Tuesday night and Wednesday morning left me sick to my stomach. Angry. Appalled.
Somehow, I didn’t shed any tears until Friday. On Friday, just like on Wednesday and Thursday, I woke up and rembered this isn’t a dream. America really has elected a bigoted, misogynist, plainly unqualified candidate with alarming fascist rhetoric to the presidency. But Friday was slightly different, because I also woke up and remembered Friday was Veteran’s Day.
On my first day on the job in the Coast Guard in 1994, at my first duty station, my ship picked up refugees. Literally before the sun set on the day I reported aboard, I was pulling people out of the water.
Brown people. Black people. Spanish-speaking people. They were from Cuba, but none of that made any difference. They could’ve been from anywhere. They were people in the water, in distress, and we picked them up. Soon enough the number of rafters increased and we’d have times where no matter how many people we picked up, there’d be another raft in sight. We couldn’t turn away. We kept working. This went on and on for almost two months. And ultimately the United States brought them in.
Because of the ship and its crew and other factors, this was one of the worst times of my life. Some of the moments and conversations from Tanner’s ship in Poor Man’s Fight are taken directly from that experience. I was the new guy and had a lot of adjusting to do, but by any stretch my ship was a toxic environment. Yet one of the things that kept me going and held up my sense of self-worth was the value of the work. That was bolstered by the fact that no matter what kind of asshole stuff came from my shipmates, everyone did their best to help these people. I saw compassion and humanity from guys who were intractable jerks. Didn’t matter. We had a job to do. People needed us.
Even at the time, despite my misery, I knew it was one of the best things I’d ever do with my life. That’s still true now. It’s still one of the things that gives meaning to my life. It’s such a source of pride.
And now this country has elected a guy who wants to shun refugees based solely on their religion, and who wants to throw out every undocumented person he can find regardless of whatever desperation drove them to come here as they did. He also advocates torture and other war crimes and talks about our alliances as if they’re extortion rackets, which goes against everything I was taught to value from basic training and on–and against simple humanity. There’s more, too; so much more, pretty much all of it inexcusably bad, but I don’t want this post to go on forever.
I realize my own experience is a small thing compared to what so many other people are facing now. We’ve already seen a spike in racist and homophobic incidents. But on that personal level? Election day really felt like a big swath of America proudly stood up and said, “Hey, buddy: Fuck your service.” And then it was Veteran’s Day.
As a side note: I don’t plan on using every blog post to talk about politics, mostly because that’s not my focus as a sci-fi/fantasy writer and other people do it much better than I. However, yes, I will talk about politics and social issues and whatever else I feel like from time to time. There are those who claim writers (and actors, and athletes, and so on) should keep that to themselves. That we shouldn’t speak up for people of color, or LGBTQ+, or immigrants, or people of other religions, because we should “just do our jobs.” As if speaking up isn’t exactly what writers do.
Fuck that. This is who I am.