I’ve been sleeping a lot more lately, which is probably a good thing. Also been having a lot of nightmares every night, though, which isn’t so hot. Ever since Biden’s ‘unity’ speech and the accompanying propaganda variety show I’ve had this feeling like something was just ‘wrong.’ I couldn’t put my finger on it until I woke up today. I think, in that moment between sleep and lucidity, I finally figured it out.
Every morning since the 2016 election, and particularly since the 2017 J20 protests in D.C., one of the first things I thought to myself on waking up was ‘how do we slow it down? How do we stop this from happening? How can we unify to stop this?’ ‘It’ and ‘this’ being fascism, of course. And at least part of every day was dedicated to that cause (even if it was just thought). A lot of bad things happened to people who had this reaction. Sure, a lot of people spoke out, which was fantastic, but for people who were in any way identified as practical obstacles to the fascist program of corruption, treason, and supremacy, things went beyond just being criticized on the internet. Activists were antagonized or jailed. Public servants had their lives, careers, or reputations ruined without just cause. There were some very dark days, and they changed a lot of us as people. We aren’t the same hobbits who left The Shire. Happy endings after a war, even a quiet war, only happen in stories.
Then came the pandemic, and the same smothering repression previously wielded against those fighting for human rights and public integrity was turned against science and against people speaking out against reckless coronavirus policy. Things got weird again, early last year. My social media presence was broader, and I trusted my phone more, before that time, and I’ll leave it at that. Never let power identify you as an influencer, lol. The point being, this narrative that all of this, fascism, coronavirus debate, even the behavior of private and public power, was all just some benign disagreement is absolutely false. Some dirty shit happened because they saw this as an endgame fight, just as the good people did. Whisper campaigns, character assassination setups, phone spoofing, off-books surveillance, web fuckery, creepshow threats. You name it. It happened to the folks fighting back against fascism and against that administration. I would argue that it’s still happening as power champions fascist politicians and continues the quiet struggle for oligarchic supremacy against the public good, although they’re being more careful now that he’s not in the White House.
And then, after a violent, murderous attempted coup and the subsequent public opinion shift, the political class on both ‘sides’ tells us that it’s time to move on. The business class tells us that it’s time to go back to our unsatisfying, low-wage jobs or our inadequate welfare and earn money so that we can spend it at strip malls pretending that we aren’t utterly empty and disappointed with our lives. They tell us that the coronavirus wasn’t that big a deal and anyway it’s almost gone. They tell us that the fascists were good boys (and girls) and anyway the attack was really waged by antifascists who wanted to destroy freedom. And all the while anchors and pundits throw around labels that they don’t fully understand, for purposes that will expend themselves in the span of a news cycle.
The truth is that business interests and self-interested politicians committed a crime against humanity and institutionally murdered over 500,000 Americans, that the Trump administration sold out to authoritarian powers (great and small) in exchange for personal favors, that the Republican Party spent four (forty) years turning itself into the American Nazi Party, that there was a coordinated, private and public, attempt to overthrow the government and democracy itself on January 6th 2021, and we’re not even getting into Puerto Rico, kids in cages, the possibility that the Trump administration had an antifascist demonstrator murdered by the state, the upside-down Bible crackdown, the criminalization of Black Lives Matter, the weird fascist fuck train that was summer 2020, organized and criminal vote suppression, the Postal Service, or any of the rest of it. I remember all of it, because I spent four years calling attention to all of it, and paying the prices for that. Now the beautiful people say it’s not mine to worry about, anymore. It’s not yours. It’s theirs, again. Now I’m supposed to just forgive and forget. We’re all supposed to just forget, and pretend we didn’t learn anything, and go back to being small.
The truth is that we were all collectively victimized, even if they never went after or got to you, individually. Many people have made the comparison between current U.S. politics and an abusive domestic relationship, and I think that’s pretty accurate. Before, we all had an abusive father figure in the character of Donald Trump (and his toxic family, regardless of gender). Now it’s more of an abusive spouse situation in the demeanor of the Republican Party. We need to stop using that word ‘conservative.’ It just means reactionary. It’s code for oppression and exclusion. But we’ve all been told that, now that the cops have shown up to the house, the family needs to put on a good show and move on with life. None of that stuff that happened before is important now because the people who matter in this big, national family need us all to forget.
So, I figured out why things feel ‘off’ to me, and why I’m having nightmares every night. This isn’t just the usual political bickering (hint: libs, it never was). The government was turned into a weapon against us, and people will remember that until the day they die, no matter how many times you tell us it didn’t happen or that we should just forget it. I sure as hell won’t forget. And I won’t forgive. And I don’t think the majority of the population will do so, either. It’s not even a matter of choice, really. When people are exposed, particularly intentionally exposed, to extended periods of trauma and then they are told afterward to delete that experience from their thoughts, feelings, and future behaviors, without any sort of honesty or reconciliation or amends, things follow a certain pattern. That energy has to go somewhere. It doesn’t just vanish. Some go insane. Some will internalize it and kill themselves, either quickly or slowly. Some will never trust again. Some will externalize it and turn it into anger, hopefully with some productive direction, but not always. If the political and financial classes of this country cannot or will not fully admit what happened over the last four years, what is still happening now, and the danger we are still in, then they will face a circumstantial and systemic reckoning that emerges from the deletion of these displaced and forgotten years. Nightmares unsoothed have a way of spreading.
That right there is what both witchy tumblr and sociologists / political scientists call ‘a curse.’ Which is another way of saying ‘the consequences of action.’ And that curse can only be broken with honesty and courageous, righteous sociopolitical action. Not pretty words. Action. Accountability. You aren’t the shining democratic city on the hill. You’re just another failing democracy with a very recent autocratic episode in history and a lack of political will to change course. You’re Russia, before Putin. You’re the German Republic, before Hitler. And unless the center can find their individual and collective character, the nightmare has only just started, for everyone.
Quiet is not the same as empty. Calm, and a breadth of focus, are not synonymous with amnesia. None of this has gone away, and we will remember. What was taken by evil people must be restored. You cannot cut a hole this large in the soul of humanity, of history, and expect to fill it with platitudes. A great debt is owed, to millions of people, and the laws of social science and history will see that it is repaid. What form that takes will depend on how we all conduct ourselves in the coming months and years. But however inconvenient it may be to the present establishment or future ones, none of this, and none of the people participating in it, will be forgotten. This story is still being written, and it’s no dream.