It’s the end of the world as we know it. I’m standing in the ruins of an American farmhouse, staring at the abandoned photo of an immigrant ancestor. I leave the house in decay, the cattle in the field and expand my mind. I exchange an agrarian heritage for an urban lifestyle. I become the generation to bridge my buckaroo roots with the progression of a democratic nation through education. I’m the first person in my paternal line to earn a college degree. Two of my three grown children (and my son-in-law) all hold Masters Degrees.
Despite what I have learned through higher education, I know first hand “The Cult of Ignorance” Issac Asimov speaks of in a 1980 article:
“The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
I grew up in this anti-intellectualism, where I was told reading was lazy and books full of shit. When my grandfather ran cattle for a large ranch, he’d make fun of the owner for his worthless college education. One day the owner’s wife saw me riding and offered to teach me to post. I was thirsty to learn anything and everything. Watching the Fox Hunt Club come through the ranch on weekends, I was fascinated by how different they rode their horses. I readily accepted lessons.
Not only was I shamed and ridiculed when my grandfather found out, he yelled at owner’s wife to stay away from me. I learned that for some reason, we were different, that woman and I. It was more than how we rode. And secretly, I loved how she yelled back at the man who abused me, the man no one else in my family ever stood up to until my cousin confronted him some thirty years later.
Confrontation is battleground for me. It doesn’t induce fight or flight; it leads to paralysis and I avoid that at all costs. With my craving to learn, I rebelled, however, and hid to read. Throughout my childhood, I had many willing adults ready to feed my mind. Growing up, mentors appeared to direct me to read Greek Classics, to look for certain rocks, to pay attention to lessons found in different cultures. I was primed for intellectualism despite the pride my family of origin placed on their hard work being superior to knowledge. It was my rebellion from life as I knew it.
A sense of superiority masks a fear of inferiority. Generational incest occurs in families that feel powerless. The dynamic is one of power and control. Trump does not grab pussies because he’s crass; he does it to prove his power. A working man who grooms his own children and grandchildren for sexual gratification is not necessarily attracted to children, but to the power he can over them.
An even more sinister dynamic of incest is the one that involves women. It might be difficult to understand, but in this power dynamic, women feel safer protecting the abuser more so than the abused. Let that sink in a moment. This is a real thing. Women can be our own worst misogynists. The women are left to clean up, deny and redirect the flow of family stories. Generation. After. Generation.
I’m not trying to make you squirm. In fact, I feel angry when I feel the need to write about incest on a blog meant to prosper diversity in literature. Unfortunately it is part of my story and I’ve been triggered since the realization that my grandfather just won the presidency and my mother, grandmother and aunts are all yelling at me to behave, to quit being the rotten apple and calling me crazy. I can smell gaslighting as if it were leaking propane. Rotten eggs.
In my mind, Trump was never a valid candidate. He was not properly vetted and his popularity was showmanship over discourse. He found that vein of hard-working, disgruntled white Americans and played into their desire for power in a world that didn’t reward their ignorance. Instead of education, instead of seeking a growth mindset, this disconnected pocket of Americans united in a false sense of righting whatever powers they felt they were denied.
The losses are real, don’t get me wrong. Ranches, farms small-town businesses, factory jobs, steel-mill jobs, mining boom and bust cycles have plagued those who have come to America and worked hard for their slice of the pie. Instead of realizing they could better their situation through education, they clung to ignorance as a shield. And in this mess, as well as among the elite circles were power became a heady elixir, a rape culture unfolded.
The day Trump’s infamous sexual assault bragging on video was made public, women who had been sexually abused or assaulted have triggered. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), calls to their Hotline (1-800-656-4673). What triggered me was not the “locker room banter” excuse, but the fact that countless white American women defended his words and actions as no big deal. This minimalizing and normalizing of sexual assault, especially in how it relates to power and control dynamic, is what did me in. I had to seek self-care.
Thus, what we are seeing in America is the dynamic of incest. A wealthy and powerful narcissist has agitated the ignorant and powerless white majority who feel entitled to more because they work hard to earn it. They don’t see themselves as bigots, racists or misogynists; they see themselves as frustrated, ignored, hard-working individuals who value God and want to not find new beginnings in endings. They are scared they are losing out to minorities, special interests and government as usual. Valid concerns. Yet they fail to see any harm in what they are doing or applauding. Ignorance does not think critically.
I’m not saying the percentage of white, uneducated, evangelical female voters are guilty of perpetuating generations of incest, but that they are participants in a similar dynamic. It doesn’t help that neither party listened to constituents and provided non-toxic opponents, or that we are deadlocked in division with a failed two-party system and fear voting third party.
To those who claim that the third party vote elected Trump, go look at the exit polls. I’m a registered third-party voter and I anguished over my vote, but in the end I voted for HER; the most qualified person for the office. If she is truly guilty of criminal wrong-doing, then let our justice prevail. If you protect one Amendment, you protect them all. And every citizen has the Constitutional right to due process.
I cannot let my voice be silent. I broke the silence of one dynamic and I can’t refrain from expressing what I’m seeing in this election. It’s my way and space for processing it all. To those who voted for Trump, I hope the hate rhetoric is just that — words — and we as a nation come to prevail in unity for all in action. That politics as usual needs a good overhaul, I don’t deny. But hate only breeds hate and fear is its fodder.
President Obama has set the stage for a peaceful transfer of power. My greatest hope is that we can all live up to that, and heal the dynamics that churn ignorance. Let us never fear, nor make elite, knowledge. It is for everyone. It teaches new perspectives and empathy. Let’s embrace diversity. Carrot Ranch is safe space for writers to practice craft, explore voice and model compassion. We grow together.
And write. Write like your soul needs the wind to pass through this season. Write like your brain might seize up if you don’t. Write like you need to leave a legacy. Write whimsy. Write rage. Write the light in and the dark out. Write. Open your mind, your creativity and we will rise above the chains of ignorance. Power is not what we need. Find your own empowerment. Unity is not in old power dynamics; it is found in diversity.
And the end? Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. It might be the end of the world as we know it, what comes next?
November 9, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pivots around an unexpected ending. If it’s the end of the world as we know it, what is the renewal? You can have history repeat itself. You can include dynamics that never change despite an ending. You can show a triumphant ending. A tragic one. A silly, “That’s all folks!”
Respond by November 15, 2016 to be included in the compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Hickok’s Ending (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
Sarah knew this was the end. She sat in her cabin, hands folded and quivering. Several times she stood to draw the curtain only to realize she already had. Twice now. When the scrape of boots thundered across the porch, Sarah startled like a sparrow in the willows. Hickok stood in the doorway. Had she forgotten to close the door? Or were his boots so loud, she failed to hear him enter.
“Why are your boots so loud,” is all she could think to say.
“It’s over. I done it. I’m riding to turn myself in on self-defense.”
Not Over Yet (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Christmas decorations sparkled from every corner of the cabin. Danni strung evergreens and LED lights across the porch eaves, and bedecked the pine she cut down. Ike would laugh at her waggling path where she’d harnessed three of the dogs to pull the tree home. He was finally coming home. Of course, Danni would act mad at first, chewing him out for his lack of calls while he travelled. She barely heard the knock at the door, but the dogs barked, including Nana.
It wasn’t Ike. It was Sandwater Security on official business. Ike would not be coming home.