It was sometime right around when Donald Trump talked about how certain people were asking for moments of silence for the Dallas shooter (a lie, of course). It was after Orlando and Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and Dallas, but before Nice and Turkey, and I decided I was absolutely going to check out of the media universe altogether.
Fuck it all. I have a life to live in my fortunate corner of the universe. I have work to do. I have art to appreciate. I have personal relationships to nourish. Plus, I’m old. I doubt that I will live long enough to see the seriously malign effects of climate change. Yes, I know where the oceans are supposed to be in 2100, but I damn sure know where I’m going to be in 2100. Plus, the grandchildren of my grandchildren will solve it using twine and neutrinos.
I saved the world! Or my genetic spawn did, and that’s almost the same thing.
And it’s too much. I can’t stand that much bad news. My friend René was talking about a chum of his, an unreconstructed Bernieite, who would send him daily missives bashing Hillary about some failed policy or newly revealed prevarication. (Hillary turned out to be a liar after all; that was disappointing). “I finally told him to stop. I’m sure most of that is true, but I’m just too anxious.” Because Trump. Because Trump and guns and bombs and trucks.
Oh wait, I forgot about goddam Brexit. Didn’t even make the cut.
I’m anxious too. The New York Times is not my friend. I avoid television news because it’s so very stupid. Plus: It’s stupid people talking about stupid things. Either horse race garbage (“Look, a new poll says there’s a five point difference! Five points! Margin of error is five points. This must be significant!”), or one of those vague general stories in which a correspondent stands beside a pile of smoking rubble and says, “at this time, nothing is known about the killer or killers.”
Or it’s Pokemon Go, in which reality is enhanced by cute little cartoon characters. Seems like everyone wanted to escape the anger and the stupidity (did I mention that?) this week. What’s another truck attack when I found Squirtle or Charizard down by the Sand Creek Massacre monument? Pokemon Go is even a hit in Saudi Arabia, where God knows they need some relief.
Oh right: Saudi Arabia involved in 9/11. That’s cold news now, raising the question: Why didn’t anyone publish it when it was hot news? That slipped under the radar too.
The Republican candidate for president, whose name I can no longer bear to type, wants to “declare war” on ISIS, unaware that we are already at war with ISIS only we don’t declare it anymore (the last time was in 1941), because we’re just not the sort of people who get involved in war. We are a peaceful people.
Also, he has not figured out that the revolution has been decentralized. ISIS doesn’t need territory so long as it has a Twitter account. The Caliphate is an idea now, and the only way to fight an idea is with a better idea, and we seem to have forgotten what ours is. Come to America, we have…products.
As I am writing this, news comes that three policeman were shot and killed in Baton Rouge. Can you hear the shouts of “race war” now? That will be the subtext of the Republican convention, count on it.
So guns. So miles and acres of guns, bought and retained by people who have no trouble with state-mandated driver’s licenses but demand unregulated commerce in guns, guns that kill people. No one goes to shoot deer with an AR-15. Or a Sig Sauer MCX, which is what the guy in Orlando used.
In 2014, more people committed suicide using a gun than were killed in gun homicides. Of course, those folks could have just stabbed themselves to death, or poisoned themselves using standard laboratory chemicals, or jumped off a cliff. But a gun is so much more certain. Pick it up, gaze at it. No puzzling over road maps trying to find a cliff, no hesitant stabbing motions after the first two or three, no exhausting search for standard lab chemicals. There’s nothing between the sad person and the completion of his own self-extinction. Bang, bang, you’re —.
But, no no no, it’s second amendment all the way, even while people are second-amendmenting themselves in the foot, or second-amendmenting their nine-year-olds after a night of drinking and gun-related hijinks. Or a kid finding Mommy’s “just for protection” gun and second-amendmenting two dogs and a neighbor.
It is fucking madness, and it’s not changing. Politicians are panderers and cowards; it’s part of the job description. They are silent when people say they want the right to carry handguns into schools. I mean, what? What? Is there not an ounce of common sense left in the universe? What remains for me to learn in the public arena? I know my voice makes a difference and blah blah blah, but I constantly vote for the same women to go to Congress. They’re supposedly liberal, although one of them is the biggest suck-up to the security establishment ever. Privacy rights, ha! And she’s the Democrat.
The urge to retreat is overwhelming. The urge to search for news of the Antillean mango hummingbird. The feeling that watching my cat wash may be the most important thing I do all day. Perhaps a quest for wildflowers, or a journey to Argentina.
Of course, I could be a resident of Aleppo. No worries about trans-gender washrooms there. In western China, they are uninvolved in Hillary’s email scandal. In Yemen, they don’t have much time to consider three dead in the streets of Baton Rouge, because for them “three dead” is a relatively light day of slaughter. For us, in this extremely lucky corner of the world, to refuse to try harder because Donald Trump is a dangerous narcissist seems, you know, a little self-involved.
You want dangerous narcissists? The residents of Syria have just the guy for you.
Maybe we can’t do anything. Most of the people who tried to do something have failed. It’s the problem with doing difficult work; it’s hard. Failure is always there, whispering in your ear. But are we still civilized? Do we still believe in discourse, in ideas, in small plans made larger? Are we still interested in justice? Do we still wish to reduce suffering in our own city, our own state, our own world? Do we want to offer succor and hope? Well then, let’s keep soldiering on. Let’s make a fucking effort.
And after we change the world, we’re free to play Pokemon Go to our hearts’ content.
Photography by Tracy Johnston
Bearer of good news (“You like me. You really like me.”) Michelle Mizera