Rick: Suppose you run your business and let me run mine.
Ferrari: Suppose we ask Sam. Maybe he’d like to make a change.
Rick: Suppose we do.
Ferrari: Rick, when will you realize that in this world today isolationism is no longer a practical policy?
—from Casablanca (1942)
Maybe you’re angry, too. At least, by the end of this post I hope you will be at least a little worked up, or maybe energized. I don’t know.
It’s the best kind of ire: the “Okay, fuck-this-shit I’ve had it with weak arguments and business-as-usual bullshit!”
Whew. I feel better having screamed. You?
Here’s the gist of it: Wassup, America? You feelin’ sad and lonely, homies? You say you try to reach out to others, fire off a text, send an email, post to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram — heck, you even tried to call and of course it went directly to voicemail. Everything comes back with the hollow, echoey sound of crickets (or distant snoring).
How dare they!
Welcome to the Walled City on a Landfill: America 2018.
Siloed, barb-wired, moat currently filled with crocodiles and massive human-devouring snakes, Midwestern minefields chockful of deadly explosives, hate mail, and envelopes stuffed with anthrax and bile, letters to the editor that end up in a digital waste can, Hello Kitty blankets stuffed in windows as makeshift curtains, roaring pickup trucks and road-clanking tailpipes ready to snap off heading up the on-ramp, people sleeping on trains, in back alleys, at bus stops, hunched over in hoodies and ripped parkas.
Oh, Land that I love.
In 1988, filmmaker Steve De Jarnatt finished his ambitious movie, the promise of which had been floating around Hollywood for nearly a decade.
It was called Miracle Mile. It was about the end of the world.
Starring Anthony Edwards (later of “ER” fame) and Mare Winningham, it was an odd bird of a story and De Jarnatt knew it. The film he wanted to make, the way he wanted to make it, wasn’t for everyone. He had a hard and lonely road ahead of him.
At one point he was offered $400,000, but only if someone else directed it.
He turned the offer down.
Finally Hemdale Films ponied up $3.7 million and let De Jarnatt direct.
The red light he’d been sitting at for years finally turned green.
Kind of like my life did this past June.
First, the anger.
It comes with a lot of things: the current U.S. Congress and the Donald J. Neanderthal administration and it’s Bronco-Cowboy-Let’s-Ride-The-Warhead backwards foreign policy. The treatment of immigrants and their children, the racism, sexism, head-in-the-sand-ism.
And the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.
Fuck depression and the isolation it thrives on.
Because that’s how you feed it: silence, exclusion, separation, and fear. I’m not sure how to proceed on this, because I know — as a lifelong depressive who was diagnosed with dysthymia in 1987 — that one day it will kill me … if I let it.
But right now I’m feeling like a fighter.
I have no plans to succumb to any form of numbness: emotional, psychological, physical, or even political. It is, I think, a matter of standing up again when you’ve been down for a long time (in my case it’s been about 8–10 years), and walking the path to wherever it’s currently leading you.
You see, just after Memorial Day, the long-term (but temporary) gig I was at for the past year let me go. Just. like. that. Although they’d arranged to keep me on through the end of June, I knew I had to scramble to find new work — and fast.
A series of uncanny coincidences led to a new long-term (and possibly permanent FT) job, doing work I do well and enjoy doing, with great new people and opportunities to grow and expand. I’m feeling grateful and blessed, right here on the very last day of an uncertain month in an uncertain year.
And my role in this ongoing state of American Isolationism?
Bust the hell out of it.
I want to start teaching again, in the fall. I have a venue and support organization already in place and we’re talking later in July. I want to build community, face-to-face, with other people, find out who they are and how I can help them, in whatever way they need.
This isn’t the end of the world.
And there’s no time for despair and isolation.
I hope you’ll join me, at least in spirit. Thank you for reading!