Isolation, Oppression, Terror, and Why This Election is Like None Other in American History

“Just as terror, even in its pre-total, merely tyrannical form ruins all relationships between men, so the self-compulsion of ideological thinking ruins all relationships with reality. The preparation has succeeded when people have lost contact with their fellow men* as well as the reality around them; for together with these contacts, men lose the capacity of both experience and thought. The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”
Hannah Arendt on Loneliness as the Common Ground for Terror and How Tyrannical Regimes Use Isolation as a Weapon of Oppression

For the record, I would like to be writing about anything else but I am compelled to write about one of the only things that matters on an existential level for the next 33 days which is making sure that everyone who is considering voting Biden-Harris on November 3rd actually gets their ass to the polls and does so.

Because this is not a game. You do not get to opt out or turn it off or leave or put the responsibility on anyone else. Just by living here, you’re in it.

And beyond that, it may just be our last shot at maintaining the Republic we claim to stand for and love. All well and cute, but what are we willing to do to protect and preserve it? Gonna get in the fray, figure it out, and raise our voices?

There is no time for sitting on the sidelines when this election is so consequential. There are people in my life whom I love dearly who I know glaze over when I say things like it absolutely matters a great deal that Trump is owned by Putin. That our “leader” is part of an international crime ring and to him America is just another commodity to be broken up and sold.

That his being $450MILLION in personal debt makes him, and therefore us in the US, extremely and exceptionally vulnerable to foreign influence.

He will sell out America to save himself.

He is already doing it. Authoritarianism is not creative, it’s all by the book, and it follows a predictable pattern you can see unfolding if you know what to look for, if you listen to those who know because they have studied it all before.

The sad thing is, those who are cheering this President on will be just as abused and neglected as those who aren’t, maybe even more so.

I was on a few days vacation with my husband when, low and behold, the first Presidential debate took place. If you could call it “Presidential” or, for that matter, a “debate.” I tuned in a few random times and became so disgusted I turned it off.

I know full well Trump appeals to certain types of people. I get that. But what I am concerned with now are we the people who can see and hear and watch and understand the racist dog whistles, the wholesale disregard for human life, dignity, honor, truth, the brutish obnoxious ignorance that is the current President and how dangerous a combination are his ties to Russia and other foreign oligarchs, dictators, and authoritarians, his massive amount of (hidden and in plain sight) debt, his pitting of us against them on every level until everyone of us is paranoid about each other.

There is a reason someone in that much debt (even in much less) is not given security clearance to know top secret information. But here we are. He’s got it and he is tremendously vulnerable. Keep watching the money story. Keep following the money.

What I am asking us to pay attention to – pay full and hyper attention to – is how we are being sold line after line of this bullshit made up binary which stunts our thinking, crushes our vision, and leaves us little room for envisioning a better stronger more inclusive and resilient Republic: Left vs. Right, Republican vs. Democrat, Black vs. White, Rich vs. Poor, Privileged vs. Oppressed, Right vs. Wrong, Traitor vs. Patriot, Winner vs. Loser.

And how this is tearing us away from each other, dividing us against each other, in the service a regime hell bent on destroying the world around us before they ever have to pry their hands off their own wealth, power, or greed.

Maybe your choice wasn’t Biden, he wasn’t mine. But this is not about Biden, it is so much bigger than that. If you want to continue to live in an America where there is freedom of speech and the ideals of dignity and justice for all are upheld, Biden is the only one who gets us remotely close. We clinch this election and then we fight tooth and nail to get us where we want to be.

Democracy is work. It cannot stand up for itself we have to do it ourselves, together.

People isolated are easier to control. When you cannot tell fact from fiction you have no more grip on reality so an entirely new reality is written for you. A reality which serves dark money and dark purpose.

This election matters because if we do not vote on the side of Democracy, we may never get the chance to vote at all again for a very, very long time.

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Photo by Mitchell Hartley

Dissonance

Everything is nerves. The coffee tastes sick, or maybe that’s the bile churning in my stomach. In my throat. My mind is chewed up inside the newsfeed as it makes of me, my neuroses, my tendencies, my addictions, a feast.

I am studied. I am a study.

I do not know how I feel because I feel so much I have had to go numb to survive. A little bit, I just breathe a little bit. Everything in small bites, tiny sound bites like a digital water torture I sign myself up for. Sign myself into. Login. Pay for. Pay handsomely for.

Somewhere across town a panicked woman watches a panicked man flashing on the screen and validates her own fears against his. Fear is manufactured, you know? They promised manufacturing jobs would return.

The coffee is cold as I shiver beneath my nest of blankets, window open to the chilled autumn air coming off the street. Inside the room inside my mind I feel the tension rise and fall with the spinning in my belly. The cognitive dissonance of these days is jarring. The threat is overwhelming because it is us.  The line between existing and not has always been us.

We are an experiment. We are the cure and the disease. We are the lab and the secretions. The junkie and the drug.

It’s finally fall which means we are finally done with the wretched scorch of the sun. I’ll take the razor sharp blue sky, the orange blaze of another season burning by. I adore the changing leaves, crimson cinnamon air, and the frigid ocean waves glittering in dazzling white morning light.

And all the while, the terror. A family torn apart. Entire lives and their dreamers, up in smoke. Comedians. Fundraisers. Artists. Soldiers. Models. Click bait. Murder. Botox. Kitchen supplies.

The pornography of a life distorted. Voided out. Blocked.

And I know I have to try. And I know they tell me it’s ‘now more than ever.’

I know it’s how they want us. Colliding with ourselves inside.

 

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Photo by Omid Armin

 

Something Which Eats Itself: Why We Must Vote Trump Out in November

We have become something unspeakable. Something which eats itself.

The current President of the United States of America is driven only by one thing: greed. And greed, by its very nature, can never be satisfied, it can never be filled; it will always be empty, it will always be starving, it will always be on the take.

Greed knows no other way.

Donald Trump knows only greed, and greed knows only one thing: ‘more.’

The insatiable need for more power, more money, more attention, more fame, more horror, more destruction, more chaos, more shock, more trauma, more ratings, more more more more until, ultimately, nothing more exists because greed has eaten everything.

And so it is forced, by its very own nature, to eat itself.

If left unchecked, unchallenged, undefeated, the only end to greed is the end of everything.

Donald Trump is not in the highest office in the world in order to serve or protect the American people, or any people at all in fact, except for him and his family. He stole the office because of greed, and because he is aligned with all of the very powerful people all across the world who know only greed, only acquisition at any and all cost, including, and sometimes centered around, the loss of human life.

Nothing is personal to the greedy, and yet everything is.

Entire lives lived out on full display devoted to a single insatiable sadistic relentless craving for more. Money. Power. Chaos.

Destruction, panic, and suffering for entertainment.

The fewer people on the planet, the less bothered these powerful people have to be with the inconveniences humanity as a collective pose to the obtaining of more land, more resources, more. Hence the denial of climate change. Let us burn and drown.  Let us fend for ourselves. Let us be extinguished by ignorance. Perish by smoke and mirrors.

And so they push ‘herd immunity’ and let the virus ‘run its course.’ It’s all a game. It’s one big worldwide episode of Survivor. 

Tell us patriotism means being willing to die for the economy.

It means to die for the NRA.

The people Trump has put in charge of the vital institutions of our democracy have been put there precisely because they are hellbent on destroying these very institutions. Placed in charge of the educational system, disease control, healthcare, mail delivery services, legal systems.

The ones who are supposed to protect us want only to annihilate us.

The country is being dismantled from the inside out. It goes on because there is no accountability. No force greater than greed has sufficiently challenged the greed, and so it goes. The threat is grave because it is invisible yet evident everywhere, it is hiding in plain sight. The call is coming from inside the house.

The flaunting of the corruption, the indignities, the lying, the deceit, the cruelty, the anger, the fear, the pardoning of cronies and criminals.

The refusal of even reputable media to call lying and cheating what it is. To speak truth to power. Even as the stakes have never been higher to do so.

It is not politics. The cleverest thing they have done is to convince us this is about politics. Fuck politics. ‘Politics’ is an illusion. It pretends to have lines you can cross or not cross, no. This is about the very basics of human decency, honesty, integrity. The value placed on human life, or the lack of value placed on it.

Basic human decency versus the vacant vacuum of greed which will never be satisfied until it eats everything and then is forced to eat itself.

If we do not vote Trump out of office in this election it is Game Over for our democracy. The ramifications will last generations and will decimate not only America but the world. There will be no stopping it. Already we are cut off from our allies, deliberately and recklessly, we are being systematically isolated, lied to, terrorized, bullied, abused.

It’s like the abused spouse who is cut off from anyone who may be able to help her. Made helpless, gaslit, and left alone. Much easier, therefore, to control.

No one is coming to save us.

So we have to save ourselves.

We get one last shot. We have got to make it count, we have got to win this thing and the only way to do it is in massive numbers that leave no question about the overwhelming outcome of this election in Biden’s favor.

But we won’t, unless we see just how very dire a situation we are currently in, and how very bad it will become if we do not shut it down in November.

It isn’t just that Donald Trump doesn’t care if we live or die – it’s that he is actively pursuing the latter.

We must vote Biden into the White House this November like our lives depend on it because they absolutely do. I do not write this to convert anyone who is already committed to Trump. There is nothing in that for any of us.

I write this for anyone in America who is thinking of sitting this election out for any reason. Please VOTE.  It matters. Vote while we still can. Vote while we still have a voice and a way to make damn sure it is heard. Make your plan, get registered, make sure all of your friends and family do the same.

Lastly, to my fellow Pennsylvanians, we are a CRITICAL swing state this year, in fact it was stated on fivethirtyeight.com that we are THE critical swing state in all of the USA. If PA goes red, Trump has an 84% chance of winning the Presidency. If we go BLUE Biden has a 96% chance of winning the Presidency.

We have become something unspeakable. Something which eats itself. The only way to stop the greed from destroying everything in its wake is to remove it, like a cancerous tumor, from the host.

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Photo by Tania Medina

Worth Your Life

This confirms my sense that I have been allowed to use my life well, in work that was worth the time spent on it. 

This is a quote by Ursula K. Le Guin from the foreword of her essay collection Words Are My Matter. When I read this collection in 2016, I was moved by many of the pieces but I cannot say that any in particular stuck out to me in such a way that I could recall them now in vivid detail. Though, I am sure that in revisiting some, they would sound familiar in ways unexpected and welcome.

Reading most books is this way, each becomes part of me but more like they run through my blood together as a collective liquid life, one idea flowing right into the next and melting into new blended form, thus enriching, nourishing one another. That is to say, each book does not become its own single part of me, a bone or a tooth or a limb, but rather pours into who and what I already am, and then stays with me like an undercurrent of ever renewed and renewing life force.

In the dark hours of this morning, as I sipped my coffee and listened to the sifting of the crickets buzzing outside my window, I picked up Le Guin’s collection once again and re-read the foreword, coming upon this sentence which cut right to my center.

Perhaps the timing is uncanny and that is why these words in particular held my little sleepyhead face in their hands. I have spent my whole life writing, and have changed, evolved, and grown as a writer and consumer of the word (I believe, I hope).

But right now, in my life this minute, at the very top of today, a day on top of so many which have been rocked by fear and catastrophe, wonder and hope and uncertainty, I find myself wondering, why? What has it all been for, and have my values changed over all this time in a way that means going forward I will take a new path in my writing.

Could I have more intimate, intricate things to say?

How can I be sure I know that late in life, when I look back, I too can say I have used my life well, in work that was worth the time.

 

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Photo by Elia Pellegrini

Through to the Other Side

Morning is still a deep ocean blue outside my window as the cool air moves in over my skin. Accepting the periwinkle dawn’s invitation into another day, I slide out of bed and into a hoodie and head downstairs for an obscenely large mug of coffee.

I read the news on my phone, or a bit of it, before clicking the stupid thing off and tossing it face down on the desk in my writing room. The news of the day is the news of the minute is hardly news at all when you’re so jittery you can’t remember what’s come before or after anything else.

And this is, of course, how they want you. Internally chaotic, externally enraged. Afraid. So twisted into knots that you oscillate yourself perpetually between two states of being: immobile and flailing. Away. Out of their way as they make their way into a brave new apocalypse.

But you know what they say, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.

I make my way through a day as anyone might, coffee, writing, office, wine, dinner with my beloved, with whom I discuss some things and not others because we have learned each other well by now. Time passes and you arrange yourself into the habits and kinks, making of commitment and attraction as nuanced a cocktail as you can divine.

As the sun is swallowed behind dark clouds of nightfall, I consider giving up the bottle for good, but decide now isn’t the time and sink into bath water hot enough to turn the soft skin on my thighs bright red as I submerge below lavender bubbles. There is a hardness inside which melts a little into the beautiful heat, steaming itself off of my bones, soothing my numbed nerves.

As I lower my face beneath the water I imagine another place and another time, and a childlike innocence sweeps across my tender lost little heart. When I come up for air and open my eyes, will it be different? Will it be better if we make it to the other side?

 

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Photo by Velizar Ivanov

Miser With Your Thoughts

Locusts are thrusting their brittle wings in the high tree tops, making a sound like they can’t stop shivering, which is odd given the thick summer heat.

I pour a crisp glass of white and set it down to sweat on the back porch table, while I light a cigarette on my way to grab the mail. Squinting behind my dark sunglasses, my eyes travel in the direction of two young girls walking toward the basketball courts, wearing cut offs so short you can see the tanned round curves of their perfect little asses dimpling in the slant of the sun as it cuts clear across the neighborhood.

A dog barks across the way, and for a second I think he’s mine before I remember he isn’t, and the mail gets delivered and I head back for my wine in my bare feet.

I make thousands of such useless observations a day but never think to share them. Who would read my thoughts, even if they could, even for free?

I think it was Nin who said something to the effect of not holding back, not being stingy or, what was it exactly? I wrote it down in a notebook someplace, give me a minute…

Ah, yes, this:

You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of the fullness.

What a thing to have said, to ever say. A woman unafraid of fullness.

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Photo by Yohann LIBOT

The Knots Begin

It’s the part of the morning when the sky is whitish-pink, blush. With a kiss of promise, thin. Fleeting. The knots begin their tightening in my stomach, and I worry: will this be a good, safe day? Somewhere it isn’t. And I am so porous (I misspell this, pourous, and imagine my body as a vessel, emptying, emptying, like a flood crushes stone) I’m not sure I can tell anymore what’s in here, and what’s out there. It’s all come inside, inside and crouches like an animal. Coils and coils of panicked stillness. Trembling hesitation. Everything is covered with eyes, all blinked observation. Everything from all sides, inside, outside, watching. Vigilance without aim is fear. Peach light seeping over the grass, melting wet and buzzing in the trees.

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Photo by Yohann LIBOT

Painkillers

A flash of quick flame scorches the tender tip of my finger as I attempt to force the near-dead lighter alive enough one last time to light up a smoke. Snatching it up, you somehow coax the exhausted thing better than I had and burn my cigarette under the dappled sunlight on this dry and brutal August afternoon.

There’s plenty of daylight still to come, though crushingly little to do with it, so we fill the pool and fill our drinks and re-tell the same old stories until the buzz sets in and we can finally say what’s on our minds. Mostly you’re content and mostly I’m overflowing with ideas, thoughts, opinions, anxieties, musings, and all manner of words about words written by the greats, wishing I were half the artist so many others seem to be, or seem to have been.

I’ve been obsessed with Anne Carson, reading everything I can during slow times at the office, scratching down line after line which drags its nails across my heart, my skin, my mind. A poet quite measured, calculated, and yet bold, daring, reaching in the most judicious manner. How I wish I could be such a thing, selective and audacious at the same time. These are qualities worth striving for, I believe.

That is, to the extent that anything is worth becoming in a world which makes it increasingly difficult to concentrate on any given subject, let alone cocoon oneself inside of it achingly long enough to be transformed. Time is taken from us in tiny sarcastic bursts, death to the glorious psyche by a thousand cuts of pixelated knives.

As the sun sinks low, a burning ball of orange fire behind the darkening trees, I watch the ripples of tangerine colored water rising and falling all around our gentle floating bodies. Wine in hand, I swim over to you, drawn in by the way your wet lips glisten with the touch of faded summer sky.

When we kiss, there are hints of lemongrass and grapefruit. I can feel your desire spark electric in the liquid softness of the water. The taste is heaven and the words don’t matter when in your eyes I see the end of everything that hurts.

 

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Photo by Karina Tess

Skies Like Scars

Say, everything is going to be alright. Mean it but be unsure of yourself, just enough that I can feel it weighting down my limbs.

Hold me close, almost too close. Feel how I can’t breathe. Afraid to breathe anyway, not sure I remember how. There was a time. I am almost certain of it.

When the air wasn’t so tight.

When I could taste the sounds of cars rushing on the highway late at night, when I would hum with the quick pulse of my machinery.

When my veins were the color of soft pewter
and I didn’t even notice
them.
Or stare.

Say, you are so lucky, you’re an angel, made for this.

Say, it only hurts at first, say, but that’s okay.

And it does.
And you’re not sure if it is.

But you let it burn
for as long as you can in case
you don’t know yourself well enough yet

to know better.

 

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Photo by Anthony Tran

Pornographia

If you and I are talking, there’s about a fifty percent chance I believe anything you tell me, which, for the most part, is more about my own uneasiness than yours, although it may also be that the seediness in you is reflecting its menace in mine underneath the words you rattle off thinking you can put me in my place.

Explain at me. Educate me. Enlighten me. Tell me how it is, I can see you are quite concerned that I come around to the way you interpret the world you seem to own, seem to be in charge of, seem to be the one it was constructed around.

Around and around we go, wherever we stop, you’ll be the first to know. Won’t you. Decide. I take a drag of my smoke and I wait for it all to end, while penning a love letter in the garden under the shade of a mighty swamp maple which shields me from the oppressive sun but not the scorching July heat.

The heat curls everywhere inside my skin.

You ask what I am thinking but it doesn’t matter much unless it props you up. In my mind, the red hot summer sky blooms ripe like drops of blood billowing in water. A mother loses a child. A writer makes her bed in the corner of an empty room, typing out tragedy, stabbing out hope, letter by letter. Explanations are excuses and I don’t offer either anymore.

I watched a young woman in New York get thrown into the back of an unmarked van and driven away by armed men in plain clothes in a cloud of fogged distraction and rage, before I even had coffee this morning. The birds sang as the trees were rustling in the breeze which made a sound like the rush of a stream running by, sloping along a steep hill. None of which actually exist.

She writes like, you know, I don’t know, some stream of consciousness type shit like that. Just from one thought to the next, on and on, and half the time it doesn’t make sense. I don’t know whether to believe her. She claims it’s saving her life.

 

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Photo by Allan Filipe Santos Dias