me + a manifesto
I’ve been blocked lately in a way that I haven’t been in years and I think what it comes down to is that most of the time I’m not sleeping or reading I’m either angry or frightened. I have to access emotion in order to write, but these are the wrong emotions for writing for me, and more than anything, when I am experiencing them for hours or days, I simply become exhausted.
I am conscious that this is what the current presidential administration wants — to tire its resistance out so that it can accomplish its goals.
I am going to try not to be tired out, because there is a lot of resistance ahead of me. I’m going to have to get tough and I acknowledge that a thick skin is not good for my writing productivity. I need to find a way to get back to that thin-skinned place and part of me is worried that I’ll lose it, that making sense of this particular version of the world will make me increasingly thin-skinned.
I don’t have an answer to any of that.
But I have studied history and I do know a few things.
We can make laws against things we don’t like, but laws have limited power to change certain aspects of the world.
We can’t roll back the sexual revolution by restricting women’s access to abortion.
We can’t make a transgender person not exist by denying them access to a bathroom.
We’re not going to stop gun violence by giving everyone even more guns and then creating a police state to defend ourselves against the people with the guns. Even in Chicago.
We won’t stand in the way of globalization by building a wall against the people we’re afraid of.
Withdrawing from so-called “free trade” agreements isn’t going to keep manufacturing jobs at home, just like canceling H1B visas isn’t going to magically create U.S. citizens with niche technical skills.
We’re not going to reduce the social services bill by deporting undocumented immigrants. On the contrary.
We’re not going to end political disagreement by making laws against demonstrations.
We won’t keep non-white minorities from becoming the majority population of the U.S. before the end of my lifetime by restricting immigration.
We won’t stop people from speaking Spanish just by taking down the Spanish-language pages of government websites.
Attempts to hamper the spread of information about human-caused climate change aren’t going to stop the atmosphere from warming up.
The wage gap will continue to exist until we address it, regardless of whether we acknowledge it or not.
We can’t control the things we don’t like about the world by buying a bigger army.
And the greater social inequities we perpetuate at the expense of the poor are, the larger the risk we are putting ourselves in when people lose investment in the status quo, when we just can’t take it anymore.
We won’t make ourselves the winners by making everyone else in our society the losers. In the end, we will lose, too, much more than we may realize now.
These are thing I have known for a long time and I have to hang on to them. I don’t have to prove them; they are axioms for action. And when I feel the most frightened, I should console myself with them. The arc of the moral universe IS tending toward justice, even if I can’t see it every day and even if this moment is a bad one, and even if I would like it to happen with peace rather than with cataclysm. I don’t get to decide what and I don’t get to decide how, but I still get to decide that, at least for myself.