What We Do Now

Originally posted December 10th, 2016. 

The Castro neighborhood in San Francisco, a favorite area of mine.

The Castro neighborhood in San Francisco, a favorite area of mine.

In the aftermath of all this, after heartache, deflation, morose underperformance in school, a begrudging reluctance to crawl out of bed every morning in the weeks following, I wrote a lot. At first, nothing came out. I sprawled amongst my pillows and allowed myself to bask in something untouched and unspeakable. I hurt. I hurt and hurt until the memory no longer scathed my brain but instead lost its impenetrability and shifted into a dull background ache.

I thought about how to say what we’re supposed to do, what I am supposed to do. I am expected to do something, after all. I am the girl incapable of complacency, and because of this I am incessant in all that I do, apparently. Yet the world is too hard around the edges to constantly hold onto. I had to take a deep breath and recollect the reasons I fought at all.

The election did not go the way I desired, clearly, and my heart thrummed direly inside my hollow cavity until I let myself adjust to this newfound reality. I read Hillbilly Elegy. I absorbed all that I could. I confronted my utter naivety. I dismembered blind spite in favor of compassionate exhaustion. So here I am. The worst thing that could happen did, and I’m still existing, still breathing, still writing my way through this, somehow. The questioning will not relent, and my head is still spinning with the bitter force of what-ifs. Yet here I am, here I go, and I want to write to all of you.

Where do we go from here?

In all honesty, I have no idea. All I know is that we must keep going.

In Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero, a stunning, painful, cold piece of brilliance, there is this conversation between Clay, the protagonist and narrator, and his friend: “And later when we got into the car, he took a turn down a street that I was pretty sure was a dead end. “Where are we going?” I asked. “I don’t know” he said “just driving”. “But this road doesn’t go anywhere” I told him. “That doesn’t matter.” “What does?” I asked, after a little while. “Just that we’re on it, dude.” He said.”

We are at that cruel impasse of self-hatred and pointed fingers; callous sprees and dried resentment. We cannot afford to linger here too long. Let us grieve the presidency we wanted, the colorful, spirited America we believed in, but let us not forget that the fight has only just initiated. We make art. We carry ourselves and one another high, with our arms interlocked and our fingers aching to create. We do not allow ourselves to adhere to idleness and passivity because that will be our hell. An America that will crumble in exhaustion is not one we can afford to live in.

In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s beloved, earth-shaking, canonical dream musical Hamilton, a young, eager Hamilton sings, “I may not live to see our glory/but I will gladly join the fight.” I have listened to the musical endlessly since the election, and it has embodied an entirely new meaning for me. Glory is not victory. It is the fight itself. It is the resistant and the unbreakable. Us. The upcoming administration that will hold our highest offices in the nation is a disturbing, nepotism-hued, cabinet of men that many of us feel do not represent who we are. I will not feel supported, protected, or represented come January 20th. I will feel afraid, bitter, and helpless. I cannot adorn this truth in pleasantries and blind optimisms that have failed me so brutally in the past.

Yet I also know that we cannot generalize or umbrella-statement an entire constituency of voters who voted for the man we detest. There is no healing to be found in polarization anymore, and we have to be able to open ourselves up to empathy. Do not be mistaken: I am furious. I am devastated, wounded, and frightened. However, I recognize now that I should have seen this coming long ago, and I should have thought about how it got this far before it did. I am no mere victim in some extralegal, alt-right political scheme. I am accountable for not doing enough to recreate the nation before it turned down this dark path. I am a queer, young Latina woman and I am angry. But the rhetoric that has infused and normalized alienation, resentment, and scapegoating aimed at my communities does not anger me, rather, it mobilizes me. I encourage you to think about your feelings, however chaotic and turbulent they may still be, in this manner. 

My brain is an unrelenting instrument, harboring my stirring ambitions and debilitating self-doubts. I am restless, frustrated, and, like Hamilton “young, scrappy, and hungry.” I inhabit a brain that does not allow me to ever stop. I feel like I must create, create, produce, produce, change, change. It is a curse to feel so helplessly voiceless, and I did, for a long time, until I found activism. I fell headfirst in love with things like Youth & Government, and I am now currently running to be one of California’s Secretaries of the (mock) Senate for the CALYMCA region. I vocalize my passion through Model United Nations, inhabiting beliefs and policies that do not necessarily adhere to my own opinions, but offer me an extraordinary opportunity to empathize and entertain all different perspectives in my mind. I created a literary magazine dedicated to empowering the voices of marginalized youth through art and the written word. I explore feminism, gender, sexuality, politics through art and engagement, and I exist for it. I make art. I found Frida Kahlo and Sylvia Plath and Toni Morrison and Lucien Freud.  I found Courtney Barnett and the Smiths and Nina Simone. I reconnect the dots of myself through pens and paintbrushes. My heart exists through expression, through activism, through passion, through public service. I owe creativity my life.

I am not going to allow any one man or president to dismantle my creativity, to barter or steal it away from me. It is a piece of myself I am inextricable from. Know this. Know how you own your creativity, you own yourself, and that utter, intrinsic freedom is one no one can ever take away, no matter what they tell you. We build now. We rebuild. We deconstruct the disfigurations of deceit, gaslighting, and manipulative, exploitative prejudice and focus on fact, investigation, social action, and most importantly, compassion. We heal together or not at all. I created Project Femme because I cannot allow myself to bask in the privileged luxury of despair. I must fight until my knuckles swell and my tongue burns from all of the discussion, debate, and activism. I want you to join me. We do not end here. We begin here.

Donald Trump is not my president, but we are his constituents. We are what comes next and what will ultimately stand on the right or wrong side of history, not him. How wehandle this gruesome quagmire is how our legacies and lives are shaped. He has power. But we have one another. We have unity and a ferocity he will never contaminate or touch- the ferocity of goodness, of compassion, of fact, of hope. I will not doubt that if you promise not to either.

Join Project Femme. I cannot do this alone. I need you to believe in what we can create together.