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Episodes We Love: The Writers Resist, Part 2

(Courtesy Jon Wippich)
(Courtesy Jon Wippich)

The Sugars return for Part 2 of Dear Sugar Radio: The Writers Resist at The Aladdin Theater in Portland, Oregon.

This episode was originally released on January 27th, 2017.

They're joined onstage by Zahir Janmohamed, writer and co-host of the podcast Racist Sandwich, to discuss the following letter:

Dear Sugars,

I am an immigrant and black. I recently became a citizen and voted for the first time. I live my life to the highest standards possible and use good judgment in everything I say and do. I have a 9-year old daughter who is biracial.

After the election results, I am very worried about my family’s well-being. This election has given radicals of every creed the confidence that their hate speech is acceptable. I’m upset with all of my white friends that say they love me but voted for that guy. How can I survive this without being cynical and angry?


Struggling to see the positive side

The Sugars also discuss the following questions from the audience in rapid-fire fashion.

What can writers do to empower and support the Washington press corps in the face of intimidation from the Trump administration?

Cheryl Strayed: Subscribe to their magazines and their newspapers and give money to their public radio stations and really actually support them with your dollars. It’s one of those things that is kind of a bummer about the internet but is also the thing that rocks about the internet, which is that you can get so much that is free and we all get angry and we say it is behind a paywall. Well so is the apple that you ate this morning, so think of it that way. You wouldn’t think of getting a free apple, so why would you think of getting free journalism? If we’re going to have journalism thrive and be alive, we need to actually support the people financially that make it.

How do assure that we don’t make the same mistakes we made when protesting the Vietnam War — that is, mixing too many issues?

Steve Almond: You have to be very specific and concrete. For me, right now what I’m thinking about is the Affordable Care Act. This is the first thing where the rubber is going to meet the road, and I want to remain focused on that and not get distracted by the latest Trump antic. I’m not interested in that anymore. Now it’s about figuring out which representatives to contact and how to organize protests in your community.

What is the most loving way to resist?

Cheryl: I think we confuse having empathy and compassion for someone with going along with things and accepting things that are unacceptable. For me, part of moving forward was to acknowledge that accepting Trump as our president is an unloving and violent act to marginalized communities and to the friends I have in those communities. Rather than make peace with every group, figure out who you want to protect and how you can do that with kindness and consideration.

Steve: The real enemy in Trump’s America is cynicism. It’s our job to counteract that cynicism with a cautious idealism about the possibilities that exist in our democracy and about the inconvenient things we’re going to have to do to make change.

What would be the one silver lining, if any, of a Trump presidency?

Cheryl: Personally, Trump’s victory has been an awakening. I honestly didn’t understand that we had the capacity as a nation to even come close to electing Trump, and I think I’m not alone in that feeling. I need to listen harder and think more deeply about my place in all of this. How am I complicit? How does my privilege not just serve me, but serve the world? I think that is a silver lining — that we’re all going to have to look more deeply at racism and classism and sexism.

Steve: Also, if there is a silver lining, it’s the potential for a revival of protest culture in this country. Every moment of moral progress in our country — from suffrage to civil rights — required a moral awakening. Sometimes that awakening is painful and rude, but that’s the moment we’re in, and we’d better step up.

How do you balance being informed citizens who follow the news with not being angry and upset all the time?

Cheryl: That is a real challenge for me. The only way I’ve been able to stay informed without letting fury rule my life is to channel my rage into something that ultimately feels like love to me. The place I do that the best is in my writing. That’s where I feel like I can tap into the power of story and maybe bring something good into the world.

Steve: I’m going to proportion more time to organizing and taking action and less time to passively consuming news that is dispiriting me. Part of this will be to get off social media. I know social media is just a tool, but we’ve been using it in a way that has transformed us from a nation into an audience, passively spectating our own ruin. I’m now asking myself, “What am I going to say to my kids in 5 years or 10 years? What did I do when I realized that our country’s condition was serious?”


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