Jun 232018
 

The news from South of the Border (yes, that’s you, US of A) now operates exclusively in a rhetorical mode I’d call “the premature superlative.” Each day, an “-est” blares out from the news—the cruelest, the dumbest, the meanest, the rudest, something—and each day’s tomorrow reveals that in fact that day’s news wasn’t the cruelest, the dumbest, the meanest or the rudest, that the new day’s news is in fact worse, that the bottom (if there is a bottom) is deeper than anyone had suspected and that people are worse than anyone feared.

Sitting here north of the border, the horror show is unbearable to watch (but who can look away) and terrifying to think about. When Doug Ford swept the Ontario elections, I felt doomed, felt that the madness was infectious. Where the States goes, so goes the world. Or so it seemed.

It’s tough now to read the bleakness and resignation of my summer 2016 post on Trump’s prospects without wondering if, despite my careful hesitations and hedges, something in me understood my own family enough to know what was going to happen in that Fall’s election. Reading now with hindsight, I sound like a drowning man looking up at the small circle of sky visible through the water’s surface hoping to see a hand reaching down to pull him to safety.

Which brings me to Pride Month and the image sitting at the bottom of this post. I first posted it that same summer. I’m posting it again now because the idea that a presidential candidate—any candidate—actually circulated it seems like something pulled from a utopian fiction. After all, in the time since I first posted it, we’ve learned that I don’t even have the right to order cake anymore. I mean I can order and maybe get one if I’m lucky, but it’s not me who decides.

That’s where the States are today, and it’s sick-making to think about it.

 

 June 23, 2018  Reflections Tagged with:
Nov 202016
 

Things are silent here. It’s the silence of grief.

I’m not sure how to explain what I mean, but, here’s an attempt:

When the Beav first came to the States with me in 2002, I was struck by and realized, in a way that I’d never come close to realizing before, that our relationship was illegal, that caught in an odd moment or an odd place, we could be subject to law and that the law would consider our relationship to be unnatural and punishable. So when the Supreme Court later decided in Lawrence v. Texas that homosexuality could not be criminalized that decision mattered to me profoundly. From that point forward, the Beav and I could travel to the states with less fear and uncertainty. Yes, we would still endure the scrutiny of border guards and have to decide whether to present ourselves together as a couple or apart as “just friends.” But however unpleasant these individual moments of exposure, we had the confidence that comes from knowing finally we were legal. Now, years later, same-sex marriage has also be declared legal, and I’d begun to assume that things were getting (and would continue to get) better for everyone.

Which is why Trump’s election comes as a punch in the gut. It feels like the deck has been  shuffled and the rules changed. Suddenly an ugly politics of racism and sexism openly bellows its support for an abhorrent white nationalism that I had naively—oh so very very naively—hoped was being steadily shuffled off into the dustbin of history. We’re not debating options for how to improve things anymore. We’re watching whole swaths of people be scapegoated, demonized and spoken about as if they were less that fully human. That’s how bad things are.

And I was a white male fool to have thought we were past that point and couldn’t go back.

It’s a terrible, discouraging moment.

 November 20, 2016  Reflections Tagged with: ,
Sep 162016
 

Dear Timeline,

First off, I just want to make it clear that this isn’t about you. We’ve had some rough times in the past, I know, but that was all about me and my bad judgement and we worked through it. I unfollowed those that needed it, followed those that did, even figured out your lists and used them to get my shit together. After that, we had a good run and good times. Real good times.

But ever since the conventions things have gotten pretty fucking intense and it’s to the point that I can’t take it anymore. You’re obsessed with the minute-by-minute back-and-forth of the most horrifying election in recent memory, and it doesn’t seem to shake you or wear you out, and crazy as it sounds, I love that about you. I do. It’s just that it never fucking lets up ever, and if I stay in the thick of it like this I’m going to wind up on blood pressure pills nursing an ulcer or worse.

And I’m not blaming you. I know I said I was interested in all this crap, that I encouraged you with likes and retweets, and more and more follows. Fuck, I even live-tweeted Republican debates in the primaries knowing I had maybe two active followers. It doesn’t get more “fuck yeah!” than that. You believed that passion was real, and I did too for awhile.

But now, months later and with the shit storm approaching category 5, minute by minute attention to the campaign is more than I can handle. I’m not cut out for it, and I need to step away, need a breather, need a break.

But please please please don’t get the wrong idea. This isn’t about something you’ve done and you know I can’t quit you. I’m just deleting you from my phone because I can’t say no when I’m looking at you there, and I need to say no for at least a bit.

While I’m gone, I’ll be checking the morning headlines and the magazines. Please don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not a statement and not a competition.

It’s just bye for now,
BC

 September 16, 2016  Reflections Tagged with: ,
Sep 042016
 

She looked out into the quiet, sunny streets, and for the first time in her life, she hated it all—the white city, the white world. She could not, that day, think of one decent white person in the whole world. She sat there, and she hoped that one day God, with tortures inconceivable, would grind them utterly into humility, and make them know that black boys and black girls, whom they treated with such condescension, such disdain, and such good humor, had hearts like human beings, too, more human hearts than theirs.

—James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

Jul 262016
 

As I travelled these past few weeks and now again as I’m back home and am getting some work done on the house, the fact that I’m from the States has come up a few times with strangers, and each and every time, the conversation has turned quickly to the US elections. Each time I’ve been asked the same questions, each time by someone trying to cover worried eyes with a wavering smile.

People looking on from the outside want to know:

  1. Who’s going to win in November?
  2. How is it that all of this is happening?

On the one hand, these people were asking me this in order to make conversation: the current spectacle is an easy topic. But on the other hand, they were also at some level asking in the hope that I will tell them that even though things look scary ridiculous, there’s nothing to worry about.

I think my answer to the first question sounds reassuring—Hillary Clinton will win—but I don’t actually know if this is the case. And in fact, listening to myself talk, I’ve even begun to suspect that, as I tell these people that everything is going to be fine, I have the same smile and the same eyes that they have when they ask me what’s going on.

I’m at a loss over how to respond to the second question. So I claim ignorance, shake my head, maybe shrug.

I mean what’s to say? One of the two governing parties has spent decades marching toward the abyss and has finally inched close enough to jump in. The abyss has been a project, and those cheering it on seem driven by an urge to break things. The dailies and the nightly news don’t seem to know what to say or how to respond and aren’t much help. Those writing long-form journalism in major magazines have done better at offering explanations, but I still feel as if in the States the unspeakable is happening live and that the rest of us are forced to sit on our hands bewildered as we watch it from next door or from across an ocean.

Ultimately, these questions have reminded me that the US casts a long shadow and the stakes for its elections extend beyond its borders. I hope that people realize that, vote, and vote for something other than running riot.

 July 26, 2016  Reflections Tagged with:
Feb 102016
 

A few weeks ago, Stephane Dion, Canada’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, met with his American and Mexican counterparts in Quebec City. The annual Carnivale was underway, and unsurprisingly it was chosen as the backdrop for some of the grip-and-grins played out in front of journalists. And the Quebec journalists ate it up. The images were everywhere.

Here’s the thing: that night, watching Dion encourage Kerry to shake hands with the Bonhomme de neige — the mascot for the Carnivale and easily the creepiest non-clown “face of happiness” I have ever seen — I felt embarrassment — maybe even shame — as my immediate and first reaction. “We’re better than this” I thought and, once I realized that it was true, I said it to the Beav as well. “On est meiux que ça.”

Claudia Ruiz Massieu, John Kerry, Stephane Dion, Bonhomme Carnaval

Later talking with friends, the Beav presented my reaction as a sign that after 15 years in Quebec, with more than half of those as a permanent resident and then citizen, I was finally becoming a Canadian rather than an American in exile.

Anyway, I’m thinking about that this morning as I read the papers and I am trying to convince myself that the American primaries don’t matter for me anymore. But my roiling stomach isn’t buying it.

So far I’ve been fairly detached from the campaign and I know I won’t vote in November: voting is controlled at the state level and I played hopscotch for a bit before moving to Montreal; so actually casting a ballot in a US election involves an inexplicably Byzantine process. I navigated it successfully in 2008 but failed at in 2012. After that I resigned myself to just voting in Canada. Then this past week I decided to watch the last of the Republican and Democratic debates. It was a horror show and now I think I won’t be able to look away.

The Republican primary is a multiple choice test written by a lazy teacher. Most of the options are obviously, ludicrously wrong and can be immediately eliminated. Yet, in response to the question “Who should be the President of the United States of America?” the most popular answers are “more sprinkles” and “all of the above.” I mean did they circle responses at random?

The Democrats are at least dealing with a short answer question. It demands some sophistication and nuance. There’s room for some difference of opinion. But even there, I can’t help thinking that they don’t know much and their judgment is very very bad.

So I’m left with the sense that the States have lost their mind. I mean that literally: where is the public intellect? And despite living and voting elsewhere and despite knowing that this is just New Hampshire, the apparent chaos and derangement of American politics matters to me and is upsetting.

 February 10, 2016  Reflections Tagged with: