Please allow me to introduce myself.
I’m a black man, I’m gay, I’m an addict. I’ve been a crackhead, I’ve been a drunk.
I don’t remember being sexually abused, but I was a gay boy, now a gay man in a homophobic society that continues to destroy people like me for our sexual orientation—and that’s a kind of abuse, isn’t it?
This week, a father in Nevada killed his 14-year-old child, because he’d “rather have a dead son than a gay one.” In our society, we kill transgender women and men every day for telling the truth about their lives.
Sometimes I feel I’m fighting for my life. These days, I’m not always sure I’m winning.
I was at a gym in a small town I was visiting last month and a man asked me for my phone number. Another man overheard us talking and whispered under his breath something about perverts and how disgusting we were. I was too scared to confront him, so I didn’t say anything.
At night, when a cop car passes by me in Harlem and slows down, I’m frightened. I’ll admit, I’m frightened a lot. My partner is always surprised when I use all the locks in our apartment, even the chain, and sometimes even during the day. I believe our building is secure, but I don’t know how to explain to him that I rarely feel safe—anywhere.
I come from a family with a history of domestic violence.
One time, my parents got in a fight and my mother told us to get our things, we were going to McDonalds. We stayed for awhile and then we went back home. When we arrived, there were all these little bits of paper everywhere, like confetti, as if someone had thrown a party while we were gone. I looked closer and I saw a tiny picture of my mother in a white dress—her face torn in half. My father had ripped up my parents’ wedding photos.
A few years later, when I was thirteen, I got into a fight with my Dad and ran to my room and locked it. He threatened to rip off my bedroom door. I hid in my closet until my mother calmed him down.
One day he told me, “I will break your spirit, son.” I was so furious with him that I made a decision. In that moment, I imagined something pouring down into my body, moving through my veins like steel or concrete, and then hardening. I promised myself I would never cry in front of him again, or feel any pain. I would just be numb, like a robot. Yes Dad. No Dad. Goodnight Dad. I imagined myself a soldier, shot on the battlefield, eyes wide open, dead and cold and quiet.
That was the day I became an emotional alcoholic.
I need you to know this about me because it influences my relationship to bullies like Donald Trump, and why we need a new paradigm of resistance to go with the old one.
I like horror movies, not the slasher genre, but psychological horror, and especially 70’s horror—Rosemary’s Baby, Omen, Carrie, The Exorcist. There’s that amazing scene in The Exorcist where the priest says to the devil who has possessed the young girl, Reagan, “The power of Christ compels you. The power of Christ compels you!”
I don’t know much about exorcisms, but the shit seemed to work on that devil, so the other day when Donald Trump came on the screen I thought, why not? And I blurted out, “The power of Fanny Lou Hamer compels you!”
For those who may not know or remember, Fannie Lou Hamer was a black organizer in the Deep South, a civil-rights activist, who fought to exercise her right to vote in a virulently racist Mississippi. She was tortured, her life was threatened, and she even had to battle for the right to be heard within her own political party. Fanny Lou said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” and “Nobody’s free, until everybody’s free.” She had what the old folks call ‘Holy Ghost power.’
So I shouted it at the screen over and over. “The power of Fannie Lou Hamer compels you!” It felt good, so I tried a few others. “The power of Audre Lorde compels you!” “The power of Harvey Milk compels you!” “The power of Eleanor Roosevelt compels you!” “The power of Sojourner Truth compels you!” Try it at home, it’s fun, and you really do feel better.
And then I thought, if I was a priest with a congregation what would I tell them right now?
I think I would say: Believe in miracles, believe in your power as a sorcerer and sorceress, stir shit up for Good, invoke.
I’d remind them: You don’t have to earn grace. You are already worthy.
I’d say, You are not a commodity. You are not a can of Coke or a pack of cigarettes. You are not a stock option, a casino, or land purchased for development.
When you go on a date, stop looking at everyone the way you shop for household cleaner, turning it around, figuring out what it can do for you. Resist commodification and resist being commodified.
Listen to someone today. And I don’t mean waiting for the pause before you speak—really listen. Look at someone today—and I don’t mean judging how much weight they’ve gained or lost, or what they are wearing. Look into their eyes. Take in the miracle in front of you.
Wear those high heels, work your beautiful yellow dress, shake out that black wig, wear your best red lipstick and dance—I’m talking to the straight men right now.
Deal with your shame about slavery, appreciate your black ancestors, understand the horror of your history and be honest about how it has harmed your beautiful blackness—I’m talking to the white people right now.
If you really want resist Trump, stop whipping your kids.
You’ve been talking about quitting smoking for years. You’ve been going to sleep drunk for years. You won’t give up your meth, your coke, you won’t stop eating sugar even though people in your family have died from diabetes. You sit in your car, in the parking lot, crying, with empty bags of fast food around you.
Your life belongs to McDonalds and Burger King and KFC. Your life belongs to corporations with scientists whose job it is to find new and innovative ways to kill you, one delicious happy meal at a time. Realize, lovingly, that they don’t really give a fuck about you, and take your life back. Decide that your life is worth saving. Resist Trump.
“You know I always wanted to go back to school, but there just isn’t enough time.” There is enough time. Go back to school. Resist Trump.
Stand in front of the mirror naked. If you are a woman, gay, or a person of color, consider the peril that body has seen. See yourself on the auction block, burned at the stake for being a witch, bashed after you left the gay bar. Hold your body dearly while it is still your own.
Resist Trump, and finally forgive yourself, for the childhood abuse, for the childhood violence, for the abuse that’s been sabotaging your life, that makes you apologize when other people bump into you, that keeps you in torn clothes.
End the war with self. Integrate. Reconcile. Emerge into your greatest power. We need you whole. Your life is an ecosystem and you have a right to keep it balanced and to preserve it. Stop all self-harm. Remember: it wasn’t your body that betrayed you. And although you may not always feel like it, despite what happened to you, your beauty remains intact.
Consider: what did it take to make you, what did it take to get here? Think of the parents you had or didn’t have. The mother who died when you were twelve. The father you never knew. Think about the money you had, the money you didn’t have, the marriage that ended, the day you left home…..have you left home?
What did it take to get you here? Did you come over on the Mayflower or were you dragged here, or did you flee? Recall the grandmother who was cooking when you saw the numbers tattooed above her wrist. She promised to tell you a story one day about concentration camps. Think about the grandmother who was cooking when the men arrived on horses with sheets and took her son, the uncle you never met who was carried away in the night. She promised to tell you a story about lynching.
And understand that no one is going to save us. What is happening right now is more profound than Hillary vs. Bernie vs Trump; it’s deeper than Sarah Huckabee Sanders or the NRA. What we need isn’t going to come from the Democratic National Committee and it won’t be found on WikiLeaks.
Something is definitely coming. And to deal with it we need to be whole. We can’t be fragmented with each other or within ourselves. The thing that’s coming needs you to hate yourself so that you’ll feel nationalistic pride when they try and build a wall. It needs you to be afraid at night, hiding behind the shades, so that you can be manipulated into supporting a travel ban.
The thing that’s coming is counting on you to be a mess, in debt, traumatized, dissociated, drunk, high, angry, racist, lonely, heartbroken, in despair, cynical; it needs you to think Black/White, Palestinian/Jew, Man/Woman, Gay/Straight, Them/Us, Me/Other.
The thing that’s coming needs you numb and asleep so it can organize at night. Then suddenly, you get up one morning and see the men in the streets with machine guns. Because they know by then it will be too late.
To deal with Trump we must first face the Trump inside ourselves. Despite the ways we are being coarsened and made to live a life of staring into phones instead of each other’s eyes, we must return to compassion. It really is all that we have. Study war no more. The real enemy is our belief in enemies. Never underestimate the power of your kindness in every moment.
We have to grow up, even when everything in this culture tells us to stay immature, entitled, greedy, narcissistic and pathological; even when the man in the White House is really just a teenage boy up in his room surrounded by empty Doritos bags and playing with his X-Box all night.
We must grow up. Our lives, and maybe even life itself, depend on it.
For a longer version of this article, click here.