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The night the Nevada Senate race was called, I threw up. Not once, not twice, but three times. Catherine Cortez Masto bested election-denier Adam Laxalt, and within minutes my mom called me screaming, "We did it!" We claimed Masto’s win like sports fans claim their favorite team’s. If you count the dozens of doors we'd knocked on as part of The Union's canvassing efforts in Nevada, we had, in fact, "done it."
To be clear, as an introvert, the last thing I wanted to do was knock on strangers’ doors. What would I say? They gave us a script, but what in the world was I going to do - rattle off a form letter from my phone like a telemarketer for democracy? But what really had me wanting to stay in the safety of the lead canvasser’s car was my fear of who might answer. If my fear confuses you, you’re mostly likely not black. In a country where “driving while black” can be a death sentence, “knocking on a stranger’s door while black” can feel like a suicide mission. In 2022’s America, where the GOP and Fox News trained white people to fear black people even more than they already did, knocking doors felt markedly different than in 2008 when we canvassed in Nevada for Obama. And yet we did it.
The thing is, my mom shouldn't have to knock on anyone’s door. She's a 70-year-old black woman who has already done her part by surviving in a country led by white men, for white men. And despite all the efforts of my mom's generation, these men and their offspring - still in control of America and her systems, are running and winning elections on their insistence that my mom is a threat, that my trans daughter is a threat, that I, as a queer mom, am a threat - and that it's their God-given right to deny us our right to thrive. From Critical Race Theory hysteria to "Don't Say Gay" to criminalizing trans health care - my entire family is in the GOP’s crosshairs, sometimes literally.
And yet my mom joyfully went door-to-door in the Nevada heat. Door after door, neighborhood after neighborhood, she knocked on doors to convince complete strangers to take advantage of the right denied to many like us. My mom canvassed because she's lived through what many white people now fear, a society designed to exclude them and/or control their every movement, to force compliance. She knows America could not survive where the GOP is trying to take us. I knocked on doors because I was desperate and restless - I wanted to know when I woke up on November 9th that I'd done all I could. We weren't door-knocking for democracy; we were door-knocking for our lives.
But then, of course, we woke up November 9th still holding our breath - control of the Senate in the balance. I couldn't sleep. I felt like I was in some sort of neurological limbo - where my brain couldn't decide whether to rest or flee, so instead, it just raced through the potentialities of a GOP-controlled Congress. I waited and ate cupcakes. When Cortez Masto's win was announced four days after the election, it meant we'd evaded this particular dystopian future, or delayed it, long enough to catch our breath. I pumped my fist in the air and shouted, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" as I ran into my 14 -year old's room to share the news.
And then I threw up.
My brain raced through everything I'd eaten in the past few hours. Was it the grocery store sushi? No, everyone had eaten the sushi. Was it the ramen? Who the fuck throws up after eating ramen? And no, it wasn’t the cupcakes. I am to cupcakes what a sailor is to beer. And then I remembered I don’t throw up. During my eight years in Argentina, I'd done things like left meat out all night, then eaten it, and not thrown up. My stomach is made of steel.
It wasn't food poisoning; it was rage. I was purging rage.
I consider myself an expert at converting rage into positive action, but this election cycle was different. There was too much of it. As I watched GOP politicians use LGBTQ youth, and trans youth in particular, as cannon fodder, I found that my usual bag of tricks (meditation, journaling, intense workouts) could only do so much. There was residual rage. Rage about the people who chose not to vote, friends of mine who preferred going out dancing to fighting for democracy. Rage over those who continued their bottomless brunches while democracy was bottoming out. Rage as I watched so many people live as though democracy wasn't teetering on edge. So much rage.
So, the night I found out our work hadn't been in vain, I purged the remaining rage in my body. Even before I went to sleep, I sensed what had just happened was a good thing, and the morning after, I woke up after only 4 hours of sleep, refreshed and ready for the fight. There is so little rest for those of us who fight the wicked. If you are reading this, it means you are in this fight, too. Being marginalized in America means we're born fighting, knowing that it's always ongoing and that we won't live to see the world we envision. We fight anyway because that's how we honor those who fought before us.
A week after the Cortez-Masto win, five members of the LGBTQ community were murdered in Colorado by the grandson of a MAGA-loving GOP politician. Lauren Boebert, who had repeatedly maligned queer people in earlier posts, offered thoughts and prayers; as though the death of queer people wasn't the answer to her prayers - a visceral praying away of the gay that is amplified ad infinitum by the GOP's messaging arm. I read the news, the tweets, the hollow statements, and the pain of those in the community, and I was again filled with rage.
We can't build a just America with rage, but we can use our rage to fuel the fight. We can channel it into conversations that engage our apolitical friends and family so that our voices aren't drowned out by the hateful few. We can channel it into new ways of communicating, using our precious energy to build consensus instead of chaos. And we can channel it into creating communities that will sustain us through the fight ahead. But what we can never do is squander it - our rage is precious.