As you can tell fellow refugees, I’ve been absent from American Refugee. While I had a lot to say about writing over at Open Book Toronto, when it came time to connect more dots here, I threw up my hands. I lost faith. I had to admit to myself that I actually thought that me writing something here might change things a little somewhere. After a while, I ‘fessed up to the instability of that thinking.

Then, when it came time for the summer, after The Drifts came out, Pride TO’s nonsensical alienation from many, many of us; the intensification and entrenchment of Florida’s (and other jurisdictions) anti-gay laws bathed in the light of rentboys; the Obama Administration’s absolute foot-dragging on substantive health care reform and queer civil rights and, finally, that blowhard’s rally at the Lincoln Memorial right where MLK shouted, “I have a dream,” I lost it. It was too much.

It became painfully clear to me that the welfare of myself, the people I love and my country were commodities to be packaged as sales tools for ratings and ad time. I know, I know. It’s not that I didn’t know that. But it did, no question, fall like bricks on my head this summer. I yelped, I threw my hands up. I got it. I finally got it. And in spite of all of their cynicism (the Palins, the Becks, the O’Reilly’s, the Limbaughs, etc.), there is reason for hope.

There is reason to hope because their cynical and self-serving squawks have no ideas behind them. There is no substance. Their strategy is shock and awe—we’ve seen how well that works. So, as these jokers parade on top of podiums, I will, now, with perspective, just keep on tapping away knowing that, soon enough, they will collapse in upon themselves. They must because of the laws of centrifugal force. Heavy objects racing around a hollow center must collapse and fall in upon that hollow center. That’s just the way things work.

So, while well over 12% of young people incarcerated in the U.S. are sexually abused (65% of those, repeatedly) we can demonize Afghanis who hire Bacha Bazi without ever seeing the hypocrisy. We can demonize Iran for threatening to stone a female adulterer, but turn a blind eye to the sexual abuse of many more than the 90,000 American prisoners already reported to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (not including immigration centers, half-way houses, etc.). And, as artists, we can string together scenes of all-too-imaginable violence in narratives while claiming that there is no meaning behind them—forgetting that to be human is to tell story. That to tell stories is to offer meaning. That’s what humans do. Taking responsibility—now that, too, is a uniquely human trait.

Comparing sufferings and injustices is not the game here, complicity is; and, being manipulated for political purposes is. When Afghan villagers are signed and constructed as loathsome, there is no moral responsibility taken to ensure that we are keeping our own house in order. When we are justifiably outraged that a woman would be stoned for adultery but silent when it comes to U.S. prison rape—we make ourselves complicit. These demonizations, and their counter-parts of omission, help one to recognize the extent to which our perceptions and understandings, the meanings with which we interpret our world, have been constructed. We come to recognize the degree in which we are complicit when Iran executes gay people or Afghan families disfigure a daughter trying to escape.

And, I realized that that’s exactly what the demagogues intend. They intend to exaggerate and distance us so far from what is original and authentic; their idea is to fetishsize the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the flag so that our original impulse of creating and sustaining a country “with liberty and justice for all” becomes hollow reproduced tschotske and cliche; it becomes as cheap and reproducible as a bumper-sticker. But, to disengage is to surrender to their fetish and I said to myself, not so fast. So, I’ve brought my hands back to the keyboard knowing that what I might be able to do is shed a little light here or there on this or that. Connect a dot or two. What happens from that is up to you.

~ by Thom on October 4, 2010.

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