Resist, Rebel, Repeat: A Writer’s Guide to Post-Trump America

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I grew up during the Reagan administration.

For a lot of you, this little statement probably doesn’t evoke any kind of emotion. Chances are, you either weren’t born yet, or you were so young you have zero memory of the guy.

But for me, the mere mention of the dude sends a chill down my spine.

Around the Rawson house, mentioning Reagan was like evoking the name of the devil and there was good reason for my family’s blinding hate. During the long eight years of its reign, the Reagan administration managed to collapse the economy three times, sold guns to drug dealers, completely ignored the AIDS epidemic (which, in turn, killed millions), they deregulated the economy, dismantled unions and entire industries (most notably the U.S. steel industry), and introduced the word trillion to the U.S. vernacular. Because even though the Reagan administration experienced the longest stretch of peace in the ENTIRE history of the United States, they spent money on defense like we were fighting three or four wars.

Facebook, Twitter, all of it is a useless waste of time... You are not making a difference.

And, oh yeah, they most likely introduced crack cocaine to the American people, too.

On top of all of this, my generation lived in near constant fear of nuclear holocaust. Most of us were absolutely convinced that the Russians were going to launch a nuclear strike against the U.S. at any minute and the entire world would be reduced to smoldering ash where only the cockroaches would survive.

The 80’s was a weird, paranoid time to be alive.

But the one bright spot of living in this world of constant fear and loathing was the art that this period inspired. Artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Julian Schnabel, and Robert Mapplethorpe came into prominence. Writers such as Tama Janowitz, Bret Easton Ellis, and Jay McInerney documented the horror and excesses the 80’s inspired. And most importantly, hardcore punk rock gave voice to millions of disenfranchised and incredibly frightened kids. Bands like Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys, The Circle Jerks, Minor Threat and a dozen others defined me socially and politically. It gave voice to the anger I felt over the dismal future, and most importantly, it made me want to create art that was just as angry, aggressive, and politically motivated as it was.

But then something happened.

Suddenly, Reagan wasn’t in power anymore and his vice-president, George H.W. Bush, was, and under his watch, we invaded Iraq for the first time and it was suddenly unpopular to be a politically motivated artist. We suddenly needed to make up for calling soldiers baby killers and spitting on them when they came home from Vietnam (This, of course, never happened. It was nothing but propaganda created by the Nixon administration), we had to support our troops and the poor people of Kuwait. And if you didn’t fall in line with this, you were considered un-American. Then 9/11 came along and gave the government even more clout to fuck over the American people, and we all just took it, we all just looked the other way because the American dream was under attack.

As time passed, the trend of art remaining non-political (particularly literature) continued. Writers decided that you shouldn’t mix politics and art. That we should write stories that were completely divorced from the real world because literature should be escapism; it should be art for the sake of being art. We made the conscious decision to become culturally invisible, irrelevant, and a true reflection of America: apathetic non-participants.

And we remained that way as the forces of hatred, racism, misogyny, and greed gathered influence and those forces gave birth to Trump.

We all thought it was a joke.

We all thought: Who the hell would vote for the male (and far less intelligent) version of Kim Kardashian?

We all took to social media and mocked and scorned, posting article-after-article to our little virtual drum circles, but not doing much of anything other than that.

And now here we are, in less than three weeks President Donald Trump will be sworn into office and all we’re left with the question, what now?

What now?


Ever since the election, The Dead Kennedy’s lyrics for “We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now” keep going through my head.

I am Emperor Ronald Regan
Born again with fascist cravings
Still, you make me president

Human rights will soon go 'way
I am now your Shah today
Now I command all of you
Now your gonna pray in school
I'll make sure they're Christian too

California Uber Alles
Uber Alles California

Ku Klux Klan will control you
Still you think it's natural
Nigger knockin for the master race
Still you wear a happy face

California Uber Alles
Uber Alles California

Welcome to 1984
Are you ready for the Third World War?!?
You too will meet the secret police
They'll draft you and they'll jail your niece

You'll go quietly to boot camp
They'll shoot you dead, make you a man
Don't worry, it's for a cause
Feeding global corporations' claws

Die on a brand new poison gas
El Salvador or Afghanistan
Making money for President Regan
And all the friends of President Regan

California Uber Alles
Uber Alles California

Just replace Reagan with Trump and 1984 with 2017, and you’ve got something that may possibly happen to America.

Fascism.

Wholesale, unadulterated fascism.

It also makes me think that we as artists need to start getting punk rock as fuck. We need to make sure that our voices are heard. We need to get off our high horse, we need to start bringing politics back into our writing whether it’s through our fiction or essays. We need to become participants in the process, and I’m not just talking about voting. I’m talking about organizing, being a part of protests, or better yet, starting them. I’m talking about starting some shit.

Most importantly, get the fuck off social media. Facebook, Twitter, all of it is a useless waste of time. Because let’s face it, you’ve created a vacuum for yourself and all your little rants and articles, they amount to a hill of shit. They amount to a mountain of likes and retweets from people who agree with everything you’re saying. You are not making a difference. The only thing social media is good for is for private messaging when you’re organizing.

I know no one wants to hear these things. I know you don’t want to get off your ass and disrupt your comfortable existence. But if there has been any time in the history of this great country for writers to step up and make a real difference, it’s now.

It’s time for us to become Orwell, Hemingway, and Hunter S. Thompson.

It’s time to resist, rebel, and repeat until we change this country and make it into a place where all people are truly created equal.

Or don’t do anything, just keep writing your little rants on Facebook, keep playing it safe and be content with being ground under the heels of sub-normal, illiterate jack-offs like Trump.

The choice is yours.

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Keith Rawson

Column by Keith Rawson

Keith Rawson is a little-known pulp writer whose short fiction, poetry, essays, reviews, and interviews have been widely published both online and in print. He is the author of the short story collection The Chaos We Know (SnubNose Press)and Co-Editor of the anthology Crime Factory: The First Shift. He lives in Southern Arizona with his wife and daughter.

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Comments

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. December 27, 2016 - 7:43am

Pretty good Preachin'. So while all of US are getting off our asses, what are YOU going to actually do? Just curious.

Jules Devito's picture
Jules Devito December 27, 2016 - 9:38am

I agree with most, but guess what? I wouldn't have read this article if I hadn't seen it on Twitter. And my author page is on Facebook. This is is a good article, but people really need to stop saying that social media is useless. It's not. It's how authors communicate with each other and how we reach more of an audience.

Honestly, how many people would this have reached if not for social media? Isn't this article itself social media? 

This is a high horse that we all need to dismount.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman December 27, 2016 - 11:01am

Taking Twitter and Facebook off my phone was probably the best thing I did in 2016. 

Steven Schwartz's picture
Steven Schwartz from Chicago is reading The Fever by Megan Abbott December 27, 2016 - 1:04pm

Best thing you have produced since Scarlet.  Scary times ahead.  Reagan stuff is dead on.  You forgot the Savings and Loan debacle.  Cover up, folks, the shit storm is on its way.

 

Peter L. Winkler's picture
Peter L. Winkler December 27, 2016 - 1:20pm

"Suddenly, Reagan wasn’t in power anymore and his vice-president, George H.W. Bush, was, and under his watch, we invaded Iraq for the first time. . ."

This is just one of the many factual errors you have made in your (very) litte rant.

U.S. armed forces pushed Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, which they had invaded and occupied. We never crossed the Kuwait-Iraq border and did not invade Iraq in 1991 during the first Gulf War.

AIDS has not killed millions of people in the U.S.

Since 1981, close to 636,000 people have died from AIDS in the US.

https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-hiv-and-aids-us

Reagan did not "crash the economy" three times. There was a single recession in the economy in from July 1981 to November 1982.

You also fail to mention that Ronald Reagan agreed to and signed the greatest nuclear weapons reduction treaty with the Soviet Union in history.

 

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words December 28, 2016 - 3:16pm

the most important thing to do right now is communicate.

there seems to be a major polarization going on (and not just in the US). I've got my own take on the whats, whys, and wherefores, but the problem is that people from the two sides (and not just over US politics) aren't talking. That has never historically ever been a good thing. It was the first step to the Rwanda genocide.

If you dont' talk with someone, it's easier to become convinced that they are "other." and once that happens, the whole shit show takes over.

It's more important to communicate with the human underneath all the labels, name-calling, partisan lip service, and figure out how much we actually have in common.

Because that election result was a giant "FUCK YOU" from the disenfranchised who've been ignored and marginalized, and it's going to fuck everybody. 

Most importantly, it's time to talk to the people around you, and figure out who will have your back, and who won't.

Benjamin Martin's picture
Benjamin Martin from Portland, OR is reading ... December 30, 2016 - 7:02pm

The first week after the election, I was destrought and horrified. Now I've got my Irish up.
I have been saying for the past month that I'm really looking forward to the music that's going to be coming out in the next four years. And I want to contribute to it. I've finally sat down and started writing songs for the first time in 10 years. And I'm getting fucking pissed. At first I was disheartened because I'm having such a hard time finding a drummer and bass player in PORTLAND OF ALL PLACES!!! But now I'm thinking, "fuck it. I'll do it myself."

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words December 31, 2016 - 8:07am

@Benjamin Martin

that's exactly the right attitude we need moving forward. I've been doing so much "fuck it, I'll do it myself" that it's become a really fun game. I keep wanting to include people in my riffing. It's beyond just writing stories, it's something much bigger... More like living life as if one is in a story. You'd be amazed how the world changes. I'm not even the protagonist so much as a protagonist among countless. And the angry yelling people are more like Charlie Brown teachers "wah wah wah".

hollow rhetoric has lost all of its pretense and shows as empty. There's an immense opportunity for us to define the future we want to see (well, it'll be seen after our lifetime, but we'll get to lay out the foundation through our story telling, songs, and especially dance.)