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.
So Far, So Fast
by Chris Ware
My first draft of this essay was a bullet-pointed list of grievances enumerating Donald Trump’s vicious acts and edicts, e.g. his treatment of Native Americans, African Americans, Muslims, and Latinos while refusing to directly criticize white supremacists. It was, essentially, pointless. Why bother? We’ve all been slow-boiling in Trump’s polluted bouillabaisse for a year and a half, and the speed at which his presidency has disregarded human rights, eroded civil society, and besmirched simple decency (take your pick: Charlottesville, family separation at the Mexican border, NFL protests, police violence, rampant misogyny, truth decay, etc., etc.) has become head-spinningly familiar.
In short, I don’t need to tell you any of this. You know. But is there anything unique, perhaps even positive, that I can say?
I’m a liberal Democrat. But being a native of Nebraska, where Republicans are as regular as red turtlenecks and newscaster-y accents, I grew up in a largely Republican family. Before you stop reading, consider: the Republican Party — “The Party of Lincoln,” remember? — technically ended slavery. It opposed Jim Crow and was the party affiliation of most African Americans, at least until Nixon’s southern strategy sold them out in exchange for racist votes. My grandfather, a newspaper editor, came of age believing in postbellum egalitarian ideals. My mother, a former reporter, has voted her whole life as a Republican: first in Nebraska, now in Texas.
For years I avoided talk of politics and current events during my weekly phone calls to my folks, worrying our affable chats might devolve into uncomfortable disagreements or chilly goodbyes. But over the past twenty months the tone of those conversations has changed incandescently. “This goddamned SOB is ruining this country,” starts one call. “Fuck the good-for-nothing Senators and Representatives who won’t stand up to him,” ends another. (Having a newspapering mother came with the side benefit of learning all the best curse words early.) “I never thought I’d see this country fall so far, so fast,” says my Scots-born stepfather.
I grew up believing, albeit vaguely, that our country was founded on ideals of individual human rights. But its history of disenfranchisement, genocide, and slavery indicates that America was also founded on principles of inequality, racism, and theft. If “making America great again” means paying fealty to these founding principles, Trump has provided a daily example of exactly how he intends to do it.
It seems this is a kind of historical turning point, and that it’s up to us to make this nation what it purports to be, not one that perpetuates its ingrown lies. Where Trump has tried to further divide us, my family has instead found common ground, and I suspect we’re not alone. In the meantime, my ex-reporter mom — not an enemy of the people, nor one to favor alternative facts — votes. She always has, in every election. For the first time this November, she’s told me, it won’t be as a Republican.
Take action today:
Of all the Trump administration’s actions, separating asylum-seeking parents from their children seems the most immediately unimaginable, inhumane, and heartless, wrenching apart not only our nation’s moral center but most importantly the families themselves. Please consider donating to the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.
Chris Ware, a graphic novelist in Chicago, is the author of Building Stories.