This bit of amazingness is a cluster of fire ants.
When a fire ant colony gets hit with a flood, they weave their legs together and form a living raft. Together they float until they reach dry land and safety. You’ll note that as long as they cling to each other, you can push them down, but you can’t sink them.
We can do this, we people who are horrified by the bigotry that Trump has brought flooding out into the open. The one good thing about Trump’s bile-spewing candidacy is that he’s been so generous about spreading hostility that it’s been easier than ever to see that our many little groups can form one big raft that protects the whole.
We can do this. We can join together and take our turns in the water so we can buoy the others who need it most at the moment. (Straight white dudes, I know that means you’ll be spending a lot of time in the water. Your willingness to do so may be your finest hour.)
It’s important to remember that while this living fire ant raft will save us, it doesn’t look comfortable or fun. Those of us who have some form of daily privilege – white skin, cisgender bodies, and so much more – need to embrace discomfort, need to learn to walk straight into it. If we truly want to change hearts and minds, we need to stay polite, yes. But not so polite that we don’t mention harassment, big or small, when we see it. We need to step up and challenge it, big or small.
It will not feel polite or comfortable or fun to challenge that family member who is ranting about Muslims or immigrants. It will not feel polite or comfortable to shut down someone who’s talking about pussy-grabbing or getting a woman the right level of drunk. It will not feel polite or comfortable to put the brakes on someone who starts off a line of racist nonsense with “This may not be politically correct…” or claims that Trump says what she’s been thinking.
Get used to the phrase “Hey. That’s not cool.” And get used to being accused of being no fun or of overreacting. I say this as a person who used to get paid to be funny until this election blasted my sense of humor into a lump of cold lead: Those “jokes” people are making? The ones where men walk up to a woman and say har har, they can grab her pussy now? Or the jokes about people getting deported? Or the white girl who snapchatted that she’ll be a benevolent slave owner once Trump makes it legal? Those are not fucking jokes. They are a way of asserting power by spreading fear, and they are not acceptable in a decent society.
It will not be comfortable. Sometimes it will feel scary. But we’re all part of the raft, and we’re in this together, so we have to do it.
Hey, here’s a great cartoon about how to peacefully support someone who’s getting harassed in public.
And here is the excellent Jay Smooth with advice on how to point out that something another person says is problematic without making the other person immediately dismiss that point of view and close his ears to reason.
And one more thing: The bigots and harassers need to learn that we share another thing with fire ants: You rarely get to mess with just one of them.
They will learn that if you hassle a Muslim, the gays are coming for you too. If you attack a person of color, the women are also coming after you. If you harass an immigrant or an Asian or a transwoman or a Latinx or a pagan or a lesbian or a Jew or any one of us, we are ALL coming for you. We will shout you down, and we will shame you. Because we do not tolerate that behavior in a decent society. The first amendment gives you every right to be an asshole. It does not give you the right to do so unchallenged.
We will check in on each other. We will listen to anyone in the raft who feels attacked. We will watch for subtle aggressions we might have missed before and we will make sure everyone gets home OK.
And we will swarm the hell out of our elected representatives – federal, state, and local – until they fix this, or we will vote them out and run our damn selves.
We are fire ants now. And together we will get through this.