Rattle & Pen: Be the Resistance You Want to See in the World

Rattle & Pen is a biweekly column exploring the liminal space between raising children and creating art.

Last Friday, my kids and I spent the final full day of our winter break hoofing it around Seattle to post flyers advertising the city’s first Writers Resist event. It feels urgent to me to use this space to talk about the Writers Resist movement this week, as its energy is the force driving me forward right now as both a writer and a citizen of this broken nation.

Writers Resist began with a Facebook post poet and feminist literary organization VIDA’s co-founder Erin Belieu wrote in the wake of the presidential election, calling writers to “come together and actively help make the world we live in.” Thousands of writers responded, creating (in the words of Kristen Young, one of the Seattle chapter’s organizers) an “international artistic uprising against political oppression […] to defend the ideals of a free, just, and compassionate democracy.” The first public Writers Resist events will take place around the globe on MLK Day, January 15th. As of this writing, there are over 75 Writers Resist events scheduled to take place on that day. A full list of events and more information about Writers Resist can be found at www.writersresist.org.

So, how is this movement fueling me? As I’ve noted before on this blog, the election left me stripped and empty, deep in grief—not because (as many conservatives like to say) my candidate lost, but because we are all—this entire nation—losing with Donald J. Trump as POTUS. In the wake of Trump’s election, I was bereft. Who were we that we could allow this man and his campaign of hatred and greed to take over our democracy? How had we allowed our soured national dialogue to so fracture the justice, freedom, and equality that I (and I’m sure many of you) believed were the foundations our country? I could not sleep, let alone write. I moved through November freighted with grief, shadowed by it, gutted. Nothing I had been writing before the election felt essential, or even worthwhile, anymore, and so I set it all to the side and waited for that internal spark of inspiration to return.

Instead of writing fiction, then, I started writing letters to my senators. I called my representatives. I volunteered. I talked to my children about the ideals I still believe in—the inherent equality of all people, the necessity of a fair and just system of government, the intrinsic value of free speech, the absolute and indispensible worth of art in the midst of cultural upheaval. The more I did and said and thought, the better I felt. You see, I had to remind myself that action is control. Action pulls us up from the depths of ourselves and launches us back out into the community, into the flawed and fractured but still beautiful world. And the world is where an artist must keep planting her feet, one in front of the other, even (especially) when the impulse is to simply withdraw and lie down.

I am writing fiction again—slowly and with new eyes (and, yes, with my bleeding liberal heart still gushing painfully in my chest). I don’t feel any of us have the luxury of silence right now. There is work to be done. There’s a call to be answered. We writers and mothers and citizens must all raise our voices to it now and respond with hope and action.

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