Questions in a Bottle: On the Storming of Congress

I wrote out the questions below on January 7, 2021, having watched the storming of Congress the day before. The insurrection seemed in those early hours both distant and maybe slightly unimportant, like much of the Trump Show; from inside my California shell I sometimes take great comfort in the idea that the entirety of MAGA-Land is an economically-allowed phenomenon that would wither and die without our money. I mean, what would happen if all the Red States had to pull their own weight? Just let them try to pull down the country, I thought, lazy in my Los Angeles-ness, as I began to critique the camera-angles CNN and MSNBC used to make the assembled clan look bigger. Didn’t they seem small, these grotesques, especially when compared with crowds that assembled back in the 70’s to protest the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movers of the 60’s who overwhelmed the Mall? I went down a rabbit-hole made possible by ignorance, querying whether there was violence during earlier protests and gatherings. Weren’t flags burned and people hurt? Is black-and-white really a good look for rational thought?

Such stupidity, because the Day After That Day, the reality that animals had just shit in the Capitol was still with me, obliterating my brain’s attempt to make January 6 “normal.” It wasn’t. The defecation and destruction was part of a program, and I had to see that and accept it. I needed to see that what MAGA accomplished was organized, brutal — yes, a piercing reflection of MAGA-man’s personal impotence and self-serving quite religious rage and yes, probably the work of squirrel-eaters, but also, yes, a terrorist plot enacted by those with nothing to lose against those who simply want to work without being harassed because they can’t wear the hood. January 6’s Infamy was a MAGA terrorist action to remind real men and women who do have something to lose that sham-mans with pick-axes and ancestral graveyards full of excuses will always be out there, waiting.

To pretend otherwise is to make sure those of us working for something better than our past will continue waiting for “things to calm down” while violence and mobbery bludgeon anything we can build a future on. It’s that simple and it’s that stark. Don’t pretend the rattlesnake is a pet.

*

So…here’s a time-capsule of sorts, questions that have not lost their resonance. I’m wondering if they resonate with anyone else.

  1. What if Trump’s army had automatic weapons? They’re really easy to get (especially if you’re only interested in semi-automatic conversions). With automatic or semi-automatic weapons, most of the US line of succession could’ve been killed, leaving Trump to mop up the blood. Was this the real, perhaps eventual goal? Was yesterday a trial run — letting the imbeciles stake out the place before smarter loyalists arrived later? Did Trump want to merely intimidate Congress, or did he hope some of his animals would kill? Will anyone ever know?
  2. Why did it take so long for reinforcements to arrive? It was, after all, well-known that the Joint Session would involve all members of Congress; the date, time, and place were on many right-wing calendars; T-shirts were printed and the potential for violence blasted around the world weeks in advance. Yet it took what must’ve felt like an eternity before Capitol Police were backed up. Why?
  3. Why do 40% of Republicans find no fault with the storming? Some of my friends say it’s because they “understand the frustration.” But, down deep, could it be that they are frustrated the rampage went no further? Are there, in America now, Republicans who are disappointed because there were no dead Democrats? If the mob had murdered Nancy Pelosi, how many Republicans would have cheered? Maybe that’s the difference between the parties: when Trump got COVID, I wanted him to get better — slowly, but still better. When Congress was being terrorized, Republicans got excited.
  4. Why are these anarchists being referred to as Trump supporters, when they should be referred to as treasonous criminals? Is this linguistic softening an indication of tacit support from a supposedly independent media?
  5. Are today’s Republicans enemies of democracy? Do they hate the idea that democracy now seeks to include people those with power never wanted included? Are they afraid of the equality democracy espouses, with no intention, EVER, of sharing power?
  6. Can a country survive when 40% of its people want to kill the other 60%? When Josh Hawley (the real danger here) can fist the air in support of murder and then make money off the picture?
  7. Why have Christian churches been so muted? Do they think the insurrection was just? They HOWL over gay marriage and abortion, but say very, very little when it comes to an attempted coup. Could it be that religious people can’t talk about the coup because they wanted more?
  8. When did America become so weak that nearly half of the country sees in a pathetic boy the picture of strength?
  9. Has America already died? Are we just waiting to pull the plug? What would it take for us to admit that the mind is gone, the principles are gone, the patriotism is gone, and that the only thing left to do is put the body out of its misery?

*:

No answers, just questions that have survived nearly two years.

We are not equal

“For gold is tried in fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.”

We are not equal, not in this land.
Your love is not my love.
I don’t care what stickers say.
You and I are not equal in this land.

When mine sleeps,
when his scourged spirit 
lays down legal sin,
lets slip Christian hate:
when I worship what you can’t see,
witness his dreaming mouth 
curl in playful expertise,
hands stroke invisible joy —
he’s cooking something, I can tell — 
Original Fire!

Then I assay you, 
set ablaze your soul,
wonder why ;
find on your foul stone 
the smoky remnants of an absent father-god —
babbled orphan-speak
raving of war, always war
mad-driven to despise all bounty	
execrate all bonds
sacrifice hope
to a doll —

No.  
You and I are not equal in this land.
Your love is not my love.
Mine is fire and yours is ash.
You and I are not equal in this land.

*

(“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” — Justice Clarence Thomas, proving his worth.)

Unable to Explain

While I wait for the light,
wonder which words to use —
whether “immature” or “innocent”
best conveys America —
an unfortunate unhoused woman 
dies on the sidewalk cuddling 
garbage and a teddy bear —
her last moment unhinged:

it is too much, too much,
this humanity;
so she passes it on
to the passersby — 

who sit in traffic
with closed-up windows
thinking “Poor Soul”
thinking this is so sad
thinking at least she’s in a better place

unable to explain.

*

Sometimes it’s nice to sit with a book. Check them out HERE.

Bible-School

In those days, 
after God scourged their enemies,
the holders of the land
and keepers of older scrolls, 
after those made in His image
dashed soft child-brains against dusty rocks
and bathed triumphant feet in still-warm blood and tears,

Little Mikey raised his hand in Picture Class
and setting down his crayon, asked:
“Excuse me, Mr. Hawley,
does this mean it’s okay
to kill? ‘Cause it says 
‘Do Not Kill’ somewhere.”

To which the teacher replied, 
smiling down at seven-year-old Mikey:

“Son, it’s always okay to kill.
We kill cows, don’t we?
It’s murder you got to watch out for.
And you can’t murder an animal.”

*

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CapitolSchool: Violent Not-Nice Insensitive Seminar for Liberals in America

They look like sweet town-folk,
salf-of-the-earth, flannel and jeans.
People that watch the sun come up.
Handsome.
Christian.

My God their pies are good.

Killers
who pray your mamby-pamby principles 
die with you, slaughtered in the street,
your thoughtful guts lapped up
by well-trained Republican dogs 
named Dog.

(Damn.  I forgot the warning.
“Warning.”)

But!  But!  
“How did this happen?” as the
flagpole stakes your throat, 
as unprecedented wheezes
through gurgled blood
and your solidarity-warm pink hat
floats down Constitution Avenue,
used and dark and alone.

You didn’t see them multiply.
You wouldn’t see them grow — 
in Kansas and Missoura,
Texas and ‘Bama, Ken-Tuck-y,
right beneath your woke-ness
and your museum arrogance and your
holier-than-thou Lululemon mindfulness.

Yeah, see?  You’re kinda 
responsible.

They knew they were safe.
They knew you wouldn’t think it,
then wouldn’t believe it — 
“Love is Love,” right? — 
“We’re all in this together,” right? — 
as Proud Sons and their Daughters
trained for war right under your
upturned noses,
groomed generals in broad daylight,
bought Armani camo, nice blue suits
(they already had the bullets
and the guns left over from
squirrel practice) —  
red necks covered by executive collars,
red ties to hide the splatter.

They left their hayseeds at home this time.

You were ready for zombies, sunken-eyed
okies whose farms were ripped away by BigBanks,
grandpas with four teeth chattering
all the way to the West Coast
(or something like that).
Oh, they had your number!
Talk about stealth!
Their fabric was fine, the
Stanford and Yale and Harvard degrees 
genuine — plus “Wow! He lifts weights, he’s so sexy!” 
(See my companion lecture on MetroSexual Roles 
in the Conservative Cause.)

“Consensus?” you pleaded.
“Let’s talk,” you bleated 
because — let’s face it — you’re afraid to fight 
with anything other than words;
and refusing to believe evil exists
and is usually HOT and BEAUTIFUL,
you left the Gate to the Sanctuary unguarded,
let WhiteNation and WomansPlace
shit
defile
ravage the Holy of Holies, 
our Temple,
us.

Maybe if they had worn
identifying armbands?

I know what you’re thinking
because that’s what you do —
I hear your “protest”:  
“Wouldn’t we be just like them
if we used our fists instead of words?”
“If we don’t move beyond labels?”
“Help them heal?”

That’s why they’ll win,
StupidBuford and LazyEyeLorraine,
because they listened to a real Grandma
who said:  

“Don’t leave your head so open your brains fall out.”

You thought she was old —
she only had one dress — 
you never saw her on Facebook —
Insta? — 

and then,
and then:

after Tucker and Rush and Hannity Ltd.
after Laura and Huckabee and Kayleigh visited;
giving guns to teenage saps
doning MAGA hunting caps
(so they’d know who not to cap);
after speeching D+ mobs,
after fisting fascist slobs — 

(did you get the little Eliot homage?) —

cops bleeding out on marble 
blinded
betrayed — 
the hunt was on!

Smoke-out the out-raged enemy 
like rabbits or Funny Cousin Earl, who
voted for Carter and was then dead
on his river-raft, thinking he was family;
target those limp-wristed Dem-o-crats
whose Cities call to Our Young
as Jezebel tempted Jesus
(it’s in the Bible);
forget, TexasTed, that
HE CALLED YOUR WIFE UGLY — 
AND YOU LET HIM;
we’ve got to corner all codlers, socialists and fags,
show them MTG would win a pig-fight,
make that Puerto Rican loudmouth BITCH 
run the Gov’ment Maze to her death,
execute California, hang the un-Hung
Next-in-Line — 

am I being dramatic?

Because what they want, 
what LittleHornedMan masked
with this “false-flag not-coup” — right? —
is to come:

your ideas, shred like your well-intentioned intestines, 
disemboweled from well-toned tummies,
blood sausage for rabid-stupid hungry children — 
your ideas, your precious and diverse ideas 
that helped BobJoe survive his nail-to-the-head
accident and paid for his black-hating diabetic
momma’s nursing home, 
high-falutin' ideas like Medicare and Social Security and 
vaccines (CONSPIRACY!  CONSPIRACY! ) — 
equality — 
dead with you.

*

Liberals, people who can think
and probably don’t want to die
(martyrdom being highly overrated),
listen to Grandma, please:

“If it walks like a duck and quacks,
it’s dinner.”

There are no town-folk.
There are no Christians.
There are no rights.

There are armies. 

This is America.

And their soldiers will sip sherry
right before carving out
your heart.

(Yes, this will be on the test.)

*

Appropriate

“Had she ever tried to convert any one herself? 

Did she not wish everybody merely to be themselves?” 

— Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

*

They no longer colonize with ships.
No armies arrive on my shore,
war-boots in sea-water until they
sink into wet sand and subdue.

Too costly.  And then you have to
leave a force to force compliance...
It’s ugly.

Instead,
they whisper, those enlightened
who yet carry the burden of rectitude.
A word, a phrase
spoken through the air,
taken in —
and I’m lost.
They no longer act;
they just wait until I
bow my head
beat my breast
seek forgiveness

from gods curiously unprepared
to absolve.

*

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Notes: San Francisco, Ruins (2018) — annotated

Sacred Space — Arrival

The wrinkled woman
resting in the doorway
hustles aside,
her bones twitching hard:

“I'm sorry, Sir,”
as I pull my bag into
the Inn on Folsom Street1.

⥨

Exposed brick walls try hard
in my suddenly empty room.
Industrial.  Rough-Masculine.
I don’t...feel anything.
I thought I’d feel something.

No ghosts. Nothing.

⥨

I know the old fairies flew south
years ago.  No place for the
Auden-faced.  And the demons?
Those super-charged leather
dangers stalking prey in red steam? 
Now they cam2 from rented rooms
in Sacramento and San Diego, 
their hunting names changed 
from Steve to Chase, TwinkChase3,
ever-so-sweet-and- 
special Chase.

I don't know what to pray for
or to, not in this abandoned church.

⥨

Walking While Thinking — SoMa4

What if the usurpers,
the influencers paying $1.9 million 
for a pissed piece of SoMa,

are just waiting for us

to die?

What if these squatters,
these supplanters,
are the Old City’s fevered urge,
lusting after land and
Better Homes-ness,
trading-in sweaty stories
for a kid in an UPPAbaby5,
the ultimate accessories? 

Makes sense as senses
now scent safety,
porning lean clean high-pitched
action-figures in Lower Castro6. 

Everyone’s lost their balls.

⥨

Pause — Phone Call Home

“Mike called,” says the man on the phone.
My boyfriend.
Back in LA.
“What’d he want?”
“Know where you were.”
“What’d you say?”
“Up in San Francisco. Probably getting disillusioned.”

That’s why we’re at 20 years. More or less.

⥨

Exhibit — Dolores Park7 Cafe. Conversation, overheard
while eating expensive steel-cut oatmeal.

“And so he's interested in you 
finding a tenant for your property.”

“Yeah, and we have so much
in common!” 

Outside, those who can only afford 
the sidewalk are no-shows to the 
convention of web-developers and 
Mommy-n-Me in Lululemon8.  

I’m a haunted old spirit:

“The best never survive.”

⥨

Walking Richmond9, after searching
GG Park10 for Signs of Life.

They all have money, or They have all the money.  
Houses high atop garage doors painted
in expected candy-shop pastels.
Millions couldn't buy in. But it's also an 
attitude; they fit. This kaleidoscopic 
nursery is their world.

I like the sidewalk now; it’s original,
the hard-marked past, bones of my city,
cast when these houses were just houses,
you could hear shouting because people
shouted back before dot.coms and Grindr11, 
when bandanas12 spoke not conclusively, 
you had to look a guy in the eyes
and the park was full of risk and joy. 

My world: on that older hill,
the one covered in open-faced beauty
and daring, weathered desire. 
Somewhere.
Or sometime?

⥨

Processing — SFO13

A cocoon of security.  We pay
to pretend.

You can’t pretend in 
bus stations.

But here, I wonder with
beating breathing heart:
What would I do
if I was asked for spare change
at the United ticket counter?
If I wanted a cigarette? 
If someone stood up and said
preferred pronouns are simply 
an expansion of binary imprisonment?

If an out-loud not-texted internet-free
political need happened?

Their aggrieved-teenager answer:
“Is it so wrong to live unencumbered? 
Does everything real 
have to be uncomfortable?”

It’s easy to get turned around
by children.

Now I miss their sandcastles,
the peaceful playset neighborhood.  
Nobody who doesn’t belong wanders by.
It’s nice.  Just like an airport.

It’s all that’s left.

⥨

Reflection — Flying, looking back

San Francisco: where dreams 
and memory
lay buried.

Only ruins survive;
fate has fashioned them weapons
hope can’t overcome:
marriage bourgeois magazines health 
money a future an attitude 
clean pecs
success.

But still... 

I look back as the plane banks
for SoCal, for LA and my 
old boyfriend who will greet me
outside third-world LAX14 and drive
the stained and broken 40515 home, 
where books and vacuuming
wait; and I see my once-home fading
into a sunsetted Ocean that touches
every time I’ve cared about, waiting,
just waiting, 
and I find myself praying:

Maybe you will be broken again,
so like me when you led 
my strange and halting body 
through cracked unwanted lovely 
streets to flowers and eucalyptus,
pro-offered grass in sheltered 
shadow and men became yours, 
cool-touching breeze, wounded 
naked-love in pine-fragranced 
gasping way-too-crowded dirty 
Heaven…

I miss you.

Shake off this juvenile dream.

Please, God, let us be in love again. 

Notes:

1 	past and (somewhat) current location 
        of San Francisco’s gay leather community
2 	interactive filming of oneself engaged in 
        sexual/intimate acts, either alone or with 
        others, for a live internet audience, in 
        exchange for money and/or tokens
3 	unblemished young adult male, typically 
        between the ages of 18-20, who utilizes his 
        perceived innocence or actual lack of 
        sexual experience in the pursuit of (generally) 
        older adult males/“daddies”
4 	South of Market; historically, the economically 
        disadvantaged/“seedy” section of San Francisco
5 	high-end baby stroller; average cost: $850
6 	once known as GayMecca, the center of San 
        Francisco’s Gay Liberation Movement of the 
        mid-1970s
7 	somewhat successful example of urban 
        revitalization/renewal; once known as DrugPatch 
        Park
8 	high-end workout wear favored by teen girls 
        and their mothers
9 	neighborhood/district in the northwest corner 
        of San Francisco, just north of Golden Gate Park
10    Golden Gate Park; known for its Victorian-styled 
        Conservatory of Flowers and lengthy wooded 
        trails;  iconic location for public sexual activity
11	dating application designed to identify and 
        communicate with potential gay male sex 
        partners; lists inclinations and availability, as 
        well as possible locations for sexual activity
        (host, travel, public, etc.)
12     heavy handkerchief positioned in the back 
         pocket of gay males to communicate sexual 
         inclination;  historically, the color and side of 
         placement indicated sexual appetite (eg:  
         hunter-green in right-hand pocket = looking 
         for a “daddy”).  No conclusive guide existed/
         exists for the placement/meaning of the bandana.
13     San Francisco International Airport
14     Los Angeles International Airport
15     also known as the San Diego Freeway;  largest 
         connector between the West Side of Los Angeles-
         proper and the populous San Fernando Valley

Just in case this wasn’t enough poetry for you, click here.

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My Garden

He lives in my garden;
only I have the key.
There is no gate, no
lock to un-lock like
those posh private parks,
just a tree and some
grass, balloons from a story
and maybe an old bottle of
wine we bag before law comes
spinning around, on the hunt
for happiness.  Over there is
our first kiss on the 
stone pier they said Cortés
built, stretching out into a 
tequila moon;  and where that
old lady sits, remembering or
forgetting:  a flight to
somewhere, one screen lit in
the dark, yours, watching the
same movie, three times.

He is my garden;  only I
have the key.  No sock-puppet
politician or fisting Missouri
FratBoy can trespass our
grass, mock our tree, pull
down those balloons.
He is my garden, eternally
lost except to me, safe like
drunk wine and watched movies,
invisible to those who don’t
speak love, far from parched 
howls and Christians,

close as breath.
*Dedicated to Josh Hawley,
who thought his own hand
was up in the air
as he declared war.

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Judges against equality

First, two quotes from judges about marriage equality:

“[By] choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the court has created a problem that only it can fix” (Justice Thomas, 2020).

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix” (Judge Leon Bazile, 1965).

The first is Thomas’ opinion on the 2015 Supreme Court case that declared unconstitutional all laws limiting marriage to straight coupling.

The second is from a case overturned in 1967, a case in which the presiding judge used religious principle to support miscegenation (prohibition against racial intermarriage).

It is a reminder that we should be particularly suspicious of religious justifications for civil policy.

And would someone maybe remind Justice Thomas that miscegenation is just a whisper away from homophobia.

Marriage as Privilege

Thomas and Alito demonstrate something important: rights that are GRANTED can be TAKEN AWAY. And we have a word for rights that can be taken away: privileges.

Marriage as a privilege. Not as a sign of commitment, or love, but as a sign of privilege.

If I was married, I’d be pissed off. People might start thinking the value of my relationship has less to do with love than it does with a desire to belong to an exclusive club.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2020/10/05/thomas-alito-urge-supreme-court-to-fix-decision-legalizing-marriage-equality/