This blog sputtered out and then died a few months back, and I’ve had a hard time finding inspiration to write again since election night. The things I like to blog about—films shot in Newark, archival discoveries, smut history, mostly—all seem inconsequential in the face of the national hategasm that gave us Trump, a probable slide into fascism where authoritarian kleptocracy is the best possible outcome, and the final exhausted death squelch of democracy in the United States (it had already been on life support for decades).
There’s so much I have to say about all of this, but there’s no real need for it here. I am disgusted by the white people—men, mostly, but a majority of women too—who supported this sputtering, slobbering monster, this racist misogynist clown who was born rich, spent his entire life showing open contempt for anyone lower on the social ladder, and then purported to represent ordinary Americans through a slogan so laughably stupid that even P.T. Barnum must be a little shocked that it worked. I’m appalled by the 81% of white evangelicals who supported a grinning sexual assaulter and showed they care more about fetuses than women, more about shaming the sexually active than making a better world. I guess it’s easier to legislate for the unborn—just come on out alive, then pray to Saint Herbert Spencer that you don’t die, until you do!—than to follow a Christlike way. If Barnum is probably laughing, Jesus must be pounding a final nail into his brain in despair, after seeing his message of love and socialism perverted for millennia until it finally helped spawn a leering Pharisee in his name.
But I’m implicated here, too, as are all of us. For me, I’ve been taken aback by the limitations of the white left imagination, namely my own. I thought of myself as a critic of U.S. racism; I think of our history as one of genocide, settler colonialism, white supremacy, and the systematic oppression of people of color from contact to the present. I think of white American history as one unbroken line of racism, sometimes overt, sometimes stuffed into a dogwhistle or the banal policy language of “benign neglect” or “welfare reform,” but never, ever absent. I take very seriously the black intellectual and artistic traditions that gave us David Walker and Phillis Wheatley, Richard Wright and Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Tressie McMillam Cottom. Or I thought I had taken this seriously–because, for all that reading and empathy, in the end I had no fucking idea how deep white Americans’ hatred ran. They just elected the single most unqualified president in American history, a pinchfaced buffoon who has openly set out to loot this nation for his already rich family, who is not going to bring manufacturing back or deport all the immigrants or even pay any attention to national security, and for no other reason than to show them. It is the greatest American tragedy of the 21st century, bar none. I think it’s the end. And I’d say we deserve it, but of course it’s going to fall first and worst on the wrong “we.” Trump voters will ultimately get theirs; bristling hate can only sustain you so long, eventually you go into debt without health insurance. But at least they asked for it. I’m terrified for the undocumented, the Muslim, the transgender, the black kids who will be stopped and frisked by police hopped up on their newly restored lack of accountability, the list goes on. We often let ourselves think the Salem Witch Trials were driven by some sort of mania later stamped out by reason, the Enlightenment, progress, whatever; but no, I don’t think so. We have Pizzagate and Dr. Ben Carson, how far can we really say we’ve come?
And so it’s been hard to blog. Hard to focus on anything, really. I do my Wall of Us four acts of resistance per week, as best I can; I donate money, I volunteer at the local LGBTQ community center, I go to work, all under a cloud of dread. But when it comes to that one movie with that one great shot of the Newark skyline, I just can’t feel much enthusiasm. “America: that was a nice run, eh? Except for the permanent toxicity at its core that eventually melted it into bitcoins for billionaires and hate-slogans. Oh, and here’s a movie.” (Really, the movie I keep coming back to is Chinatown, if only because I realize I’m like Jake Gittes and the other losers of history, who show their own ignorance about power through the very asking–“Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can’t already afford?” The fact that I imagine if I were Rex Tillerson I’d want to relax and enjoy the wealth I could never possibly spend in one human lifetime rather than tirelessly devoting myself to extracting even more wealth from the global poor for the already super-rich simply shows that I don’t comprehend the Rex Tillersons of the world at all; neither, of course, do the delusional Trump voters who think these people recognize their humanity, either).
But a joyless resistance isn’t a foundation for a better world. Emma Goldman needed dancing in her revolution; the black freedom struggle demanded singing, community, affirmations of faith and pride in blackness; feminists refused to let the dangers of sexism and patriarchy suffocate the pleasures of desire and solidarity; and queer activism fundamentally hinges on anger in the service of ecstasy. Blogging about movies and archives ain’t exactly the grand pleasures of those great movements, but I enjoy it, dammit. And like everyone else, I’m gonna need emotional sustenance to devote myself to constant resistance of Trump’s quest to destroy everything good about this nation. So here’s the bargain I’ve struck with myself, the deal that will allow me to write trifling posts about trivial things in the midst of catastrophe: for every post I write while Trump is president, I’ll donate $100 to an organization that opposes his fascist agenda. Reproductive rights, immigrant rights, the ACLU, etc.: every post means a contribution to one of them, above and beyond what I already give. It ain’t much, but it’s a way to incentivize the epiphenomenal and enlist it in the necessary.
So, had to get that out there, as a palate cleanser. Looking forward to resuming blogging soon, and to doing anything I can to fight against the horrorshow that is now America. Never normalize this. Never.