I never thought it’d seep into my dreams. For four years I have been mindful of grabbing injustice with chopsticks and separating it from the central focus of my life, like I do wasabi. But the past two weeks have been earthquakes under my feet, shaking the foundation of accepted reality.
Indignation hasn’t interrupted my sleep since the zero-tolerance policy, even though every day is filled with tweets that shouldn’t be normalized. Somehow the mind adjusts and swipes away. Not the child separation though, not the election. Both times, the indignation consumed me, desperation stormed through my veins. The images of children crying. Nothing jolts like the pang of injustice. My thoughts at the time: Please stop, you’re hurting them. You’re hurting me. I argued at a dinner table with my uncles who supported the policy, and I saw xenophobia unabashed, unashamed. Their friend, a woman, when she responded to my plea for empathy with a clear cutting line that shot my ears, “Yes, let them traumatize the two-year-olds. Anything to keep them out of my neighborhood.” I couldn’t sleep for days afterwards. I kept replaying the scene, each time the resentment burned my eyes, they’d water. I saw them again a few weeks ago at my aunt’s funeral. They said they should’ve put the Trump flag on her tombstone.
I went to bed tonight. It was him in my dreams. His lies. “Fraud!” “Illegal voting!” He will not concede. His voice disturbed me. I awoke two hours later. He wants to kill what’s left of democracy. There hasn’t been enough music and movies and art to distract me, to remind me that life exists outside of this political circus. When was the last time I unearthed a new song? But he will not concede? And now I am the American patriot. Without the mutual acceptance of reality, there is no consensus of anything. How do we communicate if he has killed language? If he has killed taste and smell and sight and touch and sound? If he has killed our ability to identify, if our experience can no longer be understood? If we cannot name? He will not concede. I am watching the madness unfold, the conspiracy theories flooding my family’s Whatsapps, Facebook, the whole world. I am noticing how my family members morph into sycophantic zombies, swallowing the sweetness of even the least likely—my favorite grandmother. The other one is swept away too. I argue, I fight off the slime that’s weighing on the flower petals. I keep an encyclopedia at my bedside table. With a magnifying glass, I point out the distortions. I call on their better angels, I talk about Jesus. What am I doing with my time? He has stolen my peace, made me create a website to fact-check the news. Made me consider going to NYU for political science. I have become political. Is it activism? I write things, people share them. I sell pamphlets, people buy them. I’m not sure who I’m becoming, and yet I know I can’t stop. But the other day I remembered that I liked to sing. I used to write poetry. I was writing a book. Now, I’ve enlisted in an army to fight to save a democracy that has not even tried to save me. A democracy that worships a system that has always been lethal to creativity, a killer of artists. But I can’t disentangle myself from the need to fight lies. Injustice is a poison. It hurts me physically. It brings indigestion, heartburn. You can’t live with lies, the soul wilts away in darkness. The lightness of life, love, beauty, doesn’t flow freely. In my unraveling sadness, someone came to me and said, don’t worry, sleep soundly. “El bien vencerá en el mundo, aunque el mal haga más ruido.”