Ah, van life. The rain beating down on tinted glass, the sunrise lighting the world in every direction. The freedom to wander as you will. Car insurance is cheaper than rent; car repair is cheaper than utilities.
When I first moved into a van, every day was an adventure. I’d shove five or six people into my old minivan—later my full-size van—and off we’d go across the country. Some of my favorite people in this world I met because someone I was traveling with dragged them along.
Fifteen years ago today, on February 2nd, 2002, I became an anarchist. I was nineteen, living in NYC, and I attended the World Economic Forum protests. I knew the anarchists by reputation only — they wore all black and they smashed things. They were going to wear masks in defiance of NYC’s anti-mask laws. I wanted to know why, so I approached a man with his face obscured by a black bandanna.
“What’s anarchism?” I asked.
“Well, we hate capitalism and the state.” He was very forthcoming, which I appreciated.
“What do you all do about it?”
“We build up alternative institutions without hierarchy while attacking and interfering with the existing, oppressive ones we despise.”
“Oh,” I said. I pondered this for a moment, but honestly only a moment. “Do you have an extra mask?”
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” —Assata Shakur
I admit, I’m terrified.
(Usually I write blogposts several days ahead of time and put them through several rounds of edits. This one I wrote and posted this morning, because even though I’ve been thinking about, and listening to others’ thoughts about, a Trump victory, I didn’t actually think it was going to happen.)
We don’t know what happens now. We don’t know if all our much-acclaimed checks and balances will keep the status quo of the country (already a totalitarian nightmare of police check points, deportations, stop and frisk, and mass incarceration for many of its inhabitants) intact. We do know that this nation elected an “unelectable” racist demagogue who quotes Mussolini, brags about sexually assaulting women, and isn’t even a very good businessman.
We also know that the Republicans control the house and senate. This isn’t unprecedented: George Bush, Jr. came into office with a republican majority congress as well. Which didn’t go so well for anyone, at home or abroad, though most of us survived it.
There’s a simple-but-effective “political compass” used by many people I know. “Compass” has always seemed like a misnomer, and I prefer the word “map.” This map has two axes: left/right economics and libertarian/authoritarian structure. The idea is that individuals, groups, and societies can be placed on the map so that they can be understood in relation to one another.
It’s a good starting point. I’d like to expound upon it by recalibrating it and providing further subdivisions.
As part of his apparently-prepared plan to hijack the panel he was moderating, “the state of short fiction,” Truesdale said that “science fiction is not for snowflakes.” He said that those of us critical of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. suffer from “microaggressive disorder, or MAD.”
With an admirable dedication to a visual metaphor, he pulled out a string of white beads and placed it around his neck. He said that those of us who are easily offended should clutch our pearls instead of saying anything critical, apparently ever. Continue reading From A Snowflake of Science Fiction→
If elves were real, they’d be whimpering, anxious wrecks, too wracked by fear to leave their towers or trees. For an immortal, no risk would be worth taking. A plague, a stray arrow, or an angry bandit might rob a human of fifty or eighty years. The same might rob an elf of the lifespan of the planet.
I was a nerdy, anxious kid. I’m a nerdy, anxious adult. I spend a lot of my time thinking about even my mental health in terms of Dungeons & Dragons and Lord of the Rings.
Elves, as popularly understood, can live thousands of years, watching mortals grow old and die like we might watch the leaves on trees turn color and fall. When I was younger, I idolized elves. Now? I pity them.
Avoiding danger is a self-reinforcing behavior, a behavior that elves would have centuries or millennia to perfect.
“Parent, what is death?” an elf kid might ask one night, in that gender-neutral language I figure elves probably have because that would be awesome.
“It’s the end of everything,” the parent elf would say back to their kid, tucking them into bed under a blanket of moss or unicorn wool or some bullshit like that. “But don’t worry. You’re an elf, you get to live forever. As long as you never slip up ever. Sweet dreams!” Continue reading I Pity the Immortal→
I was driving through northwestern Ohio, which from the car window sure looks like a series of small towns strung out along cornfields. No offense to cornfields of course. My high school in Maryland was surrounded on three sides by cornfields. But my phone was broken so I was stuck listening to the radio and I’d made the mistake of tuning in to the local Christian talk radio station.
This post contains my account as a survivor of rape. I’m not looking for public expressions of sympathy nor to argue the specifics of my situation. For context, despite my feminine name, I grew up as a boy and am genderqueer.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
“Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
“Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
“Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”
So say the Lord’s prayer, Martin Luther King Jr., Yoda, and some random picture I found when I image searched “forgiveness meme” while researching this article. There’s no shortage of cultural wisdom extolling the virtues of forgiving people. There’s a lot there I agree with — as someone who desires to live in a society with neither prisons nor constant warfare, forgiveness is an important part of my political practice. I’m no pacifist, either, but I think the cycle of how violence begets violence is damn important for revolutionaries to understand.
When I was young and naive I half-heartedly campaigned for Ralph Nader. It was the year 2000 and I wasn’t quite old enough to vote but I had a green party pin on the lapel of my corduroy blazer. I’m as embarrassed of my teenage fashion choices as I am of having ever supported third party politics, if I’m being honest.
I had my excuses and talking points all lined up. Not about the corduroy, there’s no excusing corduroy. About the pin. About Ralph Nader.
“He’s unelectable,” someone might say.
“That’s only because we assume it to be true,” I said. “The only reason we’re locked into a two-party system is because people say we are.”
I think I got that line from my friend, the Nader campaign coordinator on campus. Thanks to the Nader campaign, he and I both got to feel like we were part of something important.
Nader lost, and a year later I realized that the only reason we’re trapped in capitalism and statist politics is because people assume we are. People assume revolution is off the table. People assume that taking autonomy for ourselves and defending it is off the table. We, as people, can reconstruct society to be anything we want it to be, and I’d been wasting my time imagining spending that potential on some vaguely-better version of the status quo.