“We’re all on the same side. We’re all breathing.” Pardon the Game of Thrones reference, but Jon Snow (aka Aegon Targaryan the whichever) got it right. Except that in this metaphor, the undead hordes are Nazis and white supremacists, the White Walkers are the 1% and the GOP leadership, and the stately and terrifying Night King is actually Vladimir Putin, with a captive orange buffoon as his puppet.
George R. R. Martin has set up a lifeboat situation in Game of Thrones and that’s really what we have here in the United States right now. The “ship” is the institution of representative democracy, and it’s sinking fast. And instead of pitching in together to call for help, bail out water, and plug the leak, we’re fighting over seats when the lifeboat is big enough for all of us *and* the people in the water around us.
I’m talking to *you*, white progressives, and *you*, #BlackLivesMatter and *you*, people who sat out the last election, and *you*, Hillary faithfuls and *you* Bernie die-hards and *you* white folks in the rural and Rust Belt who are just starting to realize that you’ve been being had for a long, long time.
It doesn’t matter what we think we’re fighting for, in this context. What we’re fighting for is an institution that, while imperfect as fuck, is still the best we’ve got. We’re fighting to make it better, to make it more useful for more people, and we are being fought by forces who openly state that they are seeking an authoritarian state with no freedom of the press or of assembly, with no protections for ordinary people from the predations of the wealthy and powerful.
And it doesn’t matter which of us have helped this situation build, and how, not in this moment, not in this context (though it will matter once we have defeated the Night King and his minions, very much). We need all hands on deck. We need all of us in the roles that best suit us. To borrow from gaming, are you a tank, a healer, damage dealer, support? Can you paint or post signs, inspire others, march, provide medical services? Can you write letters and emails, make phone calls, meet with representatives? Can you raise money, organize, provide daycare? Can you register folks to vote? Can you analyze online data to unmask and identify agents of the Night King pretending to be human?
Can you paddle? Can you steer? Can you do first aid? Can you fish and catch rainwater to feed the rest in the lifeboat with you?
Right now, today, we’re all on the same side. We are the Big Tent, the one we forgot about, the one that wasn’t good enough, so we tore it down. We’re rebuilding it. No more putting marginalized people in the dark corners, but front and center. No more of some of us waiting in a line while some with more privilege get their needs met first. We’ll win by centering the needs common to us all and fighting for each others’ rights. We’ll carry this into our future, exposing and remembering the original sins of the United States, founded on slavery and genocide and greed, but through it all creating a system of government that *keeps fighting* to put people first, over and over again. Maybe this time we’ll get it right. At the very least, we’ll get it *righter*.
Human enrichment is not a zero sum game. We all benefit when one does. The only ones who don’t are those who suck the air out and try to stop us all from breathing, the Night King, his White Walkers, the Nazi ice hordes.
And here’s the good news. Unlike in Westeros, where when one of us falls, it rises again as a minion to the Night King, when one of us falls, it only serves to make *us* stronger, more determined, and more willing to fight so that no more will. We remember Tamir Rice. We remember Sandra Bland. We remember Michael Brown. We remember Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow. We remember the LGBTQ kids who die at their own hand. We remember the women who die at the hand of their domestic partners. We remember the disabled people who die for lack of adequate health care. We remember the elderly who die because they had to choose between food and medicine. We remember the hundreds killed in mass shootings and excessive police violence.
And we fight. We take to the streets, we take to the phones, we take to the keyboards. We dress in black, we dress in rainbows, in silly pink hats and pantsuits and overalls and red, white and blue. We will chant #BlackLivesMatter at those who chant #AllLivesMatter until both are true statements. We come prepared for violence, and some of us will push back at violence to protect those who won’t or can’t. We embrace #antifa as those willing to use their bodies to protect the rest of us. We embrace middle aged white women who put their bodies inbetween the police and the black teens behind them. We embrace the union members who sigh as *yet again* they find themselves on the front lines.
We see through the Night King’s divide and conquer strategy, and we stand together, firm.
We never slow down,
we never give up,
and we will win, in the end, for all of us.
We keep rowing until the lifeboat is safely pulled from the sea and we can see our way to dry land. And then we build newer, better ships to prepare for the storms ahead. Because that’s what we do.
We own the future.