Trump is hate. He is ignorance. He is the inciting incident of a new civil rights era.
As writers of conscience, our sense of right and wrong will not allow us to stand with a man who stands with the KKK and who so willingly accepted the mantel of hate. This is as true for those who wanted disruption to the political and economic systems as well as those who wanted to maintain the modest but steady march forward begun in the wreckage of the Bush presidency.
So I am brought to this question: What are we as writers to do?
My first thought is a quote I heard recently, not sure who from, that reads: "You're a writer, talk like one."
This leads me to one though: I am a writer, act like one.
We do not lack for role models in this area. Steinbeck, Grace Paley, Trumbo, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Frederico Garcia Lorca, James Baldwin, Jorge Ramos, and many, many others acted like writers when confronted with injustice, bigotry, and hate.
But what does it mean to act like a writer when fighting for social justice and against hate? When I think of the list of names above, I remember not just their writing, but their actions and their bravery.
This blog post is not enough nor is it enough to tweet, Facebook, or rely on any other social media to speak the truth and be heard. They have their uses, but the message needs to be carried to those who feel so dispossessed that they would vote for a man of hate whose policy promises will harm his own supporters.
Unlike the Civil Rights era--we are in a new one and the old battles of disenfranchisement and bigotry must be fought again--the message need not be carried any further than our own street. These people are our neighbors.
They feel the same sense of desperation as we do. And for probably many reasons, they chose to support a man of hate whose policies will harm them. Among many examples, he promised tax cuts, but only to the wealthy and corporations. He also promised trade wars and withdrawing from trade pacts that directly or indirectly support the jobs these people hold, blue and white collar.
But why are we writers credible and authentic voices to speak to these people as peers with shared experiences, fears, and desires for our future?
The answer to that is simple: We writers know work.
Many of us support ourselves with blue and white collar jobs that barely make ends meet so that we can write. We often live without health insurance or on the brink of losing it. After paying our bills for the month, we wonder how we will manage to do it again next month.
We know the stinging bite of winter air as we leave our homes to work in jobs out of doors and where there is little heat. We know the oppressive feel of ninety degrees and eighty percent humidity. We know the pain of overworked bodies and the frustration of bosses who've risen to their level of incompetence. We know the insecurity born of jobs for faceless, bureaucratic corporations. We know the unfairness of a country that will not wrestle with the cost of health insurance and taxes us for Medicaid, Social Security, and Medicare at 12.5 percent, but only taxes millionaires at .01 percent for the same programs.
We know all too well the fear of economic insecurity because we live with it every single day.
We need to be brave and we need to be calm.
Brave because we have to do more than just write. We have to share our experience with those people who voted for such a hateful man. And we have to do this in person, in conversation, without the safety of an internet connection.
Calm because we are peers. We share a fear of a country that listens all too well to the wealthy and sells our rights and interests out for the promise of a campaign contribution and while lying to us that the wealth that is given away will trickle down. How humiliating it is to be told our economic futures, the success of our businesses and careers, our families and children do not depend on our work and its quality, but on the vagaries of the spending habits of wealthy people. We can share this experience with our neighbors as neighbors and friends because they feel that same humiliation. And we can share why we do not support the practitioners of trickle down anything.
We can share our ideas for what a fair deal looks like and be surprised by how much we all agree.
So, as we are confronted by the most hateful president in our lifetimes, we can act like writers.