Humanizing the demonic

Which page to start on?

You don’t have those issues with a computer. Should we be thinking about tactile objects more? Is there a danger living too much in a virtual or as they say in food, super processed, world? So many smells, tastes, and now thoughts and images are artificial, that is to say, artificially produced. Go through your day and try to think of or notice any smells and tastes that are wholly natural.

And then how many are not.

Is this an essay? I suppose it is. In Europe, frequently articles and essays will have more than one topic. Here, they stick to an idea, offer some opposing irrelevancies to balance things out. The last example of this that I saw noted that a certain person would be a grandmother soon, in a news article on how this certain congresswoman kept the police from asking her son any more questions. Apparently she took the phone out of his hand and told them they weren’t needed. Whether this was put in to humanize her, or as a very subconscious concern about a new cycle and generation of abuse…but I digress.

It’s Memorial Day here. My first in the country/suburbs for a very long time. There are so many flags. Flags on houses. Flags lining roads. Flag bunting. Flag wreathes. Red, white, and blue flower arrangements. Red, white, and blue sheet cakes on gold foil cardboard covered in plastic. I don’t recall seeing this many flags the last time I was in a place like this on this day. Now, they are everywhere. I can arrange to have more put up by contacting the Rotary, apparently. I had vague notions of doing this, curious to see how much it costs, and if I joined the Rotary, would my life become easier – a sort of low key Masons. But the last time I tried something like this, donating to a local church, after the first friendly hello, they seemed a bit suspicious of me. I don’t think I gave the right response, like when you are supposed to answer when the minister says “May God be with you,” or something like that. I don’t remember, it’s been awhile. I think they could smell my borderline pagan/heathen tendencies. Not to mention…but let’s not. That would be going too far. After all, it could have been much more straightforward. My clothes, for example. I told someone what had happened and they said, knowledgeably, “code switching.” Reeking of privilege, I allowed myself the thought – do I want to do that? How lucky I am to have a choice. I mean, I do a form of this every day at work or when I drive by policemen. But it’s a choice not to wear golf shirts and skirts, dye my hair blonde, etc. I can ruin my chances for success in a small pond, but I don’t run the risk of…well. I digress. Freedom, innit? Just not the amendments that matter.

I think one of the neighbors is a, how to say, supporter of the racist man with the red hat. Just looking at the bumper stickers, you know? So I was imagining the defense I’d make about existing in America on Memorial Day. Relatives who were veterans, etc. I’m not sure that facts would do any good against a person who believes in their bumper stickers that commemorate January 6, but…I digress. Update: he is now shaping his hedges with a small, loud electronic mini chain saw. Nothing like a bit of harmless, gentle gardening.

I was tempted to put up a flag. Putting up a flag would certainly count as code switching of a sort. It was like that song. They could put so many things in, in just a few pages, with pictures and diagrams, and you can get anything you want at…but I digress. I met the man who took the picture of the girl crying over her friends shot at Kent State. He didn’t look historic. Those times seem unreal now. The National Guard shooting unarmed students. Protesting the Vietnam War. Smoking dope as rebellion and enlightenment. Vegetarians were counterculture. Alice’s Restaurant. Burning bras. Did you know that Angela Davis is still alive? All forgotten, like the small health food stores Whole Foods put out of business.

I didn’t get a flag, because firstly, it seemed ridiculous that I’d need one, some kind of home defense system, ultimate code switching, then it seemed sad that I didn’t feel I had a right to one. Belonging – it’s more complicated now. Flags are for fascists, just like nationalism is for nutters.

I could give examples, but I won’t. It’s enough to say that code switching can lead to harder drugs, like watching network television, or the DAR. Never mind. Code switching can save lives. Save jobs. Live to fight another day. But sometimes, I feel like “letting my freak flag fly…”

It’s a beautiful day here. And if I’d rather than people didn’t ruin it with spraying bee killing pesticides and paving paradise, then that’s on me, I suppose. I used to like going into hardware stores. Now I feel like I’ve wandered into a rally – walls of flags, pesticides sharing space with every item made in China. The garden hooks are painted with lead – with warnings. Good thing no one’s trying to undermine this great country. They’ve certainly already picked it apart and understood where the soft white underbelly is.

In America, living in the country/suburbs on Memorial Day means coming face to face with the fascist undercurrent. More like a rip tide, with no warnings or lifeguards. Yes, there are Stand with Ukraine signs. One Black Lives Matter sign. A pride banner.

It may be naïve (spoiler – it is) but it seems to me that if my grandfathers, great uncles, etc. etc. fought for anything, it was to not need to do code switching. I know. Listening to The Rolling Stones and their song “Sympathy for the Devil”, one line stands out:

I shouted out
Who killed the Kennedys
When after all
It was you and me

Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones

All these elements have been bubbling under the surface for a long time. My ex-mother-in-law told her husband, God rest his soul, to lower his voice in a restaurant when he was talking about Jews and the work his father did to help refugees escape. The Specials fought back against the National Front. Terry Hall, God rest his soul, had something to say about who we all were. Are. And who we could be.

There is some TV show that fictionalizes the Murdoch family, apparently. I have to say apparently, because if Jerry Hall had to sign something on her divorce from Rupert Murdoch promising not to give any story lines to the show, I’d better say all this is fictional, made it up, no relation to anything, I got it wrong. Apparently. Anyway, I read about this “show” in an excellently written article. One of the questions the article raised, or seemed to want to ask was:

Why do we watch this drivel story about the lives of the vastly wealthy and powerful, as they proceed energetically to destroy our plainer, less gold-plated lives, and find it entertaining, when we wake up the next morning and suffer the consequences of the decisions they took last night?  I asked a friend who watches a lot of TV and loves the show. Her answer was along the lines of it makes them human, they have problems too…and it is incredibly well-written. So – humanizing what should be demonized and we are enthralled because they feel sad too when their parents let them down. Except they get to tell people what to write. Next time you think you chose those thoughts all on your own…

Humanizing the demonic.

©Alice Severin 2023