HOWL Into the Light

by Joani Reese

(With Art by Chris Mansel)

The United States has fallen down a rabbit hole studded with the razors of lies and deception, dark mirrors, and post-truths. As a writer, I, along with a majority of my colleagues, feel an urgency to reject and expose this dismantling of all we believe in rushing toward us, and I am trying to summon the courage to resist at any price. As a straight, middle-class white woman, I know I am in less danger in this brave new world of hate and fearmongering than many of my fellow artists who are of color, who practice a minority religion, or who are LGBTQ, yet I sense an inevitable clash for all people of conscience between remaining relatively safe on the sidelines, mere observers of the coming devastation , or embracing wholeheartedly the job of speaking truth to power with all of its incumbent dangers, both to our physical selves and to our intellectual and personal freedoms.

Every day, the man who would be king perpetrates a new outrage on our faltering democracy. Whether it’s putting climate denier Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA, a rapacious Goldman Sachs Gary Cohn as Director of the National Economic Council, or President of Exxon-Mobil Rex (meaning ‘king,’ of course) Tillerson, a man with deep ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, in charge of determining State Department policy, all of these choices must not be normalized.  Ivanka Trump, shilling her baubles after wearing them in the service of her father’s new position, must not be normalized. A president-elect who refuses to disclose his tax returns, refuses to meet with the press, refuses to disclose his business ties to foreign entities, who denigrates Hispanics, African Americans, women, Muslims, must not be normalized. A man who places white supremacist Stephen Bannon in one of the most powerful advising positions in government must not be normalized.

A groundswell of brave politicians who refuse to go along with this criminal behavior is not coming. They are cowards for the most part, and we are on our own. Maintaining truth is the job of artists and writers now. Even President Obama, a man I have always admired, has disappointed in his silence on these critical issues that will shape our country for decades to come.  Women are in jeopardy. LGBTQ people are in jeopardy. Muslims are in jeopardy. Hispanics are in jeopardy. African Americans are in jeopardy. The old are in jeopardy. Jews are in jeopardy. The disabled are in jeopardy. The poor are in jeopardy. The environment is in jeopardy. The press is in jeopardy. Still, we must not lose hope. We must not lose heart. We have far to go, but we’ll get there just the same if we stay together and speak out.  We cannot fail because the stakes are too high and the alternative unthinkable.

We must continue to fill the inboxes of our public servants with demands that they serve the people, not corporations, fascists, or demagogues; we must donate to righteous causes like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace and Amnesty International. We must demand accountability and transparency in our leaders, and we must refuse to accept half-truths and reject words intended to soften the truth that we are being told lies, euphemisms like fake news.  We must expose the lies, refuse to stay silent when those who wish to control the discourse spout propaganda. We have to remain vigilant and ferret out injustice in all its myriad forms. Let’s start in our own workplaces, towns, churches to speak out because ignoring what is happening is not an option, even for those who prefer polite silence. Those who are silent in the face of this wholesale slaughter of the truth are complicit. What is happening needs to be condemned and expunged at any cost. We must not go into this darkness quietly. We are not beaten and we must not give up. Thank you for giving writers like me an opportunity to speak against the worst miscarriage of justice in my lifetime.

Joani Reese


(Image by Chris Mansel, Untitled)


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