Humor has always been my method of dealing with fear and trauma. Having grown up in an abusive household and dealing with terror almost daily, I’m pretty damn adept at diffusing tense or heavy situations with a bit of dry snark. My default reaction to anything stressful is to keep a level head and make people laugh. When people are angry, I react with diplomacy and kindness. The more they yell, the more bubblegum sweet I get, refusing to give in and offer the cowering “okay, yes, anything you say” reaction they’re looking for.
This morning, not so much. After being up half the night fuming over the presidential debate during which 45 not only refused to denounce white supremacy, but told a known hate group to “stand by” and “deal with the left,” I came into work loaded for bear. I was livid and tired and already fed up with racists arguing online over the weekend about swastikas. Angry, exhausted, and worried about the commentary from the Trumpers at work, I was ready to snap and turn around and go home. And I almost did.
I pseudo-snapped and tore into one of the techs this morning (“pseudo” because I didn’t raise my voice. Yeah, I was so furious I had that eerily steady tone, and my voice may have actually dropped half an octave). This is one of those scenarios wherein the bubble of isolation these guys grew up in means they could well be genuinely ignorant of the ramifications of last night’s shitshow. Once again, I remind everyone that I grew up in West Germany. My childhood was spent living among an aging population who had served in and survived WWII. Our vacations were spent touring monuments and museums and battlefields heavy with the miasma of shame and regret. The Cold War was speeding along to its inevitable end, but it was still very real and very much a part of my daily life.
Those were just the formative years. The vast majority of my adult life (and I’m 38, so we’re talking 20 years or so) has been combating racism and hate in some capacity or another. As a heathen, it’s an issue that plagues us because of the horrible allure of Nordic mythology and “Viking culture” (or some bizarre Wagnerian fantasy of such) has for white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It’s why so many heathens– especially in more conservative areas– are afraid to wear a visible Mjolnir pendant or get runic tattoos lest people mistake them for racists. Additionally, I’ve got a lot of friends who are LGBTQ+, BIPOC, women, disabled/dealing with chronic medical problems, socially progressive, left-leaning people who don’t fit the narrow mold of white cis-male headship over a wife and children. SO MANY of the friends and family I care deeply about are exactly the kind of people who are direct targets of groups like The Proud Boys. Hell, I’m the kind of person who’d be directly targeted by The Proud Boys. And the president straight-up encouraged them to “stand by” to “deal with” anyone who opposes him.
The battle lines have always been clearly drawn, but now they’re absolutely irrefutable and inarguable: supporting Trump means you support racism, hate, bigotry, and violence. You cannot vote for Trump without recognizing that you’re voting against the safety of millions of your fellow citizens, painting a target on the backs of people you know, who live in your communities, who are part of your own family. And now, because I’m the one burning with rage, I can’t approach the election with sarcasm and humor any more. Anyone supporting Trump in any capacity at this point is straight up okay with white supremacy and with Trump issuing orders to violent paramilitary groups to “stand by.”
He was repeatedly force-fed the exact words he needed to say to denounce white supremacy and bigoted militia groups. Once given the chance to parrot back the phrases Wallace offered, he issued an order instead. The fool couldn’t even say “stand down.” “Stand back” doesn’t mean “chill, knock it off.” It means “hang on in a ready state until given further orders.” Coupled with “stand by. Someone needs to deal with Antifa and the left,” he’s blatantly telling them to be ready to fight, to intimidate, and raise hell when he needs them to. And the Proud Boys are stoked about this.
Last night’s debate was the clarion call. There was no winner. And the mere fact that there are still Trump supporters ready to vote for him and fight for him after last night tells the world everything they need to know about the precarious state of our Union. Once again, I’m torn between trying to figure out how to relocate to Iceland ASAP and needing to stay here to help the people who are most at risk.
Personally, I’m not scared. I’m worried about people I love, and I’m worried for the greater number of people who are rightfully terrified. And I’m angry. I’m so indescribably angry. I’m seething with rage that our country has become so divided that Trump still has supporters despite all of the horrible, unforgivable things he’s said and done. I’m furious about his unwillingness to denounce white supremacy and the response of the Proud Boys. There is absolutely no way for me to diffuse the tension and stress this has caused.
Loki is the Trickster who holds people accountable for their words and deeds, but there’s no merry mischief here, just a screaming howl demanding destruction of these toxic ideals. Sigyn is our source of comfort and compassion in times of struggle, but her back is stiff and there’s no kindness emanating from her right now, just a steely, unnerving silence and the weight of disappointment. I feel Freyja’s molten disapproval. And Thorr feels so spread thin right now.
I was ready to throw down with anyone who tried to defend Trump today. Thankfully, the worst I heard was a single mockery of Biden, which is when I harshly reprimanded the offender and went outside to collect myself. With our customers, I was aggressively kind. I wore my Mjolnir openly as always, the protective runes on the trunk of the tree I drew on my plexiglass shield still prominently on display. As an obnoxiously out and vocal Norse heathen, I’m called to display the best of what we are, to be kind and helpful and honest and even a little silly when interacting with the public. It’s so important to me to represent inclusivity, not just for myself and the friends I hold dear, but for everyone who is “othered.” I want marginalized people to know that I offer safety and will help when possible. I want people who are scared to know I’ve got their backs. And so when I’m feeling like I am today, I’m borderline aggressive in my friendliness because I’m so desperate to let them know they’ve got allies.
To anyone who still supports Trump and his white supremacist buddies: you will not know my kindness. Don’t mistake my previously known good nature and friendly disposition for weakness. I’ve survived far worse than this. I grew up on the front lines of the Cold War. I grew up surrounded by constant reminders of Nazi crimes, and surrounded by people who committed them. I survived being hunted down by an armed man who was trying to kill me. I know exactly what groups like the Proud Boys represent, and I know exactly what will happen to this country and the people in it if we continue on this path. And I will not show any mercy or compassion to people who refuse it to others.
I’m tired of racism. I’m tired of the fear bigotry and hatred brings. I’m tired of seeing the safety of anyone who isn’t a male WASP threatened. And I’m tired of looking to the gods for inspiration to make people smile and take joy in the little things. Now, I look to the gods for the strength to do what must be done to protect the people who are directly in harm’s way. We’re at a tipping point, and I’m too consumed with rage to be diplomatic. I’m done being a mediator. I’m done diffusing other people’s anger. My anger is too great to ignore.
Americans: do what’s right. When you vote, don’t vote purely for your own interests. Vote for the interests of your community and the people around you. Your fellow citizens deserve freedom and safety more than you deserve a tax break.