Fear and loathing in the last week before the 2018 midterms


Writing this with eight days before the elections, I know that you will probably be reading it after they are over. I am not going out on any limbs, and I can’t find it in my heart to plug events in the first half of November (although I will anyway, because of the thought process below), not knowing what will happen in the interim. First, I am just going to memorialize the fever-dream type of existence we are in in this present moment. The fall temperatures are a cool blessing and the fall colors are heartbreakingly beautiful as we consider the so-called “migrant caravan” making its way down a dusty highway where conditions are still oppressively hot. More U.S. troops (there are already a record number there) are being sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to “turn back” this expected “invasion.” Meanwhile, there are still several thousand migrant children in cages and camps in the southern states. And a billionaire-owned private security firm tours Minnesota stumping for a patsy town to build its newer bigger detention center.

Sunday, I took part in the #WeWon’tBeErased rally of transgender and gender expansive people and their families and allies. I saw a lot of friends and comrades there—from Walker Church, from Democratic Socialists of America and our partners in the struggle, from In the Heart of the Beast and the amazing artist community of the Twin Cities. But this, too, was heartbreaking in its beauty, overflowing with goodwill and love, but coming on the heels, literally, of the worst anti-Jewish mass killing in recent American history, maybe in all of American history, which claimed 11 lives just yesterday in Pittsburgh, Pa. A lot of my DSA comrades went Monday evening to the interfaith vigil at Mt. Zion Temple in Saint Paul. I spent much of both Sunday and Monday reading, restlessly consuming information and trying to synthesize it. Putting off the night and the nightmares it will bring …

I am experiencing a cascade of crazy fears and fantasies (although they’re only crazy because they haven’t come true yet). For instance, as hinted above, it’s hard to experience pleasure when gripped with a vague, uneasy background fear. It’s hard to love your own life and its pleasures without guilt, when there is so much sorrow you share in. “Don’t mourn, organize.” At some point this becomes a facile platitude. A) Because you have to mourn, even if you keep organizing too. Joyce Feinberg, Rich Gotfried, Rose Malinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving Youngner. Go on and mourn them; forget the name of the vile killer but never forget their names. B) Because you can’t organize every hour of the day, and even if you could, it’s all a crap shoot, isn’t it? There’s no guarantee. We’ll probably find that out on Tuesday (did find that out in your case) in many of the races, and there’s heartbreak in that too. But of course, in my world, electoral organizing, though important, is not everything. And so we go on, educating ourselves, showing up, speaking out, raising money, doing mutual aid, confronting. In between, I pause to glory in a sunset, to savor the sweet air of fall, to admire and gush over a little puppy, to remember my two beautiful granddaughters, safe and happy for now. And it’s important, yes, to appreciate these things, but if you’re like me, there is a mixture of guilt (survivor, white privilege, take your pick), fear (will any of this be here in a year? In a month?) and rage. Last night, instead of sleeping, I gave in to a particularly neurotic surge of rage. I have this project of trying to get leftists and religious people to stop consuming what I (annoyingly, I’m sure) call “slave chocolate,” i.e., 95% of the chocolate there is, all that’s not fair trade. When I refuse chocolate and am forced to say why, people get embarrassed and defensive and talk about evil sugar and the rainforest, causing me to surge with suppressed violence (some peace activist I am, eh?) All alone, at 3 a.m., with no audience to hear it, I composed a furious speech. (Imagine this being shouted, from a soapbox.) “I don’t give a shit about sugar! I don’t give a shit about the rainforest! I know very well how imperiled the rainforest is, and how important to our survival as a species, but if we, as a species, as the human race, as a family of beings, do not have the spiritual or political will, or even the common decency, to stop ENSLAVING OUR OWN CHILDREN, we don’t DESERVE the rainforest, or indeed the future.”

So yeah, you might think things have got pretty bad for me. Here are mass killings in synagogues, politically induced famine in Yemen, megadeaths in Syria, a new fascist president in Brazil, Brexit probably destroying the world’s third oldest democracy, the Trump administration plunging the country into violence, democratic norms toppling left and right, raging hurricanes, melting permafrost, fracking on every continent, declining lifespans and rising suicide rates, a huge and growing prison population, and I am obsessing about “slave chocolate.” But, see, I believe it’s all linked. And also:

Go over and over your beads, paint weird designs on your forehead,

Wear your hair matted, long, and ostentatious,

But when deep inside you there is a loaded gun,

How can you have God? (Kabir)

And so we go on, educating ourselves, showing up … Here are a few things for November:

–Dine Out for Syrian Refugees, Benefit Dinner for SAMS MN on Wednesday, Nov.14, 6 p.m. at Gandhi Mahal (3009 27th Ave. S., Mpls.) Enjoy delicious food while we learn from local volunteers about their work in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon. Proceeds will go directly to fund future Syrian American Medical Society medical missions.

–Dance—Fundraiser for Legal Defense of Anti-ICE Activists, Saturday, Nov. 17, 6 p.m., at Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, 2524 Nicollet Ave., Mpls. Featuring several danceable bands (TBA), hosted by a coalition comprising members of IWW/General Defense Committee, Twin Cities DSA, ISO Twin Cities.

–Rally to Win $15 and a Union for All MSP Airport Workers! Public • Hosted by Unite Here! Local 17, SEIU Local 26, and MN AFL-CIO. Wednesday, Nov. 21, at 3:30 p.m. MSP Airport, 4300 Glumack Drive, Saint Paul.

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