“Ah, America. We saw it. We tipped it over, and then we sold it.” One of many unforgettable lines burned into my soul by this Laurie Anderson song from Homeland. Here’s another: “And you, who can be silent in four languages; your silence will be considered your consent.” That one tells the actual story of today’s academia, despite the minority of non-silent professors who are posited as the norm and then demonized by “political correctness” discourse.
Many of Anderson’s other ideas here are equally powerful; this is not for happy background music, but rather careful listening over and over.
I had planned to end my 12 songs series with Anderson yesterday, but then I was too happy about the victories in Georgia, so I changed my mind. That was just a couple of hours before the coup attempt started.
After driving my spouse crazy for years, because I have been orders of magnitude more worried about whether Trump would unleash some version of a Reichstag Fire (although always I wondered how much of his Mussolini schtick was hollow theatrics), finally I relaxed. Two hours later the cops–who obviously could have stopped this if they were not either complicit or understaffed on the orders of higher-ups–were letting the traitors into the halls of Congress.
Out of my six Senators and Congressional representatives from my home in Tennessee and my cabin in Wisconsin, five of them were in the traitor camp yesterday morning, although the Senators moved into the rump group of rats leaving the sinking ship by midnight.
Honestly, until last evening, I was more happy than sad about unfolding events, because the Georgia victory is a really big deal– I don’t want us to lose track of this!– and I tend to believe that the coup attempt will play out as a self-inflicted wound that will hurt Republicans quite a bit. That would be very good for our country.
If we take the situation two days ago as a baseline, then compare how things realistically could have gone for Democrats compared to how they did go, these two days played out about as well for them as one could imagine. Sadly, of course, that sentence started with an enormously substantive “if.”
It was only after things went eerily back toward “normal” last evening that I started to feel sick. Let’s grant that FOX acted half-responsibly during the riot. I’ve also been driving my spouse crazy watching FOX’s internal debates because this has seemed like a pretty good barometer of what Trump can get away with, so I focused there yesterday. But FOX was already back pushing outrageous false equivalency discourse between the riots and the George Floyd protests before the day was over. (By the way, please let’s not forget that those protests did not solely include black people, but also a very sizable contingent of white people, all being restrained by a massive police presence in riot gear.) George Bush, Mitch Romney, and Liz Cheney–even Bill Barr– are trying to pose as patriotic heroes. And then, of course, Republicans have moved the needle about what is “thinkable Republican behavior” yet further toward naked fascism. If we do not see “more than normal” backlash against this, cutting deeply into the ranks of Republican enablers, it sets a terrible precedent.
And then Wall Street hit another all-time high. Granted, that’s partly because the COVID stimulus will be higher and alternative energy stocks and infrastructure stocks are booming because of the Senate flip. But still it is sickening and surreal.
Anderson can take it from there:
And so finally here we are, at the beginning of a whole new era.
The start of a brand new world.
And now what? How do we start?
How do we begin again?
There are some things you can simply look up, such as:
The size of Greenland, the dates of the famous 19th century rubber wars, Persian adjectives, the composition of snow.
And other things you just have to guess at.
And then again today’s the day and those were the days and now these are the days and now the clock points histrionically to noon.
Some new kind of north.
And so which way do we go? What are days for?
To wake us up, to put between the endless nights.
And by the way, here’s my theory of punctuation:
Instead of a period at the end of each sentence, there should be a tiny clock that shows you how long it took you to write that sentence.
And another way to look at time is this:
There was an old married couple and they had always hated each other, never been able to stand the sight of each other, really.
And when they were in their nineties, they finally got divorced.
And people said: Why did you wait so long? Why didn’t you do this a whole lot earlier?
And they said: Well, we wanted to wait until the children died.
Ah, America. And yes that will be America.
A whole new place just waiting to happen.
Broken up parking lots, rotten dumps, speed balls, accidents and hesitations.
Things left behind. Styrofoam, computer chips.
And Jim and John, oh, they were there.
And Carol, too. Her hair pinned up in that weird beehive way she loved.
And Greg and Phil moving at the pace of summer.
And Uncle Al, who screamed all night in the attic.
Yes, something happened to him in the war they said, over in France.
And France become something they never mentioned. Something dangerous.
Yeah, some were sad to see those days disappear.
The flea markets and their smells, the war.
All the old belongings strewn out on the sidewalks.
Mildewed clothes and old resentments and ragged record jackets.
And ah, these days. Oh, these days.
What are days for? To wake us up, to put between the endless nights.
Passwords are expiring.
And everyone’s counting and comparing and predicting.
Will it be the best of times, will it be the worst of times, or will it just be another one of those times?
Show of hands, please.
And ah, this world, which like Kierkegaard said, can only be understood when lived backwards.
Which would entail an incredible amount of planning and confusion.
And then there are those big questions always in the back of your mind.
Things like: Are those two people over there actually my real parents?
Should I get a second Prius?
And you, you who can be silent in four languages: Your silence will be considered your consent.
Oh but those were the days before the audience, and what the audience wanted, and what the audience said it wanted.
And you know the reason I really love the stars is that we cannot hurt them.
We can’t burn them or melt them or make them overflow. We can’t flood them or blow them up or turn them out.
But we are reaching for them.
Some say our empire is passing, as all empires do.
And others haven’t a clue what time it is or where it goes or even where the clock is.
And oh, the majesty of dreams.
An unstoppable train. Different colored wonderlands.
Freedom of speech and sex with strangers.
Dear old God: May I call you old?
And may I ask: Who are these people?
Ah, America. We saw it. We tipped it over, and then, we sold it. These are the things I whisper softly to my dolls. Those heartless little thugs dressed in calico kilts and jaunty hats and their perpetual white toothy smiles.
And oh, my brothers. And oh, my sisters.
What are days for? Days are where we live.
They flow and then they flow. They come, they fade, they go and they go.
No way to know exactly when they start or when their time is up.
Oh, another day, another dime.
Another day in America.
Another day, another dollar.
And all my brothers. And all my long lost sisters.
How do we begin again?
How do we begin?
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