It was cold. It was frightening. I had always found Manhattan at least a little frightening and the bus ride in had me plenty anxious. It was a very strange time for me, for everyone. It was February of 2003, and the thin winter light filtered through the dirty bus windows as we approached the Lincoln Tunnel. I had a couple of poster board signs rolled up and resting between my legs. Out the window, across the river, I could see the new naked skyline. The presence of absence. A big hole where something once was. I couldn’t help but think of a bomb ripping open the tunnel as the bus drove through. But, that was just typical of the new thoughts that had become part of my life as the reality of post-9/11 America unfolded. And there I was, in the thick of it all, come to protest the promise of war.
When I arrived and found myself in the sanctioned parade route called a protest, I actually felt incredibly safe. I felt the safest I had felt since 9/11. I mean, Jim Carrey was leaning out a window waving to me. How could I not feel awesome? We marched. We sang. We dispersed. We went home. And then we went to war. We have yet to stop. I’m not exactly sure who all the people who surrounded me were, where they came from, what drove them out into the cold streets for the day, how they voted, how much money they made, who they slept with at night, but the underlying energy spoke of a strong desire to not respond to violence with violence. All of us there knew that was a very bad idea.
I was 21 back then. During intense discussions with many, I was told I was idealistic, too young, naïve. Now that I am 32, I can look back and see that what I really was back then was fucking right. And I don’t mean to say “me”; I mean to say “we.” We were right. Those of us who warned you about endless war and the Patriot Act and the police state and global climate change and depleting energy resources and the politics of hate and the poison of lobbying and contracting and the greed of corporations and banks. We were right. All of the fears that have been haunting me for a decade did not disappear. For a minute, the supposed Left was satiated by a historic presidential election. Their passion for a new world was abated and things calmed down. They breathed a collective sigh of relief.
10 years ago, things were really dark in America. They have reached a similar level of darkness recently which is to say far more dark because the idea that the darkness had ever even lifted slightly was an illusion of the highest order of darkness. No prescribed leader can help us. According to a Seattle Times article from a year ago, “President Bush authorized about 50 non-battlefield drone strikes. President Obama… has launched… 411 strikes [with] 3,430 dead.” Nothing has changed and if we continue to rely on the ossified two party political system, we can just consider ourselves absolutely insane.
So, I told you so, and I’m telling you now: It’s no longer anyone’s fault but our own. No prescribed leader can help us because it’s up to us. Power is always an exchange and our tolerance for corruption is more of a problem than corruption itself. The problem with America is that things aren’t bad enough. We all love our cozy little lives so much. If our corporate overlords have a pathological addiction to greed (and they do), then we, the people, have a pathological addiction to comfort. Our couches are oh so comfy. Our TVs and iPads are oh so bright. After work, we are oh so tired. And our showers are oh so warm. The people of Ukraine have been gathered in the freezing cold since about Thanksgiving. They are there because their government made a shitty foreign policy decision. There are those amongst them that have died. Meanwhile in America, we are ruled by criminals and we love it. We love it because we are given just enough to feel comfy and just beyond the lip of our little lives is the promise of suffering and eradication. This is America’s silent tyranny.
I told you so, and I’m telling you now: Abandon all narratives that you did not develop (including mine). Stop fishing for sense amongst news stories. Stop aligning yourself with prescribed ideologies. Decide what you want the world to be. Decide what you think is valuable and important. If you could change your neighborhood, what would you like to see? Solar panels? Community gathering halls? Public gardens? Decide. Then ask your neighbor what she thinks. I bet she will want something similar. She will want comfort. We all do. The question remains: How can we, the people, provide it for each other?