We Won. What Comes Next? (audio)

After the election was called for Biden on Saturday November 7th, I called my people and we cried and screamed and laughed and finally, finally, exhaled.

We did it. It was official. We won.

As did future generations. As did the world. As did science, truth, dignity, and grace.

There are too many reasons to be grateful to list them all here. If you voted for Biden you know why you did, and you brought about this phenomenal win for this country.

Against so very many odds.

Against a machine that was actively and aggressively trying everything it could to silence us. Which is still trying, pathetically, recklessly, dangerously, to pull the nation into chaos in a last ditch effort to uphold some sort of deranged bullshit form of alternate reality.

Lawsuits. Lies. Fear mongering. It’s all petulant nonsense, but they will push and pound and tantrum over it for months.

And to be honest, I spent the last four years feeling an undercurrent of anxiety so strong I felt like paying attention to the news was like a survival mechanism. I thought that as long as I see what is happening and stay vigilant, I would see what was coming before it hit.

Before it could get me. Before it could hurt the people I love. By staying engaged, I thought I would see it coming in time.

But the problem is, that the greatest threat to our future is not what is about to come next. It’s what we have refused to deal with from our past. Our own apathy, cynicism, laziness, ignorance.

It’s thinking none of this is our responsibility. It’s our thinking someone else will care so I don’t have to. It’s our refusal to talk politics. It’s in not protecting those who have the least.

It’s what we took for granted. What we refused to understand, or support, or do, or say.

So when I think about what comes next, I think about the things I considered normal before which I do not want to return to.  I think about who I was before and who I want to be on the other side of this thing. Because in a very real way we are on the other side.

We made it through. We must celebrate this phenomenal victory. We must. And we must take a breath, let it sink in, let it fortify us. Think about what comes next.

For me, I’m going to spend time reflecting on what I have learned over the past four years, and there is so very much. I want to make sure I remember how far we have come. The people I would never have met if it weren’t for this radical time. Incredibly powerful, mighty, gorgeous people.

One thing is for sure. Now we see who values human life and who does not. Who truly wants equality and who does not. We know the hideousness of outright cruelty and how dangerously close we came to fascism taking full hold in America.

We know who to align with and who to leave behind.

There are demons in me I had to confront. Ugliness, hatefulness, that I have been forced to reckon with inside of myself.

And that’s ok.

I owe it to the people I have found who believe in a brighter more dignified future to work out my own issues, whatever it is in me that was keeping me quiet when I should have gotten loud. Whatever it is in me that had caused me to shrink instead of expand.

Being forced to fight, it turns out, teaches you how to fight. We learned, we adapted, we organized, we were relentless, we were fierce and bold and true in our compassion.

The thing we fought so hard to uphold, a democratic republic, has been saved because we saved ourselves. And what was at stake will always be what is at stake: our lives.

 

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Photo by Maria Lysenko

 

 

 

America, the Beautiful and the Broken

I’m sipping my morning coffee while looking out my writing room window at the auburn trees set in patchwork design against a soft blue sky. And I can feel it. I can feel the beating hearts all across America as we wait for the election results to be announced officially, even as we know exactly what they are.

President Biden. Vice President Harris. This we know.

And just to type those words together sends a current of heat and comfort all through my being. The amount of anxiety, damage, and depression the last five years have caused us as individuals and as a collective society has been immeasurable.

We tried our best to soldier through it. It was not easy. It has been traumatizing and terrifying to watch and experience every. single. fucking. day. You cannot imagine it. Only living through it can teach you what it is like to realize how very much you have to lose and to feel helpless as you watch it being taken brutally, monstrously, intentionally, indifferently, cruelly.

But we turned toward each other. We found each other. We the ones who believe in decency, dignity, compassion, justice, equality, liberty.

We came together and we turned our pain into action and we voted out the insidious evil. It will not be enough, of course. There is still much deep soulful, ugly, and difficult work to be done. An activist I adore said it this way: we have cut off the head of the Hydra, but we need to get to the heart.

For me, I have become so much more clear. Much more aware of the trouble we face as a nation and a world, and also aware of what it will take to fix it. We are the leaders we need. We are the healers. We are the spirit and the answer.

But for this moment in time, as we hold each other at the dawning of a new day, a new season of hope, I am feeling so many things at once. Relief. Gratitude. Overwhelming gratitude for the kind and decent and hardworking citizens of our nation who made sure the election was executed smoothly, methodically, safely.

But the biggest thing I am feeling now is love. Love for all of the people in my life who rallied and worked to secure this major epic victory. Love for a country which is broken but trying like hell to heal.

And you feel it even deeper still when you know you earned it. Chose it. Fought day after day after excruciating day for it. Together. Just like we will have to keep doing, forever.

 

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Photo by Jakob Owens

How I’m Surviving Election Day USA 2020

It took four agonizing, traumatic, vile years but today is finally here.

Election Day in the USA and already nearly 100 million of us have cast our votes. Since I already turned in my ballot weeks ago (and verified that it was counted) I almost wanted to ignore today to spare myself the jitters, nausea, and lightheaded sickness that is watching the votes be counted.

Ha.

I’m too invested in the outcome to not look, to ignore, to check out, tune out now. If you are voting today, power to the polls, baby, stay in line, bring a mask, chair, water, snacks, joy and peace and resolve. And get the sticker, too. I wish I had the sticker.

If, like me, you are feeling anxious about whether Biden will win, I offer you these thoughts today in case they help. If not, well: whiskey.

The past four years have changed me in fundamental ways and I will never be the same. I will never be as naive, passive, or – ironically – fearful as I was four years ago.

I have learned too much both about the horror that can come when we don’t pay attention, and also about my own strength when forced to reckon with hard truths. Racism. Sexism. Discrimination. Authoritarianism. Democracy. Republic. Gerrymandering. Electoral College (fuck that, btw, we gotta kill that off). Protest. Truth. Lies. Pandemic. CDC. Environmentalism. Journalism. Messaging. Hope. Despair.

All of these concepts are radically changed, heightened, clarified for me now. I know how to use my voice in a way I never have before. I know what it means to decide once and for all what I stand for, and what I absolutely will not.

I have clarified my relationships. I know where I want to be and with whom with a clarity and conviction I never had before.

And I share all of this with you today because I know there are millions and millions of us who feel this way. And we can have deep hope in that. We can expound upon our collective strength and power rooted in that.

Because we are changed. We are newly formed. And we are not going away. No matter what happens today or tomorrow or this week or these next three months, we are not going back to the way it was ever again.

Resolve. Vigilance. Compassion. Kindness. Trust in science. Activism. Awareness. Awakening. Democratic participation.

These are the new normal.

No matter what happens today. We will never be the same. And my guess is, that is exactly what the wanna-be-dictator is so desperately afraid of.

Stay safe. Stay dangerous. I’ll see you on the other side.

Whatever that is.

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P.S. If you are alone tonight and don’t want to be (nobody should be), join me and thousands of others as we stick together virtually via Janaya Khan’s Instagram Live here: @Janayathefuture They have held my head and heart together all along. 

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Photo by Tuva Mathilde Loland

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 

 

 

 

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