I’m starting this letter without knowing exactly who it is addressed to, figuring and hoping that your identity will become clear by the time I get to closure. In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind me calling you “Blank,” do you?
While in the past this may have been strange behavior, I feel that with the current pervasiveness of social media and the resultant increasingly public nature of formerly private communication, this feels like so much of what we see and hear today — a need to express oneself with little regard as to who the actual, tangible, physical audience for the letter will ultimately be.
So…without knowing who you are, Blank, let me get down to the business at hand. I’m trying to parse out the nature of fear in 2018, and I feel like the only way to do it is through an intimate dialogue with someone as terrified as I am on both social and personal levels, because that is where fear lives for me these days.
I’m terrified for society, my unknown friend or friends; terrified because while I’m not naive enough to believe that the current national and world situations are new, or unprecedented, or even all that unexpected, I’m experienced enough to see as well that something evil has become commonplace enough in our dialogue that the overall level of it is rising as we focus on the greatest, most visible expressions of it.
For example, the current rise of Fascism world wide is stunning in its banality; as we think of the gaudy-greedy, gold-stained, over-eager hands of Trump meddling in, well, everything, we can’t help but focus on his taste and lack of finesse as the infrastructure of government thins dangerously beneath him and the judiciary becomes a imperialist rubber stamp. It’s like a giant game of Jenga, with the players having no long term intention of trying to keep the structure upright at all.
(I think the Big Guys are terrified themselves, of course. Not for a moment do I think they are unaware of climate change and resource exhaustion as a looming apocalypse, whatever their public pronouncements. I think they are cashing out, taking what they can before the whole structure collapses…but that’s a story for another day…)
At the same time, I’m terrified on a personal level as a person with multiple chronic illnesses, a precarious income, and a support circle drawn largely from people much like me. I’m terrified because if as we so often and so glibly say the personal is political, then I clearly have a vested interest in fighting back about what’s going on out there — except that my resources for doing so are fairly compromised at the moment in some ways by the stuff that’s going on out there.
I see my friends and family of color, my poor family and friends, my LGBTQ family and friends, my non-binary friends and family, my fellow artists…I see all of us being pressed these days in unprecedented ways, accelerated ways. Ways not unlike those of the past, but aided and abetted and enhanced by the very ease with which every adversary from the government to their allied media to the private citizens who’ve become fellow travelers on the path of oppression may stick it to us on FB and Twitter, may compromise our very finances and privacy and identities with a little bit of work from the comfort and safety of their own anonymous homes.
Part of how we got here is that we’re fed on falsehood from an early age these days. We’re exposed to so much bad information, so much distortion, and so little practice in critical thinking that we often can’t tell Fascism from its opposite…but that’s beyond where I wanted to go with this, at least at the moment…because how we got here, dear Blank, is a long story, and I want to make this letter briefer than that.
I want to say that right now, after history, after the past, we’re in a place of Fear that I think is indeed different than it was in past crises. I think we’re approaching a terminal moment that may last a few years, a decade or two, or a bit longer, but which will ultimately bring formerly unimaginable consequences to all. And while it may indeed lead to a collapse of capitalism, patriarchy, heterosexism, and all that as the most utopian among us believe, the world we inherit after will be unlike what we have now in terms of resources and infrastructure, and we will have such a long moment of suffering to follow as we rebuild.
Thing is, Blank, I won’t be here to see it. I’m aging and somewhat unwell as I alluded to earlier; while I continue to do what I can to resist the worst of the depredations of the Fascists (after all, not everyone who sits anonymously at home, working in the darkness online, is one of their supporters), my reach is limited and specific. My art and writing and music are tools and weapons as well, but I can only do so much.
Blank, I thought at first I didn’t know who you were. Halfway through, I thought I’d figured it out; I thought you might be my conscience and that this might be my guilt reaching out to you for my own purposes.
I was wrong.
Blank, I still don’t know who you are, exactly. I’m not even sure you’ve been born yet, if you can read English, or ever will. But I know this: you will come along one day and you feel this same fear and know this discussion as if you’d written the letter yourself. You and I will be in dialogue across space, possibly even across time. Maybe you’ll be deep in the midst of the upheaval yet to come as I’ve pictured it.
All I want you to know is this: you aren’t alone. You’ve never been alone, as I am not. We all do our parts and even if we never meet, somehow we must be comforted by the knowledge that we are not alone in the struggle. We do what we can, we do what we must, and as long as we do what we can, even if “They” win in the largest sense, “They” will forever know that the victory will never be absolute as long as we can name and address and fight and sneer at the Fear that is their greatest weapon.
Don’t fear, Blank. Not in the deep sense, not in the ultimate existential sense of ultimate despair. Don’t give them the satisfaction of your fear.
Thanks for listening to this, however you do eventually hear it. I have no doubt you will, and that you will understand.