Freedom is just another word for…

When I re-read Dead Memory last year, one of the bits which stuck with me was this: “if you could only learn to read the present, your memory might be of some use to you. Telling you what the future holds won’t help you. Change occurs when systems reach their breaking point, and then it’s too late.”

I feel like I can read the present, but the problem is processing what I know.

America and the world are really scary right now. Reflecting on my adult life, the last time things felt this scary was maybe the 2004 election, when it seemed like America would either evict Republicans from power, or lose democracy, and the first one didn’t happen. As it turned out, within two years things were falling apart for Republicans, but that now seems either illusory or a wasted opportunity, and now it looks like we have lost democracy after all.

This is all stuff that I have been writing for a while, I know. More and more I’m probably just posting here as an attempt to step back from the ritual and shouting which seems to obscure the present rather than read it.

I know that America appears conclusively beyond fixing. I have known this. Before the 2020 election I wrote that it mattered, not because any outcome could bring salvation, but because (an opportunity, just barely successful, for) prying Trump out of the White House could forestall atrocities. I would say probably that has proved the case, in that I believe a second Trump term certainly could be worse than where we are.

But where we are is bad. Where we are is nightmarish. Where we are is getting worse not better. It is so obvious to me, at this point, but I suppose a lot of people don’t appreciate even now the extent to which the Republican coalition has already rigged the political system to reject elections which they lose. People are so focused on what’s next, what about midterms, what about 2024. They seem not to appreciate that Republicans have already achieved a system in which they continue to exercise power and make policy even when they lose control of the US House, US Senate, and presidency. Thanks to activist judges and gerrymandered state legislatures, all that they need to do is keep federal government paralyzed—all too easy—and they retain the initiative. They’re using that initiative right now to attack the vulnerable and to corrupt government further. It hasn’t provoked any kind of backlash.

To the contrary, while all of this would be more than bad enough, the perpetual nemesis vote of recent decades is entirely unmoved by any assertion of exceptional circumstances, and looks ready to give Republicans what they are so frantic to steal. I know that, for all Republicans’ scurrying, any scenario for defeating them in this fall’s election would amount to a major miracle. I have gone through all this before also. It is not credible that January 6 “reveals” will turn politics upside down. It is not really credible that they would even hamstring Republicans by creating division and disarray among party elites; we already went through that in 2016 with Access: Hollywood and it turned out not to divert voters. The idea of anything turning around even the looming disaster of this one election is bizarre. Even if that happened somehow, turning around the larger trend would be extremely bizarre.

We live in a time of the bizarre, the extreme, and of disrupted expectations. We don’t live in a time of miracles.

It is just difficult to process this. Partly because it’s a lot to process, and I’m constantly surrounded by shouty denial. Partly, I suppose, because even for someone (unlike most people) seeking it, it’s difficult to come up with something besides hope or despair.

I recall, at least once a day any more, one scene from an old issue of the Avengers comic book. One character, re-experiencing events he has already lived through once, fails to prevent the murder of another character. “Gods, why did I delay? Why did I pray for a miracle,” he curses. The specific explanation is that he was hoping for a better outcome than just intervening with force, yet I feel like the deeper answer is that this is what we do. It is difficult to let go entirely of feeling some faint hope, even when we know that it is completely unfounded.

We still have things to lose, in America, even if it doesn’t seem like much will happen to save them. Yet I can’t genuinely believe in muddling any longer. What do I do, then? Where can I go?

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation