Quick foreword: I suggest listening to the song Always Something Better by Trentemøller first, as you go.
There's an old quote that I always seem to gravitate towards that I've liked for a long time, by Horace Walpole
"Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy for those who think."
Sure, he was just some English historian in the 1700's, and the more I think about it, I haven't felt like laughing much at all recently. I miss it. I find myself being pulled apart like a wishbone, where the involved wishers are dead set on their own wish coming true, at all costs. Our future depends on this! And while it's always possible that the split will go right down the middle, it just doesn't usually happen that way. Even when you open your eyes and you're holding an exact half of a wishbone, how do you really even know that wishes even come true? You have to believe of course, because everybody knows that if you don't then it's pretty much guaranteed to not happen... but the real action is what you do after you make the wish.
I've made a lot of wishes in life. On shooting stars, after a dandelion, after capturing a lover's escaping eyelash... and sometimes just cold wishing into the air when one feels needed. I can recall with some conviction that the only wishes that have come true are the wishes that I worked for. But here's the thing... I do believe in magic. I don't think I could make music if I didn't. But wishes live with magic and God in the secret attic. As far as I know, nobody's found it yet, thought certainly not for lack of searching. For all the good those elements can provide, they are not to be relied on, or called upon in situations such as these. This is on us, in the real world.
There was a bit of a discrepancy in one little detail from the online coverage of Saturday's march through Los Angeles. I think I chuffed audibly when I noticed it, because it was such a fitting discrepancy, considering the events that have led to an overheated state of the union. One report, via the LAPD had the total number of people at 8,000. Another report, shared and repeated by various media outlets humanitarian organizations had it at 100,000. Sounds about right doesn't it? Some downplay here, some exaggeration there, the truth likely somewhere in the middle? Yeah.
Watching a family tear itself apart on a facebook post is just awful. We see the words, and a static face, but we don't see the history, or the deeper relationship. Reading tweets, and subtweets, and retweets, and mean tweets will make your eyes explode and your heart combust. Scrolling CNN or MSNBC will make you angry and distraught, and they are meant to. Life, in your face in overdrive, accusations thrown, arguments never-ending, walls built. Yes, Mr. Trump did indeed start building a wall. Right around our eyes and our hearts.
I've said all I can and care to say about that man, and none of it is anything approaching nice. So as another old saying goes, I won't say anything at all about him. He's a known quantity at this point, and yeah he may go on to do some not so shitty things, and say some words that aren't altogether destructive...but I know who the man is. He's not going to change my opinion of him in this lifetime.
He's also the president of my country now.
I was angry on Wednesday. In shock. I imposed on myself a daylong ban from the internet so I would be able to think, and I went out. The air that day was made of bug spray and smoke. Every movement felt impossibly laborious, but it felt necessary to at least try to get around, so as not to rattle and shatter into a pile of angry shards. What had gone wrong? How did America get so divided? How did we fall for such false predictions? As David Byrne would say.. HOW DID I GET HERE?? I had so many more questions than answers. Actually, it was all questions, and no answers. And so, I asked. We asked. At once. And then both the answers that we wanted and didn't want came flooding in. They still are.
On the throng marched. From MacArthur to 1st and Los Angeles Street I talked with people. I observed. I ran into a friend and we picked up some loose tree branches from a tree trimming that had to stop working to let the march come through, held them high and made up our cause as we went. You may or may not be surprised to hear that we decided on environmental issues. I joined in on some of the chants. It felt good, and necessary in ways that shouldn't need to be explained or defended.
HER BODY, HER CHOICE, HER BODY, HER CHOICE
EDUCATION NOT DEPORTATION, EDUCATION NOT DEPORTATION
and, HEY HEY HO HO OUR COUNTRY'S NOT A TV SHOW
I grew up here, and I've just never seen something quite like this here in my lifetime. Such a huge river of humans coming together for myriad reasons, under the umbrella of love, and compassion. And let's be real, a strong helping of absolute disgust and distrust of our president elect, and a sudden suspicion of the people who voted for him. There's a very threatening cloud of anger about us, and it would be impossible to say that it's unjustified when you take the history of the players involved. There is some reckless bullshit happening in our government, and to normalize this, and not challenge every element of contribution and associated contributors, would be to fail as a democracy, and as a people. That just can't happen. This wasn't some shitty mob of destructors. This was a force of good hearts, looking to radiate. I think I could speak for a majority of that crowd, in saying that we're ready to converse. I'm ready to hear you. I'm not ready to lie down, and I'm not ready to say fuck it. We don't have to let the world go to shit on the back of the relatively small group of men and women who have lost their way, or aren't bothering to look for a way. Not gonna lie, it's gonna be pretty hard, but we have to do it.
We have to ask what our liberal friend thinks about. We need to know why our aunt and her kids in Michigan voted for Trump, because we firmly believe they're not racist but we're confused. If you're white you have to ask a friend who isn't, what they experience, and where. We have to work together, we have to lean on each other, and most of all, we must try to understand and be tolerant of each other. Easy to say, not to do. Especially with claws out and heels dug in. Extra especially with discrimination being worn proudly and expressed loudly.
I'm aware that these proclamations maybe sound unrealistic, and overly utopian. Hippy bullshit. The truth is sometimes gonna sound outlandish. in the recurring twist of our lives, it's going to badger and annoy us. It's hard to be honest all the time. It requires a fearlessness of being wrong. You have to allow yourself to fail. We have to allow ourselves this failure in order to move forward. And after this week, I think a lot of people have, and are discovering a voice that hadn't yet been exercised. The pessimist might say, "too little, too late", but that's not very helpful, is it? It also isn't true. It's not too late, it's just going to be even harder than everyone realized.
I think that if we were to do nothing (which so far, we are not), the world as we know it would be in danger. Because the current wave of anti-social progress feels like it's been created by a storm of fear. We're afraid that an increasing number of our fellow humans on this planet are plotting to kill us. And that fear is breeding a rash of irrationality and social division. Words that haven't been at the tips of the tongues of so many for so long are now commonplace. Racism. Sexism. Misogyny. Hatred. They're flying around like forks and knives in some vicious dystopian food fight. There's mass gouging and swearing going on, but people just keep bobbing and chucking while continuing to yell "LET'S JUST TALK DAMMIT!!". The internet is at present an absurd and disturbing place. Information and misinformation mingle unobstructed, and are almost indistinguishable in more cases than ever.
Here. in the spirit of the recent great birth of protest signs around the country, is a slogan for life, and the times:
"Get Burned, Get Learned."
Go ahead, tear it apart. The meaning remains in spite of the cheese, and I think it's catchy enough to write on the inside of a corrugated slice of toaster packaging. Maybe even enough for a tweet. Dream big.
I'm going to get involved more in this process of education and effort to right this mess, and I encourage you to do the same. It only works if we do the work, ya know? Here are some various readings and sundry that have made me think and/or inspired me this week.
READ A not-so-extreme anymore hot take about the dangers of doing nothing, from July. A tale of procrastination.
READ A guide to being heard by your congressmen: some next steps beyond tweeting, and shouting into the air.
WATCH Dave Chappelle on SNL. He's been honing his voice, and it shows. So good.
WATCH Iguana v. Snakes. Mostly because it's just awesome, but also surprisingly inspiring.
Reach out if you want to discuss or challenge anything here more in depth, or want to collaborate on anything at all. So much time and so little to do.