Revisiting making art in times like this

Originally published October 6, 2018.

Today is my birthday.  I had a wonderful lunch with my parents, followed by a fantastic party with my closest friends, where I laughed so much that my abs now hurt from how much I laughed, and at one point, I laughed so hard that I had to force myself to breath or I would have suffocated and possibly passed out.  It was, overall, an amazing day.

And I have to end it by learning that Brett Kavanaugh is now a justice in the highest court of my country.

Over a year ago, I wrote a journal entry about the difficulty of making art in these scary political times.  I don’t exactly have more to say about what I wrote in that post; I stand by all the things I said in it.  I also didn’t mention which events specifically made me so sick to my stomach, because I didn’t want to face down the possibility of political discussion in my comments, when I knew I didn’t have the mental capacity for it.  But after another year of burning in the Trumpster fire, I am too sick of this bullshit to even keep up the veneer of being apolitical.

Synthesizing all of this, I have a few things to add on the topic of making art when it feels like the world is going up in flames around you.  They’re just a few things that have been on my mind today.

1. A lot of the big news events have hit me really hard these past few years.  The Kavanaugh confirmation, as angry as it makes me, isn’t one of them.  And I don’t think it’s because I’ve become numb to Trump and the GOP’s bullshit:  I think it’s because I had so many good things happen today that put me in such a good mood that even this can only bring me down so far.  I don’t think my stories are good enough that they can singlehandedly have that effect for someone else.  But if they can help, that’s plenty of reason to keep writing.

I don’t have the mental fortitude to participate in a protest.  I don’t have the social skills to go door-to-door.  Talking on the phone scares me too much to make phone calls for a candidate, or even call my elected representatives.  All I can really spare is money, but donating to a cause that’s trying to make lives better for people affected by this administration, or donating to Democratic candidates in swing states, just doesn’t make me feel like I’ve actually made a difference.  It’s too abstract, too detached from the issue at hand.

But if I can, though my art, make someone’s day better, and pull them up a little bit when the world is pulling them down, then I consider that still helping.  Which brings me to my next thought…

2. As someone who feels like my individual impact on the world is, in the grand scheme of things, so minuscule as to be meaningless, it’s hard to feel like there’s any way I can make an impact.  I haven’t talked about my depression much on here, but it’s that feeling of hopelessness that triggers it the worst.  But as I was driving past a bunch of political signs for candidates and certain answers to certain ballot questions today, I realized:  if I consider myself one of “the good ones”, then I need to stick around.  If all the “good ones”, like me, decided it wasn’t worth it and ended it all, that would be an unequivocal victory for “the bad ones”.  There’d be no one to stop them from getting their way.

If there’s going to be any hope for change, we “good ones” need to stick around.  To believe women and survivors when they come forward about assault.  To cast a doubtful eye on the justifications used to excuse police brutality.  To pressure big companies to stop exploiting their workers and the environment.  And most importantly, to vote.

Some people say that voting only gives citizens the illusion of control.  But there’s a quote I read a while ago that has really stuck with me:  if voting really were meaningless, there wouldn’t be so many politicians trying to take it away from us.  Gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement, ID laws, etc.  Politicians (let’s call it like it is:  Republicans) don’t want us to vote because they know voting has power.  If you consider yourself one of “the good ones”, you can’t let them have their wish.

Which, to tie this in to point #1:  If through my art, I can make someone a little less vulnerable to that feeling of hopelessness, and empower them to keep on keeping on and being a small positive change in the world, maybe it can add up.

3. As has been clear throughout this post, I’m no longer interested in keeping my political viewpoints a secret.  I hate Trump, I hate the entire Republican party in my country, I have very little positive regard for people who support them, and I have absolutely no positive regard for people who still support Trump.  And I have no problem with that rubbing you the wrong way if you fall into either of those latter two categories.  You want to enjoy art created by a queer person, while simultaneously supporting a man who picked, as his Vice President, a man who thinks I should be electrocuted until I either pretend to be heterosexual or kill myself (giving the statistics on electroshock conversion therapy, it’s 50/50 which it would be)?  While simultaneously voting for politicians who run on a platform of taking away my basic human rights?  That’s a special kind of entitlement.

If you’re going to go in the comments and complain that me “making this political” is going to “make it hard” for you to enjoy my stories, good.  You’re making it hard for me to even live my life in this country, let alone write stories for you to enjoy.  If me writing this makes you not want to read my stories at all, even better.  You won’t be missed.

That’s all from me for now.  I didn’t want to end my birthday writing something like this, but I also didn’t want to end it finding out Kavanaugh was confirmed.  To paraphrase a blogger whom I used to follow who’s sadly no longer active, I’ll deal with it the way that writers do it:  I write.  It usually helps.

And now back to working on my stories.  They feel more necessary than ever now.

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