When I was 10, I wrote 3 chapters of a novella called “Hot Today, Gone Tomorrow.” The story is about a group of neighbors in an apartment building who are forced to huddle up together when a homophobic neo-nazi invasion force occupies the country. I’ve been thinking about that story so much the last few days — particularly that my mind had created it at that age, that I must have believed it possible, that I had channeled the isolation I felt and rampant homophobia I witnessed and 2 years of intense Holocaust reading units into this dystopic vision (the ‘hot today’ part was a reference to the heat-generating tanks the invasion force used — which now looks a more apt metaphor for climate change). I didn’t understand then that white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism are three faces of the same enemy. I didn’t know then that every fascist movement targets the same groups over and over again. I didn’t know how many times history had already repeated itself.
Last night, I joined friends from a radical design cooperative for a post-election happy hour. We hugged and talked and went outside to chant with the protestors as they passed by, to observe the enormous column of police who later split into smaller squads to pursue the branching group, and later still charged in riot gear. We asked each other in earnest: what do we do? How do we organize resistance in a surveillance state?
We made sure everyone who left had a check-in where they were going. Earlier in the day, one of the friends, a Muslim woman, had been harassed in the lobby of her office building. Right here in Oakland.
Several of us said that we haven’t felt the fear of disappearances and roundups like this since the days after 9/11 — when those things did happen under cover and justification of security designed to protect the ruling class at the expense of innocents. Designed to fill the wallets of no-bid defense contractors at the expense of millions of people who had nothing to do with the twin towers attack. Designed to create perpetual war at the expense of civilians and soldiers alike. Designed to normalize the idea that anyone who opposes this state-sponsored violence is a legitimate target for it.
Then we danced. I danced for hours, claiming the ground with my feet, bringing bystanders to the floor, gently challenging and encouraging good-natured dance-offs with the different groups in the space. I talked to strangers about their lives and their experience and their devastation, and found a common thread in the need to keep love alive. We didn’t need to specify /real/ love, deep love, not saccharine-sweet-shallow wanna-be platitudes. Real love.
On my way home, I saw clusters of people on the sidwalks – spontaneous conversations sprung up from the moment. I stopped and talked with one group, a black queer boi and black femme and a straight white guy. We swapped stories and hope and debated Calexit and when we parted, we all hugged. At first, the straight guy just wanted to give me a handshake, but I brought him into a hug. “If we don’t hug, we reinforce patriarchy,” I told him in his ear. Small actions, yes, disrupt norms. But only if we take them.
Today, my heart is heavy. Due in no small part to my hangover and late night, I’m sure, but also as I look to the coming days and the unjust practices I have no doubt are about to hit harder. There are already detention camps in the desert in Maricopa County, and the sheriff who illegally constructed and ran them for YEARS is the likely pick to run Immigration & Customs Enforcement. The spike in hate violence continues, reports of boys in middle schools and elementary schools grabbing girls by their genitals coming in, harassment in every corner of the country in every context, trans suicides coming in clusters all at once. Setting the stage, setting the stage, setting the stage.
I offer no false optimism, no platitudes of empty comfort. We must hold each other, stand up together, never relent, and organize together. In every town in every state. If you don’t know who to talk to where you are, we can find out together. No one has to be alone.