Culture Wars, Activism, Election Countdown, and Being Creative in a Critical World

It’s Friday (mercifully!) and in this week’s Episode 3 of our new podcast, which I host weekly with my insanely talented screenwriter comedian cousin Mark, we grab our drinks and get right into it.

The countdown to November 3rd is staring us dead in the face and we chat about what extremes are doing to our country. Extreme polarization, extreme voter suppression, voter intimidation, ridiculously long lines, new rules for voting by mail, and so much more.

Is there still hope? Will we get through it? There is and we will and we talk about that, too.

And since we try to dig into two topics in each episode, in the second half we dive into what frightens us as artists about the idea of being ‘canceled’ by people who are quick to judge and shame our work.

Creatives, activists, and artists – all humans, in fact – have to be able to make mistakes in order to grow. But how much free expression can we get away with in hyper-critical times like these?

No matter what happens, remember, we have each other and we have laughter and love and gin and we are gonna be okay. Promise.

Relax and join us on Spacetrash Podcast on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts!

 

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Photo by Nicole Geri

Killing Season: On Getting Through Election Week

Next week is gonna be a shit show. Even more than the last four years have been. The exploding culmination of all the corrupt entitlement, bigotry, lies, whining, blaming, killing, flailing, drama, chaos, wild accusations, scandal, deceit, sickness, and ignorance.

Our emotions will be played, manipulated, strung out, trampled, extorted, abused, and weaponized against us.

For weeks I have been counting down the days until Election Day in the USA. But the truth is ‘Election Day’ is now. It’s already happening. I think something like close to seventy million people have already voted in this country. An astoundingly large number of votes have already been cast and we still have five days to go before November 3rd.

It is heartening. And yet. The amount of anxiety that crawls beneath my skin is massive and constant. Fortunately for me (and I sincerely hope for you) I am surrounded by precious friends and family who help me to get through with laughter, love, and the strength that comes with the fabric of community.

I am lucky. I am privileged. I am blessed deeply. For this I am eternally grateful, and even still I never thought it would come to this. Not here. Not in America. Not in the land of the free and home of the brave, which is a sickeningly cliche thing to say, I know.

Why write any of this?

I’ve no clue if it is helping – me or you or anybody.

Because I can’t not write this. I can’t not capture in words the reality – the stark shrieking reality – of this time. This exact moment in history.

I write it as it happens knowing that very soon this time will be over, gone, swept away like grains of sand upon the winds of change.

We may have never thought it would come down to this one election which will decide the fate of our lives forever. Will we recover by trusting science and taking care of the least of us or will we be thrown into the darkest period we have ever known and possibly ever will, under the sadistic rule of a blood thirsty dictator.

We may never have thought this would be a choice to be made in our lifetimes. If you are like me, you are incredulous that this “choice” is so hard for some people to make.

But here we are.

It is what it is.

We have to play this as it lies.

We have anxiety and fear and disorientation.

But we also still have a voice. We still have power, resolve, community, hope, determination. We still get a vote and vote we will, and have, in massive numbers. Do not stop now. Do not stop ever.

Because this isn’t over on November 3rd. For myself, I am already practicing extreme self care in preparation for next week when every minute will be another shock, another surprise, another rant, another abuse of power.

What I keep believing in, though, is that what we are witness to is the final gasp of patriarchal power trying desperately, grossly, furiously, to keep its wrathful grip on a society which deep down it knows has already left it for dead.

We are not going back and we are not going away and we will not stop and we will not be silenced.

I don’t know what America will look like over the next three months, no one does. It is unthinkable yet highly likely that this president will tear us to shreds just for spite whether he loses or wins, concedes (ha) or doesn’t. He is already working quietly behind the chaotic scenes to dismantle the civil service, to gut and discredit the vital structures of science, environmentalism, social justice, journalism and many others, from the inside out.

Destruction. Demolition. Burn it all down, they don’t give a fuck about life of any kind. They are a cult of death, built on death, death as currency to gain more power and wealth.

But I do know that right now, recording this exact moment in time, while we all watch and wait and pray and guess and wonder AND VOTE, we can all feel that we have already been fundamentally changed forever.

We have been driven to the brink and forced to look ourselves square in the eye and answer for who we are, who we believe ourselves to be, what we expect not only of our leaders but of ourselves as leaders in this fight.

The next few months are gonna get ugly. But maybe if we acknowledge that now, we can take back a bit of our sanity ahead of time. Try to remind ourselves, over and over, that we will win.

No matter how long it takes.

 

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Photo by Annie Spratt 

 

 

 

Autumn Erotic

He lights her cigarette and spreads her legs as wide as they will go before unzipping her skin tight jeans and leaving her there, exposed, arms behind her back, in the straightback chair.

Her boots are rich tall buttery leather, heels like towering city buildings.

The upstairs attic room is rustic textured dark wood and low gray-gold lighting, as outside a large open widow, the autumn evening drapes its muted oranges and yellows, deep greens and chocolate browns, down along a mountain range swathed in thin white fog.

She watches him as he moves expertly about her, she is motionless, yielding, as he pulls roughly at the holes in the torn denim at her knees, ripping the soft fabric open further, revealing sudden peeks of taught porcelain skin.

Stealing her cigarette, he steps back to observe her, naked from the waist up, strawberry hair cascading down over her pale smooth breasts. He curls his lip into a sly smirk as he blows smoke in her direction, the taste of sin and spice, and her crystal blue eyes flash with the electricity of what it feels like to be observed, objectified, studied.

Seen.

Desired.

Adored.

Under his gaze she comes alive, a graceful animal, heightened, within the wilderness of skin, bone, exposure, excited by the earthy scent of the coming darkness of night.

Made to sit still, obey, arouse, pose as instructed. For pleasure. She is a mysterious gift, a playful nymph, a work of exquisitely tousled art, fine sculpture, ribbed, malleable clay.

He knows it is the limitations he places around her like invisible restraints which will penetrate, cause her to overflow her wanton cups, mouth, lips, eyes, hips, sex.

She leans back to shake the blazing waves of her auburn hair, just to feel them whisper against her bare back. She needs to be touched. She needs to be pet. His pet. Feel his generous strokes of affection. Protection. Command. Encouragement.

Sensing her want as it crackles in the air between them, he stands behind her and gently places the cigarette back in her mouth. As it grazes her tongue she bites the tip of his finger – teeth digging hard into his delicious flesh – and he drags the force of his palms along her jaw before tugging her hair tight inside his fist.

She arches her long elegant neck and struggles against the hardness of the chair. The divine torture of the friction it creates causes her to moan aloud.

That’s a good girl. Let me hear you, baby. 

His hands trace her collarbone, then move in unison over her breasts, caressing, kneading, pinching her nipples to stand fully erect, obscene, as the molten heat turns to liquid lava between her thighs.

Moving the sweet pressure of his touch down along her aching skin, stopping for just a breath at her navel, before skimming the thick fingers of his right hand over her throbbing, swollen slit.

As the evening sun slopes quietly behind the purple of darkening mountains in the distance, she is wide open for him.

Her ragged panting hot against the pulse of his neck.

A living, breathing, silent primal beg.

 

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[A note to my new and long-time readers: I write so many different kinds of pieces on this blog. I love to write erotica, but I haven’t felt compelled to do so in a while, as my nerves have been so very frayed by the current societal scene in America. Just this morning, though, I came across a gorgeous image of a woman posing nude in front of a window which looked out at rolling mountains covered with multicolored autumn trees. And I was suddenly deeply moved to write this piece, to me it is a celebration of our inner and outer seasons, of our truly ecstatic nature as erotic human creatures, wanting for the pure trembling joy of expression, exploration, adoration, and the kind of intimacy which sparks the flickering fires of lust. There are many kinds of freedom. I want them all.]

 

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Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy

Blueprint of Emotion (audio)

 

Having spent the bulk of the day pretending to be someone I’m not, I think about what love could possibly mean in a world as fucked up as this one, slide the key into the ignition and make my way home.

I pass the kids playing basketball on the courts near the baseball fields which stretch out along the road next to the tall apartment buildings with their white painted balconies.

I’m driving into the setting sun, flinching in the raging orange glare, in search of meaning in the patterns which have become the blueprint of my life. Time has moved so quickly while standing still.

There is a noise that distance makes. There is a rustling, a sifting sound of discontent that grates in the veins, reminding you of what you could have been if only you had done things differently.

The melancholy static of phantom pain, the ghost of a life at the sides of your breathing. And is it a mirror we find ourselves in, is it a window through which we find our faces reflected in the midnight snow.

The poets dream, it is our most cherished and distorted obsession. It becomes sustenance, somewhere as we emerge from innocence, it becomes blood.

By the time I’m home the evening light is fading and gorgeous, glinting along a single silk thread swinging loose from a spider web which straddles the electric wires outside my window.

In the privacy, in the silence, everything I held back so tightly for hours on end becomes unraveled from around my little aching bones.

There is smoke in the night air against my lips.

Falling leaves.

A faintly veined fragility in everything.

 

 

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Photo by Thirteen J

 

Coming Clean: Say What Needs to Be Said

To speak your truth out loud changes the molecules of the atmosphere inside of you, and outside of you.

This is the part of writing that keeps writers coming back. It’s electrical. Molecular, biological. In the forming of the thoughts, the critical thinking, observations, research, the thirst and hunger for knowledge, for perspective.

Perhaps this is why those in the heights of power don’t want us to talk about politics. They don’t want us to imagine a better, fairer, kinder way.

They don’t want us to have a voice.

Because they know that once we have all of that, once we have a clear vision and the ability to articulate it compellingly, we become powerful, too. We become much harder to control, to silence, to intimidate, to crush.

As of this writing, there are fourteen days left until November 3rd. Once these fourteen days are over, they are gone forever. What has been said and done to bring about our future will have been said and done and laid to rest.

If there are things you feel bubbling up inside of you, truths you want to speak, influence you want to have over the outcome of this choice we must all make about the future of our country and the world, and the life we will lead going forward into 2021 and beyond, it is time to say them out loud.

The hard conversations. The pushing past our comfort zones to engage in a kind of speak that may be brand new, it may feel cumbersome, it may feel overwhelming.

It is time to say the thing that up until now you were afraid to say.

To make little quakes in the universe with your thoughts and words and feelings. To electrify the atmosphere within and around you. To alter the biology of this nation, this society, this collective experiment.

A strange and oddly beautiful thing has happened to me over the course of the past few weeks as I endeavored to express my perspectives and observations, views and feelings, surrounding the upcoming US election.

I knew it would be unsettling in some ways for me to speak about politics in such naked fashion, to essentially say the things I had been thinking inside silently for so long.

What I did not expect or see coming was how I would be changed, transformed, even, by doing so. When you go where you feel you don’t belong and stick it out, you find you do belong. You belong everywhere, in all things, in all situations, where you feel called to be.

Not because you are a savior or prophet or some sort of anointed guru with all the answers, but because you are human. All of this world is your world. All of the topics are your topics to wrangle with should you so choose.

This is not just about one election. This is about your life. What you allow yourself to be and become. What you believe matters. What is at the very heart and soul and core of you.

Will you speak the truth even if your voice shakes? Even if it means you will have to stand alone in some instances? Stand out and stand up?

The days are growing short and the time is now or never. Perhaps the person you want to be is the person you are already.

You just have to say it out loud.

 

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Photo by Taylor Harding

Why You Gotta Talk So Much Politics?

Sunday morning.

The sky is ice blue behind electric orange trees, leaves rustling slightly in the cool autumn air.

The past week was chaotic, loud, confusing, and intense. It has been many weeks like this and I know the one ahead will only be different because the madness will increase exponentially from now until election day, and then still beyond that.

Trump will not go quietly, graciously, or with decency. He will claw and fight and rage and gnash his filthy teeth to get what he wants. To hold tight to power with childish stubby little fists.

We know this. In fact, it is one of the few things about him you can count on. Rage. Lies. Jealousy. Vicious cruelty, criminality, corruption.

And so it is.

I light a pine scented candle, sip my coffee, open my laptop and begin to write.

In times like these, when the spirit is relentlessly drained each and every day, each and every hour, I have to remind myself to breathe. I have to be vigilant not only about what is happening outside and around me, but also inside me.

I feel everything underneath my skin. Creatives always do. Our senses are heightened, we see not only with our eyes, but with everything we are made of, everything that we are.

I know the week ahead will be full of hope and energy, a fierceness of purpose, an ever sharpening eye on the prize. We must win this election. And we must never stop fighting with compassion to right the wrongs of our past and present, and give all of our hearts, minds, souls, bodies, talents, to creating a future worthy of our little ones, our children, and our highest selves.

Someone asked me the other day why my writing has “gotten so political.” And I laughed at first, shunning the ignorance of that question. How can it not? I think to myself. What else could it or should it possibly be in times like these?

But then I did take pause.

And as I sit here looking out over the rooftops and up into the bright sky blue with promise and possibility and great great heights, it occurs to me that everything is political.

From the air we breathe to the art we make to the words we speak.

It’s just that maybe we only notice its fever pitch when we are fighting for our lives.

 

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Photo by Kharytonova Antonina

This Is How It Happens Here

On November 3rd we vote for a system of American government.

We choose between democracy or fascism. Republic or dictatorship.

A life of hope and freedom and possibility or a life of cruelty and imprisonment and injustice.

What continues to astound me is how many people do not see this.

And I wonder, do they see it but don’t believe it?

Do they think it could never happen here?

American exceptionalism is not a real thing, though we have been taught to believe in it.

We are not exceptions to the rules of humanity, we are not immune to the insidious takeover of authoritarianism.

Any society made ripe with fear and division, crime and deception and greed, will collapse into chaos.

Under the right conditions, any body will break.

All flesh will tear.

We are made of the same stuff as any other body, any other country.

Just as vulnerable.

This is how it happens.

Is happening.

We are in it.

And this election won’t heal the wound.

But at the very least

we have got to stop the bleeding.

Vote.

 

 

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Photo by Ewelina Karezona Karbowiak

Liar, Liar: Why We Must Protect the Integrity of Speech

As writers, we have talked about why we must protect our freedom of speech. But what I think doesn’t get near the attention it should is not just the right to  freedom of speech but the necessity of the integrity of speech.

The integrity of speech meaning to speak the truth, even and especially when it is hard. Even and especially when it is inconvenient and uncomfortable. To speak the truth as the first priority in the relationship.

The integrity of speech means using language to bring people together rather than divide them. Knowing the best way to do that is to be both compassionate and transparent.

To be honest with people is to respect them. We are all adults in the room. We can handle anything so long as you give it to us straight.

This is how to build a society around trust, which is the strongest bond there is between any two people, any two groups, any two nations.

What we have lost over the last four years is the trust of our nation’s people, our ability to respect each other, listen to each other, protect each other.

We have lost our allies around the globe for the same reason. Lack of integrity. The president is incapable of understanding the value of community. He is incapable of empathy. He is incapable of using language and communication to unite people, protect people, honor people.

He is incapable of keeping his word, which, by nature of the office he holds, is our word.

His words become our words when we elect a man to speak for us.

His lies become our lies. His delusions become our fears, our confusion, our crippled and dwindling power.

We must be extremely discerning when it comes to giving a president – or anyone – such awesome power to speak for us. Trump is a liar and a conman. That is all he has ever been and none of it will change because it can’t. He can’t.

On November 3rd (26 days away as of this writing) we vote for integrity, transparency, truth, community, unity, true power.

We have seen the alternative. And I’m pretty sure most of us would agree we’ve seen too much.

And at the same time, not nearly enough.

 

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Photo by Gerardo Marrufo 

Does Your Vote Even Matter?

“The line between freedom and fascism, love and hate, justice and injustice, is us. It has always been us.”Janaya Future Khan

A common reason some will choose not to vote is because they will say their vote doesn’t matter anyway. That in the grand scheme of things, their one little vote means essentially nothing.

Another common one, which sounds similar but is of a different nature, is that they will not vote because they reject the system as a whole. That the whole political establishment is a mess, a disgrace, a lost cause.

Or they don’t like either candidate. They are both corrupt. Both filthy rich privileged out of touch with the average citizen.

And to all of this, I would say: Could be. It is true that there is corruption and disgraceful behavior. It is true money and politics are too deeply entrenched with one another. It is true neither candidate – this year especially – is the ideal representation of either party.

Also true at the exact same time (as 2020 has taught us so well to hold two difficult and opposing truths at once) is that “the system” we are talking about is democracy. Democracy is the system we’ve got. If we don’t want to keep it, what is the alternative?

Because throwing away your vote, and if enough people do it, is a good way to end the system. We are watching democracy crumble and fast, right before our very eyes. Is that really what we want? To let this shit burn to the ground because it isn’t working exactly or ideally the way we want it to?

We are in this now, like it or not. Difficult or not. Frightening, frustrating, disillusioning or not.

The only way to force democracy to work for us is to start by using our votes to choose what we want, one election at a time. You don’t get just one vote. Over your lifetime you get hundreds of votes in hundreds of elections, which is plenty enough to start steering the ship in our direction of choice.

If we want change, we have to do this from the inside out.

I was listening to Austin Channing Brown, a best selling author who speaks about racial justice, faith, and Black womanhood, and she suggested people who are struggling with whether or not to vote, or if their vote matters, to vote for the candidate who would do the most good for the most oppressed among us.

I understand feeling small. I understand feeling like your voice is just one among many – too many – to matter much at all. But we need to begin to open our minds to thinking beyond just ourselves, just voting for the candidate we as individuals like best, to looking at our society as a whole and where we want all of us to be in the long term.

If you have a better vision for this country, if you want us to get better, to get stronger, more compassionate, more free, you must vote in the direction of those things. Not because it “matters” in the grand scheme of things, but because it matters to you.

Does your vote matter…to you? Because in this election, we are holding the line between freedom and fascism, love and hate, justice and injustice.

Our democracy is broken. It is fragile and trembling, dangling by a thread.

But it is not beyond repair or beyond hope if we act now. Now, in fact, is all we have. Trump will do everything in his sadistic power to steal this election and ramrod this country into the throws of authoritarianism, he has shown us exactly who he is time and time again for years.

If you think your vote doesn’t matter now, try to affect the system in any meaningful way without having a vote at all. Without the right to protest. Without the right to speak truth to power without fear of violent retaliation.

I am voting Biden so I can look myself in the mirror on November 4th and the rest of my life knowing I did the very least I could to protect the people I love the most.

And the hard truth is? Just voting isn’t near enough, but it’s the only place to start.

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P.S. Please follow me on Instagram @allisonmarieconway and share quotes of my work if any of this resonates with you. It is a quick, kind, effective way to express your views with those who love and trust you most. Thank you!

P.P.S. If this post resonates with you please share it on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and/or any other platforms where you think it will reach like minded people who need to feel more empowered and less alone as we approach November 3rd. Words that resonate should be shared so communities can be made stronger, held more precious, and made less afraid. Get Out The Vote for Biden/Harris 2020.

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Photo by Roma Kaiuk

Open Letter to Artists in Dark Times Like These

We fight for ideals, but we live in reality. In some ways, this kind of dissonance will always feel hopeless. But this is also where artists shine. We know that the space between vision and reality is where creativity and potential thrive.

It’s twenty eight days until the election in the US.

The election which will effect the entire globe in dire and serious ways. I have encouraged us to not sit this election out and vote. I have expressed why as a writer I believe in my core that we must preserve and protect and secure our rights to freedom of speech, protest, and speak truth to power. And why we must vote Trump out in November.

Today I wanted to remind us that it’s totally normal to feel hopeful and hopeless at the same time. To loathe the dystopian reality we are living in and at the same time fight for a better future with fierce compassion and strong conviction.

If 2020 has taught me anything, it is that we are being (forcibly) taught to hold two opposing emotions at once. Hope and fear. Dread and love. Compassion and numbness. Energized and depleted. We are being stretched so thin in our hearts, souls, minds, bodies, and spirits, and this kind of maddening growth is so painful and so frightening.

If you feel out of your mind from one second to the next. If you are fighting to get out the vote, to have hard conversations with friends and family. If you have suffered loss and grief and pain and you look around and see only the same reflected back to you all the time. You are not alone in that. I feel that, too.

I feel all of that, too.

And yet.

We will get through if we stick together. If we focus on the love more than the hate as best we can. You can bring your hurt and pain and brokenness to this fight. You can bring all of who you are to this fight. You can define your Why in this fight and allow it to fuel your contribution.

We can be creative in times like these.

Artists are born for times like these.

We know personally and  intimately what it means to take our pain and turn it into a vision that creates the reality we want to come alive.

We are not helpless, we are hurting.

If we are gentle with ourselves, and honest, we can work with that.

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P.S. If this post resonates with you please share it on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and/or any other platforms where you think it will reach like minded people who need to feel more empowered and less alone as we approach November 3rd. Words that resonate should be shared so communities can be made stronger, held more precious, and made less afraid. Get Out The Vote for Biden/Harris 2020.

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Photo by Peter Bucks