The Friends of Dorothy Have Something to Say to Kansas

By

We’re not only not in Kansas anymore, we’re not in any familiar state once a wicked truth-twister starts pushing the buttons and pulling the levers.

When our house lands with a loud crash after a whirlwind storm, we step out and recognize nothing and no one. Yes, candy swirls for some and flowers sing for others, but unease grows for Dorothy and all her rainbow friends.

As we move backward in time, we must beware of yellow brick fallacies. Also: poppy fields, flying monkeys, and entrepreneurial wizards. In this post-election season, one fallacy appears more prominent than others, projected by those who run the cameras and record the scene: the fallacies of wrong direction.

The first major fallacy of wrong direction: The term “liberal elite” is a straw man used by the white right to distract us from the man behind the curtain. After all, liberalism is the effect of a close study of prejudice and persecution not the cause of either. When the persecuted become educated, does that make them elite? When they then teach, does that make them more elite? No crystal ball is needed for the answer.

Various media outlets are trying to convince us that a white billionaire power broker won the presidency because of those who did not vote for him: the “liberal elite.” I’m a gay man, a writer, a professor, and thus a member of the so-called liberal elite. I’ve studied prejudice and persecution, bigotry and bias, up close. A whole half life of it.

As a professor, I taught a transgender student bullied on campus. I taught a DREAMer student who went public under one president but may be deported by the next. I taught an African-American student harassed by cops at a routine traffic stop. I taught a female student raped by a male date who took “No” for “Yes” and blamed her skirt for his assaulther beauty for his battery. Is that elite? Is any of that elite?

A second major fallacy of wrong direction: “Identity politics,” is another straw man used by the white right to distract us from the balding man behind the curtain. Just as alt-right is a euphemism for white nationalism, “post-identity politics” is a euphemism for monoculturalism, and we accept no part of that movement. We call not for an end to multiculturalism but for an expansion of it. Like the balloon in Oz, we will rise above. We are elastic. We will stretch, we will grow bigger, and we will not burst.

For us, to reject “identity politics” is to erase the effect not the cause of systemic racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia. Truth is, identity matters, especially when used as an excuse for violence and when used to crush dissent or used to crush people precisely for whom they are. Fact is, anti-Black, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBTQ violence spiked in the election year. In particular, anti-Muslim hate crimes spiked to 9/11 levels, fifteen years after the Twin Towers fell. Does identity no longer matter?

Jadin Bell, Tyler Clementi, Ryan Halligan, Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena, and so many more LGBTQ youth have been killed by homophobia and transphobia. Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and too many black men have been killed by racism. Does identity no longer matter?

Right now, organized media and the machinery behind our new president are at work convincing us that liberals are to blame for an Electoral College loss. If we had not raised our voices so loudly, we’re told, the white Rust Belt voter might’ve been heard by the party. If we had not rushed the stage, we’re scolded, the white rural farmer might’ve been seen by the party. Let’s not be duped. A chorus of many voices doesn’t prevent one from singing; a stage of many actors doesn’t prevent one from speaking. We understand that the straight, white, working-class man remains, rightly, in the scene, but we also understand that we must not push him back to the center and pull the curtain on everyone else. We understand the plight of the white worker and we understand the plight of the black worker, the brown worker, and all workers of all colors and all identities. We must not replace our rainbow leaders with an all-white male cast from one narrow belt of land. Let’s not be silenced or pushed offstage again. Let’s not be fooled into fearing those who have less instead of fearing those who have more. And let no one blame us for an effect we didn’t cause.

We are the rainbow coalition who voted for the bluebird. We still believe it can fly. We still believe there’s no place like a liberal home for all people of all identities, Munchkin and Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and, yes, Scarecrow too. In order to return to a multicultural progressive reality, we don’t need to go backward. That’s the wrong direction. Progress lies ahead not behind. We don’t need a red-faced wizard or a golden-haired good witch. Friends of Dorothy, do not retreat, do not despair. We don’t need a pair of ruby slippers. We don’t need to return to Kansas, to a life in the black & white past. We don’t need to return to Oz, to a life in Technicolor fantasy. No, all we need are a brain, a heart, and more courage for the road ahead.

 


Martin Pousson is the author of the novel-in-stories, Black Sheep Boy, a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a professor of Creative Writing and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge. More from this author →