.org.14: I Have So Much to Lose Here in This Lonely Place
They say that you’re not really paranoid if everyone really is out to get you. I’ve been trying to take some comfort in that saying these days, but it doesn’t seem to help much.
This past year hasn’t exactly been all that great for me on the personal growth front. A lot of this is simply due to an irregular work schedule, scraping to get by in the slow spots and then, as has been the case all this semester, crazy with ten million things to do once things really get going. Especially as I put more effort into securing a full-time teaching position to fall back on in case my writing doesn’t work out, it gets incredibly hard to keep track of everything. (All the additional work I’ve taken on has meant a lot less time to write as well, which may make my fears about my writing not working out self-fulfilling.) I’ve definitely been more of a hermit than usual these past twelve months, and it hasn’t helped that I keep putting trust in the wrong people.
As the .org enters its fifteenth year, I realize that what defines me more than anything else right now is fear. I have a capacity to power through my fears and do what needs to be done, but that capacity is not limitless. Lately it seems like that capacity is being tested from every possible angle, and I’m failing to rise to all the challenges around me. I don’t know if it’s even humanly possible to deal with all of this stuff.
These are mostly problems I’ve had to deal with in the past, but never to the extent that they’re confronting me now. Take, for instance, the harassment of women in video gaming that I wrote about last month. This is hardly a new phenomenon, and I wrote about my own experiences being harassed (albeit on a much smaller scale) when I was writing about professional wrestling over a decade ago. That the harassment continues, with no arrests yet made, is horrifying, and as I wrote earlier, I fully expect this kind of harassment to spread to other fields because the people who are sending all these rape threats and death threats continue to receive negligible, if any, consequences for their actions. The actress featured in the recent viral video “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” Shoshana B. Roberts, has already received rape threats, and it’s likely that this kind of organized intimidation will soon extend to other minorities besides women.
Setting aside, for the moment, my own inability to shut up about a variety of topics that tick me off, I am a teacher of rhetoric. As such, I think it’s incumbent on me to stand up not just when I am directly threatened, but anyone is threatened, whether or not I agree with them. If I’m to expect my students to formulate intelligent opinions and give expression to them through their writing and their classroom discussions, then I have to be willing to face the same challenges they should expect to face when they join in public discussions. That the culture we live in seems to be becoming so tolerant of rape and death threats to silence people — especially over matters like gender representation in video games — impedes our ability as teachers to reach students even more, and to make them feel like the skills we’re teaching them matter in the “real world.” If all our discourse is going to be allowed to devolve into Jerry Springer-esque name calling and shouting and fistfights, then that will leave no room for conscience or intelligent thought, and that outcome is completely unacceptable.
As if dealing with months of horrifying news on that front wasn’t bad enough, earlier this month another transgender woman here in Toledo, Candice Rose Milligan, was beaten in broad daylight in the middle of downtown by several men (Candice reported she was attacked by six assailants, not the three that are commonly mentioned in the local press) who yelled transphobic remarks at her during the assault. As much as trans awareness and acceptance has grown in the past year, trans-bashing isn’t about to go away. Attacks on trans people in America are still far too common, but it always hits hard when an attack happens so close to your own home. (I’ve never met Candice, but I believe we have a few mutual friends. Again, I’ve been far from sociable for a long time.)
Going about my business in those days after Candice was assaulted was more than a little scary. At school, thankfully, I knew my co-workers and my students would be supportive, but I don’t have that luxury in other places. I’ve never “passed” well, and hardly a month goes by when I don’t see a parent fearfully pull their child away from me as I’m walking in the same aisle as them, because they think that anyone who deviates from gender norms must be a pedophile. Those encounters hurt, if only because I’m being used by those parents as a tool with which to teach their children intolerance and hatred, but at least they don’t extend beyond that, into intimidation and violence. With at least two of Candice’s assailants still on the loose, though, the possibility that more trans people in Toledo will be attacked remains high, and I’d be foolish if I didn’t take that into account every time I step out of my house.
Now I have to worry about these same people using “Stand Your Ground” as a reason to shoot and kill me as well, because legislation enacting “proactive self-defence” in Ohio is shooting through the state legislature right now. The Republican wave in this month’s elections would be hard enough to deal with on its own, but here in Ohio the state Democratic Party ran the single most incompetent statewide campaign I can remember in my life, resulting in our incumbent governor, Republican John Kasich (the biggest asshole in elected politics), winning reelection by a two-to-one margin and enabling him to claim a mandate to ram through whatever crazy right-wing legislation he wants to force on the state. The racial disparities in America highlighted by “Stand Your Ground” laws are shocking on their own, especially when so many of us are reeling from Darren Wilson not being charged in the death of Michael Brown in Missouri, but in the past few months in Ohio we’ve had two African-American boys shot and killed by police for carrying BB guns, in a state where we have open carry laws.
Where does all this leave me? For one thing, even more sick and tired of the bullshit tautology that we all have “freedom” simply by virtue of being in America. The recent rash of conservatives making it illegal for private citizens to help the less fortunate makes me believe, more and more, that the right-wing in this country is truly motivated by a malevolent desire to make other people miserable, and that all their talk of “letting the free market deal with social problems” is a veneer draped over a virulent misanthropy embodied in all the problems I just listed above. More than that, though, it leaves me genuinely fearful of what is going to happen to me, or people like me, or my friends, because our nation has become more and more tolerant of harassment, abuse, and outright murder.
I talked about leaving America after the 2004 elections, but that just wasn’t going to happen at that point. Realistically speaking, moving to another country isn’t in the foreseeable future for me, but it’s feeling more and more like I’ll soon have no choice. With far-right groups like UKIP in the United Kingdom and the National Front is France gaining more power in recent months (proving once again that America’s chief exports continue to be xenophobia and stupidity), that only leaves Canada to go to, and even if Justin Trudeau will be an improvement over Stephen Harper, I’m not sure it’ll be that much of an improvement. Then again, no matter who wins the US election in 2016, this country is going to keep getting pushed further and further to the right, making me more and more of a target here.
I can’t say for sure how bad America is going to get in the coming years, but I do know that now, more than ever, I want to leave. Now watch as conservatives try to take even that right away from us in the coming months.
Everyone take care and be well. I will see you all soon.