My mother was a racist until, during the last three years of her life, she came to share her apartment with people of color. She had a stroke and needed the care of home aides all the time. My mother’s aides were mostly women from Caribbean countries, plus several white women and a gay man. Day after day from the moment she awoke to the time she closed her eyes at night, she was in the hands of other people. She came to love them, not all equally, but love was somewhere in the room. She was a racist who had to rethink what she had believed but had not experienced. She taught them Yiddish. She used Jamaican slang in conversation. She shared her bed when her aides piled on to watch TV. She was a funny monster who was poignant in her helplessness and in having to remake her understandings at the last moments of her life. She became a human being right before she was no longer anything but a comic memory to her aides, who nine years later still talk to each other and to my sister and me about how they taught her to be a person.
I wrote on Facebook: This regime is not an accident. It is not a miscalculation. It is not a bait and switch. Craven chaos was planned and accomplished and no one who wanted it and still wants it is going, finally, to see anything. I was thinking yesterday about how Obama might be feeling, knowing so much of what has happened is a direct, viciously and crazily racist (is there another kind?) response to his success and the turn in political culture it represented. I was thinking he might be feeling very fuck you all for destroying the work I accomplished, although I don’t think he’s a fuck you all kind of person. Continuous, relentless, crazy-making resistance from all of us and a few of our legislators will get these mother fuckers gone.
A friend commented: I think Obama is doing what he needs to keep the equilibrium he maintained all through his presidency. He’s in recovery, in effect. And he surely knows that anything political he does right now will boomerang.
I responded: I don’t think it would boomerang . . . nor would Hillary’s march with resistance shoulder to shoulder . . . they should and can be citizens right now, all the usual rules of passing the torch and power are off the table. This is a coup, as you well know, and I think we have to work creatively and experimentally and surprisingly as a force of opposition with other opponents, not Barack and Hillary as leaders but comrades.
The friend wrote: Agreed. But it’s an idea that seems to run counter to the core of what leads pols to be party Dems. And I do think Hillary & Barack have a right to choose to heal. It’s brutal out there in the public glare, and people who don’t take animal time for themselves, tend to dessicate, become simulacra of themselves. That’s what DT really is among so many other horrible things.
I wrote: All true. We are not in disagreement. I think, however, part of the concerted effort is to spurt so much crazy at us at the same time we wear down and seek relief in healing space . . . but we can’t do that right now . . . no one can afford that. Part of the pressure I feel is resentment at having to address the political surround . . . it feels like the sixties where you would have to remind smirking male faces with mustaches that women were actually human beings.
A game of skeeball costs a nickle. My father pays. You grasp a blue or yellow ball with the paint chipped off and toss it up to rings for coupons, aiming at the highest, smallest ring for the most coupons. The ball is bigger than my fist. The air smells of ocean. The waves roll in like skeeballs returning from a toss. The bullfrog who rules the arcade speaks with a friendly rasp, and his apron, tied tight around his middle, jingles with coins. My sister is in another lane, older and beautiful. I want enough coupons to buy the lamp with the rattan shade or the noisy clock that sits on a dusty shelf. I want never to leave the boardwalk, the cotton candy, the drawing sensation of the Tilt-a-Whirl I will later know is sex. One day I hold in my pee too long, and for a moment my father looks confused and almost laughs before saying, “Just go.” I am under the moon and stars on a dark stretch of boardwalk, and warm pee is sliding down my legs. Then my father says, “Run,” and we are running as I am still peeing, and my sister is beside me with a devil face.
The things we have said and will say are changed by present political reality. I wrote this many years ago. It seems about now.
I knew a man who drove a Jaguar. I would not let him pay for me, and he would not eat in the places I could afford. I was fascinated by his having so much. He was fascinated by my having so little. He said, “I know what you like to do in bed,” and I became aroused, although you would not think so to look at him. He tore the strap of my dress in his car. Otherwise he was uninteresting.
From my notebook, spoken by a war correspondent I was having coffee with: “Running in a war, you hear explosions, and you ask yourself, “Am I still alive?” It is your only thought, and you see how unnecessary all the other thoughts are. For a while you are drunk on adrenalin. When that wears off, you think you have transcended the parts of life that are burdensome. When that stage passes, you see it is another captivation and that there are endless levels you are never going to get free of.”
From a notebook entry: Richard has been writing about presentism, a way we live now, no longer believing history expresses a narrative of progress or improvement. We are squeezed into the now by intimations of apocalyptic end times. These times are ushered by political calamity and environmental collapse. In presentism, we experience a continual now of moments that are more like a stuck record or a stuck CD than like a chain of moments that lead to their futures and produce their histories. And yet contained in the space of these moments are all the spaces of time that has come before and all of our predictions about the future devised from the perspective of the past. The mind produces elsewheres and elsewhens, a form of time travel that isn’t observable, like the time/space continuum itself. In apocalyptic apprehension, we live all the parts of our lives simultaneously, like Dave in the end room in 2001, a Space Odyssey, and these lives are nested inside each other like Russian dolls. In the sense now I feel of everything I have known ending, I am the Laurie who walked the streets of Long Beach as a child, although I could have riden my bike, in order to think the thoughts of a walker. I am the Laurie who made homes in other people houses until she had outstayed her welcome. And on. According to Frank Kermode in The Sense of an Ending, the apocalypse can be endlessly disconfirmed without being discredited. We go on believing we are living in end times, a destabilizing constant state that produces, casuistically, more anticipated end times–permanent end times. A way out? Face our past with truth and commit to a more equitable future.