What Country, Friends, Is This?

When is a comfortable space with like-minded people suddenly considered a useless “echo chamber”? I’m beginning to think, when you’re Black, it’s wherever you have the audacity to find a moment of peace.

*

This stage of pandemic illness appears to be grief. My first stage was pandemic distraction: a noticeable but not debilitating interruption to my mental process, or ability to stay focused. It was understandable that I wasn’t more impacted at first. Very little of my day-to-day changed. I work from home, and because nothing about my work or finances is traditional, even if I didn’t know what was coming, I had no reason to worry for the foreseeable future. It was still strange, of course, but so strange that it wasn’t possible to really process the extent right away. After all, I’ve been an expat for years, and even in crossing the border back to the US, I’m on the opposite side of the continent to my extended family. I had no expectation of seeing family, aside from my son and his father, and we were all going to be sheltering together. Something was different, but it was calmly so.

Pandemic fatigue, my second stage, changed my daily life. Immediately upon waking up, I started to feel tired. After a short while, I began describing my brain like a computer, as there was now a background program constantly running whose entire purpose was to remind me of the new reality we’re all living. It had to make sure I didn’t forget, because inside my home was very different to what I was seeing on my timeline (Twitter being the starting point of all my news intake), and instead of one, big jarring re-realization every day, it apparently was better to just have a constant state of dysphoria. Just a quiet, creeping remembering. An always unfinished reconciliation between how I thought I was doing and how the world was clearly doing, and then a sharp disconnect followed by a million subsequent attempts to reconnect, with varying success. Attempts to keep them separate were unsuccessful, and attempts to blend them were worse, and just resulted in exhaustion.

I was actually okay, but the world was not okay, so I was not okay. 

This stage lasted from roughly April through August. If you’re wondering: yes. I did debut my YA novel in that time. Yes, I did roughly a thousand events and interviews and podcasts and lives and meetings. Yep. Did I enjoy it? Yes! Did I hate it? Yes. Can those two things be simultaneously true? Apparently! Life is not a pie, with feelings and the like taking up a certain percentage to make up a whole. It’s an overhead projector on which many transparencies can be stacked, all contributing to a whole. I’m not unhappy just because I’m sad, if you follow. 

Which brings us to pandemic grief. It isn’t the beginning of grieving. This summer was a marathon of that, as even a pandemic was not enough to stop the ongoing campaign of violent anti-Blackness. It’s just that now my daily life and state of being are characterized by it, by grieving. 

I don’t know when I will feel at home in my native country again, if ever.

I don’t know if I will ever feel physically comfortable among white strangers again. 

I don’t know how to explain why it’s not okay to face anger for feeling the way it is most logical for a Black American to feel, in light of: the public executions; the public defense of systemic abuse and tyranny; the immediacy of criticism leveled at our resistance to terrorization, even from people supposedly sensitive to our oppression. 

I don’t know how to make you care that white supremacy is abiblical. That I shouldn’t have to hear my oppressors defended in my place of worship. That a defense of Rome is not an apolitical stance. I don’t know how to tell Bible-believing Christians that they shouldn’t be comfortable with my execution. That their desire for quiet comforts has more to do with white privilege and exactly the ways the western church has adopted a separate and contradictory doctrine than it has to do with them wanting to fulfill 1 Timothy 2:2. 

I don’t know how to get through to someone who despises the 1619 Project not because it’s ahistorical, but because curating the national memory and imagination is more important than telling the truth–regardless whose terrorization must be erased and ignored. 

I don’t know how to explain why I shouldn’t have to worry about getting through to that person in the first place. Why I should be safe regardless who disagrees with me. 

There is too much observably true for me to have to give a history lesson that would be ignored anyway because it’s not the history we’ve decided to keep. If you already know about COINTELPRO, and it’s readily researchable, why would I have to remind you that the idea of my liberation has been directly correlated with anarchy, violence, and the fall of the nation? Why would I have to stop you spouting obvious lies or passive skepticism about Black Lives Matter when you already know you’ve been intentionally socialized to assume any group trying to reverse Black dehumanization–literally calling for an end to murder and inequality–is the enemy? Why wouldn’t you do the follow up work of deprogramming yourself? And if you haven’t, why would I think you ever will?

So grief. Because the intentional evil done by my government can be revealed and it changes nothing. The impact remains. COINTELPRO still bears fruit; we are discredited in the American imagination as soon as we are Black and demand to be free. All of which matters because the result is death. Slowly, through “preexisting conditions”, which is a funny way of saying, the long-term, epigenetic effects of prolonged and persistent oppression and terrorization. It’s visible in the human body; racism kills. Quickly, through state violence and “vigilante” heathenry. But is it genuine vigilantism when you’re all but deputized? When your violence is incited and invited? Grief, too, because my country slanders me to the rest of the world, so that even leaving again doesn’t promise relief. 

Grief, because it’s all related. The white-washing of history that leaves white people delusionally certain that this country is in fact theirs, that their entitlement to it is logical. The electoral college, a gift to slave holders to ensure they always had an advantage, regardless how outnumbered. The rotten core of every system, and the way it impacts Black Americans, who are now dying, incarcerated, homeless, so many things, and disproportionate to their national percentage. And grief because anyone could overlook it all. The international hatred for a small diaspora who refuses to give up their birthrite, who refuses to stop demanding their due. 

Grief, because I am acknowledging that communities I’ve been part of for ten years are toxic to me now, after all the work, and love, and dedication. It’s like another divorce. A host of beauty and blessing inextricable from an ugliness that cannot be overlooked. Grief, too, because I wonder how in the world I could replace these loves in the world as it stands? Where would I find them now, and how many traumas would I have to stomach in searching?

I think I’ve exhausted this vein, and I’m happy to end it here, however incomplete.

Someone will ask why I didn’t pitch this somewhere else to be published, to be compensated for the emotional labor of writing it all down, but something stage two taught me: there are certain things I cannot submit for editorial notes and suggestions, that I cannot make into an assignment or I’ll never get it out. If you’ve read this, received anything of use to you, and feel so inclined, you can always tip me here, or by clicking the green “Buy Me A Coffee” button, but be warned…I don’t actually drink coffee.

Stop. The Insanity. Together.

Well, I’m back which means something must have got me thinking. (Way to make it sound like that’s a rare occurrence, B.) It’s not really something new, which you’ll see in a moment, but it will never stop being of interest to me and that’s all the reason I need to bring it up again. ::kisses::

So, I read this article about literary fiction and it not getting the attention it deserves, by and large. And before you say “blah blah Franzen blah blah cover of Times”, let me answer you with “blah blah Obama blah blah all Black men are now treated fairly”. Right. So let’s jump back to reality, shall we.

I read many of the comments which, as any peruser of the internal webs can tell you, is a risky business. In this case, it was pleasant enough, which isn’t too surprising. It was a group of people who write or love to read. Ta-da, not a lot of stupid made it to the end of the article. And yet, there are several things stated that are just not true. (Oh, I guess we’re done talking about the article – which I enjoyed – and will be focusing on the comments?)

(1) The statement that commercial fiction doesn’t badmouth literary fiction = blatantly untrue. Sorry. I’m deeply entrenched in the online writing community and just like there’s no pure faction in any other dichotomy, there’s no sage martyr here, yo. Only it’s supposed to be “understood” that literary fiction thinks she’s better than you so when we slather that stereotype on, no one’s supposed to be offended. Because it’s true, don’t cha know. Which…right, is badmouthing. The “you hated us first” argument doesn’t change anything.

(2) Literary fiction “makes you think”. Nope, not always. Sometimes it’s purposely inaccessible, self-gratifying and cryptic beyond necessity and purpose.

"Shouldn't have to. Shouldn't have to."

I will go so far as to say that writing speculative literary fiction and writing for the mainstream market made me keenly aware of when I was losing people and – more importantly – failing at my endeavor. I’m not talking about giving up on my love of language and pentameter and falling into a commercial cut-out, I’m talking about realizing that sometimes I’d get lost myself. [He fool he-self!] As in, WHATDIDIMEANWHENIWROTETHIS? Too in-my-own-head. Do I pretend that I now write “for everyone” or even for most people? Nope. But I’ve found that there was room for improvement in pacing and that there’s a reason for white space, for one thing.

(3) Literary doesn’t have a larger audience because it doesn’t have action/plot. Well, firstly, I find that bias on its face. If we’re defining plot by genre standards, then it’d be true but who said that was the *only* standard? Sula has a plot, my pet. And there aren’t explosions but there’s a fire. ::wink!::

Additionally, high concept and plot does not equate to a satisfying read. The most frustration I’ve experienced as a reader is being intrigued by the plethora of awesome concepts only to find that the writing, heart and execution left far too much to be desired. Particularly when it was hailed as “page-turner” or the like. Blech.

And full disclosure, yes, I treated my wounds in the literary section. I am not exaggerating when I say I can open a random book and be immediately pleased. That’s how I know where I belong, I guess. I can’t do that with genre fiction; I’m very, very selective elsewhere, despite being able to name titles elsewhere that I ADORE.

HUNGER GAMES. O_O ENDER’S GAME. (I’ll stop there so it seems like I just like titles with the word “game”.)

Example: I just started reading an excerpt for a forthcoming novel called Inukshuk? Yep. I wanna read it. Immediate images in my head and no sound of a motor running, no regard for time or previous activities. Or, last time I was in the bookstore, I came across a book by Lawrence Hill? Gah. Instantly added the book to my TBR pile AND read the first page of every other available title? Yep. All of ’em. I want everything he’s written.

Ok. This is turning into my love of literary fiction. Sorry.

(4) I can’t remember the rest of the comments despite the fact that I could a moment ago. But one thing that really stands out to me is this whole “let’s just stop calling it literary because it’s intimidating and it implies that nothing else is literature”. This is funny to me, for several reasons. First of all, it has a definitive distinction and culturally understood definition so why should we change the name just because it makes you self-conscious? O_o I mean, I guess we’ll try that just as soon as I’m able to convince you all to capitalize Black and stop calling me African-American. Or you know, stop calling America “America” because it isn’t fair to Canadians or Mexicans – you know, despite the fact that America is literally a part of the name of our country so calm yourselves. OH! Or can we stop referring to soy drink as “milk” since it didn’t come from a teet?

What I’m saying is, really? That’s where you wanna distribute your energies? Why not – in the same way literary writers “should” write “better stories” – change what you’re doing to please readers of literary fiction? OR write what you write, accept that no one writes for everyone and stop bullying the one who’s no longer allowed to call you on it.

I’m not apologizing for my bias because that would just be silly. But come ‘ere. Give us a cuddle.

Movies I Don’t Like Very Much

Oh, to be home, to have the puppy back, is delightful. Hello, Montreal. I had a wonderful time but I assure you, you are all of Canada for me.

So, a while ago I was like, I absolutely must blog about this….movie….Josh forced me to watch.

First of all, I think this picture makes it pretty obvious that Rachel McAdams and Russell Crowe are reporters. She’s the young blogger tryna make her mark with a sensible hairdo that proves she is no nonsense and he’s the time-tested, bloated, over-fed, spoiled (these are things he actually uses in the script to introduce himself, mind you) superstar journalist whose own hairstyle demonstrates how raw and real and just a bit risque he is. Because he’s the superstar journalist. Don’t forget that part.

So S.O.P has several major flaws, which I’m more than willing to run down for you. No, no. Really. It’s my pleasure. I knew as I watched the first ten minutes of the movie that my choices were to soil the literal DVD disc and ship it back to Russell Crowe or to otherwise tell the people of the atrocities I suffered. Josh thought my soiling ideas were less than ladylike and here we are.

Hey, we were besties. Or something?

Russell Crowe is important because he is college buddies with Ben Affleck – I know, I too was like, wait….are they the same generation? Ben Affleck is a politician. The problem here – aside from the whole Ben Affleck is Russell Crowe’s son-in-law if anything – is that the two have zero. chemistry. Zero. And not buying that whole relationship thing? Sorta makes you not care about the whole shebang. But oh, wait, there’s plenty more reason where that came from.

Washington DC is super diverse. Which…just means there’s a huge black population. The director is dedicated to not whitewashing that fact and he shows you the real, the raw, the burger joint where Russell Crowe eats lunch. Because RC is in it, y’all. He uses words like nubian to describe his pen-necklace gift to Rachel and he has some wtf interaction with the black M.E. (played for a split second by Viola Davis). So, here’s why that whole THERE ARE BLACK PEOPLE IN DC thing is so noticeable. Erm. Because none of the main characters are and the two I can think of have the most trite interaction with Russell (who’s raw and real and up and through the thick of it, remember!). Seriously. Come to think of it, after about thirty minutes in, they totally give up on the HEY, THERE’S BLACK PEOPLE IN DC AND WE’RE NOT GONNA WHITEWASH THAT! shtick and just get right on down to the sucky plot thing.

OH. Wanna know how they really drive it home that RC is rru&tttoi? They tell you. O_O They tell you so. He introduces himself to the editor in chief (who didn’t need to be played by Helen Mirren because any white haired, exasperated person with an accent would’ve gotten the same crappy lines) and then he goes about subtly dropping this:  “I know this guy cuz I’ve been in this business and so while there’s a tense conversation going on about the ethics and legality of what this newspaper did, I’m gonna keep making super personal quips to the Chief of Police because you guys really need to grasp how long I’ve been in this business and how respected and superstar I am”.

You know how you know he and Ben Affleck are friends? O_o You guessed it. They tell you so. Because when you see them together and also when the whole “everybody has affairs and oh look at this twist, Ben’s wife actually wanted RC way back when and she and Ben are just living this way for his career and pfffffffffffffffffft”. Lame duck. Seriously, the only redeeming thing about this movie? Rachel McAdams and RC don’t hook up. And I’m giving that a lot of credit to try to keep this ship from capsizing.

So, after trying to spin the storyline I called in the first couple of minutes – and don’t get me wrong, I’m no psychic. It was just. Trite. And obvious. Hey, it all comes down to a guy with pretty organic sounding crazy. No, that’s it. He’s. Crazy. You tried to rest the entirety of a “political thriller” (I just peed on myself writing that) on the red herring of a guy who turns out not to be working for the people you already knew he wasn’t working for. He’s. Just. Crazy. O_O Oh that and the music from Constantine.

Every time the music started – you know, that amplified cello or whatever – I started looking around, trying to figure out where it was coming from. You know why? Because nothing was happening on the screen that even remotely correlated with the tension in the soundtrack. RC was driving, y’all. Driving. Really, cello? Easy, action. Just having the music from Constantine does not a thrilling movie make.

To sum it up. Rachel McAdams needs a better agent, RC typing up the story while the whole newsroom watches is just corny as all hell and Ben Affleck can write an oscar-worthy script (ahem, co-write and I’d love to see the division of labor on that) but he can’t read one and go, “Oh, wait, this sucks. No dice.” Basically. I’m very disappointed in all of you.

So I’ve Been Sitting On This One…

But I realized – it’s important not only to my intended Fulbright project but to anyone who thinks I’m stupid enough to “run away” to any other country – the people need to know.

Canada is that fictitious place that’s never known slavery, discrimination or malintent. (Please do not overlook my sarcasm, as they practiced slavery for two hundred years.) As showcased on this past New Year’s revue, Bye Bye 2008! An annual tradition to ring in the new year, this time around the skeeziest of writers and producers got together to make racist jokes! Because, as we have seen and now hope won’t keep coming as an unexpected shock to white people – the electing of a Black man to the American presidency brings racism back to the overt. It’s now okay to make jokes about us because we’re all even now. More than 400 hundred years of oppression and dehumanization all done away with in one day of voting. Ha-ZAH! One Black man can make an institutionalized system disappear. Because we all know that statistics regarding education, incarceration and the like will be marked different the day after the inauguration. So what’s wrong with a Quebecois sketch wherein a pretend Obama is mistaken for someone else because “all Blacks look alike” – and I’m pretty sure my use of the word Black is a euphemism for what was actually said. There was also that colorful joke about assassination, which of course is totally not a frightening concept to the first Black president amid the wave of surprising “jokes” and “anecdotes” since his election. But it’s all in good fun ’cause we’re all bros now!!

Here’s the thing that should have sent one producer directly to the guillotine and I am. Not. Joking. People love talking crap about America – ‘member, we’re the ones who don’t omit slavery from our history – but um, here it’s illegal to reveal the identity of a rape victim and probably a really hot civil case at the least when one is slandered. By the daughter of their offender. Yeah. Read the 7th little paragraph. This chic’s dad is in jail for raping the woman she slammed on the NEW YEARS EVE SHOW. HEIN!? Are you effing serious, you’re trying to convince someone that the idea to lampoon your dad’s victim came from a roundtable brainstorm?! Who in that room aside from you was even THINKING about it and/or raised their hand and was like, “You know who’s due for a good ribbing? That chic your dad’s in jail for sexually abusing!” That woman needs to lose her job and then be forced into bankruptcy before finally settling into a degrading life as Amy Winehouse’s coke mule and, should the need arise, tick remover. I am completely vomiting in my mouth over that one.

But, yes. People were pissed. Thank God.

You know what’s as annoying as people pretending that Black President means racial equality? People not-so-discreetly wondering if my son will aspire to the Presidency. Because he’s mixed race, I’m sure. A) Last time I checked, Obama wasn’t the first Black man to aspire to the Presidency. B) Plenty of things have been done ONE TIME that didn’t mark a cataclysmic change in the world. Call me back at least once the Presidency has STARTED. God. You guys really like to get ahead of yourselves. Just been waiting to dance around and proclaim any underprivileged minority an official whiner because not ONLY did we get the right to vote, but we got a President that looks like us. All of us, apparently. (I’m totally making myself laugh right now.)

It was inevitable in a covertly racist society that ONE member of the group would be championed to the top. Dude, did Alexander the Great teach you nothing? Of course you take ONE bride of the country you’re desecrating. Any tyrant can tell you that. Little spoken fact: If it’s love, there’ll be more. No, I’m not raining on the parade of the Baby Boomer generation who worried such a thing would never happen (or…in my Dad’s case… the generation right before that); but they’re the generation that gave up on the Civil Rights Movement. Let’s be the generation who doesn’t get distracted by shiny tin foil, yeah? All I’m saying is victory doesn’t come from scoring one goal. If racism is dying, Obama’ll be the first in a long line of diverse Presidents. More importantly, the socio-economic divide between Americans won’t be so married to their race.

All You Can Eat Beef.

So my only political commentary shall be on Palin’s “hypocrisy”. And keep in mind that I’m referring to the commentary of a gossip column writer, so… Here’s the thing. How do the actions of one’s daughter – who this country seem hell-bent on making a sexualized minor-adult – make one’s own abstinence-only education hypocritical? Hein?? I don’t quite get that. So, I can’t have an opinion about something that my child might not uphold? In a country where gynecologists routinely have “private” discussions with said children because it’s no longer a parent’s business whether or not their child is sexual active/HIV positive/pregnant??! Really? You’re making a generation of soulless, unaccountable cockhounds but “only because teenage sexual activity is so pervasive”. Has anyone noticed that the “cure” (which is to secretly give children condoms – which hell yeah teach kids not to do something….wait – and to keep a child’s abortion secret…. what were we talking about? Accountability?) is actually perpetuating the problem?!

Here’s the thing. You can’t have it both ways. Either morality has to do with religious faith or the two are separate (if we pretend it’s up to you). So either the Palin lady is amoral (for her daughter‘s pregnancy) and therefore a hypocrite for claiming to uphold any such beliefs OR it means absolutely nothing and is therefore not newsworthy. Which is it.

Other than that… did you know your 12 year old daughter could be ONE LESS? Woman to enter high school with her hymen intact.

I hate people.

Oh, Bama.

So, assuming tonight meant anything and it’s really over and Hillary’s won (or does it really matter what network you’re watching as I’m starting to believe), I think the irony is/would be delicious. An “unabashed” Christian who refuses to make a declarative statement about his beliefs in regard to politics (ie saying you won’t “impose” your beliefs is incongruous with the job description of the presidency) loses popularity due to … religion. Or his controversial pastor. I don’t even wanna get into my thoughts on that guy because then I’d have to restate the definition of Christianity again and how it doesn’t change – nor do I “denounce” it – just because of crazy individuals. You can’t water it down to be politically viable. Or you can and still (potentially) lose even when your opponent is increasingly unpopular. *insert The More You Know music* And seriously, even if he takes it, I still mean every word. His candidacy was still damaged by the very idea (to generalize it to religious belief) he tried to side-step.

In other news: I hate (and I wish I didn’t have to use so strong a word) hate the anchors on KSBW. For. Real.

But seriously, I hope for Chelsea’s sake – and because of historical value – that Hillary does win overall. To have both your parents be president of the United States… that’d be so freakin’ awesome. That would probably be more interesting than the actual politics.

UPDATE: Honestly, I don’t wanna hear anything else from anyone unless it’s how they realize that rising fuel prices are inflating the prices of everything else and they will stop talking about other crap and fix that for us so we can care about anything else! That’s just me.

Today’s News, Fodder For Comedians

Since I currently have no comedians on staff… nor a staff… I’m forced to give you my own reactions to the news stories that caught my attention (ie, Yahoo! brought them to me).

Let’s start with Madame Clinton: We are obviously witnessing a Britney Spears-like unraveling, people. It’s time to step in, Bill. I understand that Hillary didn’t say it herself but, dang: What America are y’all living in?!? I could have sworn that being a Black man would be the primary reason one wouldn’t do well in a presidential election! Now, come to find out, it’s the secret weapon! Not only is this monumental bitter-speak – which we’re coming to expect from the former First Lady’s camp – but also is doubly offensive because of what it implies. As my husband quickly argued, wouldn’t this mean that the harrowing employment, incarceration, economic statistics/reality of this demographic then fall squarely on the lower-expectation having shoulders of the men in question? (Let’s not get into the long conversation about self-fulfilling prophecies and people who honestly do seem to have lowered expectations because then we’d have to talk about the history of oppression in this country and I know you don’t wanna get into that.) Like, if all we had to do to be president was run for president … why the hell is it 2008 and we’re just getting around to it. (No, I’m not a Black male but you understand.) Man. I just wanna hit that woman in the fallopian tubes. With forgiveness. It’s not her fault adversity brings out the Confederate in her.

And then….I’m not even sure how to classify this one. Um… does the story make more and more sense the farther you get into the article, too? Because the title itself – at face-value – is ridiculous. When you get the progression and motivation, it gets sad. But clearer. And also makes you wonder why the boyfriend didn’t call the police sooner. Still, they don’t give a real indication of the amount of consistent time she’d been in the sitting position. If you didn’t read the article…this all sounds very strange, I’m sure.

Let’s end with a tale that makes you want to die, especially if you have children. Try and imagine what I would do to someone if I were the other parent. Just try. The miracle of them surviving is the only thing that kept a dark cloud of depression from descending on my house today. This is yet another example of the peril of a widely interpreted set of mandates (mandates which, remember, are not federal and therefore not similarly implemented nationally). Two parents do the same things, give the same red flags and two different CPS agencies act completely differently. Too many stories to share on that front. Let’s reconvene at a later time, friends.