photos, story, and obvious abuse of editorial power by Bridget Callahan
Now we are caked in blood.
Now we stand up and wipe the mud from our mouths, pull the clay from our throats like we’ve been choking for years and only just now decided to breathe.
Today is the day to dig through the rubble and holes.
Today, I am grateful for the fact I got an IUD, so there’s no chance I’ll get pregnant in the next five years. I think it was the right decision because this summer every time I went to write about a Trump rally or RNC event, my period started. I think my body wanted it this way. No babies. Not in this world. It’s not safe, or guaranteed. It will be hard enough just keeping myself employed and fed and non-suicidal.
And after that wears off, I’ll be pretty old for babies, so it won’t matter.
Adoption should be more important to us anyway. My friend recently told me the plot of some Disney documentary where a baby chimpanzee is abandoned by the pack, and is almost about to die, after struggling terribly, when it’s suddenly adopted by one of the males who takes cares of it. And I was shocked that the baby was just ignored by the rest of them, but how stupid of me. Think of all the children hidden in the systems, and still we think it’s important to have our own.
Thank you, my ancestor animals who evolved to hide their estrus. Thank you to those who didn’t make the gene pool pick, and died in childbirth pains post rape, or died stranded on the plains alone trying to care for children and starving, or died beaten. The right to not have children. I think of it at least once a day, like a prayer. Maybe that’s how we should all pray, by remembering the histories of what made us. Not God, but Time.
Part 1 Toxic Dreaming
People say that Facebook messenger is listening to us. They say that your phone hears you talking, and then you get weird, targeted ads that make no sense.
It’s a psychological effect, a mass paranoia taking hold in the face of new technology. Like when TVs came out and caused mind control, or cell phones came out and caused cancer. In long distance ways, both those things are true, and so, in a long distance way, this is true too.
Mass paranoia legends are like monster movies or fairy tales. They depict, in narrative extreme, a valid fear of society. In this case, we fear the great marketing monster, which has slowly been figuring out how to target us individually for decades. It started with grouping us into large demographics – woman, 35-45 – and then smaller – woman, 35-45, white, college educated– and smaller – woman 35-45, white, college-educated, destitute, fat, from the Rustbelt, watches Rick and Morty, drinks whiskey, longs for the days of reading Margaret Atwood for the first time. Now, Marketing’s hey-day has finally come. They can make a stream of advertising just for our inner thoughts. Look, Oh Great and Wise Algorithm, sell her the t-shirt with Rick saying something funny and socialist about rich people, but do it at 4 in the afternoon on Friday, because it’s her off day and she’ll be drunk and lonely and feeling old. That’s when she buys the most clothes.
(An artist recently pointed out to me that back in ancient history, in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, painters would include certain mystical geometric shapes, tetrahedrons, pyramids, and cubes in their work. The shapes communicated ideas and feelings to people in a way that the audience subconsciously understood but could not articulate, because it was a purely visual language and not based on words. Then, the artists got better and better at it, at the orchestration of human emotions, at the conveyance of ideas that were only objects. And now, somewhat evolved off that lofty heritage, using the language that cannot be spoken, we have Marketing. Money ruins everything. Money ruined us. 10,000 years in the future, will we look back at this small drop in time, and wonder about how we ever believed money should be a thing? That’s the kind of optimist I am. I remember that in the ocean of time, we are nothing. We are not even waves. We are not even foam.)
The other side of mass paranoia is this: if *I* can think of a way to pull off a massive global conspiracy for my own benefit, lots of other people have probably thought of it first. Probably many of them are not as lazy as me, and smoke less pot. So, listen, I believe in the usefulness of The Fear. Some of that is definitely true. The Fear is real. America is full of evil people and they are trying to take everything away from poor people.
Keep the poor preoccupied and feeling inferior, so they don’t try to take your stuff. Make them believe you have that stuff just because you are a superior kind of person and deserve it, and if they work hard enough, they might someday deserve it too. It’s always effective. Every time. They keep reinventing it, but man, it’s always the same and it always works. Fuck the American Dream. I hate it more than I hate God. At least God believes in charity.
Part 2 Ascension
Today, the evil real estate developer from 80s Christmas movies wins. He becomes president of the empire of the United States of America.You said you didn’t want a queen of the empire, so you got him. All across the country, people are wailing and tearing out their hair and beating their chests, like the widows did at the gates as the Roman soldiers arrive. Or think about this — remember in your immigrant ancestor’s bones — how people stared blankly at the tanks rolling through the mains streets, how they went home and thought about how maybe it would be better to shoot themselves and their entire family than submit to this new regime, which preached about how they were not really human beings, how they were asking for more than they deserved.
That is a human experience we are lucky enough to not have to think about much these days in America, but it has happened a lot. We’ve remained insulated, while around the world, people suffer through it still, presently and frequently. While Duterte slaughters people, and Erdogan wages a bloody war on journalists. While Putin feeds his bear on blood, whips, and land grabs. And we’ve known our own guilt. We just haven’t accepted it. We don’t talk about it. We straight up denied ourselves into this version of reality.
(And of course our version of that turned out to be tacky as hell, full of baggy suits and evil chuckles, this cartoon of stereotypes. Bloated, dead-eyed pig-fish, heirs of the same men who have always won and always been nightmares. Black pits. They don’t even wear the pretty masks anymore.)
When I think of the next four years, I come face to face with a blank gray void, and I don’t know what to do with it.
We don’t want to think about ourselves permanently polarized. that sounds burned and ruined. We pretend it’s so new, this polarization, some recent trend we can still reverse. But the battle is the same as it’s always been – people who care about poor and marginalized people, and people who care about their own money and no one else’s. The fact that we consider class warfare a radical statement to make, still, after centuries and centuries of it happening. How can we still be here?
I don’t know what awareness will lead to, really. I just think people should know it by now. Just like I think it’s past time to admit manufacturing is dead, and overpopulation is a problem, and people are going to either need to be supported or die. These things are no longer science fiction plots. They are, and have always been, right there in front of us. Tetrahedrons and pyramids and cubes – currents and data systems and connections we are discovering. But it’s as if our collective brain is repressing the memory of the situation to deflect the trauma. We blink and we un-see it.
They are going to take away the parks. They are going to sell them off piecemeal to oil companies and gas companies. There will be no more PBS. There will be a much different NPR. Grants will dry up, for everything – community development corporations, environmental studies, non-energy research. They are going to attack everything intellectual in this country. The schools are fucked. No one is going to want to be a teacher.
They have destroyed the ability to get a regulation passed on anything: food, medicine, pollution. The lobbyists will surround every effort to regulate like a trained pack of sharks. They will chew on each bill’s bloody insides, and after the carnage, they will sleep in their dens safe and warm.
This was a good piece of advice – we have to look past the celebrities, refocus, to the statehouse. To City Hall. We have to concentrate on our local politics. Local politics are a constantly moving thing. That’s stuff happening this year. Permits being granted. Budgets being changed. Admit you don’t know any of that stuff about your town. None of us do. But all of the people in power now came from communities that raised them to be that way – selfish and racist and mean. We need more communities that don’t allow or reward that.
The internet has been great at letting us see bigger, fancier events, but too much looking out at the rich people got us here. Swing the pendulum the other way, and look local at the people your neighbors know from the grocery store and because of that, elect. Those are the people and decisions you can actually affect. And then, oh god, let the pendulum stop somewhere in the middle, a place we can balance the knowledge of both.
I don’t want to rely on propaganda. I want the aspiration of an educated populace. I can’t live the other way.
I should stop now, while I’m ahead. That should be the thing you take away from this, that nice note of optimism, of staunch morality and cultural surety.
(But no one knows. We’ve lost so much already.How can we stand it? There are so many poor, starving, miserable people in this country, and so many junkies, and so many people with services they need to survive cut to the bone. Everyone’s mind is just getting lost in anxiety and fear and depression. If we don’t do something to address overpopulation, this is just going to get worse and worse. I didn’t even talk about health care, Fuck. Health care and plagues. Fuck. Locusts and boils.
I read an article yesterday that listed as the number one piece of good news from 2016 that the population looks like it’s slowing down, finally. It’s nice to think maybe the weight of all the people being born won’t someday be so heavy as to push us out of orbit. Each soul a tiny piece of dark-weighted metal.
Let us be light. Let us at least pretend to carry ourselves like we could be light, until one day it might actually true. Fuck these few and awful people.)