A Response to Garrison Keillor’s Delightful Opinion Piece
Dear Mr. Keillor,
I read your piece in the Washington Post. It’s meant to comfort us, to let us know that calm life will go on, and we liberals can relax while the Republican elites and the Trumplings fight it out and get disillusioned. You say we liberals can relax and grow heirloom tomatoes while the uneducated white men who voted for Trump (you’re a little off on those stats, sir – a horrifying amount of the educated, moneyed white middle class voted for him too) get hit first and hardest.
The problem, sir, is that your relaxation plan only works if you are straight, white, male, cisgender, and fairly rich. And, frankly, it only works if you’re a little apathetic and clueless. Because the rest of us are already getting hit.
You may not be aware, sir, that women are advising each other to get IUDs right now. (That’s a form of long-acting reversible contraceptive. My apologies if I’m over-explaining. I’m not sure how far your bubble reaches.) We’re doing that because we just voted in a regime that is incredibly hostile to birth control and would very much like to yank health insurance for many of us. Women are literally worried that they won’t be able to get reliable birth control over the next four years. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but for the non-wealthy, unplanned children tend to be a bit of a life hitch.
I’m queer, sir, and I’ve been thinking about getting an IUD too. Technically my orientation is bisexual or fluid, but in practical real-life terms I haven’t dated men in a long time. And frankly there are many aspects of this election that have made you fellas a bit of a tough sell for the near future. My plans involve dating women and with luck ending up with one.
But I’ve had to take time to think about getting an IUD, Mr. Keillor, because I’m in my fertile years, and we just voted in Mike Pence, who doesn’t want me to be able to make my own decision about what to do if I get raped and I conceive as a result.
I don’t think you’ve ever had to do that, sir – plan ahead for your potential rape, I mean. It isn’t fun.
And this isn’t the first time women have had to think about that. During the Obamacare fight, and again after, Republicans have pushed to keep health insurance plans from covering contraception and abortions. They wanted to require women who were concerned about perhaps getting raped and needing an abortion to pay for extra coverage. And now those same Republican legislators have run the table.
That’s a hell of a gamble to ask us to make, sir. Will you think about it during your jolly card games over the next four years?
I mentioned insurance and Obamacare back there. You may not think about this because your insurance premiums are an annoyance, at best, but 20 million people are about to have their health insurance yanked away. Some people will be priced out of having insurance itself, or be unable to get it because of pre-existing conditions.
But for plenty of people, it means having their current cancer treatments cut off. It means having a clear end date for their lives. I hope that won’t add a troubled note to your smelling of the roses.
Oh, and about that being bisexual thing. As you are meditating and attending your yoga classes, I hope you aren’t troubled by the thought that this year’s Republican platform had the most hostile position to LGBT rights they have ever had. Mike Pence himself signed legislation to allow people – Christians, really, ones like him – to, as a matter of “conscience,” discriminate against us. He wants it to be OK to refuse to let us eat in restaurants or rent homes or have a job.
Many of us are married, sir, with children. My married friends are left wondering if their unions will be legally dissolved and what their rights are in keeping custody of their own children. Many who hoped to adopt are wondering if that will ever happen.
I don’t know, sir, if in your relaxing reading, you came across the way the Republican Party has treated transfolk over the past year. Leave alone the fact that transgender people can be fired just for being transgender in most states. That’s old news that they’ve been dealing with, along with the sickening amount of violence directed at them. But this year, Republicans made another push to legislate transfolk out of public bathrooms.
You may not know if you’ve met a transwoman, sir, so I’ll help you out: She looks like a woman. Because she is one. Imagine asking her to walk into a crowded men’s room at a football game. That’s what the legislation would require her to do. Imagine someone like you, maybe even a man with a beard, being asked to walk into a ladies’ room at a crowded shopping mall. That’s what transmen would be required to do. Could you do it?
The people who push for those laws don’t really want to force transfolk to have to walk into the wrong bathroom, of course. The intent is to force them out of public space entirely. To will them into nonexistence.
Mike Pence wants that for all members of the LGBT community, actually. He’s a fan of conversion therapy, including electroshock. These people want us gone.
Did you know that there was a spike in calls to LGBT suicide hotlines as election night wore on, sir, one that hasn’t been seen in years? I hope that didn’t ruin the taste of your fine sipping Scotch.
You have a smooth Midwestern accent, Mr. Keillor, and very white skin like mine. Which means, if I may hazard a guess, that no stranger has ever screamed at you that he hopes you will be deported. But that is happening, sir, all over the country. My neighborhood is very mixed, with a robust Muslim population. I see women wearing hijabs all the time. They run local shops, they work out at my YMCA, and they push children in strollers. The ones who live in my building and on my block smile and nod or stop to chat for a bit on fine days.
Except for the awful days, when women in hijabs disappear from even my diverse, liberal, urban neighborhood, because they’re afraid of physical harm. They disappeared yesterday, Mr. Keillor, right after Trump’s election. Can you imagine, sir, a woman on your block being afraid to go outside while wearing a cross? Can you really think about that without being put off of your craft beers and birdwatching?
And, of course, removing religious headgear can’t hide the color of one’s skin or gender. The last two days have already seen a revolting rise in racist and religious harassment and violence, with some threats of sexual assault thrown in for flavor.
Really, sir? Can you see any of this and relax? Can you really do anything other than rage and cry and then hit the damned streets to stand against it?
My Jewish friends are being hit with waves of disgusting anti-Semitism too. And they, like Muslims and all people of color, are dealing with the reality of the fact that we have a President who openly courted white supremacist groups, who winked and played footsie with actual Nazis. It’s common for liberals to moan about moving to Canada, but I’ve already had two different Jewish friends talk to me about the decisions their grandparents and great-grandparents made to stay or leave their European homes, and which ones survived those decisions.
I’m watching my friends, in modern America, try to calculate whether it’s safe to stay here in the lives they’ve built.
Which is slightly different than the calculations my black friends make, who have long had to worry about getting shot by the police. Can you wrap your head around that, sir? Feeling that your strongest self-preservation instinct is to run away from the police instead of to them in times of crisis? Do you think that situation will improve, now that many Trumplings feel they have been deputized and empowered to “take the country back” through verbal harassment and open physical attack?
One of the lone stocks that has skyrocketed since the election is for for-profit prisons. Are you aware of the vast difference in conviction and incarceration rates for people of color? In which direction do you think that will be moving over the next four years?
Your airy complacence, Mr. Keillor, is part of the problem.
You go ahead and garden and meditate if you really can stomach it. The rest of us have seen enough to know that we need to stand up and take care of each other. We have to get out there and fight. We don’t have a choice.