I’m a strange combination of a diligent worker and a layabout. I’ve struggled with chronic fatigue, severe depression, and anxiety for as a long as I can remember. What I’d often berated myself for as procrastination I’ve come to realize was taking rest I’d been conditioned to believe I didn’t deserve. I’ve learned to better manage my constantly depleted supply of energy and to underpromise and overdeliver. I’ve also managed to (mostly) extricate myself from the grip of toxic ambition. I’m constantly at work to be in tune with myself.
I find myself not wanting to write.
I have a list of interesting essay topics I should be champing at the bit to dig into. A cloud of lethargy comes over me when I think of them. Mired in that lassitude is a constantly prickling, fearful anxiety and a moroseness that threatens to collapse into hopelessness. Part of this is my ongoing, lifelong struggle with my own mental health. Much of it has to do with knowing I’m watching perhaps the greatest mistakes in history be repeated.
Yesterday, I read George Prochnik’s article in The New Yorker examining when it’s too late to stop fascism, and it focused my sense of despair to a pinpoint. Every day we’re closer to it being too late.
In his piece, Prochnik examines Austrian writer Stefan Zweig’s memoir, The World of Yesterday, in which he chronicled the rise of Nazism and his failure, as well as that of his contemporaries, to recognize its danger. The parallels to present-day America are glaring and stark. Prochnik closes his piece with this:
“The excruciating power of Zweig’s memoir lies in the pain of looking back and seeing that there was a small window in which it was possible to act, and then discovering how suddenly and irrevocably that window can be slammed shut.”
I’ve written that I believe America is collapsing, but to take a line from Zweig, it may be more correct to say that America is committing suicide. It goes even deeper, though, doesn’t it? It feels like a public, televised hostage taking, like the ominous prelude to a murder-suicide. Except it won’t be as bloodless as passing around poisoned Kool Aid. The signs are clear. The red flags have been worn to tatters in the wind. Yet we’re still dancing around the main point.
They really are fascists.
Every horror that word conjures up is firmly on the table.
They are building camps for migrant children in the desert.
A significant portion of Black Americans, a minority ethnic group that has been systemically and brutally oppressed for centuries, has already been concentrated by housing policy into urban ghettoes. Mass incarceration has done even more heavy lifting on that front.
The apparatus is in place, as are the bad actors who already have a license to kill.
It is happening. It has been happening. The closing window Zweig spoke of has been squeezing some parts of America since its inception, and the force determined to slam it shut is the construct of Whiteness. Those ghettoes, those prisons, those desert camps: They are all forms of ethnic cleansing. The impetus to do worse has always been there, but it has coalesced and gained momentum under the Trump regime. This isn’t about one man, though. It is about a hateful ideology that is rooted in the mass delusion what White people are inherently superior to the rest of us. Read up on what happens when fixed delusions and the grandiosity they engender are challenged. Brett Kavanaugh’s spittle-flecked rage-testimony is the latest key exhibit. They think the world belongs to them and them alone and collapse into histrionics when they’re told quite reasonably that it just isn’t so. Those histrionics often become violent.
Worse is to come. I can see that. I want to stop looking. I want to stop knowing. I want to stop writing. But I can’t.