My own private howl

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I started this column many times.  I’d think I had my outrages lined up, but then something else would pop up in one of my 58 sources for moment-by-moment news. On Thursday, for instance, we spent the day at the Exploratorium with my younger granddaughter, and I got home and turned on the TV and, bless me, John Bolton. I mean, yes, I’d heard that it might happen, but I never thought it might, you know, happen.

There was the March for Life started by those blessed children at Parkland and, John Bolton is fucking harshing my mellow.  I want no more schoolchildren to be killed by a nuclear rain of death. I think we should have laws banning the use of nuclear weapons by crazy tinpot narcissists.

When the kids are done bringing a glimmer of hope to a cold universe, I’d like for old people to march against killing everybody.

There are stages to dealing with Trump. The first is hopeful: He’ll be in office a few months and everyone will lose their illusions and realize they’d been lied to and that Trump has no plans to make their lives better.  Then Congress passes a tax bill that gives everyone an extra $47 a year and everyone is all, “Trump is keeping his promises.”

Yes, his approval rating dipped eight points, but still right around 40 per cent of the voting age populace (or, at least, of those inclined to interact with pollsters) say they support him. There is good information, but people have turned away from good information; indeed, from the very idea of information itself.

Not only that, by supporting Trump they’re somehow giving it to me, the elite media, the cranky intellectuals, the atheists, the abortionists, and a wide variety of black people, brown people, yellow people, red people, and whatever other colors we’re using to prove to ourselves that race is a real construct grounded in real reality.

Am I saying anything new? I am not. I don’t know there’s anything new to say. I have seen the best minds of my generation, starving hysterical naked, trying to construct 500 words for the Sunday edition or the March issue or the second book in a two-book deal, pounding their brains for a new angle, a brave new apercu that will be seen as the turning point in the narrowly averted constitutional crisis, who subsequently disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago, We’ve all been there.

I do not despair because we are all in this together, because united we fight, because there are more of us than there are of them, and are you feeling better? The arc of history bends toward justice, but we need something a little more immediate than a bending arc. Just to make sure the earth isn’t a post-apocalyptic nightmare before we take on rising seas.

First, there should still be seas.

My mind tends toward disaster planning anyway. Give me a situation, and I can always find a way to turn it into a nuclear holocaust. I know this about myself, so I try not to inflict my harrowing views on others, knowing that I have always been wrong. Still, there have been times in human history when catastrophic thinking has been a description of reality. The worst case scenario is still a scenario.

How do we know when the worse case is happening? We don’t — until it’s too late. I’m the guy going around repeating “until it’s too late” and annoying people on my local monorail transportation system.

Many people from Eastern Europe are U.S. citizens now and they, who have seen the effects of failing to constructively panic, have written helpful “how do I know that tyranny is coming” checklists. Number one might be, “do you have a leader who fantasizes about killing people?” He wants to kill drug dealers. The president is probably unaware that he hobnobbed with drug dealers. They were  white, though, and they wore beautiful suits. Probably they wouldn’t have to die after all.

Number two might be, hold on, I had a thought. Unless you’re from Florida, you probably don’t know that Marjorie Stoneman Douglas was a person before she was the scene of a tragedy. She was born in the 19th Century, went through a cheating husband, a career as a newspaper reporter (she liked it), and a stint in the Navy (she didn’t like it), all before the first world war broke out. She went back to the newspaper business and started writing full time. In 1942, she wrote River of Grass, a book about the rape of the Everglades by Big Sugar and other monopolies. It is still relevant today; sadly, much of the initial dynamic continues. It is a masterpiece of type; if you read Silent Spring or The End of Nature, you should read it.

She was was born during the administration of Benjamin Harrison and died during the administration of Bill Clinton. Beat that.

You see why I digressed? There are still heroes. There are still people who do all these admirable things. Think of all the people at the EPA and the National Park Service, trying to keep stuff together despite hostility from the administration. Imagine that now: Someone located wonderfully far from the top of the bureaucracy, invisible even to the Human Resources Department, resisting memos, deflecting advisories, even selectively ignoring commands from above, what a hero is she. Or he. Such heroes are they.

Nothing about Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’s life was easy. She was a female newspaper reporter in 1910. Just imagine.

Nothing is easy at her high school either, nor will it be for quite some time. We have allowed this shit to continue, and shame on us. There was a hard-to-miss subtext in all the marches for life: Old people should get the fuck out of the way. Because all this happened on their watch.

As an old person, I can only say: They may have a point there.

I plan to continue to continue, shrugging off guilt. Guilt is just your brain’s way of saying “never mind.” The next thing is before us. The great work begins. This is the ass-end of change, but most generations get to go through something like that. Imagine being an quiet, soulful  Russian in 1928. People formed groups, you know what I’m saying? Secret resistance groups —they didn’t exactly put invitations on Facebook. You know that secret groups are happening now; it’s as predictable as fascists overplaying their hands. Wanna see where you fit? Maybe call that guy who knows that woman, and maybe ask.

We seek to avoid tyranny, or its most extreme reaction, a kind of despairing chaos. There will be real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!

All very sweet, but it’s hardly a system of government.

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Photography by Tracy Johnston

Doing the needful things: Michelle Mizera

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