Clinton, DNC Turn Lights Out On War Protest

Photo: Doug Bowman via flickr.

I never thought I’d see the day when my fellow Democrats would turn the lights out on an antiwar protest at a convention. But that’s what happened this week. How committed are we to ending violence — or is it only welcome if it fits the grand narrative? Peace is nowhere on the horizon. War is what’s on offer — now and for the foreseeable future. War abroad. Death on the streets at home. The inconvenient truth is that these occurrences are inextricably linked with a consistency that defies party boundaries.

This is about nuance, not absolutism.

Trump’s closing night speech at the RNC convention was the final stop to that day’s horror show. Early morning, I was served up news of the beheading of a 10- or possibly 12-year-old boy in Syria by US-backed rebels, with the promise that a pause will be taken should the story turn out to be true. I won’t hold my breath. That particular narrative arc has reached its inevitable, if not unsurprising conclusion. The same day, 85 or more civilians, mostly women and children, were mistaken for ISIS fighters. Yes. There were pictures, but they’re not published in this Washington Post link.

We do not pause. I am starting to believe no one cares.

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I am struggling. My default setting is not a shiny, positive person. I trend more towards irritated oyster. My primary coping mechanisms are art (making and partaking) and activism, going large on the listening with a big helping of mental framing. This article in The Baffler comparing Trump to the Norse God Loki was a reasonable band-aid for this week. Teju Cole has gotten me through since November.

I struggle to find words to describe the psychic cul-de-sac where I currently reside. I used these words as search criteria to find the featured image for this month’s column:

Freedom. Hope. Peace.
War is over.
The Great Dictator.
Non compos mentis.
Donald Trump’s lips.

(I am repulsed by Trump’s lips. I don’t want to see another close-up of them. I don’t want to see them smirking, pouting, pursing, doing that thing where he turns down both corners of his mouth and sticks his teeth out ever so slightly like a psychotic woodchuck, then aims his forefinger at the sky. I suspect these are the same faces he makes during sex. Please. Stop. Posting. Them. Please. I encourage more posts of his dear mother with the hair. This is your only helping of humor in this column.)

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I landed on the Featured Image at the top of this article because I used “William S. Burroughs” as a keyword search term. Consider it representative of my psychic landscape.

I want to be horizontal. That’s the only way I can carry the violent images weighing on me. I started to write “resolve,” but there’s no resolving these images. Writing this, I become disoriented, wanting to stop the words, to hold them back. There is a darkness, akin to the feeling before passing out, that rises up and threatens to overtake me. There is a heaviness in my chest as if my sternum might crack. There is a sense that in order to function in what appears to be our collective reality, I must, to a certain degree, if not entirely, give myself over to this darkness. There is a promise of forgetting and safety if only I put my head under. I don’t believe it and yet it is so completely seductive and unrelenting. Last week I was asked to sign a pledge not to vote for Trump. I’ve been told that any criticism of Hillary Clinton, President Obama or the Democratic National Committee is the same as voting for Trump. We should all take a pause and consider if this is indeed the direction we want to be going.

Peace is nowhere on the horizon.

I look across the dinner table and I see what 10 years old looks like. I see 12 years old. I see 15 and now 16. I imagine my son being rounded up, taken to a black site, tortured, shipped to Guantanamo. Imagine living out the rest of your childhood there. Childhood itself is a privilege. If you’re 15 and white in America, you can be a child. You can step across the threshold of what will become a perpetual adolescence. Play video games, enjoy superhero movies. “Don’t boo. Vote.” That is our privilege.

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I am tempted to stop here, but that seems unfair and easy. Angry Trump or Bernie or name your third party voters aren’t the whole of it. I’m not talking about the idea of third-party voting. I understand that there is discussion of vote-swapping from state to state, or that in some states it’s safe to vote third party (e.g., California — and yes, one should never assume). This is about nuance, not absolutism.

This is also in contrast to the assumption that it’s only millennials who don’t vote in midterm elections, or those who will sit out this election because they’re angry. We certainly can’t afford to have more people disinvested, since the only people who benefit from that are politicians, IMHO. There are leaders in my community who are talking people about voting for Clinton without shaming or fear-mongering. I see it being more effective — some people who have been staunchly anti-Clinton are turning around because of those discussions.

What I’m talking about is people like a friend of mine who lives in a completely different America. He’s part of a large bloc who’ve given up political participation entirely. This isn’t addressed by either party. My friend explains his decision this way:

If they can shoot you in the streets and get away with it, then the whole thing is a joke.

It’s an inconvenient truth I can’t argue with. I listen. I don’t shame him. People who are shamed dig in deeper and we lose whatever common ground we may have. That little plot of land may be all we own.