trying to save ourselves. trying to save each other.

Lisboa graffiti: silhouette of birds sitting on a wire beneath a row of windows1. This is the morning. Let’s see if I can remember how to type. It’s been a month since I wrote in this blog – and during this month, my life changed and didn’t change. During this vacation, I taught my body about rest, separation from the daily work, from the sort of scheduled struggle we in the Bay Area have turned our normal into. I visited other places and touched other ways of being and walked on new streets and listened to new voices and touched new possibility.

2. Today is the eclipse that the papers can’t stop talking about. Tomorrow we will see if the world has survived this particular form of darkness, another disappearance in the eyes of the sun. We will stand at attention today and watch as celestial bodies battle it out for our attention, for light. Isn’t that what we do every day, with our attention to celebrity culture? But these are real stars, you say. Yes. Real stars.

3. I want to say something about Charlottesville, but of course, it’s not about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is emblematic of our country’s entire history. White supremacist racists have been killing people, mostly folks who aren’t white, for the entirety of the American “experiment.” Yes, we should rage that a woman was killed, a person was killed, when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people who were standing up for anti-racist values. who were standing up against white supremacy, standing up for a fundamental change in America. One that says, all people are created equal, and means it, and believes it, and enacts policy and government with the idea that it’s actually true. Racists killing people is nothing new. White supremacists killing people isn’t new, not in our American past, and not in our current day.

We white folks should rage as loudly, in such large numbers, when white supremacy kills folks of color, too, of course.

3. I wanted to tell you about the things I saw and learned during these days away, these weeks away from the everyday, but I have returned to a place that is so vicious and hate-filled and violent and crazy-making that it seems almost an additional violence to discuss peace instead of war. So many of us do not have the luxury of peace right now. We don’t have the luxury of vacation, because of the economy or our national obsession with work or because it is not safe to leave what we know of as home.

4. It is easy to be triggered all the time. It is easy to feel only despair. It is easy to feel lost and frightened and even nihilist — it is easy to want to lose yourself with just about anything— drugs or alcohol, food, television, video games, social media, all of the many ways we addict ourselves out of reality. It is easy to understand why we would want to disappear from this place if we are not part of the majestic elite that is rising like cream in this country.

We are not the only country with a vast canyon yawning between the haves and the rest of us, but this is the one I live in, and it feels like being at the back end of violence when I have it shoved down my throat. Today I will return to downtown San Francisco, push back into the disparity of this my once-beautiful city, in this the place I thought would save me as it had saved so many others, in this place I thought was my mecca. I will see the tech nouveau-riche and the very very poor, the homeless folks who live on the same streets with these tech giants. I will walk again amid the violence of the American experiment, the truth of the American dream.

5. I read a lot of science fiction while I was away, a lot of speculative fiction, a lot of weird fairy tales, taking the old tropes and pulling them inside out until their teeth and veins show. I read books in translation, wanting to touch other ways of imagining the world.

6. Outside I can hear the BART train. I can hear the whoosh of traffic like a constant tide. Two days ago I awoke to cardinals and the sound of the ocean. Why am I back here again, except for a mother who loves her boy and a dog who I missed like skin?

7. I would like the news media to quit publishing photos of the supremacists’ flags and regalia. Seeing those things continues to harm the folks these symbols were brandished against, and gives the images a wider audience, which the supremacists want.

I would also like the media to stop publishing photos of the troll-in-chief, especially on the cover of their papers or magazines – it’s all he wants: publicity. Let’s stop giving it to him.

8. We are trying to save ourselves. We are trying to save each other.

9. I am glad that many, many people are turning against the troll-in-chief and his wayward patch of hopeless advisors. It should not have taken this long, but at least there are people who are beginning to stand up. There should not have been as many people as there were and still are who dismiss him as a newbie who’s still getting his footing. Don’t you recall that the exact same language was thrown against Obama as a hostile criticism: that he was an amateur, that he had no business in the White House?

10. I am afraid for this country. I am afraid for our human species. Tech is not saving us. Tech is driving us apart from one another.

11. This is a scattered post of loss and wanting.

12. What’s new, we say, about Charlottesville, about this moment in racist American history, is that white supremacists feel free to show themselves, to march armed through the middle of a major town in the United States. But it’s not new for white folks to show their faces at a massacre or a murder in the name of white power — it’s actually on been a short time in our American history that the white supremacists felt that they needed to hide.

13. In spite of all the current awfulness in our country, and around the world – or maybe alongside it – I want to feel hopeful. There is so much to terrify us, so much to rage against, so much to be furious about, to grieve, to despair of. But there are glimmers of hope for me as well. Maybe it’s the antidepressants. I can’t say. But if nothing else, if they’re working right, antidepressants can lift us enough out of the muck that we want to keep going, that we believe there’s worth in staying alive another day. For me, it’s remembering that what got me through the worst of the violence of my adolescence and young adulthood was the idea of tomorrow — tomorrow might bring something new. Tomorrow something might change. Tomorrow could bring a new development. Often tomorrow did bring a new development, and it was bad. But the day came when tomorrow brought me courage and strength. The day came when tomorrow brought me a no so loud I couldn’t see my way clear to living the way I’d been living for so many years. The day come when tomorrow was my today and my today had a big yes stamped on it and that was the day that everything changed.

Looking forward to tomorrow has a kind of hope in it, or at least, can elastic into something like hope.

14. Keep standing up. Keep fighting against the brainwashing of white supremacy. Struggle in your heart and in the streets, if that’s right for you. Thank you for your struggle today. Thank you for the ways you hold the truth of others’ stories, the way you allow others to hold yours. Thank you for your creative resistance today. Thank you for your words. 

One response to “trying to save ourselves. trying to save each other.

  1. Kristine Peterson

    Jen, this is a really authentic article. Thank you!

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