By Top Contributor Alcy Leyva
I'm going to open with this one with a “plain-as-day” statement: I used to avoid conflict. The only reason I’ve stayed (semi) sane over the years is by being able to identify toxic individuals and making sure I stay several zip codes away. Negativity clouds the soul, I believed.
But things change.
In past couple of years, right here in the country that my mother and father fled to hoping to find a better life, I've had to scroll through page and after page ofblack men being gunned down on grainy video footage. I’ve had to read about the way political pundits rob human beings of their God given rights such as marriage and even where they can use a bathroom. And let’s not forget that the Flint water crisis began in April 2014 and we still have folks staring at darkened water. As a child of the 80’s, I have memories of the “War on Drugs,” Stop and Frisk, and the other ways this country has carried out its injustices. These come all on the backs of the disenfranchised: women, people of color, the LGBTQ community. Even as a writer, I never used my Microsoft Word program to spread the news about these dehumanizing practices. I refrained from the practice because I always thought, “Well I'm just one person.”
But as a father of five, in this political and social climate, that's no longer the case.
First and foremost: I was stunned by the improbable (see also: unfortunate) rise to power of the conundrum we call Donald Trump. To me, it was a bleak reminder that the absolute worst denizens of humanity can earn platforms to spew their vitriol. More than anything, I feel that this presidency is peeling back the facade of the cheap “United We Stand” sticker we slapped on America’s deepest issues. It was a wakeup call for me. The country I loved as kid, the one I planned to join the Marine Corps for at the early age of seven, was displaying its cracks. Though I never did enlist, I did enroll in a world of writing and reporting.
So January 20, 2017 was my Inauguration Day.
I cut off all my hair. I laid out my all black suit. I helped author signs for the Woman’s March with my wife and son. I made sure to write the date of the next election on the board for my 11th grade students to know when they will first be able to vote and decide the direction of this country. I made that day the first of my protest year.
Of course, I didn't have to wait long for that pledge to be challenged. At the tail-end of the “slow motion car wreck” we called 2016, in an online message, Milo Yiannopoulos revealed that he had accepted a 250,000 book deal to publish his thoughts on free speech.
Now I know a thing or two about trolls. I know to watch out for areas where they tend to graze and never to feed them. I refuse to waste this space describing who Milo is and the various things he is (in)famous for. Just know that the cancerous mole that Twitter found dangerous enough to get surgically removed after his messages were found to be “inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others” was gifted a book deal.
To write a book.
With actual words in it.
About free speech.
I understand how, depending on what you value in your family structure, this may not be a major issue for you and that’s fine. My family and I are, top to bottom, a group of creatives. My wife and I are English teachers. One of sons enjoys drawing, another spends his time jotting down stories, while yet another is interested in photography. As parents, we are trying to teach our children about the weight and impact of our creative outlets. Trump, and the people gaining notoriety as a result of his success, represents an establishment that is taking its first steps towards normalizing bigotry and ignorance. This publisher has decided to fund Milo at a time when our country is dealing with strained ethic and moral clashes; when groups like Black Lives Matter and the LGTBQ community are challenged, last year alone, with multiple accounts of police brutality and one horrifying club shooting.
Of course, initially I was ready to throw my hands up and think that I was once again too insignificant to make a difference. Luckily, I hang out in circles that include highly intelligent and well-informed writers. Within minutes of weighing our options and deciding whether a boycott of Simon & Schuster books was the right course of action (as some like The Chicago Review in Books are declaring), the group was able to find the exact imprint responsible for signing the Alt-Right “Western Supremacy” poster boy-- a company called Threshold Editions. We were able to chase down a contact email I was able to send them a message voicing my concern on their decision.
Does it stop the publication? No way. Threshold Editions brags of making best selling authors out of Limbaugh and Milo, which to me is the same as being proud of feeding a horse an apple just to have it defecate in public. But for me, this was the perfect way to give 2016 a proper send-off while inviting 2017 in for the long haul. This year, I will not stand for misinformation, for injustice, or the obstruction of another human being’s rights. This has also shown me that I’m not alone when it comes to the clearer, more focused resistance against intolerance. And, more so, in a political climate that I feel threatens my family, I realize now that need to stand to up for them. These hateful men survive by draping themselves in the security blanket we call freedom of speech. Too bad for them, it also works wonders for me.
So here it is. Take this, my first contribution to Everything for Dads in 2017, as my inauguration speech. If you believe in this country like I still do, this is your call to action. Know that we are needed: the fathers of children of color, of girls that are made to feel inferior at an early age, of mixed families with same sex partners, and the other myriad of family constructs that these people try to defame and devalue. Make this your inauguration, too. This country needs its writers, its reporters, its storytellers. This year needs our voices.
I really hope that our new President will put away his “reality show bully” persona and show a side of himself that isn’t crass, confrontational, and elitist. Like he and the 64 million people who voted him into office, I want to make America Great (and until I see a timeline, I’m going to leave out the “Again”). I want our families to be safe and prosperous. I want our jobs to return, for laws to succeed in protecting the humanity in all of us, and just for some human decency to be seen on a daily basis.
But I’m not going to wait idly by for it to happen on its own.
And I’m sure as hell not allowing it to be at the expense of the disenfranchised.
Just like the incomparable James Baldwin famously said, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."
Alcy Leyva is a Bronx-born writer who enjoys fiction and likes to prod at its dark corners for strange interlopers. He taps into elements of fantasy and dark humor, but tends to roam around tirelessly for the next great project. He enjoys movies, gummi bears, and the word “schadenfreude”. You can find more of his work at AlcyLeyva.Weebly.com.
(The views expressed in articles on Everythingfordads.com do not necessarily reflect those of Everythingfordads.com.)