We live in revolting times.
I try to avoid the news, but the latest Trump tweets about a female television host came across as vulgar, and just made me think all over again that it has been a revolting time, and there is no safe space except the ones I hollow out for myself in little conclaves here and there, among similar men and women. I don’t see anything improving; there are more fundamental and, perhaps irreversible, diseases in this democracy than the words or actions of just a single man.
Sibelius is a surprise, bright in his summer whites and khakis, and there is a jaunty scarf of crimson at his shoulders loosely flung about. I have no food in the house. I haven’t cooked in a while, and have been subsisting on berries and soup. I wonder if it is too late to make a trip to that notorious Chinese place that taste and gut flora both veto.
“I brought food,” he assures me, and scrunches his nose at my redecorating attempts. I have been stuck at home, and I have little to do, so I had undertaken a spruce-up summer project.
There is octopus. I like cephalopods. They are intelligent, cute, and so yummy. Nautilus is my favorite magazine. Chardonnay pairs well with the late meal.
He tries to talk about real matters, about the world outside, about politics and the markets. I nod blearily; I have heard so much and have likely developed filters to just not care about that anymore. What does one prioritize anymore, in this era of constant opinion pieces, over-information, and hyperbole?
Sibelius looks tired too, and I wonder how he will cope – will he stick to the safe havens in that DC area he loves? Will he take shelter in his spin classes and trendy bars in the heart of Manhattan? Will he remember, when he is old and has grandchildren at his knee, about the heady days of old when he went to Long Island and cheered for Bernie Sanders? You are a human being, that wizened old man on the podium had shouted, and thousands had cried out in relief, as if finally accepting that they too had a right to exist.
Instead, I talk about my curtains.
“Not many years ago, what would you need to make these curtains? If you kept house in Decatur, and if you wanted these semi-sheer valances, what would you do? Perhaps you have a cousin scraping a living in New York. Perhaps you know someone at the port of Savannah. Perhaps you have a sister who lives in Miami. What then? Will you send these sketches to her? Will you send scrapes of fabric to give an idea of what colors you want to match the upholstery of the furniture?”
It is easier to talk curtains than capitalism, even if the curtainomics leads to a discussion of online retail, large monopolies, China, and capitalism. A veneer of denial cast over the state of this land goes rather well with the semi-sheer fabric swaying in the night breeze.
This is symptomatic of my life’s bargains recently, of grinning and bearing it, and making the right sounds at the right time to the right people, and saying indeed ever so often that my tongue hurts.
People are hurt, angry, frightened, and getting left behind, and will continue down that path without massive refocusing on basic education and vocational training in the technologies of today. Education is a mess and critical thinking is a niche fad. Healthcare is horrendous and likely to get worse. In no place before, in no time before, has it been so easy to spread among so many populations misinformation, fear, propaganda, hate or snake oil more than the world and the time we live in.
I have forced myself in the recent years to wrap my words, written or spoken, in gossamer, in sentences of innocuous non-information. I have learned to dance as you wanted me to, to substitute what I want to say with what you want to hear, to be just another happy pill of concord and sameness in your day.
You want me to not eat beef and worship a cow. I’ll do that gladly and often. Whatever you like, and whenever you like. When we fear survival, most of us are cowardly enough to do what I do, I suppose.
I feel cornered, though, with each passing day. I left a place that placed high value on conformity to a broken society’s norms. I thought I had made it to somewhere better. In the past few years, I have had to admit to myself that it isn’t so. There is a great deal that is the same, and very little of that is reassuring. There are bubbles of shared ideals, of similar people, but these are only bubbles, and they are too fragile to trust in their lasting power.
Where can I be?
Safe spaces are shrinking. I need more curtains.