The Last in Line

The biggest fuck you I can think of is for us to survive, create, and thrive—despite and in spite.

Ever since I was a small girl, I most loved stories that were epic battles of good versus evil. I think that’s why I fell so hard for Dio and his music; every single song of his is about an epic battle between good and evil. Tonight, “The Last in Line” is so very hauntingly fitting.

Right now it looks as if we in the U.S.—and even abroad—are heading into some very hard times. If you have a pulse and have at all been paying attention, you already know what I’m talking about. If you’re living in some kind of denial, well, I feel sorry for you. The past two months have felt like the calm before the storm—if you can call any of this calm.

At the very least, I’ll be losing my healthcare. Myself and my loved ones with chronic illnesses—including cancer—who rely on the Affordable Care Act are soon to be left hanging off a cliff. Millions of Americans depend on the ACA, yet Trump, his cabinet, and the GOP have been hard at work dismantling it. There’s no backup plan proposal, and even Congress re-allocated the portion of the budget that previously covered the ACA for miscellaneous expenses.

This is only the start.

Whenever I start to feel afraid, though, I dry my tears and turn that fear into anger. Anger is what’s going to get me through these next four years, because if I’ve learned nothing else in the past 28 years, it’s that I’m a survivor.

Throughout the past two months, I’ve been doing a lot of digging. I’ve always been very self-aware, but now more than ever it’s become extremely important for me to know who I am. I need to remember, because if things get very hard and very dark, that fire is what will carry me through.

Tonight I feel like I’m at a wake. Never in my nearly three centuries of life have I ever been afraid of a U.S. president. I may have disagreed with some of their policies, but I’ve never questioned whether they would do their job and serve the people of their country. We’ve had some tough times in my country, but we’ve continued making progress.

During these last eight or weeks, I’ve examined my values and morals hard. I’ve made note of things I would never do, should the shit really hit the fan. I’ve tried to prepare myself as much as possible by focusing on the things that I can control.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I can make a difference—just little me, a queer disabled woman who recently got her voice back. I’ve been thinking about my writing, how I can make a difference with my stories. How I can change the world.

Not with some grand undertaking, but by telling stories that normalize the things that are important to me.

While they’re normalizing hate—racism, sexism, ableism, rape, homophobia, transphobia, bigotry, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, xenophobia, the list goes on for way too long (my, how much they hate!)—I’ll be normalizing a world where differences are celebrated. Where those of us who don’t fit the cis-het-white-ablebodied-male mold don’t have to be afraid.

Because it’s normal for us to exist.

The biggest fuck you I can think of is for us to survive, create, and thrive—despite and in spite.

And maybe that’s idealistic and naive of me. Trust me, I don’t think my words are the deus ex machina that is going to allow me to keep receiving healthcare and allow my dear gay friend to walk the streets of America without harassment.

But words are and have always been my only weapon.

First, words were the cloak with which I shielded myself from school bullies and evil men. My stories gave me something to believe in when I couldn’t believe in the world around me.

I don’t know what’s going to happen after tomorrow. I do know, though, the things I’ll never do.

I’ll never hurt an innocent person.

I’ll never remain silent when I see something wrong.

And I’ll never stop writing.

Halfway through writing this post, while I was washing dishes, I turned on the latest episode of the Self-Publishing Podcast. It just so happened that the topic of that episode is one that’s been heavy on my mind: changing the world with your stories.

Artists have always helped shape the world, whether through loud protest or more subtle nudging. I firmly believe that just existing is resisting, and continuing to create in the face of such oppression is our birthright as artists.

Those of us wielding pens and paintbrushes are some of history’s most prominent rebels.

Turns out that the guys of SPP and Laura have put together a FREE masterclass, Storytelling for Social Profit—meaning, how to infuse your stories with current social issues in order to create change. I just signed up, because if nothing else, I now know it’s not just me who’s been thinking about this. If you’re interested, sign up here, but make sure you do it now because apparently the materials are only going to be available for a limited time.

We’ll know for the first time
If we’re evil or divine
We’re the last in line

These words keep echoing in my head. In this past year, it’s become more and more clear which people are good, and which are complete garbage fires. I think, in these coming months, we’re going to find ourselves tested even further.

I’m going to continue to do what I’ve been doing for the past five years: writing stories that feature strong women who took a different path. Stories focusing on social issues. Stories normalizing those of us who are labeled as “other” and therefore “wrong.”

My words are my weapon, and I’m going to war.

Enough Is Enough #BlackLivesMatter

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

On the night that Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a white man full of hate, my entire world flipped upside down. Up until that moment, I’d naively believed that racism, for the most part, was a thing of the past. It was only four years ago, but I can still remember where I was when I heard the news. I can still recall the chill that ran down my spine. Gone was the secure world I’d been living in.

That same feeling crashed into me again two summers ago when Michael Brown was fatally shot and killed by another white man. I felt sick to my stomach and completely helpless as the world around me erupted. The #BlackLivesMatter movement began, and with it all of my preconceptions about racial relations here in the States were deconstructed. Late nights on Twitter and long sessions on Google provided me with an entirely new education; I learned about white privilege and how my experience growing up here in the northern state of Connecticut has been extremely different from someone my age growing up in a southern state.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve made a lot of new friends on Twitter—people just like me, with similar dreams and needs, but because of our skin colors, we’ve had vastly different experiences. I’ve never been treated any differently because I happen to have been born white. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have other people assume I’m dangerous because my skin is dark. I have, however, experienced unkind treatment because I’m a woman, because I’m disabled, because I have a mental illness, and because I’m bisexual. But I’ve never feared for my life because of my skin color.

Though I’ve been loud on social media, doing my best to amplify the #BlackLivesMatter movement and educate others, I’ve still been mostly quiet about all of this. Most of my white family members and friends don’t exactly get it. After all, we grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut—a city with only about a 50% white population. Racial relations here are good. I mean, there are some assholes, but they’re vastly outnumbered. It’s not out of the norm to see an interracial family or to go to the mall and see a diverse group of kids shopping together. Growing up, cliques in my schools were separated by lifestyle and music preference, not skin color. News about racial tension always seemed far away to me.

I’ve also been quiet here on this blog. It’s not usually acceptable for authors to get political. We’re expected to be neutral, to keep our mouths shut and just write our damn books. It’s a big no no, because political issues are naturally very dividing and tender topics. Here’s the thing, though: I don’t see human issues as political issues. Keeping quiet is what got us into this situation. By not talking about these things, we’ve allowed them to continue happening. We’ve allowed a racist, sexist, bigoted man to become the Republican presidential nominee. By not standing up and saying “This is not okay,” we’ve allowed two more slaughters: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

The longer we don’t talk about this, the more Freddie Grays, Sandra Blands, and Tamir Rices we’ll have.

Because the truth is, we have a severe racial issue here in the States. Now, I’m not saying police officers deserve to be killed; there are many fantastic men and women who serve and protect. But that’s just it; they’re sworn to serve and protect, not seek and destroy, as my brother-in-law said on Facebook. Police officers are trained to disarm a person suspected of being armed—not to shoot to kill. It is statistically proven that white people have an inherent fear of black people. Those same white people will vehemently deny it, but will be the first to cross the street or avert their eyes when a black man passes them on the sidewalk.

13620720_10154262410674840_1112169846526122814_nPolice have shot and killed at least 136 black people this year. Those are just the ones we know about. That’s not even counting violent racial crimes committed by white civilians. This shit bothers me. It deeply disturbs me. It literally keeps me lying awake at night, my heart pounding because I’m fucking scared. It is a major problem that we cannot afford to ignore. As I said on my personal Facebook yesterday, “I share because I don’t want my black friends or family to be the next ones found hanging or shot dead in front of their families.”

This problem is out of control.

And it will continue to be until we do something about it.

We need to stand up and say NO MORE. This is not a political or black issue. This is a crime against humanity. It is an American problem that will ripple into the rest of the world if it continues unchecked.

Our world is hanging off a precipice right now. Either you can be part of the crowd that shoves it over the edge and into the fire, or you can pull on the rope with the rest of us, trying to yank it back from danger.

Here in the States, we’ve done so much damage to people of color. We’ve pillaged and stolen their land. We’ve traveled overseas, stormed peaceful tribes, and enslaved their people. We’ve segregated and desecrated. We’ve murdered and raped. And then we’ve turned our backs and closed our eyes and ears.

We claim to be a land of the free, but no one is free when we live like this.

We’re still a young country. There’s still time to change. It’s not too late. It’s almost too late, but not yet.

But it starts with opening our eyes, unplugging our ears, and saying “Enough.”

Use Your Voice

  • Join the movement and get involved with Campaign Zero. This is an accountability program started by #BlackLivesMatter activists Deray McKesson and Johnetta Elzie. Johnetta, by the way, was recently featured in O: The Oprah Magazine.
  • Amplify #BlackLivesMatter voices. This is as simple as retweeting and sharing posts on social media, or joining a chapter in your area.
  • Educate yourself. Black people and other people of color have been systemically oppressed in the States for decades. History has been twisted to serve political purposes. The last couple of years have been eye opening for me as I’ve studied black history. This article and this one are great places to start. I also highly recommend watching PBS’s Black Panther Party documentary.
  • Speak up. When your white friends say something damaging or untrue about people of color, correct them. Saying nothing is just as toxic.

Solidarity matters more now than ever. We can no longer afford to remain silent.