Thursday, December 16, 2004

Disturbing the neighbors with my shocking politics

I'm going to post something I wrote after the election. I have so far drank three Harpoon IPA's and I've started on the Schlitz that Jason bought earlier this week. But here's the thing I wrote:

Waking the Neighborhood

Last night I had a little wake for the sake of our departing something or other. I made a mix CD of depressing/mournful music. There was a moment before the wake, before my friends arrived, sitting in the gloom when I felt like crying. I didn’t. But the feeling was pretty real. There was no Eulogy delivered but perhaps I should have written one. I would have talked about why I needed to do this. Why I had emailed my friends and offered my place for the evening. The why of it: We need to wallow for a moment. We must adequately Grieve. We must allow ourselves a moment to feel loss and sadness. This moment should not pass without meditation. We must savor our feelings so we may recognize them for what they are. So we may enshrine these feelings.

Is this a turning point? Possibly. Things certainly feel different. I feel a loss of innocence. (But how much innocence can one possibly lose in one’s lifetime?)

So my friends started showing up. It was really good to see them. And we did some shots of whiskey. It was really good to drink the whiskey, as Hemingway might say. I had thought earlier that week that maybe we should do a New Orleans-style procession with snare drum and trumpet. (I have the snare drum.) But by the time of the wake’s start I didn’t want to talk politics. I just wanted to enjoy the company, to fix drinks and drink them, moreover. But as the evening progressed and the alcohol took effect I had to release the tension of my mounting grief. I said it was time to go up to the roof and rail against the prevailing powers. To let the universe know we do not sanction this occurrence. We neither accept nor submit ourselves to our president. He is the enemy. I brought up the snare drum, others were armed with guitars and kazoos, and we yelled, we beat and we populated the night air with our anguish.

We yowled for a minute or so. And it felt good. We thought maybe we should do it again; we were about to but then someone spotted the cops. So we decided to go back inside. We did. Maybe five minutes later someone came in our apartment with a drawn pistol, both his hands were on it, steadily leveling and angling it just slightly downwards—tense and ready for action—the man said for everyone to raise our arms. Something like five cops spilled in after—half of them plainclothes. They started asking in their dumb, abrasive and nervous coptalk if we were up on the roof. Someone heard gunshots, apparently. My roommate Judson kept them at bay, telling them they had no right to be in here. That we hadn’t done anything wrong. And we denied even being on the roof. They searched the house—they seemed utterly convinced that one of us was hiding a gun—they knocked on my roommate’s room where he had been with his girlfriend. He emerged dazed; here we were; politically-wracked, grieving for our future, arms upraised and in a surreal stasis. A woman cop said we could lower our arms. A cop went up on the rooftop looking for the elusive gunman. Then, miraculously, the door swallowed up all the cops it had spit into my apartment and the nightmare was over.

Details emerged afterwards. Our friend Liz had been in the bathroom; she opened the door to a cop pointing a gun at her. Our friend Ero had been patted down—they seemed momentarily convinced that he was the gunman! He told me later that he had considered staying up on the roof but then changed his mind at the last moment. It was a decision that possibly saved his life. I feel tremendously guilty. It was my wake. I am the wakeman. I delivered no Eulogy. Only a loud burst of snare drum fire. I could not say anything with the cops in the room. I was already half drunk. I was angry. My anger is both cultivated and congenital; an irrational anger drawn from both sides of my family. I like my anger. It is a source of creativity and life. But it has its consequences. And then I froze when the cops arrived. I have always had a tremendous cop-fear. I am deathly afraid of getting pulled over when I am driving. And ever since 9-11 I have been having anxiety dreams about marshal law, about US tanks aiming their sights on my home. Blowing up my friends and family because I don’t agree with the government. Because I’m not blindly patriotic. Because I’m not for ruling the mid-east with an iron fist. Whatever. I mean, here I was lamenting the loss of something—I don’t want to say democracy—but let us say that I feel that Lady Liberty is on life support. I had said earlier in the evening that one of the possible things we were grieving about was the potential for future grieving: A shot economy; future terrorism inspired by the Iraqi revolution; more violent death directly or indirectly caused by US foreign policy; more tortured prisoners; and, perhaps, a loss of privacy via future Patriot Acts. And, just in case, I mean, let us suppose I wanted a hint of what we were potentially grieving about. We were provided with a concrete case of our diminishing freedoms. We walked a straight line and found the limits of our free society, to paraphrase Norman Mailer. Perhaps it was wrong to wake our neighbors. And maybe my angry drumming sounded like gunshots. But this is the time to make noise. If we do not surmount the Time of Apathy, then the Time of Tyranny will surmount us.

For the rest of the evening I was not in the mood for more politics. After an experience like that there was no more need for discussion. At least for me. The experience exemplified and epitomized everything we were grieving about. Subsequently, the grieving gave way to shock. Meditation had given way to numbness. Numbness all over again. Numb is what I felt on Black Tuesday, the day of the election. The evening had been soured; it had become profoundly uncarthartic. I saw no option but to guzzle Martinis. I was a terrible host. I passed out after smoking some pot. One regret of the evening is that my friend Debbie has a minidisk recorder and while the cops had paid their visit she had gone back to her apartment to go retrieve it. (She was going to record party conversations—it’s okay, she’s a composer not a voyeur. It is for the purposes of Art.) But she missed the whole episode. How great would it have been to have that whole interaction on audio? To hear the sounds of that suspended moment: the sound of no one breathing. I could have transcribed the coptalk, the diction of oppression, the dumbly articulated mandate of the claustrophobic mind. (If I sound prejudice towards Astorian cops, that’s because I am. Right now there is a case where an Astorian cop shot a teenager who worked at a deli. There has been no investigation; the entire affair is extremely suspect.)

I’ve yet to end my wallowing. Perhaps that’s dangerous for me because I am damn good at the long hard wallow. But this is wallowing with a purpose. I am wallowing over the same patch of Earth to mark this spot. This is the spot. In the past four years there have been too many defining moments. First there was the election of the idiot, then there was 9-11, then there was the militaristic call to arms (which was as traumatic to me as 9-11) and then there was that evening when we started raining superbombs on Baghdad—and then, crucially, what I thought at the time was the defining moment of my lifetime: Abu Ghraib. And it was all illusion. None of it mattered. There is no reality to these people. We have reached a profound level of non-reality. There is a total lack of discernible, relatable meaning in the spectrum of American Culture. This is the vertigo I am reeling in. I cannot know anything except that I felt like it was George Bush with the gun pointed at me. Fuck you, he says. Here I am, half-drunk, reeling with grief, I’ve assembled my friends and asked them to share my grief and have the police point guns at them just in case they felt their grief was too vertiginous to have any meaning. The guns say: Feel something new. This is why you are grieving. This new feeling you got when the gun is pointed at your chest. Cry.

1 comment:

sarcasmus said...

Hey! How about that blogging internet thing! Maybe I should just blog here the rest of my life. Or maybe I should repost all my bloggings in some obscure Atrios post--I mean, my bloggins would have a much better chance of being read there than here, don't you say?