From now until at least the midterm elections in November, we’ll be featuring essays from powerful cultural voices alongside one simple thing, chosen by the author, that you can do to take action against the paralyzing apoplexy of the daily news. Maybe it’ll be an organization that deserves your donation; maybe it’ll be an issue that deserves greater awareness. Whatever it is, our aim is to remind you, and ourselves, of the big and small things we can do to work toward justice and change.
A Tired Sadness, a Fresh Rage
by Chen Chen
Trump needs to go because he has no idea what LGBTQ means; he doesn’t seem to know that these letters are an acronym, that they stand for actual experiences of actual people who are, shockingly, not him. Trump needs to go because I would say that our what-the-actual-fuck news cycle has become a daily season of Scandal — but I don’t want to insult the brilliant Shonda Rhimes with the comparison. I would rather watch Olivia Pope cover up her latest (very stylish) interference with a presidential election than watch yet another episode of Reality TV Star Can’t Stop Praising Putin and Just How Involved Were the Russians in the Election? (And goodbye, Scandal.) I would rather watch a pigeon eat a breadcrumb or peck at a leaf before realizing it isn’t a breadcrumb, or live a whole fabulously pigeon afternoon without any knowledge of any of Trump’s tweets. Trump needs to go because I find myself deeply envious of every pigeon I meet.
Trump needs to go because he says gun control won’t help and meanwhile, this past semester, I’ve gone through three moments of silence with my students because of gun violence, including one shooting on my own campus. I’ve stood in my classroom, shaken, eyes full of a tired sadness, a fresh rage. Trump needs to go because my students look sort of sad but never shocked, their largely unchanged faces showing how accustomed they’ve become to mass shootings. Trump needs to go because an entire generation is growing up in a country where we don’t have time to learn all the names of the gunned down before it’s on to the next shooting. Grief has become too slow a feeling in our current economy of quick violent death and almost-as-quick rhetoric spinning horrific loss into narratives of heroism, good (white) guys with guns. Trump needs to go because this collective fantasy of American goodness—not even greatness, just goodness or decency — needs to go. Are we even good? And who is counted in that we?
Since Trump’s election, I’ve had to confront more seriously than ever the fact that many Americans have no idea what LGBTQ means, that many are perfectly comfortable not learning, that many have moved on from the Pulse Nightclub shooting, which claimed LGBTQ lives, the lives of queer people of color — mainly queer and Latinx. But I’ve also met people who want to learn, who need to feel at a more human pace. Trump needs to go because his America allows for only two feelings, two ways to be: obedient patriotism that plows full-speed and violently ahead, or numbness that provides a kind of survival but results in a loss of tenderness and warmth. Trump, his administration, and his ideology need to go because I don’t ever want to look at a pigeon and see just a pigeon, to look at a person and not see the breath and striving and capacity for more.
Take action today:
Please consider supporting the Dru Project, an LGBTQ advocacy organization formed by friends and family of Christopher Andrew Leinonen, who was gunned down at Pulse along with his partner, Juan Ramon Guerrero.
Chen Chen is the author of, most recently, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.