As I am sitting down to write this I am unsure of how to accurately describe what happened to me over the course of the circus that has been our latest presidential election. All I know is that last night I barely slept. I sat in shock watching the election results pour in. I can’t begin to count how many times the words no and fuck rotated through my brain behind eyes on the verge of tears. Tears of frustration and anger. Sadness never entered the picture. Disappointment was wringing my heart like a wet bar rag. After the final results had rolled in and Trump (it makes me dizzy typing his name knowing what I’m about to type next) had made his acceptance speech, I sat in silent awe of what had just happened. Racism, sexism, imperialism, bigotry, discrimination, misogyny, and outright denial of science had won. Up until that point I had foolishly thought that my country was on the right track. It was a galvanizing moment of sickening clarity. I learned this morning that many members of my family voted for the man in the baggy orange skin suit. It has been re-affirmed that money and greed are the hands on the wheel. Using appalling rationale that potential economic growth is worth throwing women, minorities, the elderly, immigrants, and many more of our fellow citizens, under the bus to, apparently, “become great again” in the eyes of far too many people in this country.
A little while back I decided that I needed to get on the road and “fall back in love with my country” and celebrate my thirty four years on this planet. I have been packing and preparing for life on the road astride an old Japanese motorcycle for quite some time now with specific ideas in mind for how and why I was going on this impending adventure. The sentiment that I was hitting the road to celebrate being alive has been the overriding theme, but now I don’t feel that way. Life is still worth celebrating, but I can do that every morning when my eyes open and I am still able to stand on my own two feet. Something changed last night. Something that has been swimming just under the surface of my consciousness for I don’t know how long broke through and cannot be ignored. White hot anger. Anger towards our country. The next few weeks I will be sharpening my horns and shutting my mouth. My pen and my keyboard will be my voice. My adventure will no longer be yet another self-indulgent trip into previously charted territory. I won’t call it an adventure either. The word has too much playfulness in it.
I will call it a mission.
A mission to understand this country. Fuck self love. Fuck celebration of my life. I want to see more of this country and grow to respect it the way I did before I started reading books about our history and before I reached the legal age to vote. I want to love this country the way I did before I had the capacity to reason and think for myself. Before I could see the injustices that hurt people that I love. Before I was teased or ridiculed for aligning myself with someone whose skin is darker than mine or who feels love for someone that shares their same genitalia. Before I was called an activist as a passive aggressive insult by someone I had always thought was my friend and I had previously respected. I want to understand how this happened. I want to understand how a pompous celebrity bigot made it to the top. I want to know more about our country’s people and I want to see its ugliness as well as its beauty. I want to look this country deep in its eyes and see where this experience is coming from. Because in my mind this is unacceptable. Because anger has always been my biggest motivator, and behind this anger is a well of deep, paralyzing, love. Because pain and love and anger all live under the same roof, and they all make me want to understand.
Just this morning as I was standing in line at the white collar bakery up the street I heard things I can only assume I had turned my ears off to previously. Talk of how “This racial mess has gotten worse because of Obama” from the booth to my right complimented by audible muffled sobbing coming from the woman and her partner sitting at the table to my left. I got dizzy and nearly fainted for the first time in my life. In one ear I wanted to grab the people to my right and slap their smug fucking faces red. The denial of historic systemic racism is something I cannot ignorantly or passively abide any longer. I have no place in my heart for the denial of the existence of inequality. And in the other ear I wanted to hug the women at the table to my left and tell them that everything will be okay. That they have allies in people who will do anything to protect their freedom to love openly and without persecution. Less than eight hours after the fucking Donald had given his acceptance speech I was the physical division of two poles, standing in line to buy a croissant and a large black coffee in my comfortably delusional white mountain town. My appetite disappeared and I could taste bile welling up from my gut.
When I left the bakery I walked to the corner and threw up in the garbage can at the intersection and walked in to a small independent bookstore. I bought a pocket-sized copy of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States of America and a small book of love poems by Pablo Neruda. The reality of what I knew I had to embark on continued to make me sick to my stomach. I have eight weeks before I leave on my motorcycle. Until that time, besides tending to the mechanical responsibilities I have to my machine, I will be reading. I will be studying our nation’s history. I will be doing my best to absorb as much information as possible from as many viewpoints as possible. And I will memorize the document that so many people I disagree with hold up as their ultimate doctrine but seem to know nothing of substance about. I will be the student I’ve never been before. Because I take what just happened in our country very personally. Relationships with those in my life who perpetuate bigotry that I have guiltily given a pass to are going to suffer. People will be cut out. I have room in my heart to understand our differences, but I have no room in my heart for hate.
I am not one of the many people in the United States suddenly looking for an escape. I am also not one of the people in the United States that is going to bend over and take this like many of my friends and family are suggesting. I am, however, one of the many people in the United States that wants something better for everyone in our country and sees that we’ve been had too many times before. If this is the country I was raised to believe that it is, then the answer is out there, on the road, in the belly of the beast. And that’s where I’m going. Because underneath this anger is a deep love for my country and all of us in it. And I need answers.