Tempe O’Kun was on CNN while protesting ‘on the side of justice.’
by Patch O'Furr
Tempe writes in to share his recent appearance in the news, plus Q&A with me.
“I helped boo my Republican rep whenever he defended Trump-Russia. Normally, I don’t like having my real life intersect with furry, but these are exceptional times.” See Tempe in cowboy hat on North Dakota’s KFYR-TV:
Things got physical at a town hall meeting this afternoon in Mandan with Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. Two people were escorted from the Coffee with Cramer event by police officers. Things got heated, when Cramer was accused of supporting tax cuts for the wealthy.
Another view of the event from CNN video:
Two men were ejected from Rep. Kevin Cramer’s town hall in Mandan, ND, after tensions flared over the GOP health care bill.
(Patch:) Was it a surprise to be on CNN?
(Tempe:) It was! North Dakota is a sparsely populated and polite state, usually forgotten by the media. Rep. Cramer (ND-R) scheduled his town halls for noon and 5pm, hoping only his supporters would show up. Boy, was he wrong. He’s been booed in every corner of this supposedly red state. I thought I was just going to do my part, so in 20 years I could say I was on the side of justice. I never thought I’d make it on the news, let alone nationally.
I wonder if there is an indirect furry dimension to this. Is it using a creative voice to speak up with experience you honed as a furry writer?
As a writer, I’ve spent most of my life learning to put my thoughts into words, exploring the human condition, and imagining worlds that differ from our own. If I can use those skills to explain how vital is is that people get involved, then I’m morally obligated to do so. If I can make an attention-grabbing protest sign and hold it, I’m bound to do that too. I can’t expect to inspire others to get out and object to authoritarian white nationalism if I just sit at my Twitter account.
Could the issues here affect furries as a type of person any more than the average person?
Most furries are LGBT. The Trump regime is targeting LGBT folks—from removing pro-LGBT statements and policies from government websites, to erasing LGBT folks from the Census, to giving a free pass for Putin to systematically torture and murder gay men in Chechnya – to helping the Republicans pervert the intended secular democracy of the United States into a twisted hellscape of intolerant religious law.
The furry fandom has always been a safe haven for folks to be themselves. For some, it’s the only place to safely do that. If we are silent, these attacks will only continue to escalate.
Even if you don’t care about LGBT rights, you probably want a free and open internet, right? The Republicans are attacking that too.
Furries live in the real world (much as we are loath to admit it). We benefit from clean air, freedom of speech, and a government that supports human rights instead of brutal dictators. Was the US government perfect before? Certainly not. But you don’t fix a system by embracing corruption and dishonor. It takes logical ideas and hard work.
If we dismiss the crisis that is the Trump regime as mere “drama,” if we complain about furry being “so political,” then we will look away until they grab us by the throats. Alt-right Nazifurs are shutting down our cons, threatening our artists, trampling our public image, and then playing the victim—the eternal hallmark of the bully. To justify making your fellow human beings suffer, you must convince yourself that you are the true victim. You hear this in every yowled rationalization: “I can do what I want! If you don’t like it, leave!”; “You mad, bro? Why can’t you take a joke?”; “They’re just words. Why are you censoring me?” None of these excuses are honest. Don’t engage. Don’t feed the trolls.
Furry is a wonderful escape from the harshness of reality. It’s an incredible kingdom of dreams we’ve built, a safe haven for everyone. That’s why it’s been a prime target for Alt-right Nazifurs. They want nowhere to be safe.
You mention you normally don’t like having real life intersect with furry, but these are exceptional times. Why, and what’s your message to other fans?
Being a furry teaches you to see beyond the easy and artificial categories we place others in. That “foreigner” might be your favorite fursuiter. That “lazy welfare queen” might be the struggling artist you cheer for in comments.
Even as Putin’s intelligence services handed our election to Trump, I know the Russian people want only freedom, safety, and peace—just like the rest of us. I know it because I know Russian furries. They’re my friends, fans, and illustrators. Many of them resist their government as it cracks down on free speech and LGBT rights. If they can speak up against a far more competent authoritarian regime, I can’t sit idle.
Our times are exceptional because tribalism – the ancient lie that those outside your little tribe are subhuman goblins – has been grievously wounded by the internet. The old boogeymen (non-whites, non-Christians, non-heterosexuals, socialists, women in pants) no longer scare us, so the old power structures are crumbling. Women, minorities, and the poor have rights and can vote. World peace is an existing trend, not some hippy dream. Terrible conflicts rage on, but wars on the scale of previous generations aren’t happening anymore. Why? Because we citizens of the world are now so interconnected and interdependent. (Wouldn’t you think twice about attacking a country if your friends lived there, or your next commission was coming from there?)
Respect’s not a zero-sum game. Empowering others and treating them with compassion has practical benefits, even for those who might’ve been at the top of the heap before. Altruism is practical. Look at an example in the fandom: most everybody supports artists—with commissions, purchases, donations, or encouragement. We have all these incredible artists producing really cool things for us, and if someone were abusing or cheating them out of money, you’d want to stop that, right? No matter who you are, you’d benefit. If you’re broke, you want to keep seeing cool art for free. If you’ve got money, you want to keep commissioning cool art. And you can bet artists want an altruistic environment since they don’t want to be the next one harassed or scammed. Everybody wins.
The only reason to fight that positive environment is if you’re hoping to scam people. So be wary of those who ask for your fear or hate. They want to use you. They want cannon fodder or cash cows or even just a chorus of trolls to drown out anything that upsets their delicate feelings. People who desire your cruelty want to turn back the clock to the old days, when they could be warlords grasping for blood-soaked gold instead of bitter losers trolling in a comments section. Their time is passing. Pity them. And then block them.
In the furry fandom, we’re at the forefront of this trend toward embracing peace. Ironic, perhaps, that we had to embrace animal personas to see each other as fully human, but I can’t argue with the fact that the furry fandom is one of the nicest places in the world. Everyone who can treat each other kindly is welcome to join in our tomfoolery. We’re united by shared interest and a sense of community, which is certainly the direction we want the world to go. If we try, we can make the world more like the fandom: safe, fun, and free. Together, we can make the future furry.
Do you want others to follow your example, and how?
Absolutely! First of all, be a smart internet user. The internet is a furry’s native habitat. You know how to search for good info, verify rumors, and sniff out a lie. Don’t let people fool you with self-serving memes and propaganda. Share important news stories from good sources, not just ones with wild headlines. Beyond that, anything you can do is something we wouldn’t have without you.
…continue your life without going insane? Great! Be kind to yourself. Do things you love. Fill your time with activities that keep you from obsessing over the negative. Disengage from toxic people. This is the foundation all other resistance is built on.
…be good to your friends? They might be as freaked out as you are. Spend time with people who make you smile and be excellent to each other.
…discourage trolling? Fighting with idiots is a waste of energy. You’re not obligated to correct every fool on the internet. Use your energy in more productive ways. Block trolls, report them, and move on. And don’t let your friends troll people.
…call your representatives? Here’s the number: 202-224-3121. I call almost every day. It takes about 5 minutes to call your two Senators and Representative. Just like ordering a pizza: tell them what you like and what you don’t. Don’t bother calling outside your district, since only constituents count.
…go to a protest? Check out your local Indivisible group on Facebook. Or just bring friends to your Congress member’s next town hall, hold up signs, and boo or cheer as needed.
…donate to the ACLU to fight the regime in court? Here’s the link.
…vote? Most states let you register here. The next local election in your area might be sooner than you think. Plan ahead and vote early, if you can.
…volunteer for a local election? There’s tons of options for how you can help out, from calling people and knocking on doors to organizing your friends to go vote. Even better, you could run for office.
…help out a local cause? With basic services threatened by tax breaks for the wealthy, you’d be more welcome than ever at your local animal shelter, food pantry, blood drive, or any other group that helps improve life on this planet.
…do something I haven’t even thought of? You can read more about resisting at the Indivisible guide.
…live outside the US? Stand up for civil rights and democracy in your own country. Be so successful that you shame us into being better.
…own a fursuit? It’s tough for the propaganda machine to spin peaceful protests into “riots” if cartoon animals are squeaking at the cameras.
…have a furry or social media account? Follow people who work to improve the world. Don’t follow people who tear others down or support cruelty.
…have friends/family members who “aren’t political” or even support the Trump regime? Be as open as you feel okay with. Use your time and energy where you think it will be most productive. I’ve found that the best way to win people over is to live the best life I can and be honest about my beliefs while trying to understand others’.
Apart from being on CNN, what’s new with you and your work?
I am almost done with a new Windfall book! Slate is back and illustrating it, inside and out. Expect to see it this summer or fall. I’m also working on a new card game that’s compatible with the Nordguard one—and that uses a property the fandom is also pretty familiar with… ; )
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