Name calling from the Deep South
In the deep South, women dress in hoop skirts and sing the praises of the of their plantation museums, like anything about the Antebellum South is worthy of praise. Docents guide visitors through the Grand House, clippety clopping down the tree lined drive in dainty carriages, they arrive at the lovingly restored mansions. Only in some plantations, the ones not recently painted, are the slave cabins preserved. In retrospect, breaking up the Divided States was maybe not such a bad idea, letting the Confederacy spin off (good riddance) into a separate nation. Imagining a different outcome, where there is no Electoral College, where winners of the popular vote just fucking win. A stalemate in an earlier war, agreeing to go our separate ways and Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman lived long active lives, where John Brown’s body and those of his murdered sons never did molder in the grave. Passengers on the Underground Railroad making it to freedom funding the rebellion, burning down the mansions and putting up plaques honoring the laborers. From a safe distance pointing to the Mason/Dixon line and saying “There’s evil in them thar hills”.
Let us not forget President Barack Obama and how the hateful opposition sneeringly lengthened his name to Barack Hussein Obama then later, clandestinely shortened Jefferson Beauregard Sessions the Third into “Jeff”. Not one, but two Confederate Army officers honored by his parents, embedded in his name. Trying so hard to please his boss, the Attorney General of Sycophantic Southerners found no draconian policies were good enough or mean enough, as long as fact free investigations proceeded against the families of political enemies.
This is something not up for grabs, my voice, my vote, my vagina. Scandals upon scandals vie for venal victory, and former friends shrug and call us Socialists, a would-be epithet I shall embrace. If my Libertarian, dyed in the wool capitalism can be called socialism, well doesn’t that just open the flood gates to Upside Down World? And I really don’t think asserting that “the sun’ll come up tomorrow” can convince the Flat Earth Society that they need to shut the fuck up. As the muffled disagreements within the European Union break it apart, so too our shady alliances with closeted misogynists are put on display, where they are busy successfully dismantling equality and justice. Blue wave hits low tide and the Red Death strides across each beach, drowning hope in the color of blood.
Authoritarian Regime after Regime – how many more? And Frank Zappa sings in my head that “It can’t happen here, ‘cause I’ve been checkin’ it out…Suzie Creamcheese, this is the voice of your conscience speaking”… I pledge allegiance to the facts and United States of Compassion, and to the Republic we used to have, one nation under many gods, with Liberty and Justice for all.
This is what we don’t know – where are the graveyards where all the flowers went? With all the young men gone to soldiers, every one – when will they every learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?
It’s just all so repetitive, all so sickening, all so backwards. Hate is always propaganda and propaganda is always hate, and power corrupts absolutely. Chin Shr Huang Di ate mercury for immortality. Mao Ze Dong ate opium balls and let syphilis drive him mad, and the Four Olds were attacked and destroyed by blinded followers. Stalin brutally murdered his opponents, Rome begat Caligula, Hitler begat the Final Solution and these are DEAD dictators. Lame Duck President Trump cozies up to today’s bloodthirsty power mad megalomaniacs and here’s where Russia fits in – they don’t like it when democracies band together; invasion and annexations become harder to pull off. Bullies are right now licking their wounds – injuries sustained by the mere hint of disagreement, by the unforgiveable sin of dissent. They set about to silence voters where voting IS allowed, and to simply jail those of lesser means. Gaia, they are so brittle, resentful of a beautiful autumn day in early November when we threw a rock at the wall of sycophants surrounding the Emperor with no clothes. On the inside of the wall, he is striding purposefully in imaginary finery. Emerging weeks later, he dons a perfectly tailored coat and shuffles down the ramp to a guilt laden obscurity.
Did Mother Earth declare war on us this year? Or has she been raging against our unceasing incursions for decades? Weather weirding, global warming, climate change - didn't we use to call it pollution, and that was so clearly to be opposed? The skies in California have been so smoke choked no air filters could keep up - we needed respirators to go outside to get the mail. Remember when conservatives wanted to conserve natural places? Remember when we talked about population explosion? And reproductive rights being a good thing? The start of the war on science, there really is one, and it's global in scope. The Flat Earther Society continues to get new members. "Here there be monsters" no longer describes any part of any map, it is us, we are the monsters. How do we pull back from here? This nonsensical precipice at the end of the world? Rocket boost ourselves to some other planet? Give up fossil fuels? Make birth control free to anyone who asks in any country they live? The Earth, in the form of microbes, is fighting back with deadly accuracy. Staying home has rendered the most polluted cities breathable again. Has cleared skies. Has made us all re-consider our head long rush into material wealth, or at least forced us to slow down. The start of the war on wars - a Peace Pentagon? Operation Enduring Freedom from Pollution, or Camp David accords for Forests, the Situation Room run on solar power, just re-consider how jingoistic your rhetoric is, and bend towards peace.
The invention of heaven, I suppose was inevitable. Saint Peter playing the role of Anubis, where your heart and a feather were placed on scales, and if your heart were light (as a feather of course), you could step into the boat and be escorted across the river – there’s always a river or a gate and there is always a judgement. Ascend or be eaten? Ascend or be tortured? Who really wants eternal life anyway? Among the clouds or on Mount Olympus or hanging out on top of your very own pyramid – without life’s challenges and triumphs, admit it, you would get bored. The great philosophers of the East expect you to perform well while alive – to be kind, to be detached from material things, to be wise, to be respectful. Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, all matter goes on – in one form or another. I prefer goddesses of destruction AND creation, like Kali and Pele (our Hawaiian Volcano Goddess). It’s all humans trying to find meaning in their lives. Reminds me of a Chinese saying I learned while living in Taiwan: Shr hou dwan ku – life is short and bitter. But I believe we were born to luxuriate, to celebrate to be grateful everyday for life’s beauty, sunsets, flowers, clouds, all here for us to enjoy and share. There are days when I cling to that.
The quiet dancer in the blue sequined dress laid like a corpse in the person size indentation in the concrete. Assistants walked from room to room in the outdoor indoor house pushing a microwave sized speaker to each locale. When the music started, she rolled out, landing gently on the smooth rocks that served as footpath and drainage. Then she scrabbled the stones toward her, the clatter defining her argument with death. Nothing is ever the same when your loved one is gone. We become unmoored, slowly spiraling, like the dancer, pulled into our own intestines by the sudden blinding pain. Poom! Arms out, fingers splayed, then concave again, pulled inward, like her essential organs need protecting. She is Grief, and she is Recovery. It’s like our short lived pets should prepare us for the ephemeral nature of life, but their passings don’t really. We lay, like the dancer, in coffins with only three walls, trying to understand the random cruelty, and unexpected robberies, the takings. I would scream soundlessly and threaten the gods, those pernicious creatures, all while abandoning my forebears’ blind faith in only one god, who works in mysterious ways, none of which include immortality.
Piles of papers, some financial, some literary, some household related, I sigh and walk away. I mean the state the world is in here in November of 2020. Thinking all this would serve as inspiration, that writing it out would help. Instead, I find myself wanting to go to Strawberry Fields where “nothing is real, and there’s nothing to get hung about”, but I am hung. Spiritual leaders advocate letting go, accepting change, embracing impermanence. Our ancestors came across the ocean, bought a farm, and stayed there – had ten kids, taught them animal husbandry, awakening in the pearly grays of dawns to begin work. Hard work. Every 50 years or so some great invention would increase efficiencies. News came in handwritten letters that arrived a month after they had been written. And each stroke of the pen had thought behind it. Not like typing. Not like posting on social media. And they stayed where they were planted. This, this global pandemic, this resurgence of oppressive regimes, this fire hose of information, scarcely any of it reliable – they experienced some of this. But not at this pace, not at warp speed. My grandfather served in two World Wars, you know, and it messed him up, he killed himself at 54 years old. Would have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder if anybody was admitting it. Back then, to have such a disease was shameful. I wonder if my DNA is haunted down to the last helix, and I’m bitching about quarantines. Everything changes, I know this, down to my bones, I know this. But I am comfortable here. Physically comfortable. We saved up for retirement, we made plans. Gaia laughs. Ok, I am cancelling the pity party, and keeping up the submissions to the contests. And Zooming with my friends. Attitude of gratitude, let’s all dance like nobody’s watching, because, really, nobody is.
Catherine G. Tripp writes for grownups. She writes for the curious, for those who appreciate wry humor, and seek to be enlightened on subjects they thought they knew well. When people hear or read her work, they are invited to walk in another’s shoes and having arrived at a greater understanding, they found the walk rewarding. The thematic core of her work is righteous indignation, to express historical wrongs in terms that make the characters and their practices banal in their everydayness, yet shocking in detail.