This will be a short diary, with little or no polish.
I just woke up. It was a long night, with dreams of being lost in a giant parking garage searching for a friend I could only get intermittently on my cell phone. I had the transcript of a funeral, and I was trying to send it but every time I did coverage cut out. There's more, but you get the idea. So I needed the first cup of coffee, and that moment of awareness and calm. I stupidly opened my browser. And I read this. More coffee won't make that better.
The right has attacked us as an outrage machine. Hell, we've attacked the right as an outrage machine. And it seems to me that we have lost the sources of our power, that by and large the news organs of the left have combined so much dross about our preferences and predilections with those things which are truly unspeakable, which shock the conscience, so that the truly terrible and simply true is just one more article, a bit of noise, a way for people who have been ill served by power to talk about the damn cops, the damn government, about our side in the endless war with the rich and the powerful.
And that is fucked up. That is really, really fucked up.
In Power of the Powerless, one of my best loved and favorite political essays, Havel talks about the nature of individual protest. Of standing against. Most who stand against fall. You take down the sign that says "Power to the People" and you lose your job, maybe your family. People take these losses for generations, sometimes, before the conscience of a nation or the world wakes up and goes no. And the world changes.
We are not here to convince ourselves. We are here to convince our enemies. Who are also human. This is just a cry in the dark, a few pixels in wayback and UTF-8 encoded fuss. But...I have people I know who are rich and self-satisfied and vote Republican, and people I know who are utterly oppressed by the world those rich and self satisfied have created. And they all have consciences. Maybe not after it all gets filtered by propaganda like Fox. But when SWAT teams descend on poor brown people and make burning holes in little children, because 50 dollars in drugs, because that is what we must do to the poor -- that story seems more than misplaced next to all the ways in which we should eat vegetarian and this and that policy contributed to it. Yep, sure. But sit with it. Stop.
No "fuck the cops" diaries (even if I partly agree). No direct appeals to understanding the larger dynamic, carefully calibrated to the reader who understands the big picture. You do not make burning holes in little babies. And I think -- said plainly, as that mother did-- there is not a soul on earth who would fail to understand that, however ready their rationale. It does not matter if you are rich or poor or if your rationalizations follow like rain after thunder. Everybody gets it, if only for a flickering moment. It is wrong.
Our writing and our love seems to bend to ourselves. The big sort is probably too far along to stop, so long as we can all afford to be apart (or rather, some of us can afford to be apart from those who can't afford much). All the reasons are clear. My fury this morning is to our speech. We just fucking keep talking. Mostly to ourselves. And maybe eventually enough of us, people who do not follow horror with rationalization or identify with power as reflex, will be able to vote out the real weasels. "More better democrats" -- yep. Sure, that's strategy. But we must also show this to those who have power. Here it is. And here it is again.
The thing is...the thing is...we need a place for the voices of the true and terrible things which, like a stroke of lightening, make clear to everyone, rich and poor, content and privileged, the nature of the world we have made. Where we are not simply speaking to ourselves and those like us. Vietnams end, the British leave India, the iron curtain falls, not just because the people power got well organized and picked good targets. They end because we stand in front of the devil and fall and everyone, rich and poor, recognizes what is true. Because it shocks the conscience, and for the most part, even the most expedient of us do not aspire to be monsters.
Where are we to speak to this, and not merely to those of like mind?