I Cannot Be Silent: Why Writers Must Oppose Trump
When I was starting out as a writer, I was afraid to make my political views known. I was afraid to alienate potential readers or even potential publishers, and was always mindful that anything I posted could make me enemies and lose me sales. While I certainly don’t expect to agree with all the authors I read on everything, I have thrown down books in disgust because the author’s views were so offensive to me, and writers I might otherwise have checked out have occasionally landed on my “never” list thanks to things they’ve publicly said or done.
I gradually moved into a few areas I thought would be relatively “safe” based on my fiction and my audience. I am a bisexual woman and my published work so far has all been queer fantasy romance, so I have been fairly vocal about LGBTQIA+ issues from the start. I’ve long identified as feminist, as do most writers of my acquaintance, and I’ve likewise always been vocal about gender issues. As a white person, I tread carefully regarding race, but I often tweet and retweet things about police brutality, Black Lives Matter, indigenous activism, and inclusive media.
I usually shied away from partisan politics, economic and fiscal issues, and international affairs, though I did occasionally succumb to temptation and post about encouraging recent developments in employment law such as sick leave requirements — or despair about Paul LePage, the disgraceful hard-right governor of Maine.
But once this election heated up, I couldn’t be silent any more.
We in the USA face the imminent possibility of electing a would-be fascist dictator. I’m not exaggerating.
Donald Trump has repeatedly incited violence at rallies, and when two of his supporters beat a homeless Mexican man with a metal bar while yelling about how he’s going to deport all “the illegals,” his first response was that he hadn’t heard of that and it would be “a shame” but that his supporters are “very passionate.”
He has threatened during a televised debate to jail his opponent and made an infamous “joke” about “Second Amendment people” that he later awkwardly claimed was not meant to encourage people to assassinate her.
He has encouraged his supporters to intimidate voters, particularly voters of color. Again and again, he claims that elections are “rigged” against him, and he is dangerously undermining the democratic process by threatening not to accept the results of the election if he loses. He made another one of his typical “kidding-on-the-square” jokes about how we should just cancel the election and declare him the winner.
Trump has nakedly appealed to racism to a degree not seen since the days of George Wallace. He has characterized Mexican immigrants as murderers and rapists and presented mass deportation as a panacea for crime and unemployment. He has proposed an unconstitutional ban on Muslims entering the country, which plays straight into the hands of ISIS and other extremists that want to portray the West as an implacable foe of all Islam. He spreads false crime statistics from white supremacists, uses antisemitic imagery, cribs from hoary old antisemitic rhetoric about “international bankers” colluding to secretly rule the world, and basks in the adulation of white nationalists and conspiracy theorists. He wouldn’t even denounce the KKK on TV when told that they (and Klansman politician David Duke) supported him, until after considerable public pressure — which a prominent white supremacist blogger interpreted as a subtle signal of support.
His misogyny was well documented even before the infamous 2005 Billy Bush “hot mic” tape surfaced. Eleven women have now come forward accusing him of the very same behavior he boasted of on tape. He’s responded by ranting repeatedly about how they’re liars and too ugly to assault. His first wife, Ivana, has also accused him of raping her after an argument, and a trial date has recently been set for his alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl at one of billionaire convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s parties.
Most terrifying of all: it appears he has casually asked why we can’t use nuclear weapons, even though he doesn’t even know anything about nuclear strategy. This from an impulsive, vindictive, undisciplined man who’s proudly lacking in self-control.
But particularly relevant to writers is his hostility toward freedom of expression — as the Committee to Protect Journalists has recognized. He wants to expand libel laws so that he can sue journalists who criticize him, just as he’s threatening to sue all his accusers. When Saturday Night Live mocked him, as they do with every major presidential candidate, he pouted on Twitter that the show was “rigging the election” and should be canceled. He told supporters at one rally that he was going to “stop” the “sick media” in some unspecified manner.
His supporters form online hate mobs to send harassing messages, violent threats, and vicious Photoshopped images to Trump’s critics, especially African-American and Jewish ones. Trump responded to his supporters sending a Jewish journalist Photoshopped images of herself in a concentration camp with “I don’t have a message to the fans. The woman wrote an article that was inaccurate.” At rallies, his fans scream at the press, sometimes until reporters have to be escorted out for their own safety.
He frequently expresses admiration for Vladimir Putin, whose regime has had punk rock musicians imprisoned for performing a song that mocked him and during whose rule journalists have been murdered with shocking frequency.
I’m a SFF and romance writer rather than a journalist, but his mob has dragged fiction into this mess as well. His supporters, particularly the online cesspool known as the alt-right, have argued that women have no right to object to being sexually assaulted because many women enjoy reading Fifty Shades of Grey and other books with sexual content. Really.
I’ve never read Fifty Shades of Grey and don’t plan to, having seen it panned extensively. But some of my stories, and some of the books I read, do include sex. And the idea that I, my readers, and anyone else who reads books with sexy bits have thereby signed away our ownership of our own bodies and invited anyone who feels like it to grab us by the pussy is sickening.
Jami Gold’s blog post on consent in fiction and reality expresses my thoughts on this better than I could. She notes that we often read and write about things we don’t want to personally experience, and furthermore that we are objecting not to Trump’s crude language but to his boasts of sexual assault. The problem is not pussy; it’s grab.
I recently saw a discussion on Twitter lamenting the tendency of white female fiction writers, especially white female romance writers, to censor ourselves politically for fear of alienating potential readers to a far greater degree than white male writers or writers of color do. Reticence is not always a fault; my colleague and editor Sasha L. Miller and I once had a valuable conversation about how listening is better than talking, especially when you don’t know a lot about the issue at hand, and jumping in to comment on every scandal or controversy likely means you’ll say something ill-informed, talk over other people and make it about you, or look foolish. I still agree, and I am still not eager to make enemies.
But I can’t be reticent about this. This is something I am absolutely certain about, and I am terrified.
So go vote. If your state has early voting, vote this week. If not, vote as early on Tuesday, November 8 as you can. If you can afford to, contribute to Hillary Clinton’s campaign; contribute to groups that support the people Trump denigrates, such as Syrian refugees and Mexican immigrants. (I just did both.) If you have a car and can take the time off, drive voters to the polls.
And write. Write articles documenting the harm Trump’s campaign is doing to people of color, to women, and to public discourse and the entire American political scene. Write op-eds, blog and social media posts, and letters to the editor denouncing this danger to all of us. Write snarky commentary and stories that satirize vicious demagoguery, huckster politicians, and egomaniac executives. Write stories where the people whose humanity Trump denies are central, are highlighted, win, find success and love and happiness — especially if you are from one of the groups Trump demonizes or treats as nothing but a piece of ass for the taking.
We writers may not have much money or authority, but we have words. Words are tools and weapons; words can provide joy and hope, nourish and strengthen and embolden us. Words are important; words are our power. So go use that power.