Thursday, 10 November 2016

How Gamers Can Help Save the World from Donald Trump

Last weekend, my wife and I travelled to Kingston to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. We were able to surprise my mother by having my brother and his family show up at the restaurant where we took them for dinner, and it was lovely having everyone together for that special occasion. We also got to visit and play games with some of our old friends, who we miss dearly and wish we could see more often. We also were in a bit of a celebratory mood because my wife had just secured an ongoing job (with benefits) that will make us financially secure for the next few years. For once, everything in our lives seemed stable, happy, and good.

And then we drove home, Tuesday night, to the Trumpocalypse. 

Somehow, Americans had elected the man with the least qualifications and the most loathsome ethics imaginable to the highest office in the land. His pack of trained hyenas were straining at their chains to tear apart every progressive advancement that society had built over the course of decades. Suddenly, terrifyingly, it was open season on people of colour, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women, and everyone who depends on the Affordable Care Act to have access to health care without bankrupting their family. 

The nightmare scenario had come to pass. Biff Tannen had ascended, and there was no Marty McFly and Doc Brown in a shiny gold jacket to save us. The carpet had been pulled out from under the whole world. The KKK broke open the champagne while the rest of us wept.

Was this the end? we wondered. 

No. Not unless we let it. Last night, as I was scanning through Twitter in defiance of what was in the best interests of my own mental health, I saw that there were massive protests happening across the United States. I saw photographs of a massive crowd marching in the streets of New York City, one estimate placing it 100,000 strong. Outside the ogre's stronghold, Trump Tower, there were crowds of people chanting NOT MY PRESIDENT. People were as hurt and baffled and angry by this election as I was, but they weren't going to lay down and take it, no sir. Even on Day One of President Elect Trump, they showed up to say they were ready for a fight. No capitulation or false credibility will be granted this ugly, destructive regime. 

Yesterday, we wept. Today, the sword.

The task seems enormous, impossible. The odds too long for even Han Solo. But together, we can make this a world that is better than the likes of Donald Trump. That requires actions both large and small, it requires courage, and it requires faith. Cynicism is what got us here. Only by embracing again the finer parts of our nature -- by reminding ourselves of what we could be -- can we send the Trumps of the world snarling back into their warrens. Not gone, only beaten. Always lurking. But we will be vigilant.

So how do we step up and fight?

Make your table a safe, welcoming place.

Start small. Make your game space a safe one for everyone that sits there. Take the time to have difficult social contract discussions about what is acceptable content and behaviour at your table. Use tools like the X-Card that let players have a say when there is problematic content in a game. Respect players' boundaries. Be sensitive to people's needs, and listen when they speak up about something that's bothering them. When someone calls out something that's not appropriate, support them. Creating a tolerant, inclusive society starts on the smallest scale, and a group of gamers around a table is a fine place to begin modelling a better world. 

Support creators, especially women, LGBTQ, and people of colour.

The next four years could be extraordinarily difficult for people who are in the gaming industry, who mostly work very hard for very little money. The same is true for artists. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, they will be in desperate need of financial support so that they and their families can have proper health care. You can help them with your gaming dollars. Buy a game from an indie creator, and don't just wait for it to be on sale. (Mostly they're pretty cheap anyway.) You should especially support women, people in the LGBTQ community, and people of colour who work in the gaming industry. In addition to the financial difficulties ahead, they are fighting all kinds of other battles. Your support makes that easier. And you can support them again by telling others about the great game you bought from them, running it for your group, sharing a link. 

Listen to others in the community who don't look like you or share your life experiences.

There are an awful lot of straight, white dudes in the roleplaying community, and Donald Trump and his lackeys want this to be the rebirth of the era of the straight white dude. They want to minimize the voices of people who aren't like them. You need to step up your efforts to listen when someone who is part of a marginalized community speaks. Really listen. Pay attention to what they're saying and what their experiences are. They are on the receiving end of everything Trumpism stands for, and they need your help. Sometimes it will be difficult, because you're going to want to say things like Not All Straight White Dudes, but when you do that, you're just another one of Trump's loping homunculi, comfortable in your privilege. Stop talking, let go of the knee-jerk denial and listen. Really listen. And magnify the voices of those people. If the election has taught us anything, it's that the world is an uglier place than many of us thought. But for a lot of people in our own community, they already knew this. They've been fighting this fight for a long time, and they need you. Be there.

Be intersectional.

Intersectionality is a difficult concept to grapple with. What it means is, basically, that identities are complicated. Feminism looks different to a black woman than it does to a white woman, because their life experiences are different. The same to a gay woman, or a trans woman. One way that marginalized people get further marginalized is when they are pushed to the margins of activist groups because they are critical of policies that don't address their concerns, or acknowledge their unique needs and struggles. Recognize that even if you have a good deal in common with someone, their experience may not be what you think it is, and you probably have things to learn from them. Again, this is about listening, and magnifying their voice to help them be heard. If you want to be a good ally, sometimes you have to take a few lumps and realize that you've been screwing up and inadvertently hurting someone. You will make mistakes. You will screw up. Embrace complexity; it's okay to be a work in progress. Just keep working at it, and listening. It's not all about you. If there is anything that should be shouted to the heavens in answer to Donald Trump, it's that.

Get political. Work toward the next election and educate yourself.

Now we're getting into larger scale stuff. There will be more elections coming along in the next two years, before we even start worrying about riding Trump's ass out of Washington on a rail in 2020. You need to start doing your homework about the issues and the players now. You need to start getting involved. Big scale changes start with small-scale effort. You will find that there are others who are grappling with the same things you are, and trying to do something about it. Getting together with those people and pooling your efforts and knowledge is a great start to political activism. Grassroots political work makes you feel like you're really doing something about the issues that drive you nuts and make the world feel awful, because you are. Nothing worse than feeling helpless, so the solution is doing something. You can do it. 

Be vocal in your community and your workplace. Join a political party and have a voice.

This is the nuts and bolts of it. Speak out. At your table, in your neighbourhood, at town meetings, in your workplace, everywhere. This is what free speech is actually for, and there are few people who actually step up and use it. You can be one of them. And, if you're really ambitious, you can do more than that. You can join up with an actual, no shit political party and get involved with the behind-the-scenes work to bring Trump and his jackals to heel. I'm not kidding; you can be that person. You can say what policies and platforms are the ones that ring out over crowds of people. If you want your political parties to be relevant -- and, after this election, I think we all realize that the Democrats need to reinvent themselves to be more relevant -- that starts with passionate people stepping forward and hashing out a way forward. Passionate, ordinary people like you. 

Show up to support political activities by diverse groups.

Sometimes listening isn't enough. Sometimes your friends and allies need you to actually be there for them, physically there, showing up and being part of a political event that is trying to make their voices heard. It's well and good to be the kind of ally who re-tweets the right kinds of stories and events, but you also need to step up and step out. Join the march. Join the demonstration. Show that you aren't just mumbling platitudes, you are giving your support with your presence. If you're able, contribute financially to support political groups that are trying to make diverse groups be heard. Bring friends. Be there. Be part of it. Show that they are part of your community, and you're not going to let anyone hurt them or take their voices or their rights away. 

Practice self-care too.

The next four years are going to be long and hard. Political activity is hard, a lot of the time, mentally and spiritually. Make sure that you are also taking care of yourself, and doing things that help you stay healthy and strong. You're no good to anyone if you grind yourself to pieces on the millstone of idealism. Take the time to be with your friends and family, take quiet time for yourself. Remind yourself that it's not all darkness and gloom and orange pumpkin-headed ghouls. Take care of yourself as you would take care of the vulnerable people around you, and listen when your friends tell you that you need to step back for a bit. This will a long campaign. 

Don't be cynical. Be active. Be vocal. Believe.

Cynicism is lazy. It says that the status quo is all we'll ever get, and all we deserve. Cynicism says that you should go back to watching your reality television and playing video games, because tomorrow we die. How awful must it be to live like that, carrying around the ugly pall of futility everywhere you go? How small is the world of the person who can't imagine anything better, so they never poke their head out of their hole. 

Cynicism is meat and potatoes to the Trumps of the world. It is weakness, and it means a free meal for them. If you lay down and expose your belly, they'll take everything you've got and then run down the next person and the next. 

Cynicism is the road to Donald Trump, because it means nothing matters.

If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be this.

You matter. What you do matters. What we all do next, as a society, matters more than anything.

Oscar Wilde wrote, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." 

Look at the stars. Take up the sword, and fight for a better world.