entirely. I did not need to see more of Trump’s narcissism, willful ignorance, and eagerness to fan the flames of hatred and intolerance. I was already horrified by him. And it seemed to me that anyone still determined to vote for him despite his actions was not going to change their mind, no matter what I or anyone else might say. (This was reinforced by futile arguments I had with some people I know that support him.)  I focused on the one thing I could do that had the best hope of helping: I voted for Clinton, even though I don’t agree with all her policies, because she had the best chance of defeating him.

But here’s the thing. I’m an optimist at heart. I knew some people would vote for Trump. I thought many more would not. I never imagined so many of those would stay home and not vote at all.

Yet here we are. Never in my life have I been so dismayed by the results of an election. As a parent trying to teach my son to be honorable and trustworthy and fair and compassionate, I hate that he’ll see you can be none of those things—you can lie and cheat and bluster and treat women like disposable toys and minorities like trash and not even try to hide your bigotry, but brag about it—and yet still be rewarded with the highest office in the land. My heart aches for those who now fear for their lives and their families, for those already suffering harassment, for those who may lose desperately needed health care, for everyone terrified we’ve started a long, dark slide into a terrible future.

And yeah, the future is looking pretty bleak, in all sorts of ways. As someone who loves wilderness and has done a lot of work relating to atmospheric and oceanic science, I couldn’t help but weep thinking of the long-term damage that will be done during this presidency. The reefs are dying, the glaciers melting, ecosystems failing, droughts and storms fast growing more devastating in impact, and yet Trump is blithely appointing men who will ignore every last warning sign in favor of short-term corporate profits. The cultural damage to our nation, we can perhaps reverse. The damage to the biosphere on which we all depend…even I, the ultimate optimist, find it hard to see a happy ending there.

But despair does no good. So I will do what I can:
  • Donate money to organizations fighting to protect civil rights and preserve ecosystems and assist people in need.
  • Intervene when I see someone harassed; I won’t freeze or look away, but protest and/or offer my help to the victim. (Here's an example of how to do this.)
  • Speak out when friends or family say something bigoted, to let them know that isn’t okay in my eyes, even if it was “just a joke”. (This link has some good advice on how to handle this.)
  • Write my representatives and participate in grass-roots efforts.
  • Search out my own blind spots and failings, so I can take more care with my own words and actions—particularly as an author. I do believe stories have power. I don’t want mine to inadvertently hurt readers, or to reinforce stereotypes. I want to strive to give people hope, because we’ll need that in days to come.

All of this feels so small: hardly a flicker of an ember against the darkness. And yet I have to believe even so small a glimmer matters. Beyond that, I have no more words.