It is Friday for me although the clock says Saturday and Saturday is streaking across the Pacific Ocean towards the International Date Line where it will turn into Sunday streaking across the Pacific Ocean towards Asia and eventually back through here again and then it will be Sunday but right now it is Friday and I can tell because I’m working.
What a week.
A friend of mine, someone I’ve known for many years online but have only met face to face once but who is still a very good friend (still? There is no reason why online friends have to take a back seat to “real life” friendships and the whole split between online and real life has of course by now been refuted many times but there remains a widespread belief that online life still cannot quite compete with face-to-face life but I will beg to differ until I am too old and infirm to sit at my computer although by the time I am old and infirm we probably won’t have to sit at our computers but they will be ubiquitous and integrated more seamlessly with our bodies so that the interface is no longer way out there at arm’s length. That is just a guess and sure it is informed by cyber sci-fi but I think that this one is a good bet so I suppose I will be doing this until I am so close to death that I cannot really think or talk or interface with anyone except–I do not know whom I will be trying to interface with at that point. I hesitate to think about it as it is quite possible that I will outlive everyone I love. Note: find very young friends) mentioned earlier today that they were feeling quite depressed this week and felt as if they had just lived through something rather harrowing and now that it is over it is as though one looks out upon a decimated landscape and wonders whether it is enough to start planting new seeds or do we need to detoxify the soil first or abandon the land for someplace new and start over.
OK that was my metaphor. This friend used a different one but since about Wednesday evening I have been feeling oddly similar to how they reported they were doing. Tuesday night I danced in the streets with everyone else. Well, that is a lie. I did not dance so much as run around high-fiving and fist-bumping and occasionally receiving the random hug here in the city between about 9 and 11pm. The party continued after I was out of energy but although I eventually went to bed that night–i.e., the next morning–I found myself quite unable to do much productive really until I would say about fifteen minutes ago. Oh, actually I did some paying work earlier this morning before I went to bed so lets say about 14 hours ago was when I was able to stop reading post-election coverage and turn my attention back to normal life.
The thing is, though, I have not been having a great time reading the post-election coverage, or not after I had been up for a little while on Wednesday night.
Today’s post is about what happens when you live through a national political nightmare, wake up when you think it might be over, and then cannot seem to shake a sense of emptiness and vague dread. I hope that is ok. I will not be talking about broad political issues except to the degree that they have created this funk. I am curious to know who else is feeling this way–besides those who voted Republican or people who still support George W Bush (they are said to be out there), for I assume that you all have something to be upset about now. To which I can only say nyeah although it does not really make me feel all that good to say it but I am relieved as fuck that you all will not be leading the country for the next four years but I have time to talk about why that is and probably will, later.
So I am trying to figure this out. The nightmare image: I do not know about any of you, but when I wake up after a particularly virulent nightmare I am of course relieved, but especially if it was my last dream of the day/night, I do not spend subsequent waking hours exulting that I am no longer in the middle of my nightmare. Instead, I will often feel like utter shit, wondering why my unconscious chose to take us there, and why now, and what it is I am supposed to do with the horrifying imagery that then haunts me all day long. I do not necessarily think dreams are the key to great psychological questions but they can certainly provide jumping off points for interpretation and it seems to me that even if dreams are a mechanical process whereby our brains figure, order and store memories, it can be useful to take a look at what memories are being processed in what ways at any particular time.
So what can this metaphor do for me now. The only other one I have is that of trauma, and although it might be stretching things to say that the last eight years have been personally traumatic–sure, things changed in my life, but mostly having nothing to do with anything the Bush administration did; however, it was angering, frustrating and, actually, at times psychologically harrowing to watch them do the things they did do, seemingly without restraint or any kind of oversight from anyone anywhere.
It may be that in order to figure this out I have to take into account that I was raised by a fundamentalist, Southern Baptist family who took me to fundamentalist, Southern Baptist churches, which, although the Southern Baptist Convention had not yet been “steeplejacked” by Christian Dominionist ideologues, were certainly already “ripe for the harvest.” I was taught, from a very young age, that until I “made my decision for Christ,” that when I died I was going to burn forever. Or rather, I was going to burn forever after the Final Judgment, and that sometime in between and probably very soon, like any day now, I was going to be Left Behind to face the tribulation when my entire immediate family was taken up in the Rapture. Now, I grew up 3000 miles away from the closest relative, so my parents and my brother were all the family I had. Their closest friends were church friends, so they would all be gone too (although chances are I would have been pleasantly surprised by who did not actually go–er, I mean, were that whole mythology real and the rapture actually did occur). I came to understand this, at least in these stark heaven vs hell terms, by the time I was about seven or eight years old. It took me till I was, I think, about 12 before I “walked the aisle”–something which terrified me all the more being introverted to so great a degree that I believe I operated then and now under a social disability.
Anyway. I do not mean to be inviting you into my therapist’s office with me, but I thought the background might make it a little more clear how and why a so-called Christian for US President, with nothing between his ears but ego and brutality, doing the sorts of things he and those orchestrating his policy did and for the reasons often stated, might flip my shit on a regular basis. I will write about this again without a doubt: the psychological casualties of fundamentalism are more numerous than our relative silence in public life might lead one to believe. We are starting to talk, now, and starting to find others like ourselves with much help from the internet, but up until recently very few ex-fundamentalists had much of a voice in the public sphere.
Well, when you have a bunch of self-proclaimed “Christian” bullies running the nation, and you are an ex-fundamentalist with, say, a raging case of PTSD–and I am serious as a hemmorrhaging artery about that: mine comes complete with psychotic breaks–a large part of national life starts to take on the choir robes and baptismal vestments that still lurk in the most self-destructive parts of your psyche. Or, that is, it can, it may. In my case, it did.
I have not watched a mainstream newscast since September 11, 2001. When someone in my house turns the tv on and anything about national politics is being said, I turn up the volume on iTunes and try not to try to make out the words that float mumbling under the music during the quiet parts.
So now, it seems, I might be able to watch the news again. But I am telling you, I am depressed as fuck about the last eight years, and bewildered as to what to do about it. If I were Barack Obama, I would be sweating like crazy just how I was going to propose to put the country back together and try to create order where we instigated chaos across the globe. My friends and I often talk about how we felt in 2000, after GWB was handed the office of President, and most of us were thinking well I sure did not want him to win but I guess we will just have to hold our noses and lay low for four years but then the World Trade Center was destroyed, which was bad enough, but then all these other horrible things started happening and Would. Not. Stop.
I guess I am in shock. It is weird, because materially, the only thing that changed for me between 2000 and 2008 was that in 2007 I finally finished grad school. Well, other things changed too, but I am not going to go into great psychiatric detail here on the intarwebs. I still live in the same place and although making ends meet is actually harder since I graduated, my economic status has not shifted a great deal one way or the other. But I still feel a little like something terrible just happened, now it is over, and I have no idea what should happen next. I do not even know if there is anything for me to do–national politics were machinating along before I got here and will probably continue to do so for some time after I die–but still I cannot quite seem to get a grip on myself.
So. I am taking suggestions if anyone has any.