I’ve gotten into foreign, mostly-dubbed or subtitled crime dramas lately — mostly Fauda and recent seasons of Narcos. Which is neither here nor there, except that the act of watching these shows requires absolute focus — I can’t even blow my nose, because I might miss something.
I’m bringing that up because it’s an awful lot like watching the news. We are a dramatically different country this morning than we were when we went to bed on Thursday evening. The only other hinge-point like this in my life — where everyone knew we were beyond the Point of No Return, and there would be serious repercussions, was on September 11, 2001, when I watched the North Tower Collapse. It was one of those horrible historic moments that, in retrospect, seem almost inevitable. Without wishing to diminish anyone’s pain, America had spent decades recklessly and punitively interfering in Asian affairs and the Middle East, and that was just the day the bill came due.
Now, we’re watching decades of denial about racism, classism, systemic corruption, and naked brutality in America laid bare on Youtube, and my overall sense at seeing my country, in 2020, turning into South Africa, circa 1991, is metastasizing from horror and disbelief to shame that it took us this long, dwelling in denial, to finally see the results of decades of neglecting domestic policy. Of using band-aid, temporary solutions to treat deep inequities that were built into this country since its inception.
I don’t have any good ideas or solutions, and, as a white person in America, I should be immediately disqualified from putting any forth. White people agonizing over racial inequities and proudly claiming, “We solved this” is what got us to the sad state of affairs (not to mention the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases we’re going to see, but I digress). Where I grew up in Northeastern California, the area was prone to forest fires. The California Department of Forestry, parks service, and everyone with a spigot was quite diligent in putting them out for quite a long time. Then, we started getting really big fires. Terrifying ones. Ones that literally burned down national parks (or the most of them), which kind of forced us to realize that this whole, “No fires, ever” policy was fundamentally unhealthy and allowed a colossal build-up of highly-flammable materials that could go up in a literal flash. What we’re seeing in America right now is decades of patchy, half-assed solutions literally burning away in a long flash.
Police Departments everywhere are now hyper-militarized and, in some cases, patrolling the streets. They are arresting and shooting reporters, marchers, and rioters, with equal opportunity. All those years of “Blue Lives Matter” and “They’re putting their lives on the line” and that rhetoric evaporates at the sight of angry mobs. Assuming every single police department isn’t immediately bankrupted by the undoubted mountains of civil and criminal litigation moving at them with both glacial speed and inevitability, every cop in America will now get to experience what it’s like to get a majority demotion. “Majority demotion” is the best description of what happened to me when I went from a white, cis-hetero, able-bodied man to a cancer patient. Part of the unfortunate admission to majority status is that you must be able to check every single box off, or you lose some serious privileges. Every cop in America is now going to be treated with the same disdain, suspicion, and the instant unease that all black and brown people are. They’re going to have to either switch professions, or move, or lie extensively about their past, as all cancer survivors must. They’re going to have to come up with ingenious excuses about where they are, right now, at this momentous point, and why they weren’t out handing water bottles to protestors, as every Muslim American had to on 9/12.
I don’t know what the hell is going on, I have no solutions, I have only a bit of perspective (and, yes, in a rabidly capitalist society that values capital far more than it values human life, destroying property is absolutely a form of protest). Right now, my perspective is this: The current, hyper-exclusionary, white, male, capitalist patriarchy is on life support (provided by the current administration), and too feeble to do anything about the coming storm. Those invested in said status quo MUST completely exterminate all possible dissent or concern about the current state of affairs (which, at this point, would require vast, systemic genocide that even Josef Mengele would find daunting), THEN — immediately afterward — solve the COVID crisis before the GOP’s base completely dies off. THEN it must provide something like enough barebones compromises and reforms to stave off further revolution and appease the mob. THEN, it can get back to the status quo. The system must do all of these absolutely perfectly and without any problems or delays in order to sustain itself, or there will be some hell to pay, eventually (again, the last 72 hours, while horrible beyond belief, are the grim inevitability of 300 years of overt racism, executive privilege and corruption, and class disparity, and if we don’t adequately address these issues today, then we will next week, in the ashes). This is the problem with a convoluted multi-level pyramid scheme dressed up as a society — a severe glitch in one area quickly spreads.
The good news to everyone else who has been locked out of that system, and is either fighting for their life, or protesting the grave injustices that have culminated in a near-police state, our mere existence is a direct threat to that system, and, as long as we draw breath, we continue to threaten it. All we have to do is just hang in there a little bit longer. Scream a little louder. And turn up at the polls (or vote by mail) in November. That won’t fix the current situation, which is going to unfold with or without much help, but it will at least signal the start of something like negotiations or reforms. We just have to keep the faith for a few more minutes, hard and unendurable as that may seem. And never forget those who died to deliver us this historic moment.
If you have already paid the societal buy-in costs to participate in America, now would be an excellent time to either hand out water at protests, or stay, very, very quiet and hope no one with a cell phone catches you macing your neighbors because they looked at you funny. You are part of a system fueled by cruelty, pain, and injustice. This is just the moment in history when the bill was delivered.