I have lost two friends over Trump. My cycling buddy was the first, whom I hardly had much in common with, other than hitting the trail. The other friend I’ve known for two-decades. Back in the 90s, long before Facebook, fans of niche pop culture met through e-mail lists, where we shared our passion for weird hobbies via mass forwardings. For me, these hobbies included Disney’s The Little Mermaid (yeah, I know) and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Before then, I honestly thought I was the only twentysomething who kept his toys on display. Now I know fans of MOTU (Masters of the Universe) who are much crazier than me, and one of these became my best friend. He read all my fanfiction and supported me all through the development of the Aenya series. So when, in 2016, I learned he was supporting Donald Trump for president, all I could think was, What stories have you been reading!?!
My moral compass was largely shaped by He-Man, who taught me all about compassion, understanding, and acceptance. The same values are reflected in Ages of Aenya and The Princess of Aenya, and my Trump-supporting friend was my #1 fan. So the fact that he could see no parallels between Trump and the villains we grew up with was completely baffling to me. Still, we continued talking for three years after the election, though our friendship had been strained. Since we agreed not to talk politics, I was never able to share with him my frustrations over Trump. He also blocked my Facebook posts, since almost everything I shared had to do with the Orange Tyrant. Finally, when immigrant children were being separated from their parents, I felt compelled to ask him about it. Surely by this point, he’d come to his senses, realize he’d made a mistake in judgment. He-Man would never stand for such cruelty! His reaction? A tepid, “I don’t see why that would be necessary.” That’s it. No outrage. No condemnation. I really started to wonder then how well I knew my friend.
During the midterm election, I made a final stab at talking some sense into him, using our shared love of MOTU as a jumping off point. In the movie, The Secret of the Sword, He-Man’s sister is brainwashed into believing that the faction she is working with, The Horde, are the good guys. After he convinces her to “look at how the Horde treats people,” she realizes the error of her ways and turns sides. I had hoped that, in a similar fashion, my friend would look at how Trump and his supporters treat people and arrive at the same conclusions. He did not, because he refused to even look at the e-mail.
This is what I wrote to him:
Do you remember that part in The Secret of the Sword? When He-Man urges Adora to examine her beliefs? To see that the Horde was evil? Until then, Adora was convinced that the Rebels were the bad guys, and that she was fighting for the good. Looking back at that movie today, it seems a bit implausible. People don’t change that easily, especially if they’ve been lied to all of their lives, especially when they’ve devoted so much of themselves to the wrong cause. I sometimes stop to take a very long look at my beliefs, to ask myself, “Am I doing the right thing?” I so wish real life were more like He-Man, however. I so wish the differences between good and evil were clear (hey, it tells you right on the box!). In reality, I think Force Captain Adora would have gone down fighting to the death, convinced that everything she did was necessary. She was brainwashed from birth, after all. But despite being a kids’ show, I believe MOTU got a lot of things right. Most importantly, the show taught us the power of love and compassion. They never demonized anyone due to their differences, whether that person was a tree, a three-faced monster, or even… if you remember, an actual demon! Real villains don’t look like Skeletor or Hordak. Real villains claim to be the good guy. But I think there’s an easy tell (even when there’s no box) because real villains act on greed and on hate.
And now to the sad scary state of reality. Everyday, when I turn on the news, I am forced to ask myself what the Hell is going on. Where did all these hateful people come from? When did so much evil permeate our world? Or maybe … maybe it’s just always been this way? I don’t know. But I feel like I am waking to a nightmare, or an episode of the Twilight Zone. Kids are being separated from their parents and locked in cages. Nazis are marching in the streets. And we have a president who brags about sexual assault, and threatens to lock up his opponents, and says the “media” is evil. He even wants to deport AMERICAN citizens! Honestly, WTF is going on?
I cannot tell you for how many months I have been fretting over this letter. Every single time I see something Trump related on my Facebook feed, every time I read some horror story about what Trump has done or said, I wonder whether or not you’ve read the same story, and how you feel about it. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to share with you my fears (it’s greatly contributed to my anxiety and depression) and how often I’ve stopped myself because I don’t want to seem like I am just talking “at you”.
I know you probably see a very different Facebook feed from mine. I know you probably imagine that *I* am the deluded one here—but everything I’ve ever known and studied tells me otherwise, and I wish I could find a way to open your eyes to this nightmare. I imagine your rebuttal will go something along the lines of, “I’ll believe what I want and you believe what you want,” and normally that would OK, but when does it get to a point where it is not OK? When did the Germans in the 1940’s stop to say, “Hey, this is not OK, and it doesn’t really matter what you personally believe.”
On a related note, I was talking to my editor, Ava, the other day, who is in a similar boat as me. She’s also lost sleep because of Trump and her mom is an ardent Trump supporter. We were talking about The Princess of Aenya, and how Zaibos’s rise to power feels a bit implausible now and a bit dated—now that we are seeing a similar tyrannical rise taking place in this country. So, I am planning on writing a new chapter, to be inserted early into the book (Chapter 3); we are calling it the “Trump chapter” just between ourselves, and I will be doing my best to put myself in the shoes of a Trump supporter, to argue the same “fascistic rhetoric.”
Please believe me when I say we are veering dangerously off a cliff into fascism, and that this may be one of our last chances to steer away from it. Fascism is the worst thing you can possibly imagine happening to this country. It means we lose our freedoms. It won’t happen tomorrow and it may not happen next year, but when it happens, when fascism takes hold, it will take more than a vote, it may take bullets and possibly even our lives to stop it. If you are not planning to vote in this midterm election, I would urge you to reconsider. And when you do, I would ask that you look inside your heart, look closely at the party of Trump the way Adora looked at the Horde, and vote for the good guys.