In a rare, public and political statement, filmmaker Lilly Wachowski (co-creator of The Matrix trilogy, V for Vendetta, Sense8) published this personal essay on the literary website, LitHub.com, calling on people to "Refuse Fascism, at the Ballot Box and in the Street."
My Grams was one of those people I loved to make laugh. She was a mighty woman who left an indelible mark on the women in my family. Myself included. I think of her when I fold a fitted sheet or make "Gramma eggs," our family's name for "egg in a basket." Her atoms can be felt in every one of my and my sister's films and was a huge inspiration for the Oracle in the Matrix trilogy. At the very end of her life, one of the things she said that carries wistful weight in our family's lore was, she wasn't afraid of dying, she just wanted to know the rest of the story, to know what was going to happen.
As we approach the crucible that is the 2020 election, this moment of our potential unmaking, I am at a loss when presented with the idea of what happens if Trump denies the will of the people and refuses to honor a peaceful transfer of power.
And then what happens?
That is the question that leaves me tossing and turning in bed at the darkest hours of the morning, my brain in free fall reaching out for purchase, grasping. The strange event horizon of this post-election moment in its unknowableness is unsettling.
When I was a kid playing D&D with my pals, there would be some crucial moment in the story of the game where we'd all start chanting, "And then what happens?! And then what happens?!" It was a joke we repeated based on some newly initiated player who didn't understand the idea that role playing requires participation in the story, but would only ask Lana (the GM) what happened next. We always took the joke to absurdist conclusions. "And then what happens? You get hungry. And then what happens? You collapse from starvation. And then what happens? You die. And then what happens? You decompose and become a skeleton. And then what happens? A pack of wild dogs divvy up your bones and bury them. And then what happens? Dung beetles eat your bones…." Hilarious stuff at the time.
We played endlessly. It was a game that would hone my imagination to create and understand hypothetical situations and how to navigate through them. It helped my young mind in the creation of my own sense of self and my moral universe. It offered a salve to my gender dysphoria with the opportunity to disappear and inhabit other worlds, other bodies, bodies that more closely aligned to the one I yearned to be.
The ability to answer the question "And then what happens," has served me immeasurably in my career as a filmmaker. To make a film is an impossibly ponderous endeavor, from its inception and ideation, to story, to script, to production, to post production; a film is a flowchart of seemingly infinite variety of decisions. And right now, days before the election, the question nags ominously.
Over the last months, that sense of uncertainty, that hole in our story, had me scouring the abyssal of the internet, ultimately turning to the hard answers offered time and again by sites like Truthout, Gaslit Nation, The Indivisible Project, Stand Up America, and Refuse Fascism. These are folks who have been ringing this alarm for the past four years and succinctly put all of my anger, fear and anxiety into words on the desperate looming cataclysm we face.
How many more fucking bodies have to pile up?
The urgency of Refuse Fascism though, is that we cannot wait until after the election. That we have to mobilize now, to take to the streets now, to pre-empt the rolling fascist coup that is taking place NOW. Definitely exercise your right to vote but they posit that this regime will likely have to be forced out under the weight of mass-nonviolent protest in the streets. And though this premise is full of the promise of direct action which I like, I still find my mind wanting, grasping.
And then what happens?
If there isn't some kind of Frank Capra ending to this nightmare, if there isn't an overwhelming electoral landslide of the decent, what do we do?
What happens when Trump disputes a close election, then tries to legitimize his coup via his illegitimately packed courts and corrupt DOJ? The evidence is that he's already doing it.
My pal Aleksander Hemon has written extensively about this, drawing parallels to his experiences in Bosnia, prognosticating about the impending doom we are all facing. Doom is a specialty of his.
"The moment when we cannot in any way connect what is taking place and what we know, is a traumatic one, because the solidity of realitythe belief that its continuity cannot be alteredcatastrophically falters."
This knocks the wind from me. Because the "solidity of reality" is that I can't see through the murk of this situation that doesn't end in violence.
Violence. It is the GOP's go-to. The one substantive piece of their political platform.
And while the Democratic party's habitual calls for bipartisanship make them accomplices in Republican crimes, violence is the core value of the GOP. The violence of 220,00 dead Americans and counting. The violence of exposing voters to grueling lines in this pandemic. The violence of their economic sanctions against their own populace, sadistically starving those with the least. The violence of their gun-crazy militias and white supremacist thuggery of the fraternal order of police. The violence against immigrants and the xenophobic politicizing of our border. The violence against Black and Brown lives facing more brutality and criminalization on top of a racist carceral state and for-profit industrial prison complex. The violence against my queer and trans brothers, sisters and siblings.
How many more fucking bodies have to pile up?
The truth is, if Trump "wins" this election, I am having a difficult time imagining I am not going to be one of those bodies. This does not make me special. By the inauguration the number of Covid deaths will likely double. "Rounding the corner" to half a million dead Americans. It is a staggering number. A crime against humanity. And is indicative that one way or another the violence of the GOP is going to come for us all.
But it doesn't have to be this way. The dung beetles don't have to eat our bones, not if we rise up and participate in this moment. By freeing our radical imaginations we can create that Capra-esque ending for ourselves. The movements around the world have shown us the way. Black Lives Matter has shown us the way. The courageous citizens that are hurling themselves into the ballot blockades have shown us the way. We must come together and end this fanatically violent regime that imperils our lives and the Earth itself. We are the writers of this story and we get to decide how it's going to end.
So get out there and vote with all your fucking might, rabidly protect your ballot with everything you got and I'll see you in the streets.
The world will be watching to see what happens next.
Wachowski recently recorded herself reading A Pledge to the People of the World: In the Name of Humanity, We Refuse to Accept a Fascist America.
Watch below as Lilly Wachowski reads A Pledge to the People of the World: In the Name of Humanity, We Refuse to Accept a Fascist America
She has joined dozens of other prominent figures including Cornel West, Naomi Shihab Nye, Chuck D, Alyssa Milano, Noam Chomsky, Zoe Lister-Jones, Lalah Hathaway, Arturo O'Farrill, Jodie Sweetin and more, in pledging "To stop a regime that imperils the people of the world and the earth itself." The Pledge reads, "We will take to the streets, day after day, and call forth others. We Demand Trump/Pence Out Now! We will not stop until they're gone."
The Pledge was initiated by RefuseFascism.org and co-written by Andy Zee, co-initiator of RefuseFascism.org, and Coco Das, of the Refuse Fascism Editorial Board.
"Election Day is upon us. Trump ramps up his threats that there will not be a peaceful transfer of power, but rather a theft of the election. Fascist mobs are mobilizing to violently enforce this. Tens of millions of people are flooding to the polls to defeat Trump and they are filled with both hope and dread. The stakes could not be higher, and people feel it. The struggle for the future is on: Will it be Fascist, Or, Will We Act?"
"Whatever happens on November 3," said Das, "there has to be a clear pole speaking to the desire of millions and the interests of humanity a call to the conscience of millions, focused on the single demand: Trump/Pence OUTNOW!"
Lilly Wachowski is a trans woman, filmmaker who has collaborated on a myriad of moving picture cinematics including the Matrix Trilogy, V for Vendetta, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, Sense8, and Work in Progress. She is a board member of Brave Space Alliance and co-signer of A Pledge to the People of the World: In the Name of Humanity, We Refuse to Accept a Fascist America.
Coco Das is a writer, co-author of the Refuse Fascism Pledge to the People of the World; on the RefuseFascism.org Editorial Board.
Andy Zee is co-author of the Refuse Fascism Pledge to the People of the World; on the RefuseFascism.org Editorial Board; Host, The RNL Revolution, Nothing Less Show; and Spokesperson for Revolution Books.