I used to ask my mom, in the five years or so before her passing, “Tell me about something beautiful today.” You know, just to break up the litany of malfunctioning body parts. Now that I am in my 60’s I’ve noticed how so many of my conversations veer towards doctors and procedures, prescriptions and pulled muscles, I have to then ask myself – tell the story of something beautiful, something heartwarming, some act of kindness that you witnessed today. It seems especially hard this year, 2020, a time filled with curses and lies. A maelstrom of trends colliding and crashing as the Earth strikes back.
Envisioning the scenario before us, all over the planet, people shudder. Our differences, in color, in gender, in poverty, in wealth, in education, in ego, in endless combinations of faiths, are rivening the species.
Civil unrest (and I mean that literally – peaceful, civil protests every night) remind us that all is not well. A broken economy, proletariats and bourgeoisie, or as the children these days put it, some people are just booshie. Earth is rearing up, in fury, the four elements wind water fire and rock are getting flung at us humans. The news dwells gleefully on the craven con men, parsing nonsensical pronouncements from on high in only one country, this one. Seldom mentioning the struggles and triumphs of populations elsewhere. Blasphemous me, I can’t help but see that blind faith in one book, in one origin myth, leads inexorably towards blind faith in men who say they have the answers.
Education through visual storytelling, can be, and is instantaneously disseminated. So that’s Trend One. Live moving images widely available within seconds of violence having been perpetrated, sometimes while it is actually happening “in real time” – think about that – real time. Not fake time. We hear the sounds of pleading, and see the images of a white uniformed man calmly murdering a handcuffed black man; released before editing or tampering can take place. Instantaneous publication is a double-edged sword. No context, and we viewers have to string together outrage after outrage, so we can pile up enough to build a case for killing racism before it kills another innocent American. But we knew, all of us, we knew. American history from the textbooks glorifies war, buries the contributions of women and people of color. Still and to this day we gloss over the horrific crimes, the blood spilled, the moral stains on our national conscience. What do we tell our kids? Tell the truth honey, and I won’t be mad. Lying about what you did is so much worse than breaking a vase. The child can clean up the scattered shards but broken trust bows to no broom. Genocide bad. Detention camps for would be immigrants – bad. De-humanizing other humans – bad. Even after the specific crimes cease, pretending they didn’t happen invites the wound to fester. We know this.
Trend Two is the “Drawbridge Up” mentality at national borders everywhere (Brexit). Emigrants reviled, asylum seekers punished at home and abroad – Britain for the British, Syria for the Syrians, Southerners for Secession (wait, is this still festering?) coded eugenics for the modern age. Ukraine for the Russians or shall we say the taking, ban the Muslims, stop trading with the Chinese – hegemony and manifest destiny remain the golden goals. Autocracy blossoms where reason fears to tread.
Trend Three is the stark transfer of wealth, the rich and powerful are not pretending to share anymore. What a relief that must be for them. Sneering that $600 dollars a week will make the recipients lazy, while ignoring the fact that $600 million dollars a week will make the recipients crazy – for more. Philanthropy demands results now, a measurable improvement for rich men to brag about. I run with the Big Dogs and trip them when I can. I navigate the abyss with malice aforethought. Time is money. In my youth, I decided that the biggest difference between economic classes of people was the value of time. The rich could look seven years into the future and see a doctorate paying off. Delayed gratification meant to me that no matter what my means (or income) I must always live below it, in good years and in bad. Feeding today’s urge with yesterday’s money would leave me flat. On Halloween, I would put my candy away (some in the freezer) and would still be eating it in December. This drove my brother and sister crazy, and then, just as that ran out, there was the candy from our Christmas stockings – I very slowly consumed that candy too. Betcha dollars to donuts you know somebody like that, you know the ones who did not spend their dollars on donuts.
Trend Four is the abrupt cessation of businesses worldwide. Global supply chains broken, idling ships and planes and trucks and automobiles. The blind rush to accumulate treasure halted so we look around, see our co-habitators (some call them our germ bubbles) and hear the children these days, listening to them learn in the new worldscape of empty cubicles as we eschew recycled air and highrises. Empty classrooms, shuttered restaurants and department store bankruptcies are just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath what we can see, the frozen misery of the unemployed lurks and waits for the Ship of State to collide. Like flies caught in amber, they cannot escape, and there is a mad captain at the helm.
Trend Five is fire and flood. All worse than ever – excluding the Jurassic and perhaps the Pleistocene eras, we do indeed have Weather Weirding. Climate crisis and all this continues even while highways and streets empty and the air clears over cities that haven’t seen stars for fifty years. All that improvement wiped out by wildfire smoke in the skies that hangs in the air for weeks.
Trend Six is the emboldening of hate-based -isms. Hostility by proxy, these electronic texts typed by pundits and nobodies deliver messages of venom and bitter jealousy. Words provided by the vitriol-spewing former reality show stars whose towering destructive anger has their parents, even in their golden years, cowering in fear. Traitors who blithely accept this disgusting behavior, they can go live with the consequences. Perhaps those who run, hurling insults and invective as they flee, perhaps they glimpsed the red-hot edges, not completely hidden, of a roiling anger, lighting torches for a Sherman’s March through a Narcissistic Landscape. Behind my eyes, below the surface, they are just a thin layer away from magma level rage. I really do not understand the unreasoning fear of people stepping outside of strict gender roles. The meaning of Roe v. Wade is right there in the angry puffed faces of the misogynists fighting for Spermatozoan Sacredness. Here’s my wish for them, those anti-choice thugs, those Viagra-popping losers, that they cannot orgasm unless a woman comes first. Forever and ever.
At least the Pandemic has led late night talk show hosts to don more unisex clothing. Now it’s hoodies and polo shirts and sometimes even denim, whereas before it was Suit and Tie, button down long sleeved shirt, socks and shiny shoes. Always the Suit and Tie, Suit and Tie, lose the socks – how about some flip-flops? How about wearing false eyelashes, plucking your hairy eyebrows, donning an off-the-shoulder gown or blouse, just once, just once, break the damn code – wear a puffy shirt, cargo pants, a skirt – anything to show you understand how restricting those dress codes truly are. Underneath that thin veneer of “showing respect by dressing in a suit” you must realize it perpetrates stereotypes, right? That “dress code” doesn’t really apply to both men and women does it? Pantsuit Nation is still trying to normalize that mode of dress, yet the condescension continues, apace. And the outright persecution of cross-dressing queens and transgender humans – what the hell did they ever do to the Boogaloo Boys – and take off those Hawaiian shirts and put down those tiki torches – you’re making your mama ashamed. How does a transgender person taking a poop going to harm your precious perceptions? I mean, is your pecker so small that gender roles must be shriveled as well? Put on a nice summer dress, boys, and feel free to browse the cosmetics aisles – make up for everyone! Sequins all around! The Patriarchy is not working out for anyone.
So, gird your loins, people, this election is something the compassionate among us need to win.