The past few days have been an unpredictable explosion of emotional intensity and range for people in the United States of America. Any presidential election will create tension, but the intensity of this campaign--the baggage it brought up from the past, the rhetoric of a candidate and his supporters, the hatred, the disgust, the blind rage at a system already gamed to favor the very people complaining about the political establishment they believe the other major party candidate represented--has been draining to say the least. Disheartening is a better word.
But we must move on.
I work in educational theater programs in schools throughout the year. I'm working on getting my paperwork in order so I can have my own high school English classroom or Theater classroom for the 2017-18 school year and have an even bigger impact on the lives of my students. I make it a point not to force my political opinions on students. It's not right or proper; it's, frankly, against my contracts. It doesn't stop some other teachers from actively harassing students about their support for the losing candidate, but that's a separate issue that I'm carefully trying to navigate over the long teacher's convention weekend.
But you find ways to teach them about how the system works.
You tell them about how this is not the first time a candidate won the popular vote but lost the election. You pull up other historical comparisons to make the contemporary historical and reinforce cross-curricular learning through an extracurricular activity.
You tell them that it's okay to be upset. It's okay to grieve. It's okay to feel like the system failed them. These are all valid thoughts and feelings.
But then you teach them what to do with this.
You stress the importance of building up whatever political party they choose to support from the local level up. I can point to how, despite the national results, my area of NJ finally swung back deep blue in a major way, from my home town through my congressional district. I do not frame that as a positive or negative--they can pick it up through context clues but not tie it to my own rhetoric--but a simple statement of fact. In this area, the Democrats were well-organized and did a better job gaining support than other parties.
You teach them how to advocate for themselves and others. You stress the importance of contacting their local representatives by phone and letter over topics that matter to them. You explain why candidates and parties alike raise funds before, during, and after elections and what choices they can make to best support their own beliefs.
Most important of all, you teach them not to give up. You can never give up. You cannot run away from incendiary rhetoric. You cannot run away from a political fight. Hate does not disappear because you ignore it; it festers and grows into something monstrous that cannot be beaten by simply taking the high road. It must be brought to light and cured with inescapable tolerance, love, and compassion for our fellow people.
As a theater educator, I interact with a wide range of students with different beliefs and identities. There's a big crossover, for example, with GSA organizations and Drama Clubs. Those are the students I worry about the most. I saw the fear in their eyes yesterday.
I saw them terrified to stand tall in front of their classmates who taunted them with the election results because they thought it was funny to pick on the gay kid, the trans kid, the Muslim kid, the other kid that our president elect has a plan for.
This is not acceptable.
On Tuesday night, as the election results became clear, I saw myself faced with two choices: flight or fight.
You know if you follow Sketchy Details that I have been stepping away from this site. It is hard to run with everything else going on in my life. My energies are being spent elsewhere and, to be perfectly honest, I was kind of overwhelmed with all the negativity over every broadcast medium to find the initiative to explore fictional worlds from an academic criticism perspective.
On Tuesday night, my instinct because of the rhetoric stoked against reporters, against the media, against intellectuals by the president elect's campaign was to shutter Sketchy Details, scrub the internet as best I could of my name and brand, and hide my association with any website that might attract further negative attention under an administration that believes Putin's Russia is a goal, not a warning.
By Wednesday morning, I knew that was selfish.
I cannot run. Neither can you. If we hide and stay silent, we lose. If we engage, if we fight back, if we make sure that the horrendous negativity that bolstered this campaign to the White House is never forgotten or ignored, we can force change.
I know I'm one voice. I'm one voice who criticizes the portrayal of fictional women and minority voices in genre entertainment, but I still have a voice. I will use that voice.
And I know that I have a lot of the privileges that put me in a safer place than many others. I am white. I am male. I am straight. The things that pull me in the other direction--my mental illness, my asexuality, my unsteady financial situation--are not visible deterrents. I pass as the status quo, and I've used that status quo as a battering ram against stubborn students and school administrators who refused to get the "treat people with respect" message from people who don't have that level of privilege in the past. It's a powerful tool to look like the establishment and despise what the establishment is built on and stands for; it's a tool I cannot abandon out of fear, frustration, or despair.
Sketchy Details is not a political blog. I will not be covering the news cycle from now on. But the act of writing, of taking a stand against deep-seeded animosity and hatred towards others, is a political act by its very nature.
I will not surrender my voice. I will not hide. I will stand strong, pen in hand, and hold on, day by day. I will do it for my students, I will do it for my country, and I will do it for myself.