Safety

When I woke up this morning, it was raining. My treat-addicted dog was standing nearly on my chest, staring intently, attempting to psychically force me to wake…not so that she could be taken outside for her morning constitutional, but for her ritual morning treat. Mommy gets her coffee, and the pooch gets a treat. That’s the rule of law in this domicile.

When I don’t rise quickly enough, the psycho dog interprets this as war, and begins her campaign of retaliation. First, there is pawing at the blanket roll closest to my chin. Then relatively quiet snuffling. Then elevated snuffling that crescendos to a sneeze-cough. Then…scratching at my face…somewhat gently, but forcefully enough to attract my attention. Then, if I have the audacity to keep my eyes closed and maintain a recumbent position, there is a symphony of every bark in her vocabulary – the play-bark, the play-growl, the half-volume bark, the 3/4-volume bark, the whine, the whining bark, and finally – ceremoniously – the full throated and full volume cacaphony of a formal BARK, including a small novella of complaint, entreaty, accusation, and litany of wrongs endured. Oy.

So. I am on my second cup of coffee. Reached out to an Asian-American friend of mine to check in, and see how she is doing. She is Korean-American, born in the U.S., but of course that doesn’t matter to xenophobes in this day and age. My friend pointed out that the only thing different about this time, as opposed to past times, is the media coverage. As I keep pointing out, the revolution has gone live, film at 11. Or 5. Or all day, every day. Take your pick.

The revolution is happening, in slow motion. We are dizzy with the changes, dizzy with having our heads turned so rapidly by every shocking bit of news that shows how depraved some of us have become. I admit to being frustrated with the shock and awe that many are proclaiming when faced with the seemingly widening stream of hate crimes. How can you be surprised? How can you say you didn’t know this element of depravity existed in our country? We have been seeing it for centuries at this point. Not years, not decades, but centuries.

When lynching of Blacks was sport in parts of this country, when lynching victims’ body parts were severed while they were still alive and mounted as trophies after their death, when hundreds of people were brutally murdered in the streets of seemingly civilized American cities and towns because they were Black…how can you claim to be surprised? How can you claim to be unaware of this legacy, in this age of Google and information super-highways? Were you waiting for people of color to educate you?

If I sound angry, it is because I am. This has gone on far too long, and I realized yesterday – for about the thousandth time – that I’m tired. I’m tired of speaking condemnation gently, to spare the feelings of the more fragile, and in a language that does not even begin to do justice to the injustice of what I describe. I’m tired of seeing gentle people, who have done nothing wrong, be murdered in the streets for…walking. For enjoying their lives. For working, jogging, driving, laughing, texting on their cell phones. For breathing.

This is depravity, and how do we fix that? Is it possible to fix that? Do we just leave the depraved behind and run off to some new reality? I wonder if that’s what the depraved believe – Space Force? Seriously? I was a pre-adolecent and then a teenager during the heyday of the Apollo missions, and it occurred to me then that some people were ready to get off this planet, ready to leave it to what they considered the ruinous riff-raff and start over. Up there. With a new colonial mission, but the same playbook. We’ve already planted our flag on the lunar landscape…so what else am I supposed to think?

Right now, our focus is on the anti-Asian hate crimes of the past few weeks, as it should be. But let us not forget that anti-Asian hate is not new, just as anti-Black hate did not emerge with the murder of George Floyd. We have been going through this same crap for centuries, I repeat – for centuries. What is it going to take for this pattern to shift? When are we going to connect the dots between an unmuted sportscaster calling a group of African-American high school athletes n*ggers because they were kneeling during the National Anthem before a game and the murder of an 84-year-old Asian man who was simply walking in his neighborhood. Most people can see the connection between Eric Garner and George Floyd, between Travon Martin and Jacob Blake, but not between those murders and this week’s shooting spree in Atlanta. Or…the attempted coup d’etat at the U.S. Capital on January 6th.

Let’s talk about the insurrection on January 6th for a moment. As soon as I heard the words “The Capital has been breached”, I knew exactly what it was about. We all knew what it was about, at least those of us who’ve been paying attention. The rhetoric, the narrative of hate that has been escalating unchecked for several years now is what it was about. Yes, the previous POTUS escalated that effort, but this rhetoric has been steadily escalating on its own long before he took office. And for that, we all have to accept some responsibility.

For every time we heard incorrect, false, and incendiary narrative repeated and didn’t say anything. For every time we used derogatory and racially insensitive language ourselves, but excused it because we know we’re not racists. For every time we excused the dangerous antics of elected officials because “they are just passionate, and I like some of their policies”. For every time we brushed off playground bullies, neighborhood disputes, and sports politics as just “boys will be boys” or “folks just letting off steam”. For all those times, and others, we are responsible.

Shooting eight people, for whatever insane reason can be given, cannot be overlooked for any reason, but it has to be seen with the racial/ethnic significance it carries. Six of the eight victims were Asian-American females, and that cannot be overlooked. Intersectionality is real, and you cannot ignore the misogyny implicit in the murders any more than you can overlook the glaring fact of the racial bias. More importantly, you cannot relegate this to “it was a very bad day for him, and he chose to do this”. That was a very bad day for me, too, but I chose to do something else beside murder eight people. That. Is. Not. Acceptable.

I said recently that I was not as much concerned about the Fire Next Time, as James Baldwin wrote, but about the fire THIS time. The fire this time may be much the same fire as Baldwin described, but at this point it’s not a fire any longer. It’s an inferno. It’s the pit of molten lava beneath our feet, and it could blow at any time. There are earthquakes warning us of the shifting subterranean climate – rise in hate crimes, rise in neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, increased use of anti-ethnic rhetoric and attempts to legislate xeonophobia.

Voter suppression also constitutes a part of that early warning system, because gutting the Voting Rights Act, so hard-fought during the Civil Rights era, was a resounding shifting of the tenuous bedrock of racial equity. Revolts against “political correctness” likewise have been trumpeting a coming geyser of intolerance, and here it is. And let’s not forget…when a recent snowstorm threatened to shut down the entire state of Texas, that was not a natural disaster, just like damage to the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was not a natural disaster. The damage that came after those monumental storms was caused by human forces – in Katrina, the levees failed due to years of neglect and substandard maintenance practices by the humans charged with their upkeep. In Texas, the power grid was minutes from failure because of decisions made by humans in governance to keep it independent of other infrastructure. That wasn’t Mother Nature. That was us.

What the hell are we going to do? Do we just leave the planet, and find another to colonize and bring our unresolved conflicts there? Do we just keep going, and develop more potent weaponry to quell any civil or international unrest, never dealing with the causal factors but putting down dissention regardless? Do we hide our heads in the sands of time and just ignore what’s happening, as long as we have control of our individual cache of “stuff” and our postage-stamp lawns? It seems as though we are somewhat invested in the latter.

I happened to hear the end of a CNN interview with former Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi, a champion figure skater. I didn’t see the entire conversation, but when I looked up, she was saying that she hope we could return to a time when everyone felt safe. That struck me, because I don’t know there was ever a time when everyone felt safe. People of color have never felt entirely safe, and even white people have never felt entirely safe. Whatever your racial identity, it’s been “us” and “them”. What defines “them” has always changed over time, depending on who seemed to be an impediment to our wants and needs.

People who claim to be 2nd Amendment supporters are convinced “they” are coming for your guns. Who “they” is varies on political administration, and seems to be regardless of racial identity – Obama was coming for your guns, Hillary Clinton was not only coming for your guns but she was going to repeal the 2nd Amendment entirely, all the Liberals are coming for your guns. My goodness, people – those must be some really valuable guns. Who is REALLY coming for your guns are burglars and house thieves, but otherwise, people can acquire guns on the streets more quickly than a parking space.

So, when have we felt entirely safe? Never. We’ve never felt safe, and I wonder if that’s an inside job. When I feel safest, I’m more at peace with myself, and when I’m more at peace with myself is when I have my affairs in order. When I have not done what I’m supposed to do – whether that’s work I’m being paid to do, government obligations (like taxes, parking tickets, vehicle inspections, etc.), bills paid, car maintained properly, living responsibly and within my means – I’m not feeling quite so fearful. When I’m taking stupid chances, doing things I know are not in my best interest, when I’m feeling like I’m owed something…that’s when I’m anxious, and insecure. That’s when everyone is a potential enemy.

Maybe that’s just me. I’ve been told I’m a little left of center. I get that from my mother. She was definitely a bit left of center, but very high functioning and living in fear. I go back and forth with fear, and I frequently have to stop and reflect on where that’s coming from. Whenever I am overcome with fear, I am doing something that’s not the best choice for me – I’m buying something I know is just a want, and that I really can’t afford. I’m going someplace that’s risky. I’m not prepared to do something I’ve committed to do. It’s really very predictable in my world, and one would think I’d be able to ward off the fear response a little better than I do.

So, there you have it. I’m a bonda fide, real, honest to goodness, human. 100% human. Entirely derived from a genetic pool on Planet Earth (not to say it didn’t come from somewhere else, but whatever). So here I am. It’s right that I’m afraid of some things, because my species is a puny organic life form that can be taken out by numerous microscopic organisms we can’t even name. And THAT is life as we know it. It hasn’t gone anywhere. Going out to dinner and movies and bars is not really life, those are just some window decorations and distractions.

LIFE Is navigating through the morass of other lives that are doing the same thing – we’re all just trying to get by. Excuse me, sorry, coming around you on the left. It can be that smooth, but we make it complicated with our wants…get the f*ck outta the way, comin’ through…move it, move it…gotta get by, got somewhere to be! Since I haven’t been working (at least, not for “the Man”), I have to wonder…what happens if you don’t get out of the way? What happens if you don’t get by? What happens if you don’t move? There will be a day when that is exactly how it goes. There will be nowhere to be, no reason to rush, nothing much to do. Then what?

i really believe this is what it looks like…i saw it in a meditation once. We are on the cutting edge of it all.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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