Writers and artists, by their nature, are sensitive. We spend years building up feathery radar as delicate as moth antennae in order to observe the nuances of human behavior.
So when something happens that blows your mind and makes you question the reality you’re living in, it can make you feel woozy and lost at sea without a compass.
Whatever politics you subscribe to, the 2016 election revealed a divide so vast it can only be called shocking. The pollsters were not able to measure reality. The dark desires of the collective unconscious tossed up strange, seemingly unnatural, even horrifying events and players. We saw racism, misogyny, xenophobia and hatred, the dark flower of a baser, deeper emotion— fear.
Right now, that fear is rushing across the land like a wave. Our first instinct may be to fight events, even try and change the outcome, but nothing we do can stop how weird things are going to get. No matter how civilized and decent you believe President Obama to be, half the country saw this president as a frightening boogieman. And no matter how obvious Trump’s narcissism and recklessness, that same half of the country sees him as a savior.
No one listened to the news networks, no one listened to reason, one side did not convince the other side. Why? The news shows created a Roman arena for ratings and the Internet created a world of false news, curated and propagated by people with an agenda; a weird, inverted totalitarianism, a universe of fake news and false information used to reinforce belief systems and corporate agendas without any regard to truth. The proof of each lie was more fake news. If you could be bothered to do a Google search, the great arbiter of reality was Snopes.com.
Now we are faced with an uncomfortable truth. Reality has shifted. Of course, writers and artists should speak out, call out what you see with the strength of your voice, paint it, draw it, graffiti it, write, sing and scream out loud, march or send money to the front line— but nothing will stop how weird things are going to get.
For the last two years, journalists, pundits, celebrities, activists and heads of state have thrown themselves in front of this wave and nothing could stop it, not Bernie, not any one isolated domino in the sequence. Even if the other side won, the rot coming up from underneath would still be there. Why? Because there is a an abyss between us and no one is listening. Events will play out, communities will suffer. When people go this far, there is only one way to learn— The hard way.
If artists had a job description, it might read “we bear witness to the truth.” Every time you move someone with your prose, or arrange music in such a way that we feel emotion, or paint something that takes our breath away, you’ve mastered your job as an artist. So speak out but remember, in the current climate, your artistic voice may be the only thing people are willing to hear— and things are going to get weird.