My month-long return to Nuevo Mexico is off to a bit of a rough start. I just can’t seem to get in an emotional groove I feel good about. Someone or other told me the first holiday season would be especially challenging, but I really had no idea. And then I remember how difficult it was just to sort through ornaments. Sheesh. The way things are going, I’m starting to believe that I need to spend mid-2011 and thereafter in a new town I’ve never lived in. Or visited. With all-new stuff. Yeah, that’s going to happen.
Anyway, here’s some things that are all-new and might not even be depressing. A couple shots from Albuquerque, but most of these are scenes from yesterday’s trip with the parents to the Salinas National Monument, home of several old missions on the east side of the Manzano Mountains south of ABQ. They’re pretty neat, even if they do represent Catholic co-option of native religion, culture, and people. So it goes.
Abandoned apartment building in downtown ABQ – they never finished building it when the boom went bust.
I could swear that part of the Senior Project film that Gris did with Bay & Toby was filmed in this back alley. Or that we were initially going to film some of my homeless-man scenes there but then shifted to another nearby locale. It’s funny what being back in one’s hometown can do to the memory.
The iconic towers of the ABQ skyline.
Nesbitt L’Orange, my parents’ relatively new cat.
Abo, the first of the three missions.
Abo meets big sky.
They don’t make contrast like that everywhere.
A tree grows in the ruin.
Light and shadow.
The horse we rode in on.
The door is ajar.
Almost like Nebraska.
Mesa with tracks.
Best sign ever.
Cactus in bloom.
Arch with parents.
This is Gran Quivira, whose color is more traditional stone than the traditional mission color.
Room with a view.
A view of the room.
My father, gesticulating wildly.
View of many rooms.
View of the basement.
Quorai, the last of the three.
Church in state.
Slice of sky.
A little bit of sol.
Runs down the hallway…
My favorite window.
The moon, incoming.
The sun, outgoing.
There is something afoot in America right now. It’s hard for me to focus on it right now, because much is going on in my life, but I can’t just overlook what’s going on out there altogether. It’s important. It’s something that all conscious Americans, no matter how besieged by personal challenges and busy schedules and the idea of holidays incoming, ought be paying at least some attention to.
Obviously, part of it relates to WikiLeaks. And part of it relates to the recent Bernie Sanders filibuster, a heroically triumphant 8-hour monologue on the state of the nation. It relates to the Obama administration uniting with the Clinton family and Republicans to decry both of these influences, to convince the American people with rhetoric centered around fear, national security, and the lowest common denominator, that Julian Assange, Bernie Sanders, and those who believe in them are out to destroy the country.
It’s easy to get excitable in a time like this. It’s easy to look at this and say that in the next few weeks and months, the way America chooses to react to these phenomena will determine the entire fate of the country and its place in history. It’s easy to say that this will make the difference between the US being a force for good, a modicum of the potential and promise it used to represent to the world and the US floundering in corporate-controlled fearmongering, drowning in a stench of its own bated breath and the terror of its own shadow.
These are exaggerations. The reality is most likely somewhere in the middle. That no matter whether we embrace Assange, Sanders, and friends, or reject them, the country will likely persist in some compromise between its better and worst aspects for some time to come. Indeed, the language of consequences and sweeping change is unlikely to ever manifest in the way that most of its advocates would represent. Nevertheless, very important things are implied by these decisions and reactions that we have to these influences, regardless of whether there are sweeping or even visible consequences or not. If nothing else, it matters for our own sake. The way we can sleep at night. The way our hearts and minds align with their better judgment, their hopes and dreams or, more often, their dreads and fears.
What Assange and Sanders and those supporting them are trying to do is to illustrate how far from reality America’s self-perception has fallen. Many would call them anti-American, and in a way they are. Because being “American” has come to imply a self-denial and a self-delusion that would make most historic figures of ego and bluster blush. Being American has transcended a belief in the spirit of working hard and espousing freedom to go all the way to believing in a divinely inspired righteousness that wipes away the logic of any potential counter-argument that dares to challenge American supremacy and impunity. Reactions to critiques on America are all too often rabid, fueled by gibberish about terrorism and people who hate us for the sake of hating us. There is no evidence that these horrific vices and threats exist, nor that they are gaining strength, nor especially that they have anything to do with the sweeping but sober critiques offered us by WikiLeaks and America’s only Socialist lawmaker. They are paper tigers, made of the same stern substance as the Communists who were about to bring down the country during McCarthyism. They are the eternal enemy that America’s corporations and conservatives use to foment jingoistic rage and anger akin to the Two-Minutes Hate.
But Assange and Sanders are not anti-American, not truly. They do not want to bring down the country, only its traditional conduct of business. Both of these people and those who espouse their values are embracing truth and rationality to try to get America’s people to reclaim the mandate long offered them, to take responsibility for their own governance and the role of their country in the rest of the world. They want Americans to stop, to read, to listen, to lengthen their attention-spans and go beyond blind acceptance of the currently popular American “values” of secrecy, wealth disparity, theft, greed, and fear. And it is important to recognize who is complicit with these values.
I’ve long debated with friends of all sorts about the role of Obama in the struggle of hearts and minds that Americans now face. I’ve talked to them about health-care and Obama’s almost immediate abandonment of the public option. I’ve talked to them about Gitmo, about the wars, about treatment of detainees and the use of robot-assassin planes. But whatever you think of all these things, Obama has made his stance clear and transparent in light of both WikiLeaks and tax breaks for the insanely rich. Obama has condemned a call to transparency in the conduct of American foreign policy. Obama has levied the most fearful of fearmongering against his own party’s members who dare to question the latest round of tax breaks for the insanely rich. He has threatened that an America under the influence of Assange and Sanders will be unable to protect itself from terrorism or the horrors of a double-dip recession. The man who stood before us two years ago and said “We are the people we have been waiting for” now seems to have no other rhetoric than “We are afraid of our own shadow and ought be lest we give in to the rhetoric and perspective of fear”.
Being this fearful and terrified about everything in America and its political spectrum carries the same problems that it does for any given individual in their own lives. Whatever values or hopes or possibilities one is hoping to protect oneself for are already lost and compromised in the process of living in this kind of terror. The goal of terrorism is not to kill people. It’s not called slaughterism or deathism. It’s to promote fear. It’s to promote such a grip of fear that people dare not do anything but blindly trust their hypocritical government to hide all possible information about its conduct from them. The terrorists, if they exist, need not initiate a single additional event for a very long time. The goal is complete and fulfilled already at the point at which we all walk around in such pervasive fear and make such extensive commitments to others in order to prolong fear.
Similarly, the perspective of fear that weighs down our economy has led people to trust the financial experts who created the disaster in the first place with every possible decision subsequent. Not only does this equate to fearing for the fate of the hens to the point where the foxes are left in charge of all caretaking of said hens, but it entitles the foxes to concoct elaborate new schemes of de-henning the surrounding counties and states. Since the initial decline of the recession, the wealthiest sector of America has made a fortune while most of the country has languished in unemployment and increasing poverty. Those who hold on to their jobs do so in the fear of losing hours, wages, or competitive advantage if they fail to work harder and longer for the same or less money. And the allegedly progressive President wants these same corporate barons who are fleecing the country and profiting to continue to avoid paying additional taxes while all Federal employees lack raises to even compete with inflation?
While I’d best not fall into the trap of exaggerating these few weeks and their role as a potential turning point, it is nonetheless an interesting test the hearts and minds of Americans are facing down. How many mirrors will meet with studied examination and sober reflection? How many will merely fall victim to a hurtling of rocks from those too angry at how they actually look to do anything other than shatter the messenger? That choice, like all choices, is up to you.
We can fear the glass like we fear our shadows and the visage of any stranger, friend or foe. We can run screaming from reality and put trust in authority figures, no matter how similar their tone becomes, because we like their particular alleged affiliation or the sound of their voice or the nationalistic rhetoric they employ. Or we can take our time, catch our breath, and ask ourselves some serious questions as prompted by those behind the glass. What exactly are we trying to get out of this life? Who precisely are we serving, and why? Is life truly intended to be a non-stop compromise of everything we claim to espouse? And if so, why do we claim to espouse those things in the first place? What role do sincerity, honesty, and being an example play, if any?
If we ignore too many would-be heroes, too many beacons against the trends of fear, we may not have forever to ask ourselves these vital questions.