The last few days have felt like the final hours on LSD. They aren’t the hours of crystal perception, of unfiltered insight, the hours of shimmering psychedelic enlightenment. No, the last few are the comedown. Where the brain is muddled and confused, adrenaline reserves severely depleted. Exhaustion wracks the mind, but sleep is impossible. What was once a liquid serpent of thought is now, in the wee hours, just a mush of unconnectable madness.
During the days after The Election I experienced the Great Comedown: all of the disorientation of coming down without the trip. My brain was at an almost complete standstill, the fog of confusion unshakeable. I yelled at my wife, “I just want to be normal again!” There was a palpable shift in my consciousness. And from the reactions of protesters across the country, I can see that I’m not alone.
On the Wednesday after The Election, my wife and I sought refuge in our local library. At that moment, I felt the need to be surrounded by knowledge, by history, by the collective human consciousness. I puttered about and wandered aimlessly into the Poetry section (yes, Poetry*). Aha! Friends! Allen Ginsburg, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, William Carlos Williams, Billy Collins, I grabbed them all!
The Dark Day
A three-day-long rain from the east —
an interminable talking, talking
of no consequence–patter, patter, patter.
Hand in hand little winds
blow the thin streams aslant.
Warm. Distance cut off. Seclusion.
A few passers-by, drawn in upon themselves,
hurry from one place to another.
Winds of the white poppy! there is no escape!–
An interminable talking, talking,
talking… it has happened before.
Backward, backward, backward.
William Carlos Williams, 1919
They provided the intellectual and artistic nourishment I needed.
The last four days were a glimpse of the next four years. Racism and riots will continue, each fueling the other. Klan parades will become as prevalent as protest marches. The National Socialists’ numbers will grow. The police will continue to be militarized against all of them. And we will continue to live with the fear we brought to the ballot box.
What’s done is done, and I have to move on. I see one side of America who continues life as normal. For the other side, “normal” has been forcibly removed from their vocabulary. And as proof, I’ll just say that I miss George W. Bush.
But the fog of coming down has lifted. The acid hangover is gone. Clarity of sight and sharpness of mind have returned. I don’t have the psychedelic insight to reflect upon and digest, but I do have the previous year in the “before” times when I openly mocked Donald Trump and enjoyed every gaffe, every insult. I was sure he was sealing his own fate. I thought there was no way anyone would be able to overlook his inane rambling, let alone his nods to the #WhiteGenocide crowd. Now I have to rub salve on the severe butt burn and try to absorb this new reality. We all do.
To the protesters, I say go home. Hug your loved ones. Soak in a hot tub, or take a cold shower. There will be plenty of opportunities to take to the streets. There will be sit-ins and standoffs. We will occupy everything from Wall Street to the White House, but in the meantime, there are more constructive paths to expression, to catharsis. Instead of picking up a rock, pick up an instrument. Instead of hurling a Molotov cocktail, hurl some paint at a canvas. The great Neil Innes pointed out recently on twitter that in 1916, while Europe was entrenched in the horrors of World War I, Dadaism was born in Zurich. That’s what I’m talking about. Take your anger out on your pen. Burn pain into paper. The climate is right for a cultural revolution. Great Art is born out of raw emotion, and let’s face it, that’s all we have right now.
2016. 100 yrs ago, Europe was fighting a “War to end all Wars” and Dadaism was born in the Cafe Voltaire in Zurich. Liberal Elite stuff? x N
— Neil Innes (@NeilInnes) November 11, 2016
If you have to protest, don’t riot, don’t destroy property, and please don’t burn the flag. It’s still our country, it’s still our flag. Remember, Unpopular President-Elect Donald Trump lost the popular vote. Over 66 million people voted against him, if you count the six million courageous people who voted third party. (Unfortunately, I can’t count myself among them. I live in a swing state, which went red.) That’s 53% of all voters to his 47%. And even without the third-party votes, Unpopular President-Elect Donald Trump still lost the popular vote by 600,000 votes as of this writing, 48%-47% (99% reporting). So please, don’t take your frustration out on the flag. To me, it is still a symbol of hope that deserves respect. If you want to burn a flag, burn the Confederate flag. That symbol had all but disappeared until it was revived by white supremacists in the 1950s. It means little more than that. And in this climate, it will be a far more poignant protest.
So I say again, go home. Go home and create something beautiful, or ugly, or absurd, or all of the above. If you think you aren’t creative, then use your time positively. Volunteer for women’s rights groups, organize benefit concerts, stand with Black Lives Matter and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Those struggles were going on in the “before” times, and they will continue. Continue fighting against the criminal drone program and the expansion of the surveillance state. Be vigilant against the continued militarization of the police. Those are not going to go away under the next Administration. Much of our anger stems from the thought that a bumbling, insecure narcissist will have those programs, and the full might of the United States military, at his disposal.
I spent the last year silent. I felt the need to speak out, but I was afraid of being told I was wrong. I was a coward. In my defense, I didn’t think it could ever get this far. We had plenty to rail against in the “before” times. I just watched the struggle from the comfort of my kitchen. I thought we had more time, and so I procrastinated. And I procrastinated. But it isn’t too late. In fact, it’s just beginning. This is a call to the living, breathing artists in America. Let’s channel our frustration into beauty. Let’s turn the mirror back on America and scare the living shit out of it. I’d heard more than a few Trump supporters threaten to take up arms if he lost. We’ll take up trumpets and second-line down Pennsylvania Avenue.
I’ll start things off. Here is a piece I had arranged from a traditional Lakota Indian melody way back in 2016 B.T. It’s a beautiful melody hewn from ancient soil. All I had to do was choose the instruments and build it up. I had hoped to drop this over a montage of Native American protests, but I can’t afford the stock footage, or the airfare to North Dakota to capture my own. If you have footage of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe standing their ground, and you’d like to collaborate on the project, please contact me. This piece is my tribute to the Standing Rock protesters. If you download, please consider making a donation to the tribe.
Song of the Deathless Voice (A Traditional Lakota Melody)
*Poetry is often shrugged off as overly-emotional, touchy-feely melodrama, but that’s like saying all Music is just Top 40. If that’s all the Music we had, I’d ignore it, too. But the well of Music is unfathomable. And so, too, that of Poetry. If language is thought coalesced, then Poetry is language evolved. If you have any interest in language and it’s myriad expressions and ambiguities, I highly recommend you take a chance. Start with any of the Poet’s mentioned above.