I have mixed emotions about the upcoming presidential election results. I want the American chaos I’ve been experiencing to be over. But I have also been so invested in fighting everything Donald Trump has done to hurt people that I’ve been surprisingly motivated. Donald Trump’s daily intrusion in my life over the past four years has changed me.
I once was someone who remained silent while screaming inside my head about the questionable behavior of people and just wrote in my journal about them. I don’t know if my silence was because I’m a polite girl, or because I was raised in Minnesota Nice country, or because I was raised Catholic and believed in giving people a chance to see the error of their ways and correct their behavior. This method of interacting with people seemed to work when I saw them in small doses and knew way less about them, before I entered the world of social media.
I was an intentional latecomer to social media. I wanted to avoid encroaching on my kids’ space on what I thought was a platform designed for young people. I had no need to mingle with people in cyberspace because I had lots of real-life relationships. But I grudgingly joined Facebook eight years ago because it seemed that most of my extended family was choosing to communicate only in that way. If I wanted to know what was happening in my family, I had to participate in the cyberworld. When I joined Facebook, I was shocked to see the high number of racist, sexist, and misinformed postings from people I once respected. For the sake of peace, I bit my cybertongue. Then Donald Trump happened.
The ugliness of humanity that I saw on display on social media multiplied exponentially when many of my “friends” hitched themselves to Trump’s crude star and embarked on the most bizarre political ride I’ve ever witnessed. As a result of Trump’s cult of personality and people’s desire to align with a bully with unchecked power that they viewed as “strong,” I saw lots of people being hurt by reckless words and actions. I couldn’t be silent any longer.
My writing voice has been roaring during Donald Trump’s presidency. I’ve written the satirical When Life Was Still trilogy that became eerily prescient as Trump acted out the horrible dictatorial behavior that I had my protagonists muse about. I’ve written many political opinion essays. Trump inspired me to write activist poetry. He caused me to realize my gift for playing with clay as I sculpted satirical political comic strips. His questionable approach to the presidency has caused me to script mini screenplays for short videos where I call out his behavior. Everything I’ve done the past four years has revolved around addressing the damage Donald Trump has done to America.
Because America is still (barely) a democracy, I believe that people have the right to make it a priority to care about things like hanging on to their money and unborn fetuses; and it’s their right to vote for people who share those priorities—as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. And because this is America, I have the right to care about the life experience of people who are marginalized and persecuted by people with power and privilege. I also have the right to be horrified that people are supporting and mimicking Donald Trump’s destructive behavior and are consequently causing people to suffer. And I have the right to speak out about it—in real life and cyberspace. I’ve had many Trump supporters tell me the past four years that I shouldn’t speak out about their adored leader’s negative actions, that I’m upsetting people by doing so. Buying into that kind of spin is one of the steps that leads to a fascist society. The person who is upsetting people is Donald Trump.
I have made so many wonderful friends the past four years because of our shared desire to make human rights a priority. And because of my expressed contempt on social media for Trump’s violation of human rights and questioning how someone could continue supporting him despite being aware of all he’s done to hurt people, I’ve lost a lot of so-called “friends.” I’ve tried to be sad about that, but honestly, I’m okay with it. At the end of my life I’d much rather be known as someone who tried to help the voiceless (and was good at playing with clay), than be known as someone who was popular. Even though some of those “friends” I’ve lost are family members, I have no reason to hang on to any person who is okay with someone using their power to hurt powerless people. Discontinuing a relationship with me is their loss because I’m the person who would actually help them if they were in need. I don’t think they could count on Trump to help them with anything other than cut taxes for them if they’re super rich.
Since I’m a writer and an idealist, I like happy endings. I want this Trump saga to end happily on November 3rd with a Biden-Harris win. But Trump has already promised to go away noisily. He’s already convinced his followers that the election is rigged if he loses—a tactic employed by other leaders in non-democratic societies. He’s encouraged his followers to participate in a rebellion if he doesn’t win. I live in rural Trump country where I’ve witnessed a lot of aggression the past year and I’m actually prepared to get shot at by my neighbors for having a Biden-Harris yard sign. My husband and I talked about the possibility of getting shot for displaying a sign and decided that we’re not going to be intimidated into being silent about our preference. I know that there is a potential price for freedom of speech in a society that is creeping toward fascism. Before Election Day, I plan to have my husband show me how to properly use his gun in case I need to protect myself from my neighbors. When the election results come in on November 3rd, 4th, 5th . . . or whenever, though I’m prepared for the usual Trump circus, I’m also nervous about the circus turning into pure revolt. But whatever happens, I refuse to lose my focus on fighting for human rights.
The worst in Donald Trump has brought out the best in me the past four years. Though I’ve lost “friends” and family connections, no matter what the outcome of the presidential election, I already know I’ve won. I found my voice. I refuse to let politeness ever keep me silent again when I see people being hurt. And I know that the hurtful behavior of Trump and some of his followers has resulted in the formation of an army of decent Americans who will never again remain silent while neighbors suffer. Because of the level of corruption Donald Trump has descended to and the absence of a fair election process in the U.S., there is no way to accurately guess what the outcome of the Election Day battle will be. But I believe that people who make human decency a priority will ultimately win the war. And if I ever lack the level of motivation I have today to use my voice to fight for marginalized people, I have four years’ worth of books, essays, poems, clay comics, and videos to remind me of what Donald Trump has done to voiceless people. If all decent people can remember that and help prevent it from happening again, I believe that we will win . . . someday.
© 2020 by Julie A. Ryan. All rights reserved.
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