At the end of a long week that has seemed to last forever, it’s hard to step back and even begin to process it. For me, at least. I thought Albatrossity might be able to help with that, and this thoughtful post is the result.
As you can see by the image below, he has a lot to say!
Pictures. I can do those.
Pictures can describe a moment perfectly in most cases, even if the moment is disturbing. Describing right now with a picture is so simple you can do it with a phone.
Words to describe right now are nearly impossible, however. A pandemic, a recession, a vacuum of any leadership at the national level, fear for your community, your kids and yourself. All wrapped in a raw outpouring of pent-up rage at decades, nay centuries, of oppression, broken promises, and needless deaths. There may be a word for that, from some other time or some other universe. But I don’t know it, nor do I want to.
Here’s what I do know, and it’s a short list.
? I know that I am incredibly privileged.
I had a solid education and a stable family during my childhood years. I have the proper pigmentation and chromosomes (white male) to take full advantage of that education and make a good life for myself and my kids. I can travel or go birdwatching without thinking once that I might be in danger from others who are offended by my pigmentation or chromosomes. I can understand, at an intellectual level, how it feels to not have those privileges, but I will never understand it at a visceral level. And that is also a privilege.
? I know that the natural world not only unites us, it encompasses us.
We are part of it, and even though many of our species have forgotten that, or prefer to ignore it, it is a solid undeniable fact. That unity is more tangible to me right now because there are so many forces fostering division. The toddler in his basement bunker is only one of those; he is supported by many others who profit from division. They are enriched by inequity and want no part of unity, either with the natural world or with their own species.
? I know that the world will go on without us.
Although that might sound defeatist, it is oddly comforting to understand that we, as a species, are tiny, and that our time on the planet is probably short. I know that we seem to be doing our damnedest to make it even shorter, even though we may be the first species ever to understand how living things appear and disappear from the planet. A conundrum, for sure.
? I know that politics alone cannot save us from the terrors of this moment.
The recent protests acknowledge that traditional political processes and politics-as-usual has not saved us from this uniquely evil sociopath. Even impeachment, the most serious remedy in the political realm, was just a speed bump for him. Our faith in our institutions, norms and laws has been shattered. We need to rebuild, and the beating heart of that rebuilding is to reassert that our government is by the people and for the people.
? I know that people have been awakened.
The young people who are taking to the streets to protest racism, fascism, and inequality are not just taking charge, they are taking back the power that we the people still have. I’m guardedly optimistic that we have turned the corner, but politicians who want to lead us will have to follow first.
? I know that truth matters.
The single most damaging thing that the bunker boy and his owners have done to us is to lie, incessantly. Science, my chosen profession, cannot function with lies or liars. I know that the quickest way to professional oblivion for any scientist is to be caught in a lie. Obviously, those standards do not apply to politics or politicians or think tanks or oil companies or fake news sources, but it is still breathtaking to see and hear the volume of lies coming at us these days. This firehose of bullshit is part of the reason we can’t breathe. I know that lies hurt all of us.
? I know that I am frightened.
As bad as 2020 has been, it is likely to get worse. As the criminal sociopath in the White House slowly becomes aware that he is indeed his favorite insult, a loser, he will continue to tear down the things that actually did make America great. He will continue to pick at the wounds of past injustice, and ensure that no progress can be make toward healing. He will continue to be enabled by the complicit profiteering invertebrates in the Senate and the judiciary, and egged on by talking heads at Fox. And the pandemic and climate change loom beyond all of that.
? I know that hope matters, and that letting the bastards win is not just a personal defeat, it is a loss for the entire planet.
Hope is better than fear in any calculus except that of the sociopath. Hope comes from time in the natural world. It comes from an unfamiliar bird song in a thicket, or from seeing a migrant shorebird with thousands of miles still to go before it can nest. It comes from #BlackBirdersWeek, raising awareness and fostering connections within the birding community and beyond. But it is not just the thing with feathers; it also comes from a plant blooming where it bloomed last season, or a bison calf, or a firefly. The long memories of our fellow travelers, oblivious to our concerns, are hope-inspiring. I know that we need hope, and even though time in the natural world may not be your chosen avenue, my hope is always regenerated by nature. Hope has many faces; find what gives you hope and nourish it.
? I know that President Obama is right when he says we must make this moment a turning point for change.
The powerful frustration, and the genuine loathing for the genuine criminals in this administration are real. Moral momentum is on our side, but we, for once, need to keep our knees on their throats, metaphorically speaking. Organize. Canvass. Vote. This is a critical time for all of that.
Pictures of blue-clad racism, oppression, death, and destruction are telling the story of our times far more eloquently than my words can.
Perhaps words can give us something else, however.
Hope. And breath.
I have a birdhouse in my backyard, last year a couple swallows nested in it with their fledglings. This spring it’s been empty, and on top of all the other crap that’s going down, it just made me sad. Then this morning I noticed a swallow popping in and out of the house, over and over. I think my tenants have returned.
The song of the eastern meadowlark is one of the joys of the midwestern countryside.
One often sees them perched on fenceposts.
They sound like this
(Though I actually like the song of the western meadowlark better)
@joel hanes: It’s a meadowlark?
Gorgeous little bird. Going to pour a glass of wine and settle down to read A’s essay.
Thank you for this. Your photography is uplifting and so very appreciated here. Your words are equally important and give me hope. You are a member of Biden’s 85 per centers.
Wonderfully stated, thank you.
Just putting this out there. Orange is not a DC suburb or a NoVa town. It’s country, hometown of Randoph Scott. And James Madison. Be sure and read down to the quote from the white mail carrier that begins with “I thought white privilege was a myth” This is huge, a for a small rural Virginia town
I wrote this crappy poem for myself as a way to tease out my own thoughts around the last major firehose of bullshit, during the Bush era. It was after the ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” quote — when the combination of hubris, cluelessness and mendacity peaked at a level I (mistakenly) thought would never be equalled.
Beautifully written, a great counterpart to your marvelous photographs.
Beautifully said, Albatrossity. I walked out of work and into an inspiring Black Lives Matter demonstration and then home to these hopeful words.
All these things are true for me as well. And though it seems counterintuitive, they all give me hope. I just started reading Rutger Bregman’s new book “Humankind; a Hopeful History”, the premise of which is that contrary to what most people believe, humans are at their core, cooperative and compassionate creatures- adversity brings out these qualities in a big way.
In many cases (the Blitzkrieg of London, NYC on 9/11/01, New Orleans during Katrina, many others) ordinary people took care of one another without any direction or urging from authorities. I watch and read the news of the riots, the pandemic, and feel all the rage and despair over the treatment of my black brothers and sisters. Albatrossity mentions “a vacuum of leadership at the national level”, and this is true. But what this gives us, at this remarkable point in time, is the opportunity to step up on our own and let our humanity shine; to come together in ways to support each other, to learn from each other, and to make this a better world.
The cops busting people’s heads, the Masters Of The Universe who try to divide us to keep us oppressed… these are outrageous to witness because they are an aberration of human nature.
The fact that Cole started this blog years ago, and it has now become this odd, global community of members, “The Jackaletariat”, who (for the most part) obviously care about and support each other in many ways proves this to me.
Well, that’s my opinion anyway, and if you disagree, go blow a goat.
Dorothy A. Winsor
What a thoughtful post. And a beautiful pic.
Beautiful sentiment. But let’s not sit around here all day in hope: optimism isn’t a survival strategy. let’s bring the moral fight to them.
@Ksmiami: Sometimes you have to replenish the spirit before you can pick up the fight again.
Those birds you’ve been posting this spring that fly thousands and thousands of miles every year have given me a bit of hope that we can restore our natural world or at least slow down its destruction. Thank you.
Also, you and Betty have gotten me more interested in birds, and I am going to sign up for these two free online courses on “Be a Better Birder” from Cornell tomorrow if it’s still on.
West of the Cascades
So say we all. Thank you.
I was rooting out a bunch of weed trees that had sprouted among bushes in front of my house when I discovered a nest in one right in front of my window. It contained one lonely egg (light blue with gold speckles) and judging from the brittle nature of the nest, I thought it was abandoned from last year. The next day, I looked and there were three eggs and a little while later a mama had settled in. We determined that it’s a cardinal nest. So we’re leaving mama and babies alone but still getting a pretty good view from our front window. I’m so glad I didn’t just cut that tree down. A couple of weeks ago we had baby robins in a tree along our driveway. It’s a good spring for birds around our house.
Thanks, all. And thanks to Watergirl for encouraging me.
db11, I love the poem! Thanks for sharing that.
Honus, that is indeed an uplifting story. Thanks for sharing that as well.
I can tell you that in our little town of Manhattan KS, summertime population about 24,000 souls, the protest earlier this week had 2000 participants. That’s not a typo. 2K, in a conservative college town in the middle of a bright red state. And our university president, a former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chimed in today to express his dismay at the occupant’s lack of understanding of the Constitution. So folks aren’t just sitting “around here all day in hope”.
And Mary G, I hope you get a lot out of the Cornell course. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts as that progresses this summer!
@Mary G: Thanks for the link. I’ve been getting emails from them because I was using Merlin to identify the birds I was seeing while we were traveling in the Southwest. I guess it’s time to break down, admit I’ve become a birder, and take these courses if they’re still free.
The NFL is saying that they were wrong about not letting players protest police brutality, but until they rehire Kaepernick those are of course just words.
@Calouste: I’ll believe the NFL is serious when they hire Colin Kaepernick as a special advisor on equality for a very hefty salary.
@Albatrossity Thanks. I should have prefaced my earlier post with an appreciation for your original post. You’ve beautifully encapsulated all of the swirling thoughts, events and emotions that have attended the past weeks.
I read recently that you know you’re in an historical moment when you can’t, with any degree of certainty, predict the outcome of current events (for lack of precedent). This is a societally stochastic period and there’s likely significant chaos to come before we finally settle in our new normal — whatever that will be.
Good news is that we have the opportunity individually and collectively to influence which branch of outcomes reality eventually follows. The events of the past week and the public’s reaction to them (around the world) have given me hope that what emerges will be better in meaningful ways than what is being left behind.
thank you, Albatrossity.
Beautiful, excellent essay. Thank you.
Lovely thoughts. Thank you for sharing this.
I had something queued up similar.
Yours is better.
@Mary G: Cornell is fabulous. Just ask Cheryl. Even just watching their bird feeder live cam is soothing.
I think one of the reasons Mrs. Japa and I are having difficulty with getting our house ready to sell and downsize is that the best moments of our day are spent on our patio watching the birds and even the squirrels.
She particularly is worried Trump will succeed in destroying this nation and keeps asking me to give her hope. I tell her I still believe good will win out but sometimes it is hard.
2020 has been an awful year, but at the same time both of us have medical issues which scared us, but they turned out not to be what we were afraid of. Now our eldest son is in the hospital at Fort Lost in the Woods and, hopeful, will be transferred to Springfield for a special intervention. Hopefully surgery can solve his issue.
IOW, from an international and national dump of a year down to the personal level this year is just not stopping shitting on us.
Thank you Albatrossity for a beautiful and uplifting essay.
Sending good thoughts and healing to your son.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@japa21: I hope whatever ails your son gets taken care of at the new place.
@Dorothy A. Winsor:
Thank you both.
@WaterGirl: righteous vengeance works too… btw- I based my comment on a study of soldiers who survived being prisoners of war – the optimists ran out of hope and died and the survivors were the ones who accepted their struggles on a daily basis. This will be a long battle, but we are the righteous and the rt wing fascists Must be crushed.
Love the essay. Nature soothes, and reminds us of our place, even while we are destroyers of it, too.
RE nature: putting in a plug for 4Ocean, a group that cleans plastic out of our oceans and waters. They’re celebrating World Environment Day today, and have 25% off a lot of their bracelets today only ($15 for what’s usually $20). Unisex and adjustable, and great for teens and anyone. One bracelet will fund one pound of plastic and trash pulled from the oceans, rivers, and coastlines. Give turtles and aquatic life a chance!
They’ve got a very nice 6-pack too, and the bracelets make excellent gifts. I noticed that Los Angeles’s seal rescue sells their stuff in the gift shop, so they are on the up and up. (The seals: Marine Mammal Care Center of Los Angeles.)
I hope it’s OK to publicize this. I grieve for what we are doing to the oceans. Another problem to be solved involving blue.
You remind me: the local birding group meets first Sunday of each month at a nearby park. Might have to go, for once. I am hoping we have some black birders I can applaud. I can tell a crow from a parakeet and that’s about it.
Awful to hear about
KarenAmy, but wasn’t it a pleasure to now know about Christian Cooper? There are so many good people out in the world, and this week we are seeing more and more of them.
@db11: Wonderful poem.
@japa21: I hope japaSon is transferred and all goes very well. Also hope that you have birds at your future home.
@Ksmiami: FWIW I agree with you and it bothers me that respite posts at times outnumber other posts over here. It seems to be only me though so I spend less time here.
Melissa Harris-Perry at Medium : Unable to organize consistent thoughts, find useful words, or move to effective action, I am reading.
Quotes and other book titles are at the link to Medium.
I don’t think this is a respite post. Did you read the essay?
@schrodingers_cat: We have a good thread on FTF NY Times about 3 back. Triassic Sands was just in it. And previous thread discusses Lady G, etc.
Did you see the VICE reporting on their employee meeting ? Clueless at the top. Has a lot of great links, including Bari Weiss and James Bennet tweets where they get what for.
I wonder if we’re just worn out this evening.
@Aleta: Checking it out. Ironic that we are all reading more, to make sense of a time when someone who barely reads at all has too much power.
@japa21: Hope he feels better soon and gets the medical attention and treatment he needs. Sorry you’re going through this. Only lately have I understood better about the relief that birds bring if I just watch, It’s amazing.
@Elizabelle: Thanks I will check it out.
@zhena gogolia: Yeah, I was confused by the “respite post” comment as well, especially since “keep our knees on their throats” is right there in the essay…
@Albatrossity: I knew we should have chosen “Our Knees On Their Throats” as the title!
@Albatrossity: We will be shrikes for justice! Murder birds!
@zhena gogolia: I did. I am not the target audience for this essay. For me the Orange person in WH is an existential threat and defeating him in 2020 is my primary focus.
@japa21: Thanks for your kind words. Birds (and even squirrels, although I hate to admit it) have a lot of things going for them in terms of their entertainment value!
I hope your son gets the care he needs, and do please keep us posted on his progress.
@Elizabelle: Looks like I might have posted half a second before you. Same thought, though!
@Albatrossity: Great photo, as always. Thanks for sharing.
@Albatrossity: The biggest casualty is truth. Have never seen such an assault on it. Constant barrage. Cannot even recall what outrages from Trump today — oh right — George Floyd would have liked the jobs numbers or something like that?? — because it’s hour after hour after hour.
One comment re your very good essay: we do have a vacuum WRT Trump administration and the odious McConnell, but always give Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats credit. They got the relief $$ through. They are the adults in the room, doing their best as institutions fail and are stressed to breaking point around them.
I think the idea that Trump and Barr and everyone are going to get away with it enervates. I will be an optimist and say — but maybe not.
Well, the final point made here is
@WaterGirl: Indeed.I bow to your superior judgement in choice of title.
I assume it is too late to change it :-)
Thank you for that essay, Albatrossity; your poem, db11, and the essay-cum-reading list, Aleta.
There is so much wonderful work going on right now. So many people are reaching deep and finding strength and beauty, along with the rage.
There are years and decades and centuries of institutionalized cruelty and ignorance, grown up around our society like a malign coral reef. It was beaten back, and beaten back again, and again, but always seems to return. We keep hoping the new(est) generation will slip off the evil once and for all.
I, too, am heartened and hopeful by the young people turning out to protest; by seeing white people put themselves between POC and the police; by hearing the power and resolution in their words.
At the same time, I hope we don’t put the whole burden on the young.
My generation, in particular – the Boomers, who marched for civil rights, marched for peace, marched for environmentalism, marched for women’s rights… how in the name of unholy hell did we get here from where we started?
That needs to be a cautionary tale: how a generation resolved like few before it to make lasting social change let its energies become diffused, exhausted, distracted, and let the old evils come back again. How did that happen, and why? We need to know, so it doesn’t happen again.
@Albatrossity: Knees on Throats would be a terrible title. I didn’t even like it as a metaphor in your essay. Bad connotations. We aren’t those people.
There are better ways of saying we’ll keep up the fight until they’re defeated.
Beautiful thoughts, so well said, Albatrossity.
Another great idea, WaterGirl
@CaseyL: Thanks for this thoughtful comment.
@frosty: I take your larger point, but in case it didn’t come across… that was just light-hearted banter about the title.
West of the Rockies
Pithy and helpful. Well done.
My fraternity has a saying: well and generously spoken. Wonderful and thoughtful words. Grazie mille.
Bread and Roses.
@joel hanes: Thanks. I haven’t heard a western meadowlark in so many years that I’d kind of forgotten how they sounded. We don’t seem to have them in Western Washington, despite how much open land there is here, or maybe they were off doing something else when I was there.
In Southern California we used to hear them all the time, driving past open fields, sitting outside at a fast food restaurant at the edge of thousands of open acres. That black v-neck above the yellow vest is the visual identifier of the Western meadowlark.
@WaterGirl: I get the banter on the title. I stand by my larger point though; I thought the metaphor was inappropriate and by jumping out at the reader it undercut the message in the last paragraph.
Good and thoughtful essay otherwise.
@frosty: Knees on throats sort of sets up the wrong image in the mind these days.
@WaterGirl: What happened to all that activism is something that has bothered and grieved me for a long time. I’m just a few years too young to have been in it directly.
I think, after Malcolm and Martin and Bobby were murdered, and Tricky Dick elected, a lot of them just gave up. Some people would say that’s the problem with movements that depend on heroes. If the hero is removed, the movement loses its steam.
J R in WV
A great essay, thanks so much.
I enjoy your photos so much, it’s great to know your writing is as good as your photography.
Take care, stay safe!
We went to the county courthouse to do early voting and pay taxes, now I worry that we may have caught the Corona-19 virus. First time out of the house this year for my wife. Wore a mask, she only went into the early voting center.
Best wishes, all you jackals~!!~ Stay safe.
@J R in WV: No! Why? Do you think you’ve actually caught it, or are you worried that you might have caught it? Do you have symptoms?
@J R in WV: Are you feeling badly? Running a fever? I hope not!
@schrodingers_cat: I’ve been donating to candidates and to the rhetorical flame throwers at the Lincoln Project so less commenting more doing as the Home Depot ads say
Every day the Guardian runs photo articles on a variety of subjects that are usually a high point. Today, one of them is on public art dedicated to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. The one in Idlib, Syria, is especially haunting:
Also today there was a set of stills from productions of Coriolanus both through the years and around the world. An unmet if dubious aspiration of our bouncing Bunker Baby Boy.
I’m also well aware of how privileged I’ve been as a white male, although as a gay white male I’m actually grateful to be living in this moment when I can be out, married, and happy in my life, which is an outcome that would have been inconceivable to the 14-year-old me when I figured out I like guys way more than girls. I’m always polite to cops, just because my mom taught me to be polite as a general rule, but I’ve never been afraid that an encounter with a cop would turn out badly (or fatal) for me.
I have to have hope that we will emerge from this brush with fascism, and that Biden will be the President who will work to repair our tattered institutions, hopefully with a Dem Senate to help things along (Eliminate the filibuster! Four new justices!).
I’m less hopeful that anything can be done about climate change, because if Americans felt oppressed by being unable to eat at Applebee’s for a couple of months, what chance is there to convince people to make lifestyle changes that would be permanent and counter to things that are a large part of peoples’ self images? (What have future generations ever done for me? Huh? Suck on it libtard!)
Still I have memories of my beloved National Parks and Forests, of foreign travel (thanks, Ford!), and the present of birds and assorted critters around our house (dead possum by the front deck yesterday…). Oh, and our kitties!
Joe Biden clinches wins of majority of delegates in the Democratic Party Primary.
Here is Biden’s statement, just released. https://twitter.com/thematthill/status/1269102704409878533?s=20
THIS SHIT IS OVER FOLKS. This primary season is done.
Time to GET OUT AND VOTE CHUMP OUT! Would love to NOT have a 2016 redux! WE CANNOT AFFORD FOUR MORE YEARS OF DONALD TRUMP. So if we got drag folks kicking and screaming to the voting book to pull that lever for Biden…SO FUQ’N BE IT!!!
I can already hear the cries from the far left as we speak!
Wow. That is a powerful essay. Words fail me.
Oh, man. For a brief moment, I thought “THIS SHIT IS OVER FOLKS. This primary season is done” was Joe’s statement. I would have giggled for days if it had been.
Very well said, Albatrossity. Thank you.
@CaseyL: Me, too!
@Albatrossity: This is a great essay. Catching up this morning. Love the cheeky meadowlark. Hearing the song of the western meadowlark on the wing is one of the greatest joys of summer mornings here. That, and the hummingbirds screeing around the feeders.
@CaseyL: It’s the “folks” that did it. Very Joe Biden-y. He uses that all the time.