Like many Americans, I was shocked and outraged at the violent coup attempt incited by President Donald Trump and his sycophantic cabal on January 6th. As the carnage unfolded on my television, I found myself filled with rage and horror at what I was witnessing – though in all honestly, I was not surprised.
Here before my eyes was the very thing that I feared back in 2015, when Trump was just an almost comically strange candidate for the nations’ highest office. His lies, his deranged rhetoric, and his misogyny and racism were on full display even then, though at the time few seemed to take him seriously. When he was actually elected – and fairly, due to our electoral college – I wept, because I knew what this could mean for our country, as well as for the rest of the world: A rise in violence and hatred. A denial of science and facts. The demonizing of a free press and of any serious criticism. An abject rejection of responsibility and of public service.
We knew where this has been leading. The last four years have been a train-wreck, a fever dream of xenophobia, misogyny, racism, propaganda, and megalomania. We have seen the exaltation of the far right (those “very fine people”) and the demonization of the left.
With social media as his bully pulpit, Trump was able to get his message out to the masses, spinning conspiracy theories and blatant lies (or “alternative facts”) that spread like wildfire, even into our own communities. The effect of all this was the radicalization of our own citizens, fashioning them into a weapon aimed at the very democratic institutions that are supposed to stand for our highest collective ideals.
The parallels between the rise of Trump and the rise of fascists like Adolf Hitler cannot be overstated. While it has become something of a national pastime for liberals to compare those on the right with Hitler, it’s both exacerbating and exhausting to watch literal neo-Nazis storming the Capitol and still hearing conservative voices continuing to deny reality, even as the threats of violence continue.
All that said – there are some bright spots. Some of the insurrectionists are being arrested, and even some members of the MAGA cult are reportedly having second thoughts about their worldview in the wake of the Capitol riots – perhaps as a result of being “thrown under the bus” by Trump himself. On Tuesday, the U.S. Congress impeached Trump for a second time, trying to send a message that a president cannot be above the law.
What do we do now? How shall we respond in our own lives and communities to this national threat?
There is no one answer, but as for me, I have to renew my commitment to speaking out whenever I see injustice, of being involved in local politics, and of remembering to practice self-care all the while.
We must become skilled at demanding inclusivity in our spaces. No longer can we tolerate the intolerance of others who would share our Pagan and Witchy communities. By now we should all know where this leads. It is not enough to simply “not be racist,” to not be transphobic, or not be a bigot. We need to be the antithesis of bigotry. We need to openly embrace others with whom we have differences.
The time is over for blatant tribalism and the xenophobic, insular mindset it engenders. We have to be tolerant, but not of intolerance. When it comes to who can have a seat at the table, we must be open to everyone, barring only those who would deny others their basic humanity.
In our Witch communities we are called to be gatekeepers, not necessarily rooted in practice or theology, but in our basic shared humanity. Here is the bottom line: No Nazis. No racists. No transphobes. If we see or hear someone is our communities expressing those “values,” then it is up to us to confront and possibly expel them. Those who are in charge of creating Pagan spaces must work to help ensure the safety of their members. No more catering to “both sides.” We simply cannot allow hate speech to go unchecked. Because we know what will happen if we don’t.
We are not all called to be activists – I would not consider myself such. Though I am no stranger to political demonstrations, I have many friends who are far more experienced in those areas than me. But one thing that I have consistently heard from my activist friends is the deep need to disengage from constant stress and find the humor, even in the darkest of situations. This can be difficult, especially when we have been in the throes of real trauma that these events have caused. This makes it all the more important to find little pieces of joy wherever we can.
The queer community has often been known to respond to darkness and evil with humor. With that in mind, I want to provide a few topical distractions from the stress of the news for our twisted amusement. We need to have a laugh, to try to shake off that dark cloud of existential dread. Then we can recommit to being part of the answer, to be a voice of inclusion and acceptance, as we all try to move forward together into a brighter future of our own making.
Here are some of the things that made me laugh recently, all of which mock at Trump and the insurrectionists. They may not all be your style of humor (I’m the first to admit that I am far from an enlightened being) but I hope they bring a little levity to an otherwise terribly heavy situation.
- SmileyDaveUK posted a “reaction video” to the strange sights of the rioters.
- Lisa Kudrow’s Netflix special Death to 2020 skewers the “conservative voices are being silenced” talking point. (“Conservative voices are being silenced,” she says. “I’ve said it before, on my YouTube channel, I said it on Joe Rogan, I said it on the Jordan Peterson kayaking podcast…”)
- The “Viking Guy” speaks out in this parody video.
- And finally, Randy Rainbow presents a musical parody: “SEDITION!”
I hope these help you find a little bit of joy. In the meantime, stay safe out there. Let’s wash our hands, wear our masks, get vaccinated as soon as possible – and for the love of all that is holy, let’s stop peddling baseless conspiracy theories. YouTube is great for music and comedic parodies, but it’s not so much for actual news.