I am making a protest sign.

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, I have been to 2 protests – the Women’s March in San Francisco and a “pop up” protest at the San Francisco International Airport. As of this writing, this amounts to approximately 1 protest every 5 days. I don’t even clean my bathroom once every 5 days, but perhaps this is an indication that I should clean my bathroom more rather than protest less.

Unlike the Women’s March, the latter protest was a sudden occurrence. I received a text message call for participants, which was almost lost amid correspondence from the Bitmoji machine that is my mother. There was little time to prepare, so my partner and I made the decision to hop into our car and drive to the arrivals section of our airport’s international terminal – a drive fueled less by anger and more by an acute determination to not be silenced over the next four years.

My biggest non-political takeaway from the last two weekends of rallies is to always be prepared with snacks, water and a noisemaker – a drum, a protest kazoo, or that plastic recorder that you played the hell out of in 3rd grade music class. Finally, always bring a sign, your best god damn sign game, and your best god damn penmanship.

With the frequency of these protests on a broad scope of issues, I’ve decided to create a series of generic signs that I can reuse:

 

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Clockwise from the left:

  • DID DIS DUDE JUS DO DIS?
  • HELLA WACK.
  • I WISH WE WERE ALL JUST HERE PLAYING POKEMON GO.
  • NAW.
  • NAW, DAWG.
  • SO MUCH SHIT HAPPENING THAT I HAD TO MAKE THIS GENERIC PROTEST SIGN TO KEEP UP.
  • FOR ONCE I HOPE THERE’S A M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN PLOT TWIST TO ALL OF THIS.
  • I HAVEN’T BEEN SO PISSED SINCE GINGER SPICE BROKE UP THE SPICE GIRLS AND THEN PROCEEDED TO LEAD THE REUNION EFFORTS 20 YEARS LATER.

Additionally, if I am feeling particularly specific in my signage, my partner put a poster creation kit in our car – an old blank poster board, painter’s tape, markers, and a handful of political pins. I don’t even have an earthquake kit despite the fact that there is a 37% chance that a 6.7 magnitude earthquake will occur at the fault line closest to my office within 25 years.* Should there be an earthquake, at least I can make a sign.

Editor’s Note:

*Thanks to the geologist who made an appearance at our university’s emergency preparedness meeting this past week for this reminder.

I am with her.

I’m with her.

I’m with her. There’s the her in the slogan – the presidential candidate, the iconic political figure, the woman who was a few percentage points away from becoming the most powerful person in the world. But, I am also with her in another sense – in sharing the shame, sorrow, and will to endure as a woman. I’m with Hillary even if the election is over because this doesn’t end with her.

This morning I listened to her concession speech on my drive to work. I have since heard it once more, read the transcript, and re-lived it on video. It’s painful – each of her wide blue-eyed glares to hold back tears, every cracked note of her voice that is muffled by her resolve to continue speaking with clarity and calm.

The premise of a concession speech is to gracefully and peacefully transition power to the person who has won. Political concession speeches are also frequently big apologies – I’m sorry we didn’t win. I’m sorry this didn’t turn out the way we wanted. I’m sorry I couldn’t put all of your hard work to good use. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

I realized by the first “I’m sorry” that this concession speech was a fitting analogy for womanhood. She withstood a rival candidate who interrupted her more times she ever interrupted him, called her a “nasty woman,” and threatened to imprison her amid chants of “lock her up.” Unfortunately, these are not exaggerations – these examples are all on the public record. And yet, here we are with the woman having to stand up and say with incredible eloquence and strength that she’s sorry.

I thought a lot about my own experiences as she spoke – all the apologies I had to make for the weight on my body, the tone of my voice, the unnecessary “I’m sorry” statements I sometimes use to interject in a group conversation. Most of all, I thought of all the apologies I made to myself – sorry for the silence when someone catcalled, sorry for not speaking my mind in a room full of men, sorry for not doing enough to lift up my sister, my friends, or my partner.

The speech ended and so did this election. Elections are cyclical events that come and go – events that become fog in our collective historical memory. Politics is an on-going process that we live through every single day. The candidate is gone, but the cause is bigger than ever. I’m with her – I was with her when I voted, I was with her when she “lost” in our archaic election system, and I’ll continue to be her because it doesn’t end with her.

There is very little doubt in my mind that the glass of the hardest, thickest ceiling will be broken in my lifetime. Until then, this image of Hillary – adorned in her lavender collared suit, conceding to someone far less qualified than her – will be incised in my memory. I will think of her each time I lift up the work of another woman, say whatever the fuck is on my mind, and keep fighting, per Hillary, for what is right.

I’m with her now, tomorrow, and beyond.

I – we – are all victims of mass shootings in the United States of America.

This piece has been written over the span of two years, although I don’t necessarily count days, months, or years as significant markers of time anymore. This has been written between articles, with each turn of the media news cycle, and with each passing announcement that another mass shooting has taken place in the United States of America.

It began with Isla Vista, then carried over to Charleston, then to Umpqua. I have developed an almost-callous emotional routine with each shooting. I open up my Google News aggregator as I am drinking a cup of coffee. I read through the hot-take, mildly inaccurate live news developments. Refresh, refresh, refresh. I feel a sequential surge of emotions – first sadness, followed by anger, proceeded by helplessness. I feel compelled to write because it is the only sense of control I have over the situation. Quick fingers on the keyboard give way to emotional fatigue. I cannot continue writing. I stop.

And then a very fucked up, uncontrollable thought slithers into my mind: Maybe, I think. Maybe, I’ll finish my thoughts after the next mass shooting.

The next mass shooting. Can you blame me for anticipating such an event – an event as American and as inevitable as war, misappropriated taxes, and prolonged (natural) death? It is no longer a question of if it will happen, but when it will happen, how big it will be and if, this time, it will be me. I want to be so terribly wrong, but Umpqua turns into San Bernardino, then UCLA, and then, yesterday, Orlando. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The last three high profile mass shootings – the aforementioned San Bernardino, UCLA, and Orlando – have been particularly visceral experiences because I have deeply identified with the victims. I am the young California state employee attending a budget-conscious Christmas Party. I am the Vietnamese American woman who did not die amid the ravishes of the Vietnam War, but by a bullet on the land that was supposed to protect her. I am the girl at a raucous, queer dance party where I can flirt, and dance, and laugh in the safety of my community – supposedly.

Each conversation with my parents – both survivors of war, witnesses of sanctioned violence – comes with a warning of simply being. Be careful at the movies, or walking with your girlfriend, or as you work. I take the time to reassure my parents that I’ll be fine, although my version of “fine” has become an exercise of cognitive dissonance – simultaneously trying to be aware of my surroundings, but not giving into the media narrative of who I should be fearful of.

I worry about you working in higher education, my sister once said to me, referring to the countless acts of gun-related violence on college campuses across the nation. I’ll joke that, ironically enough, university systems are typically devoid of clear processes and simple decision-making mechanisms save one glaring exception. Should a gun appear, there’s a precise order: you run, you hide, you fight.

I imagine some iteration of these conversations taking place in countless phone calls, cities, and languages across the nation. Be careful if you’re black or if you’re brown. Watch yourself if you work for the Navy or if you work for a school. You’re not safe if you have small children or if you’re a student. Always be aware of the emergency exits if you’re at the mall or at the movies. Be prepared for the next mass shooting if you live in the United States of America.

A shooting eventually begets the media circus, which begets the social media circus. In a matter of days, I will hear the name of the shooter, the name of the victims, and then the name of every congressman I should call to do something I know they won’t do. The swell of hashtag condolences will crescendo and then fade into ideological clashes of who is responsible. We never come to the answer. Numbing and distraction sets in until the next group of people must run, hide, or fight. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Refresh, refresh, refresh.

The more we settle for this cycle – of caring more about our inanimate objects and settling for ethereal prayers – the more we become victims of ourselves. I am ready to break this cycle – to move beyond the motions of sadness, anger, disillusionment, and fear. This is where we begin so that we do not end up where we started.

I don’t want to write this piece anymore.