We hate bullies and we hate bigots so when OLB was asked to convene to help a young group of LBGTQ+ students and citizens in Madison, WI, we didn’t hesitate. The Light Brigades have been around for a while now, almost twelve years, and the lighted panels needed some TLC to spark ‘em up, but the work was worth it, and the trek to Madison reminded us of so many previous trips as we headed west from Milwaukee, past the conservative suburbs full of our doomed excesses of consumptive strip malls and fast food franchises, driving in a tense dense pack of traffic; semi-trucks, SUVs with little black, white and blue flag decals, passing plastic laminate signs for conservative supreme court judges in the farm fields, avoiding aggressive drivers angry at something that speed might fix but never does.
We drove into the setting sun similar to so many times during the last decade and reached Madison at sunset, the magic hour of diminishing silvery light before velvet night drops around the state capitol. We were shocked at the amount of new development in strange little hybrid city Madison, growing from a government and university town into some unholy mix of strip malls, fast food franchises and dense-packed condominiums. There were countless new condominiums creating a wall down East Washington Street, townhouses with trendy names that sounded like aspirational spiritual investment poetry.
It was cold out and the state capitol stood as beautiful as ever. We found our ragtag group of Holders of the Light congregating near “Lady Forward,” the statue that has watched over OLB actions so many times before. Action organizers had asked us to not announce the event because they get so many bigots, bullies, TERFs, who show up, dox them, mock them, threaten them, protest their existence, wound them, kill them. Three individuals in Milwaukee in the last few months, murdered. Colorado Springs shooting at Club Q 2022, Orlando nightclub shooting 2022, drag shows everywhere, 2023. Hate spreads like emerald ash borers on amphetamine, moving across the landscape devouring target hosts, leaving deadwood in the wake destroying, moving on, tree to tree, yard to yard, blighting the countryside, a region, a nation.
“STOP TRANS GENOCIDE” was the message. Yes, we understand that “genocide” is a loaded word, a serious word to use, and has a specific meaning related to ethnicity, nationality, religion. Genocide: the intentional destruction of a people in whole or in part.
Stop Trans Genocide. Are we clear?
There is a frightening evil spreading through fear and hate and intolerance amplified by the affordances of social media and the cynical corruption of the powerful. It feeds on the deadwood brains of bullies and bigots and opportunistic seekers of power, politicians of position intent upon the dehumanization of people that are family, friends, students, neighbors. It spreads and gets normalized, as decent people wring their hands and say, “What can we do? What can we do?” while bullies and bigots laugh and troll and stockpile and peel and stick decals of not-so-Christian crosses in a mix with AR-15 silhouettes and blue-lined flags onto the back windows of cars noted on the drive back. Not all cars, of course, but some cars.
This is our postcard to Ron DeSantis and those that think his platform is a desirable and legitimate political option. From Wisconsin, with rage.