*Warning: Netflix spoilers ahead*
SO IT'S been just over a year since we all became captive residents of the Upside Down, and weirdly, I am grateful.
Last Thanksgiving, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to function in the shadowy, monster-filled world we flipped into after the election. As I pushed cloth napkins through wooden holders and made sweet potato pie like a good Stepford wife, I kept looking over my shoulder, terrified of what soul-shredding demogorgon would appear out of the slime next.
But we marched along as the pumpkin spices morphed into pine-scented furor followed by the electric green rage of spring, and it became clear that the End of the World as We Knew It had not extinguished our power. We continued to stomp our boots on the scorched earth through one of the hottest summers on record, our numbers multiplying like Stephen King novels as we entered another fall.
And now here we are, facing down another turkey with Tervis tumblers full of Beyoncé lemonade and baseball bats spiked with nails.
It’s been a wild ride, Winona, and I must admit I’m a little giddy with all the plot twists. But before I go on, let’s acknowledge that empowerment has come in tandem with tragedy.
The last twelve months have brought unnerving chaotic divisions and senseless horrors, so many that the Mind Flayer-in-Chief can’t even keep them straight. There are so many who have suffered and will never be the same, from the loved ones of the almost 12,000 Americans murdered by guns to those scrambling to find medical insurance in a disappearing marketplace.
Greedy megacorporations carry on their rape and pillage of the planet’s last pristine places, and profits remain a higher priority than the poor people exploited to keep them climbing. (Please tell me you’re all boycotting Zara!)
Yet thanks can be offered for the many pernicious evils thathave been stopped at the portal: The proposed exile of transgender soldiers from the U.S. military was shot down in a matter of days, and the arrogant rallying cry of “repeal and replace” has become a pathetic whimper. And due to a card game company, that ridiculous wall against humanity will be totally tangled up in eminent domain issues for decades.
While our Muslim brothers and sisters continue to be harassed, a unilateral travel ban was blocked by federal courts. (That is, until last week, when a San Francisco appeals court ordered a partial injunction on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. The story is still developing, and our psychic abilities portend a series of protests next month.)
Some of the storyline’s most recognizable villains—Steve Bannon, Anthony Not-so-Scary-mucci—are now all but faint memories and irrelevant memes, banished to the outer dimensions. Kellyanne Conway may still have her job, but the fact that people are still confusing her with Ann Coulter has blunted her rabid Cujo teeth.
Then there’s the Russia investigation, headed by special agent, er, counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing every corner of the basement with scientific perseverance. Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos have already been pulled from the shadows, and who will get their Silkwood shower next is the biggest cliffhanger of the season.
By far the most shocking and exciting thread is how quickly the narrative has turned against the predators. Everyone knew that the superiority and false morality of the patriarchal ruling class was just a house of cards, but honestly, I didn’t see it coming.
While it seems like it should be as obvious as a boom mike dipping into the frame of a B movie, the takedown of dozens of sinister villains in the last few months has made it aggressively clear in big red letters: It is in no way acceptable to talk about or take out one’s penis in front of another person without gaining permission, ever, and even then, the power differential must be explicitly examined.
The collective crisis has fueled the courage in those made prey, and like Joyce Byers confronting a team of mansplaining scientists, we’re just not willing to take the bullshit excuses anymore.
What’s even more dramatic is how the call-out phenomenon has transcended party politics to mushroom into the far reaches of society’s discomfort zones: From Kevin to Louis and now Al, we have proved ourselves willing to tear down our idols to seek justice for all. (And for Barb. Never forget Barb.)
So even though this year has spewed vats of poisonous mucus to wade through, I still see more reasons to give thanks than I did at the same time last year. Of course there is always, always, more work to be done:
The 65 million refugees needing asylum worldwide, half of whom are children. The infuriating backlog of untested rape kits, of which Georgia is holding at least 10,000. Affordable healthcare. Equal access to education. Dismantling racism.
And if we are blessed to sit down in front of a Thanksgiving meal with people we love this week, perhaps we will also think deeply into the origins of the tradition and acknowledge that our country’s native people have never had a seat at the table.
Speaking of seats, dozens of municipal and state elections somersaulted in a new wave of diverse leadership this month, and the key midterms of 2018 shine on the horizon. Thirty-three out of 100 U.S. Senate races will be on the ballot, and all 435 spots in the House of Representatives are up for grabs.
That means that this time next November, it’s possible that we could be celebrating a complete turnaround, all the way back to the right side up.
Sounds far-fetched, but who knows? Stranger things have already happened.