A lot of people get upset at me over my politics, especially on social media, because my positions run the gamut of the political spectrum. With this election in particular, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where Trump came from, and that pissed a lot of folks off. I think the issues that gave him rise are real, and I think they’re worth paying attention to. I’ve worked in manufacturing in one capacity or another most of my adult life, and I see it. There are a lot of people who got fucked over so other people could make money offshore, and they’re hurting out there. Nobody should be working three jobs to make ends meet and still be unable to afford food or the deductible to take their kids to the doctor. Nobody. And those who are in that position ain’t real likely to vote for more of the same. When you’re desperate, any change is better than the status quo. That makes sense to me.
But all of my social media feeds are filled with publishing folks and writers, and man, they can be vicious if you don’t walk in lockstep with them. I remember I checked Facebook one day and saw this from one very well-paid author: “Starting to think that the middle of the country needs to be removed like the core of an apple. And thrown in the bin.” The first thing I thought was: “Man, fuck you. You’re talking about me.” But the second was: “Jesus, Trump could win. This is the kind of thing that makes even me want to vote for him.” It broke my heart to see the masks come off on both sides: The racism on the one, the classism on the other. The sexism on both.
But with that said, I suspect that I ain’t any happier about Trump than the rest of you. And my kids are apoplectic. My daughter’s so far ahead of me it’s ridiculous; thirteen years old and a hardcore feminist and working for LGBTQ rights in her school since she was eleven, being shoved into lockers and being called “faggot” for it, and never backing down. This girl, she’s my hero. And my son, he hates bullies like the plague. He doesn’t hesitate for a heartbeat to stand up when he sees somebody getting picked on. He doesn’t so much have a single issue, except that people don’t gang up on anybody alone when he’s around, because he’ll be by your side in a minute. He’s my hero too.
So my daughter keeps saying to me: “The man who’s gonna be president says he can grab women by the pussy because he’s rich.” And my son keeps saying: “Trump’s nothing but a bully.” And I got nothing for that.
Except this: I tell them that Trump can’t do whatever he wants. He’s a jackass, and he’ll have the full weight of media scrutiny against him like no president ever has—and Congresspeople have to worry about reelection in two years, so they’re not gonna give him a blank check. And, most importantly, there’ll be a lot of people fired up to resist if he over-reaches. And we’ll be among them. My kids, they’ll be there because they know what’s right, and me, I’ll be there because I have them to show me.
And I also told them that we’ve had bad news and hard times before. And we’ll survive this prep-school punk motherfucker too. We’ll survive, and we’ll take care of each other and our neighbors, and we’ll do right where we can. And we’ll make art, not because it’s the most important form of resistance, but because it’s the best tool we have in our particular tool belt.
At the end of the day, we live by our values. They don’t change, and they don’t shift, and it doesn’t matter what happens in Washington. All we can control is how we live. So we’ll keep doing the same as we would do no matter what’s happening in the White House. Because the White House may not give a damn about us, but it ain’t the first time, and that’s never been what matters.
This post is part of our annual Lit Counts series, in which writers and readers express why supporting and elevating literary arts—the mission of Lighthouse Writers Workshop—is important to them. If you agree, consider supporting Lighthouse on Colorado Gives Day. Mark your calendar for December 6 or schedule your gift now. Thank you!
Benjamin Whitmer is a Lighthouse instructor, a Book Project mentor, and the author of Pike, Cry Father, and Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers, a memoir co-written with Charlie Louvin.