To Fight Fascism, We Must Risk Delight

I stopped dreaming wide open things after this election. I woke up in worry, and I didn’t like that, so – along with my subscriptions to various newspapers, I also subscribed to poetry and literary magazines. I know the worry is warranted, this is not normal. But I can’t live in worry, and I refuse to wake up there. So, for the last several months, I have been waking up and instead of looking at my phone or the news, I’ve been reading poetry with my morning coffee.

Today, I read this line in a Poetry Magazine from April of 2014 that I bought at a used book store:

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world” – Jack Gilbert

And I’ve been thinking about that stubbornness, about risking delight. I’ve been thinking about how in times of great peril allowing ourselves to feel delight and gladness feels like we are betraying the worry and pain in the world. Often, when we feel good during times of great stress and fear, we worry that by not diligently tending to our fear, our feal will become invalid in some way, that we will somehow laugh ourselves into denying anything is wrong at all.

So, when we feel good, we guilt ourselves into feeling terrible again. We don’t let the light in. We don’t risk delight. But I think, hobbling our emotional guidance system in order to match the chaos and destruction around us is akin to working for the enemy. Especially if the enemy is counting on us to be afraid and play small.

I’ve been working on approaching this world as a love object, a beautiful place to nurture and be nurtured in (as opposed to a frightening and isolating place to exist).  I’ve been wondering about how to unite with people against the fascism we see unfolding within our government. I’m trying to understand how to come to this fight with a mindset that risks delight.

When thinking about our government’s move toward fascism I think about anti-intellectualism. How our current government is at war with science and the press. And I think this specific brand of anti-intellectualism has roots in hyper-masculinity. Intellectuals that embrace the complicated and interdependent nature of our modern world are considered sissies and not “real men.”

I am beginning to understand that this regime and its supporters are operating from a fear of becoming feminine. No matter how they dress up what they are doing, that is the base fear… because the “feminine” is a complicated system of relationships. It is not simple or single point transactional. It is not easily predicted or controlled.

Thinking about the rise of systems after WWII, about how quickly we complicated the world of men with machines and global relationships. How frightening this was to so many people that were not part of building those complicated systems.

When our regime’s rallying cry of “make America great again” is invoked, the great they cling to is a simpler less complicated ideology that no longer works for our time. So what they are doing, is trying to brute force reset our country to before these complicated systems were put in place. Why? Because they are afraid of being forgotten, of being left behind, of losing their identity. The are afraid, so they build walls.

I don’t want to be afraid.

So this morning I am trying to find my balance between resisting our current administration and knowing that what is needed is a revolution of the heart. Punching nazis and making room to pull the silent majority over their walls and out of their fear.

And I feel like, maybe by pinpointing where our culture evolved from the simpleness of climbing decision trees to the complex way we fly through possibility clouds it will help me understand how to do this.

I am working on keeping my mind, my eyes, my hands, and the throttle to my heart wide open… on understanding fear without succumbing to it.
If we succumb to fear, we become like the current regime. Stuck, unable to evolve, resorting to brute force resetting the world to a walled-in identity that no longer serves us but we’re too afraid to abandon.

So what I’m proposing is we put it all on the line. We risk delight. We fight, but we “care bear stare” the shit out of those motherfuckers – with open hearts that are unafraid.

Travis Bean

Travis bean neckHave you ever seen a Travis Bean guitar? It has a solid aluminum neck and center section that runs through the guitar’s body, a T cutout – the pickups are directly mounted to the aluminum – the sound is incredible.  I used to own one, or at least, I lived in the same house with one, lived in a house with my husband, the musician. Tracked it down before ebay, we bought it with our student loan money and extra shifts at the mall.

The day the Travis Bean came, all cream and chrome, I laid it like a prayer, like a new lover, on my side of the bed, anticipating that he’d be so into it and into playing it he’d forget all about me… which was thrilling, because he could play, and he was somebody.

He arrived home that day to my excitement without acknowledgment, without gratitude, without touching me, or my proxy. I slept on the couch. I can’t come up with any other explanation as to why he’d deny this excitement to me or himself other than he was an asshole. He was young and awful: all math, sarcasm, cruelty, control, and logic… but damn, he really could play.

That guitar was beautiful, machined to sound like heaven, heavy and smooth. I liked seeing it in his hands, I liked watching him work it. I wasn’t much, but he and that guitar were my everything. I suppose I was young too: all empty insecurity, filling myself with guilt, enthusiasm, and hero worship.

Eventually I left him, first in a series of leavings that would teach me who I was. You break-up, you grow up. He grew to be a philosophy professor, putting his art and music away, tucking his Travis Bean under his bed with the dust bunnies and old shoes. To be honest, my heart broke a little to hear he’d traded his guitar for tenure. It’s hard to know someone turned away from something they put some much of their heart into, that I put so much of my heart into.

Sometimes I check online auctions, maybe he’s sold that incredibly perfect guitar to someone who plays it, maybe I’ll go see a show and I’ll see my proxy, the Travis Bean in someone’s hands again, there were only a few thousand ever made, and I loved one once.

Thank You For Being Alive, Mother Fucker

My husband went for a guy’s weekend with his friends, they take a trip together every year. It gets increasingly more complicated for them to get together as they build careers and make families. I mostly give him my blessing, it’s important for men to keep their male friends after they get married. I read a paper about this once, how men drop their friends after marriage but women don’t, anyway, I think it’s important to have a support group outside of your marriage, friendships that don’t depend on so many details…

A few of these trips have been bachelor parties, which of course, is unnerving, but manageable.  I have to trust that as long as my husband plays by the house rules and doesn’t do something he will regret for the rest of his life, these things aren’t anything to worry about.  I did NOT feel this way about bachelor parties when I was pregnant and nursing, back then, they were most definitely off limits. You can blame it on the hormones of pregnancy if you like, but it doesn’t invalidate the way I felt.  That’s the funny thing about marriage, as it matures, as the hormones and feelings work it out, the house rules change, if just a little.

Our calendar says that my husband’s flight home was last night, I remember him telling me he’d be home in time to help take the children to school in the morning, but… he wasn’t. I called his phone but there was no answer. I had to decide between denial, worry, or anger to get me through this morning. I chose the first as my exterior expression while the other two ran through my mind in the background, setting fire to every senario. I rented a car to try delivering both children on-time to their schools (which are across the city from each other, and start within 15 minutes of one another.) This is so much easier when my husband is home, weekday mornings don’t work well without him.

On the way to the car I found a four leaf clover, a common mutation I am told, not that lucky at all, but I held onto it for a while, just in case. I opened the door to the rental car and the alarm went off. The car wouldn’t start. While the rental company tries to fix it, it becomes apparent we’re going to be late for at least one child’s school. We leave the car broken and beeping, I left the four leaf clover in the front seat, it was an accident, I considered retrieving it, but left it, telling myself it meant something to find luck and leave it in a stalled car. One child made it to school on time, one child stayed home with me. The fires of worry and anger in my mind are too mentally exhausting to withstand the bus trip and necessary school office interactions to sign the kid in as tardy. I’ve already pictured every ditch my husband’s body might be found in, there is no way I could walk into that school office alone without the weight of thinking I might always be alone bearing down on me.

After 8 hours of wondering what happened and twice as many connections to his voice mail, Mr. Pierce picks up the phone, relief washes over me. “Where are you?” I ask. “Venice Beach.” he says. “I thought you had a flight home yesterday.” I say. “It’s tonight.” he mumbles. “That’s not what you told me and that’s not what’s on the calendar.” I say. “Well, it’s tonight.” he says. “Thanks for being alive, mother fucker.” I growl in anger before hanging up the phone.

Somewhere in Venice Beach is a man half awake, probably hung over after a long weekend with his best guy friends, the ones he hardly ever gets to see. In his fog he’s probably wondering what he did to deserve such a pleasant 6am wake up call, he’s probably wondering if the house rules changed while he was snoring. But if he’s smart he’ll realize love is an unfeeling bitch at the other end of the telephone line, a really… lucky… bitch.