CW: The President-elect and today’s imminent inauguration, and everything else that could go along with that. But I promise, it has a happy ending.
As I’m sure you all know, I’m a nerd. A “write your senior thesis on superheroes” kind of nerd. And you know what? I’m proud of it. I’m more proud of being a nerd today than I have ever been in my life. Because today is the inauguration of the current President-elect.
Stories matter. They help shape who we are. They’re so often dismissed, written off as simple distractions, or shallow consumerist vehicles. Yet, the very stories that have shaped me into a near-insufferable nerd are beautiful examples of resistance to what is going to occur today.
A group of young idealists led by political dissenters organize and oppose a fascist government that is hell-bent on dismantling democracy. A megalomaniacal businessman is threatened by an immigrant journalist and vows to end him. A tyrant attempts to return his people to their former glory by subjugating those he views as lesser. A despot uses racism and the fervor of his Naziesque followers to gain power and terrorize the “impure.”
Those are the stories I was drawn to as a kid. Of course, at the time, I didn’t see them that way. I saw Star Wars as cool ships and lightsabers, Superman as a cool guy in a cape, Transformers as robot dinosaurs (Beast Wars rules), and Harry Potter as…well the cultural phenomenon that was HP. Now I see them for what they were: stories about good people resisting tyrannical leaders, in whatever way they can.
This means that since the age of four, which is when I watched Star Wars for the first time, I have been unknowingly preparing for today. I have spent almost every one of the 6,935 days since that moment endlessly consuming media dedicated to resisting people like the President-elect. Which is a very good thing.
At 11:00 AM EST today is the opening volley in the fight for the survival and soul of our society. The living incarnation of 240 years of social neglect will place his hand on Lincoln’s Bible, the same one used by President Obama at his inauguration, and assume the role of the most powerful individual on our planet. From there, barring any (absolutely expected) legal interventions, he and his administration will have 1,461 days to rip our society apart at the seams.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals are going to march on Washington, in one of the largest demonstrations in American history. Hundreds of thousands more will join them around the country, and the world, all in protest of the man who will place his hand on Lincoln’s Bible.
This does not account for the untold numbers who will simply ignore it, as they should. The masses who will shut off their feeds and TVs, who will open a good book or go about their lives, be with friends and family, do their work, and choose to deny this man the audience he craves.
Standing in his way, denying him his false glory and attention, are those he despises. The despicable women who will lose health care options and grants for violence against them. The violent, criminal Mexicans he wants to keep out with his wall. The Muslims he has threatened with internment. The LGBTQ+ folks that the Vice President-elect loathes. The folks with disabilities that he denigrates, and his Secretary of Education all but ignores. The Black folks that his Attorney General worked to imprison, and continues to ignore. Sikhs, Jews, East Asians, South Asians, Latinos, Hispanics, the poor, journalists, artists, academics. This is but a taste of the resistance in front of him.
And what a taste it is. Look at that list. People who have fought for their right to exist, to be free, to vote, to not be subjected to outright cruelty and inhumane treatment, to not be shot in the street because of the color of their skin or the god they believe in. They know what awaits them.
Make no mistake; this is a fight, one in which those who resist him will be imprisoned, injured, or killed. One in which Arabs and Muslims will continue to face the documented increased violence since his election. In which transgender folks will continue to be the disproportionate victims of suicide and gender-based violence. In which victims of rape and sexual assault will have a perpetrator sitting in the highest seat of government. In which Black bodies will continue to be inordinately gunned down and imprisoned by the state. In which beneficiaries of DACA, internationals, and immigrants will fear for the ability to stay in their homes.
If you are someone who can read this and think, “well, this is hyperbole, he doesn’t threaten anything in my life,” then you are truly and utterly privileged. Were we all so lucky. I implore you, Unthreatened, to reach inside and find empathy. To look around today, and the next day, and for the next 1,461 days, at the tear-streaked, the downcast, the frightened faces of the Threatened, and ask yourself, “why?” Why do we feel this way? Do not assume, presume, diagnose or ascribe. Ask why.
Maybe, Unthreatened, you are still having a difficult time with this empathy. Fine, screw it. Then look to the other plethora of evidence why he will make your life worse too. The elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, the Minority Business Minority Business Development Agency, the Economic Development Administration, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The reduction of funding for the DOJ’s Civil Rights, and Environment and Natural Resources divisions, and the Department of Energy’s funding for nuclear physics and scientific computing. The cessation of funding for the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Maybe, Unthreatened, you care about just one of those things.
Now to you, Mr. President-elect. You won, in part, because of a brilliant concept of an imagined past that is brighter than the bleak present and the stormy future ahead. You pledged to “Make America Great Again.” And credit where credit is due, it was an astounding concept. First, you stoke the flame of an imagined past that is rooted deeply within the zeitgeist of this country. Then, you feed into a narrative started by your true creator, the Morgoth to your Sauron, Ronald Reagan. The narrative that, as a nation, we have deviated from this rosy-lensed imagined past, and have entered a bleaker present. Then you finish with the cherry on top, the promise that you can deliver a future, that returns the past.
I want you to understand something, Mr. President-elect. That past that you so worship? That’s where I’m from. I’m a 3rd Generation American. My great-grandfather walked from Michoacán, Mexico to Texas at the age of 14, and then got himself to Visalia, California where he worked as a butcher until his death.
He had a boatload of kids, including my Grampa, who went on to serve in the air force and work for defense contractors for most of his life. He married my Granny, who was beautiful right up to the end, and the purest individual I’ve ever met. They were both Mexican. You know, those violent criminals you claim to love.
They had four kids. One of them is an attorney and a wushu master. Another has PH.D. in child psychology and works with tribes around North America. Another married freakin Lou Reed and has a brilliant son. Another is my father, an immigration attorney, who’s clients have constantly worried since your election.
The very people you want to keep out, who you insult and laugh at, produced all of that. Hell, my Grampa even voted for you. But guess what? They also made me.
I graduated with honors from Northwestern University with a degree in social policy and international security and will hold Master’s degree in Management (knock on wood) from Kellogg School of Management. I spent most of college learning about all the things you are about to destroy. I spent it writing policy. I have experience in government, and probably more importantly, in the Republican government. I lived among the people who elected you for most of my life. And I’m Mexican.
This jacket started out as a joke. But so did you. So now I’m keeping it. Because I’m a bad hombre, and I adore the nasty women in my life.
I’m your goddam nightmare.
I hope you’re ready, I really do. Because as of this sentence being written, you have 6 hours until you assume the most powerful position in the world. That means I have 6 hours left of my Life Before Trump (LBT). I have 6 hours left before I spend every waking minute I can of the next 1,461 days fighting you at every turn. Fighting you by ensuring that the people in my life who identify with things you seek to destroy are OK. By joining the Women’s March on Saturday. By writing and calling and joining and campaigning against you. By being employed in a way that resists you.
By writing ridiculously long Facebook posts at 4:00 AM. By continuing to read comics about heroes fighting against fascism and racism and xenophobia. By loving a Star Wars now led by women and black and brown actors. By seeing more movies like Moonlight and Hidden Figures and Fences. By supporting stories that resist you. Because stories matter.
So get some rest, Mr. President-elect. It’s going to be a stressful 1,461 days for you.