politics

Fighting Evil Is Subversive Now

I went to see Wicked this weekend. Though I love Oz with the purity of a preadolescent, somehow I managed to go into the theater with only the loosest idea of what the show is about: something-something friendship, something-something misunderstood, something-something other side of the story.

It was much, much more than I was expecting, and dear reader, you yourself risk spoilers by continuing to read this post.

At the intermission, I remarked to one of my theater companions that the first act ended where I assumed the whole show did, with Elphaba and Glinda separated by a gulf of ideology and ambition that seemed forever uncrossable. And yet there was the second act to come.

The piece I was missing was the part where you have to decide whether to collaborate with Nazis because it’s advantageous and easy, or if you should sacrifice reputation and opportunity in order to do the right thing. Where you can stand up for the vulnerable or avert your eyes and let it happen since it’s not happening to you. How you have to keep making that same choice again and again and again.

Topical, isn’t it?

That means Wicked has joined such previously uncontroversial pieces of media as The Sound of Music, Wolfenstein 3D, and The Force Awakens in becoming something altogether different from what it might have been in the other timeline, the one where the election turned out the other way. I’ve always heard that the audience for a story brings as much to the table as the writer does, and now, finally, finally, I understand that.

Three years ago, suggesting that you were fighting tooth and claw for equality, justice, and compassion was at best twee and a little over the top. Like saying you were in favor of friendship. Of course you were. Who in the world is against justice and compassion? But now, so quickly I would never have believe it possible, we’ve plunged into an era when saying that all people are equal is subversive. It’s an act of resistance. 

Then again, some people think the Declaration of Independence is subversive now, too. Maybe we’re onto something. Keep fighting, friends.


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Endurance

One year ago today, Fireside Magazine published The Revolution, Brought To You By Nike. It was a wish, a prayer, my desperate hope for something that might come to pass if all of us just believed in it hard enough. In the few weeks between Fireside agreeing to buy it and the piece actually running, we saw airport protests and record-shattering donations to the ACLU. I had a strange, glorious fear that my wish might come true, and perhaps we’d see a resignation even before the story had a chance to run. That my work would be obsolete on arrival.

Yeah, so that didn’t happen. 

One year on, though, it’s become clear that we’re running a marathon and not a sprint. The adrenaline and raw terror of what America might become have given way to a sort of grim resolve. Like so many of us, I’m still angry, I’m still upset, but I no longer feel like I can’t see a way we’ll make it through as a single functioning nation. It doesn’t feel like the entire world has literally ended and all goodness and light have been extinguished, the way that it truly did a year ago.

That’s not to say that all of us are going to be just fine, because that’s decidedly not true. Great harm is being done every day, particularly by ICE — families are being torn apart, innocents harassed and deported. The great work of our nation is being dismantled, piece by piece: science, public health, civic protections. The most vulnerable among us will be paying the price for years to come.

Actual goddamn Nazis are on the national stage, as if a pair of khakis and a white polo shirt could make anything at all seem sensible. Corruption in government is all but yawn-worthy, something to expect and not to be shocked by.

But now, after a year, we know the shape of the problem we’re up against. Further, we know that the villains running this circus are laughably incompetent and lacking in anything approaching a grand strategy. We know that change can come in elections in places like Missouri, Virginia and Alabama — and if there, then surely everywhere else. We know that the courts are not going to roll over and let every horror come to pass without a fight, and we know that the Department of Justice is investigating the many wrongs of this administration — and has been for at least two years now.

Most important of all, we know — we keep seeing it, time and again — that there are more of us than there are of them. And by “us” I mean: people who think a society should take care of absolutely everybody. People who care about the struggles even of those we have never met and never will. People who think we have a responsibility toward one another.

This is an endurance game, and my friends, the advantage is genuinely ours the longer the clock runs down. We have each other, and we have the resolve to act. That means it’s not going to be like this forever.  And in the meanwhile, there’s so much to do. We have a duty to do any little thing we can and use whatever power we possess to try to make the world kinder, safer, more compassionate — or to be a thorn in the side of power, if that’s more your speed.

None of us has to save the world alone, thank god. But all of us can save the world together. It just takes time, that’s all. 


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