Since we last spoke, America, things have been tumultuous, I don't think there's any other possible word. I would cite the list of public things that have come down in the form of tweets and executive orders--not issued by me in either case. It's a bummer of a list, no two ways about it. So I'm not going to list it. It's my privilege as an author. The author of this blog post. Back to the tumult, in the form of the not-listed list: every day, more headlines, hardly any of them good. How many alerts for immediate urgent action have I signed up for? A lot. A lot of alerts and alarms coming my way. I wake up in the morning, open my eyes while my head is still on the pillow, and wonder: is it real? Did that actually happen? When I ascertain that it is real, that it did actually happen, I sigh, get up, check my phone for the first alerts.
This is no way to live, America. I have friends who have noted that they are taking social media fasts for their own sanity. I think we both know that a social media fast--and, not coincidentally, care of my own sanity--are not in my repertoire. So I make my calls, send my online faxes, email, etc. Donate a probably undisciplined amount of money to estimable organizations. Engage in an unhealthy amount of rage chatter.
Of course I teach my classes and go to meetings and fill out paperwork and read books, some of which are excellent and some of which do their jobs and some of which are books about activism (some of which are excellent and some of which do their jobs, and some of which are/do both). I have a massive to do list, and I cross things off of it regularly. This week, I went to a conference of creative writers. I ate a rice bowl and tacos and wore blazers. I bought a billion books.
A couple of weeks ago, my dad found out there was a tumor in his brain, necessitating brain surgery. My family came together--my brother flying in from Oregon, my sisters and I spending nights before the surgery at the house to help my mother and dad. Aside from the conference, I've been down to the hospital in the next county every day, I think, watching my dad as he puts forth the effort of a superhero in his various therapies, to strengthen the weak side that's the result of the events in his brain. Watching my mother, her tender, attentive presence. Their strength, the two of them. Being with my beloved siblings as we try, in our various ways, to be of aid.
Analogies fail, but of course they present themselves: a really scary journey. A marathon, not a sprint. A radical reordering of what seems important. A surrendering.
I love America, I loathe so many of its leaders right now, I am trying to come to terms with the true character of my country, which goes in and out of focus, its sun covered by clouds, its blue skies occluded by particulates. Its beautiful idea seeming, at least sometimes, so faint. I love my father and my mother and my family. I want nothing to fail them, I want not to fail them myself. America, forgive me if I forget to call upon occasion. I have not forgotten you. I'm just responding to what cannot help but be a more urgent alert.