I’ve been a casual consumer of politics since I was a teenager. I cut my teeth on impassioned political “debates” on Newsvine, I joined Twitter before it was cool, and I was “that feminist girl” when no one else was. I remember the vicious culture war during George W. Bush’s presidency, when everyone slapped “Support the Troops” magnets on their car and accused each of being either uneducated warmongerers or baby-killing commies. I remember the outrage at the first gay kiss on primetime TV, and I remember when white people started realizing we actually hadn’t fixed racism. I’ve read and watched countless media discussions about the progress or demise of our society — depending on who you ask — as part of my studies, both academic and casual.
So believe me when I say it’s never been this bad. I’ve never before seen so many hateful, borderline-threatening sentiments expressed, with full conviction, borne either of gleeful victory that a “non-politician” took the White House and will reclaim “America” or of righteous fury at the apparent laying-open of a corrupt political system. I’ve been told that as a liberal feminist anthropologist, I should be spayed, raped, forced into camps or slavery, shot, or mailed to ISIS. Or, you know, just denied work. This is the first time that I believe the threats; the hatred for those who aren’t part of the status quo is palpable. It’s not an isolated incident from some yahoo on the Internet. I hear it from the white students on the campus where I work, screaming it at the black, Muslim, and LGBTQ students standing in the free speech zone asking for rights. I even hear it from those on my “side”: liberals insisting that people like me who perpetuate negative stereotypes, simply by being a pagan burlesque dancer, as in my example, sit down and shut up so as to not “hurt our cause.”
Everything vaguely demonstrative of mere acknowledgement of marginalized groups has been scrubbed from the White House website. Trump has never embraced those groups in his campaign speeches, never even acknowledged them except to feebly say, as though from a cue card, that they’re part of America too. Yet almost everyone he’s selected for his Cabinet is on record as being against these marginalized groups. The preacher who spoke on Inauguration Day condemned gays and Muslims.
In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the symbol of The Augurey, the one said to sit at the side of Voldemort upon his return, runs throughout the story — and the distinctive tattoo discovered on the flesh of a major character adorns the play’s cover. Augury is the practice of divining from bird’s flight; it’s also an omen, good or bad.
On Inauguration Day, I’m reminded of how many signs people point to in defense of their political views. The GDP, the Dow, approval ratings… all arbitrary measures of artifice, none of them a true proxy for the health of our society, which, as a social scientist, I know better than most people is a a hidden yardstick. I think it’s clear that even if our economy booms under Trump, international relations are repaired, and blue-collar, small-town workers finally get to be the privileged group, we’re set for years of despising each other, hoping for the other to fail, and grabbing our guns to protect even a scrap of freedom.
The Augurey was a symbol of hope for those who wanted a unifying magical force that eliminated everyone who was in-between. They feared losing their power, which was really the bare minimum of security. Voldemort had the answers, but was a victim of a biased, corrupt system full of bleeding hearts, say his supporters. He was undone by a child and deserved a real chance, they say. For him to take flight, everything else had to be sacrificed.
Is this where we are? Are we willing to ignore the cries of pain from the people who know they’re not part of the privileged slice of society? Trump’s supporters are correct: they are “crying.” But crying is an expression of pain and fear. To acknowledge it with such a mocking attitude is absolutely to say, “I know you’re worried and scared for your well-being, but it’s amusing to me because I’m happy my guy won and I don’t care about your feelings, really. It’s just politics.” Say the same people who insisted for 8 years that Obama ruined their life. And yet, it’s never going to be as bad for you as it is for gay people. For trans* people. For anyone who is not Christian. For disabled folks. For people of color. For intellectuals. We have been targeted and hunted for years. We now have an administration who has never even lied to say that they support us. This is a nation that markets itself as the destination for everyone to pursue their dreams. But just as Muggle-born or mixed-blood wizards and witches aren’t included in Voldemort’s vision of magical prosperity because they aren’t wizardly enough, huge swaths of the American population are being targeted for not being “American” enough. Our dreams don’t matter. The signs don’t matter. This Inauguration Day, we all know we’ve been dumped by half the country who could not care less if we even live, let alone live well.