So, I’ve bookmarked the online questionnaire that will tell me whether or not I would be able to apply for Canadian citizenship. I've downloaded a brochure about teaching English abroad. I've looked into which countries have the fewest number of steps to take to get a work visa and a temporary or conditional residency. I wish I could chalk such actions up simply to watching the Handmaid’s Tale while scrolling through Twitter too many times (not recommended), but I’ve been simmering some escape-while-you-can thoughts in the back of my mind since last January.
Any casually observing human with eyes that may occasionally brush over even the most unsensationalized headline can see that things are extraordinarily...well, bad. The separation of families is the worst thing that our Cheeto-in-Chief and his cabinet of enabling xenophobic minions has wrought, but it is only the latest in a long line of actions that range from alarming to appalling to unconscionable (to say nothing of unconstitutional and/or illegal).
Let’s not forget the soon to be two supremely unfriendly supreme court justices he’ll bestow upon us, not to mention the lifetime appointment of dozens of conservative idealogues in the lower courts, essentially slanting law and order to the right for a generation or more. There’s the rolling back, canceling or non-enforcement of pretty much every law and regulation enacted to protect the environment from all kinds of pollution, consumers from all kinds of corporate predation, and citizens in general from the greedy whims of health insurance companies. There’s also the bald corruption in his cabinet, the plain incompetence of the man himself and nearly everyone he employs, the appearance that the Trump Organization has been laundering money, that little Russian situation (or in the words of George Bluth, “some light treason”), oh, and let’s not forget his blatant racism and sexism. I’m stopping there, but not because there’s not plenty more. We are all too familiar with the cascade of OMG-WTF moments that are now so ordinary in their occurence if tirelessly appalling in their content. In the face of all this and so many other cracks in the foundation of our society as we know it, I’ve been wondering where is my personal red line? What does it take to get me to go march in the street? What does it take to get me to find a way to expatriate myself to a new country? To at least flee back to California and wait and see if it succeeds in seceding.
I voiced this curiosity among friends on the very day that hundreds of thousands were in the streets for the Keep Families Together protests. And my friend pointed out, cogently, that things had gotten extra horrendous in just the last week, what with the proto-genocidal action of forcibly separating children from their parents and the fact that there was at no time any system in place to reunite them with any level of organization or expediency, which adds a positively criminal insult to a deeply inhumane injury. If that wasn’t enough—what was?
An excellent question.
I have doubled, and in some cases tripled my monthly donations to various organizations such as the ACLU, IRC, and now RAICES. I am lucky I have the dough to spare. But with every fresh outrage, another $20 thrown into the hungry pot of justice feels more and more impotent, and the idea of fleeing, leaving all this behind to burn itself out as I while away days in a hot, sticky classroom teaching English to Thai businessmen sounds pretty okay.
I know admirable people who are in the streets every chance they get, who are in front of Trump Tower, who camp out at ICE buildings. I am not that person. Not yet, anyway. And if the US government kidnapping children from immigrants and refugees doesn’t make me that person, then what will? If this doesn’t absolutely destroy the tiny little crumb of hope I have that this will all swing back to some sort of better, if different normal—some sane society where everyone agrees that human dignity and agency and safety is a real thing for everybody, and not just the white bodies and the rich bodies—what will? If everything that has happened hasn’t yet radicalized me, turned my introvert out into the streets with a cutting, clever sign in my hands and a pink knitted cap on my head, what exactly does it take?
I try to remember that the same way we liberals are not necessarily the baby-killing, terrorist-coddling, criminal-apologist, nanny-state loving commies that Fox News makes us out to be, maybe, similarly, conservatives are necessarily not the racist, money-grubbing, apocalypse-making, trigger-happy, xenophobic religious zealots they seem to be on the internet. But the proliferation of despicable individuals brazenly screaming terrible things at people of color seems to suggest otherwise, among a few other details. But who’s to say some of those assholes aren’t registered democrats? It’s not like everyone on the left is a shining example of kindness and humanity.
(But 55% of Republicans are in favor of Trump’s policy of family separation as a deterrent to border-crossing and asylum appeal, while every. single. other. demographic group opposes it by an enormous margin. I’m just sayin’.)
I remind myself constantly that during the Obama years, there was a huge portion of the populace that felt about him exactly the way I feel about Trump, however galling and inconceivable that thought is to me. I remind myself that we are in the midst of a pendulum swing—or more of a wrecking ball than a pendulum, at present—that while it is indeed wreaking terrible havoc, it will swing back. Our world is being unmade; but the rebuilding of it can, hopefully, be in better, wiser, kinder hands. But only if we all go fucking vote.
But on darker days, like when the government is snatching children from their parents, I am not so hopeful. My inner nihilist has always insisted I would witness the apocalypse. But I was thinking it’d be more of a flash-boom-whoosh and less of slow sink into the sticky murk of dystopia. Then I remember that I am lucky in my life. That, while I am not untouchable, I have privilege, I have resources, which I can use for good. Also, I just got to New York and I really am not ready to move yet, and I’m not sure Ant would want to move to Bangkok or wherever. So, I guess I’m sticking around. I’ll fight the fight in my way. Maybe one of these days I’ll show up at a protest. But until then, I’ll keep feeding the voracious mouth of justice all my extra money and hope that our wiser minds and better angels will prevail in November, then again in 2020. Hope that we'll all learn a painful lesson from this insanity and—for once—not doom history to repetition.
Hahaha. I'll take a pony and ten million bucks while we're at it.
Image from comic "This Is Not Fine," by KC Green