Under Water But We Still Don’t Understand

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

Every morning when I open my eyes, I hope for exactly two seconds that it’s all been a dream. Then as I wake up, it all sinks in again. How my country elected a man who has ties to known white nationalists. How my country continues to support a man whose rhetoric has been rooted in hate. People around me continue to rationalize his words and actions: “He was just saying those things for attention,” and “It’s not a big deal,” and “There’s nothing to worry about.” Then why is it that myself and other marginalized people are worried? We can’t all be paranoid and suffering delusions.

Existing in this country has never been easy, but until last week I thought I had a good understanding of what black women and other minorities go through. I’m laughing at that past version of myself. I had no fucking clue. Even now, as I’m only beginning to grasp the situation, I still have no idea.

As Rebecca Woolf of Girl’s Gone Child wrote:

This election has caused me to reevaluate my place in this country and it has caused me to redefine who I am as an American as well as a content creator. I know I have work to do and I hope you will join me in normalizing dissent, standing strong, and fighting the good fight for the good of our country and each other.

I feel blown apart. Even civil conversations with people who disagree leave me exhausted. Very rarely do I feel as though I’m being heard. Mostly I feel like I’m shouting “Fire!” in the middle of the room and I’m the only one who can see it. But I will keep having these conversations.

My manifesto was already to write diverse stories, especially focusing on strong female characters, and to lift up other marginalized voices. In the last week, I’ve realized I need to do more. Talking about and writing diverse books isn’t enough. Helping maintain marginalized people’s safe spaces online isn’t enough. Emailing and calling electors and local government officials isn’t enough. It’s easy to do these things in the safety and comfort of my own home, to sit under my electric blanket after my latest dose of pain medicine and get to work. But it’s not enough. I need to get together with people in my community.

Because things are moving too fast, so fast that I can barely keep up: the appointment of Stephen Bannon, a known white nationalist, to Trump’s Cabinet; the violence against minorities and other marginalized people; Trump’s announcement of requiring his employees to sign NDAs; VP-elect’s ironic moves to keep his emails private; the questionable, conflict-of-interest appointment of team members who previously were engaged with Trump in lawsuits… The list goes on and on. It’s all happening at light speed.

I often feel like I’m living in a completely different country than the one I grew up in.

Yet friends and family continue to justify these moves. They say “He’s not really racist.” No? So please explain why he continues to affiliate with known white supremacists. “Well, what are these people threatening to do?” Nothing, yet, but their appointment speaks volumes. It sets the tone for a very different country. It paves the way for more hate, for the growing white nationalist movement to continue. (By the way, did you know that the white nationalism movement has been growing faster among young white males than ISIS is growing overseas? Chew on that.) And putting racists in positions of power is dangerous; it allows them to make decisions for our country and change the progress we’ve made.

I really don’t know how people can be so oblivious about these things.

I decided to organize my own protest in my hometown; the demographic there is over 50% people of color. But my own husband won’t protest with me, because he “doesn’t do protests.” Even after a long conversation where he asked questions and I explained who Stephen Bannon, David Duke, and others are. Then he continued to try to placate me, insisting that there’s nothing to worry about. So far it looks like I’ll be standing alone. Or sitting, since I’m bringing my camping chair and cane.

I’m frustrated and dismayed.

Best case scenario, it’s like some have speculated, that Trump didn’t really mean any of the things he’s said and done. He’s just insecure and needed someone’s support, and the only people willing to give it to him were the KKK and other white nationalists. So he’s just been saying whatever to keep them happy.

Still, that’s just as outrageous. In my America, the KKK and other white supremacists are supposed to keep their bigoted beliefs to themselves. There’s no law stopping them from convening, but there are checks and balances keeping them in place.

There’s some speculation that Priebus was appointed just to keep Republicans appeased, that since he and Bannon are equal partners, it’s really Bannon running the show, but Priebus is there to also placate people’s concerns about Bannon.

All I know is, this is serious, we need to treat it as exactly what it appears to be, and change the things we cannot accept.

Worst case scenario, Trump has meant every single thing he’s said, and we’re facing a major shift in our country and thus globally. I’m not trying to be a doom and gloom apocalypse crier, but the direction we’re pointing in is horrifying. We’re talking more white nationalists in positions of power over our country, in a time when our presidency is at its most potency in our history. In no way is that a good thing or anything that should be acceptable, even if you’re white. Every single American who claims not to be racist should be outraged right now, or at least heavily questioning the chain of events in the past week (as well as Trump’s entire campaign).

To my readers: I’ve never been much into politics. I’ve purposely refrained from talking about my country’s government issues because politics tend to alienate people. In years past, elections have been the same old, same old: Democrats and Republicans smearing each other, each with arguably good points, but business as usual. Nothing that would hurt Americans on a mass level, because usually there’s too much arguing for anything to really get done. There’s eventual compromise, with both parties sated and things that most Americans can (arguably) live with. Change has always been for the better, in a progressive manner. I’ve never paid a whole lot of attention or commentated on politics, because I’m not affiliated with either party and I’d rather write about badass belles kicking ass. But I can’t say that writing diverse books and including marginalized people in the lit community is my brand if I won’t loudly fight for their rights. Our rights. And this entire election has been completely the opposite of normal. I keep seeing the word “unprecedented” thrown around, and while it’s getting tiring, it’s apt. Just not quite strong enough.

So I’m going to be talking a lot about my country and current events in the coming months and years, until things improve. Until disabled people aren’t worried about healthcare and benefits. Until my queer and POC friends feel safe. Until my Muslim and Jewish friends tell me they aren’t scared. I’m going to loudly and publicly denounce the open hate that has infiltrated my country. Of course it was already there in the shadows. But now it’s become normalized to share negative views of women and trans people and people of color, to openly hate anyone who fits into the non- straight white cis able-bodied male category. And if you disagree, you’re a crybaby social justice warrior at best and at worst the target of physical harm.

In the same vein as what Rebecca Woolf said in her latest blog post, I’m going to step up my game of supporting marginalized creators. I’m going to do giveaways and interviews in support of them—especially women. I’m going to continue intercepting when I see others being bulled online and in the physical world. I’m going to keep talking to electors and local government officials and putting pressure on them to Make America Safe Again and #StopBannon. And I’m going to continue writing books that shine more light into the world, normalizing diversity in fiction.

None of this is going to be easy. It’s already been really fucking hard. I have to take frequent breaks. I honestly don’t know how POC deal, because this country feels alien to me and so many of them are telling me, “It was always this way for us.”

Even as the water continues to rise and we gasp for air, we still barely grasp the situation. With my last breath, I’ll keep talking, keep trying to get people to understand and fight with me. I hope that you, my lovely readers, will fight with me too.

If you can’t, I hope you can still find safety and solitude in my fiction. Supporting my writing and even donating to me helps me—a lower class, queer, disabled woman—continue to survive and therefore continue to write and stand up for others. I’m already struggling financially because of my health. Now more than ever I need your support in whatever form you can give: kind words, sharing my books with other readers, purchases, and donations.

The revolution has begun and, as much as I never saw myself doing anything like this, I don’t feel as though there’s any other choice.

Elizabeth Barone

Published by

Elizabeth Barone

Elizabeth Barone is an American novelist who writes contemporary romance and suspense starring strong belles who chose a different path. Her debut novel Sade on the Wall was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. She is the author of the South of Forever series and several other books.

When not writing, Elizabeth is very busy getting her latest fix of Yankee Candle, spicy Doritos chips, or whatever TV show she’s currently binging.

Elizabeth lives in northwestern Connecticut with her husband, a feisty little cat, and too many books.

Leave a Reply