When I see those brightly coloured signs on the lawns and alongside the streets, I can’t help but see the bodies, lined in ditches beside those promotions that far outlasted the election period. They stayed in place for nearly a year, until the streets were safe to roam, and in the piles of rubbish that grew ever larger until “society” resumed once again.
The one visible from my window, brandying slogans of peace amongst the desolate killing field, smattered with blood and flesh from machete blows.
When I see the signs, my brain loses all reality, and blood begins to drip along their glossy sides, as opened bodies, their flesh a mix of red blood and the yellow fatty tissue from the layers deep below, spilling out as if demonstrating human anatomy, but devoid of any humanity, an abstract left by brutal predators, stalking the street for prey and leaving the remains as a warning to others who dare cross this path. The flies and vermin pecking at the savoury buffet left for them in the slaughter.
By the end of the war, the bodies were degraded beyond recognition so that no one could or was left to claim them. Static in their place months after ‘normalcy’ had returned. A cold shudder on the morning commute, remembered only by the tattered remains of their clothes and bones hung with dried meat.
When I see the signs, my bowels refuse to let me on the streets, telling me to hide from the brutality outside. An anxious reaction devoid of any rationality. My heart flutters and considers those who waited on line for a vote that left them as little more than roadkill.
When I see the signs, I hide and plan my escape. Because I know that one day, it’s coming again and this time, I will not be caught unaware. I will not let pieces of my flesh be sacrificed to the blade or degraded for another’s enjoyment. I will run this time and not submit to another’s joyful torture for the sake of my own survival.
When I see the signs, I die a little more inside. Knowing that I will submit again, because the hero I imagined in my mind’s eye is not reality when the militias come rolling, and despite the death wish of my brain reliving that experience over and over again, my instinct to survive outweighs my desire to end it all, and I’m left wishing I had the courage to just end it, but I know I’m not courageous. I know that one of those remnants of bodies at the end of my street was partly the result of my own fearfulness, hiding in shame and silencing the tears so that I could live another day. That my scars have faded as their flesh degraded, a memory embellished within my skin, unable to be excised.
When I see the signs, my life shuts down to basic needs and heightened security. Every noise is a threat on my very person, necessitating an immediate response.
When I see the signs, I wish it was me rotting away on the side of the road, a faded memory of a life that once was, because at least this hell would be over.
I imagine a political system with no parties. No liberal or conservative. No red nor blue. No polarizing thoughts into a linear division of reality where there are only two sides so that competition, pretense, and power reigns over rationality.
Where we don’t group into parties based on ideological issues pretending an imaginery line of consisitency. Where representatives are truly that — representatives of their community and its needs. Where using the modern marvels of technology they can survey their constiuency, and base their votes among a general community consesus instead of their own ideals. Where they open their books and admit their faults and weaknesses and seek experts with humility to help them in the right direction. Government is a fledgling art that we may never master. But we can always try to improve our brush strokes.
I imagine a political system where corporations are made to consider the true cost of their operations from sourcing through disposal, and where we focus our energies and the creativity of the human spirit towards innovation and collaboration in advancing us all, instead of greed and the accumulation of individual wealth. There is enough on this planet to sustain more than our numbers, our distribution and destruction of resources are widening our divide, let’s not repackage this horror as some sort of eugenic over-population fantasy. No, it’s the way we set up our cities and towns, and how we use the spaces that we have. How our buildings our built, and what they are made of. How we get around and how we eat. The energy we expend in getting through our days. Everything we consume…
We were told we could have everything we ever wanted, and then made it happen, blind to the repercussions of this train of thought. If this is true, than why can’t we have something more than what has been. Something that moves us all forward, and sees the value in every living thing. In kindness, and compassion. Not scrambling to own every rock beneath this earth. No. This can’t be civilization if it’s far from civilized for us all. Cause…
Truth, after all, is relative. A family of ideas from different perspectives that follow a direction of order to come to a general consensus. And I’m pretty sure we can almost all agree, that this world, as it is right now, is fucked. That the current system is getting us down…
So I imagine a world where we don’t label our systems into -isms and realize that a smattering of each flavour can really delight the palate. That this ideological rigidity is keeping us static and ensuring we continue to value the very thing we say doesn’t matter. The very thing that will bankrupt us all and wipe our existence from this planet.
You can’t take the things with you when you go… so…
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater,… and imagine the path to change that brings the best of all worlds.
I was going to do a poem about Tina, about Colton, about Cindy,… about the latest drop in a bucket that has long overflowed, red drop after red drop, spilling over the sides, leaving a gooey mess across that floor, that we all feel stuck in.
I wrote the words, but couldn’t bring myself to say them.
This is family, despite our differences in direct lineages, formed together with our backs against the wall pushing against the slow moving genocide that hides itself with talks of budgeting deficits and “policitical correctness”. An ancient grievance that has more than been made up for in all the technology we gained that brought us poisoned waters, broken communities, a dying planet, and the 40 hour work week. We should be thankful for this blessing and swallow it down as the bitter pill necessary to cure us of our “savagery”.
Us backwards folks who were slaughtering our enemies with crude weapons over resources when they stepped upon this land, while, …you know,… they were not creating war and genocide machines the likes the world have never seen and spreading them across the globe. Such a civilized bunch.
So I’m not going to do a poem about Tina, about Colton, about Cindy,… about all the other list of names you likely haven’t even heard of. About the trillions of dollars in trust for our community, that the government squandered and holds away from us while Our People are poisoned by their own taps. Or the billions more in subsidies to the companies that tainted them with impunity. Because we speak, and we cry, and we yell, and no matter the method, it falls on deaf ears. We are just tokens, here for decoration, an illusion of progress that gives a nice shiny screen to cover the continued oppressions. It’s not “diversity” they want, it’s submission. Follow the line, jump through the hoops, and make a palatable version that can be sold to the hierarchy, who will slash its core, and dangle any funds to those who can best express their suffering as trauma porn, but not give them enough to actually alleviate it. Cause clearly, this capitalist paradise is truly the most “civilized” of ideas.
When I look up at the moon at night, I can’t help but see your face,
Before I could drive I could navigate the seven sea by the stars and tell the time by the phase of the moon or Sun’s position in the sky.
I know the call of the loon and how to navigate the rattlers so as to not get bit. Where to find food and water where none seems waiting. How to survive in any situation that came my way and even how to negotiate business deals.
You taught me the knots for each situation, how to break them free, and that a knife in my pocket was a tool for every situation, even buttering my bread at meals.
You taught me to swim by throwing me in and sharpened my waterskiing by ever tightening the circle of the towboat. You showed me that ice cream and coke was a decent option for breakfast.
You taught me that life was worth living to the fullest without regrets and that sometimes there is more to a person than they are willing to show you.
You outlived your wife, your siblings, your friends, and then outlived the next two sets. The drs thought you a demented old fool unaware of his senility as they treated your hip, broken you insisted, when you fell off a chairlift skiing in your 90s.
You were there when I needed you, and there you’ll always be, in the moonlight to guide my voyage, the northstar in my sky.
Grandfather, because of you, I will always know the direction home.
Tomorrow, I will have ice cream and coke for breakfast.
The number rises, a red tide swelling on the pristine sand, unseen from the upscale highrises, far above the shore. From their balconies they see an ocean of possibilities, an endless sea of support, while the bloodstains dilute in the vast waters far from their view, yet right in their own backyard.
The brochures advertise the white sand, swept clean for photo ops by tireless crews there to keep the view breathtaking and the beaches clear of the “savage” waste. They own the land, so can live in their blissful ignorance, high in their towers, unhindered by the efforts of the maintenance staff.
On August 17, 2014, her body was found, wrapped in a duvet and loaded down with rocks near the shores. She was 15 years old.
When she was 12, her father, already dying of cancer, was brutally beaten and left tied in the cold until death. She ended up in so-called protective care, who in the weeks preceeding her death, discarded her unsupervised in a hotel, a vulnerable youth left to her own devices. Unconscious, she was seen and released by hospital staff, a 15 year old alone in crisis.
A 56 year old man with 92 previous convictions, somehow still on the streets, regularly supplied the child with a variety of drugs in a basement, where witnesses say he fondled her, and asked her to “just do (him)”.
Two weeks before she died, Tina called the police on him for stealing a van, and told them that he had stolen her bicycle and sold it to buy drugs. The police, somehow failed to take the 15 year old’s name or notice that she was underage in this horrific situation and took the word of the man who convinced them a Led Zepplin-look-a-like was the real suspect. After all, it’s just another at-risk Native girl in Manitoba.
What hapened next is not fully known, the evidence washed away by the rushing waters, but the duvet that covered her tiny 72 lb body matched his. In recordings, he repeatedly alluded to his crimes, and yet the jury somehow declared him “not guilty” of her murder. No talk of negligence for the agencies who exist to protect her. It’s not their fault. They didn’t add the rocks to the duvet.
And so another body washes up on the shore overnight and is brushed away by the crews before the light of day so that the occupants don’t muddy their view or lower their property values. If they see the occasional drop of blood stained through the grains of sand, they complain that they now can’t walk barefoot along the shores, that the staff is inadequate but refuse to increase the wages to hire enough workers to do a proper job. And once in a while, they may sympathize with the maintenance staff on the difficulty of their job, or the horrors that cause the beaches to be stained in the first place, but more often than not, they remain oblivious, enjoying the view.
In light of recent events, I felt compelled to write this piece to express my thoughts to all the other white-breads out there and I’m hoping you’ll hear my words and at the very least, consider them.
I’ve always been a strong advocate of nonviolence, preaching tolerance and love in face of war and evil and spreading this message far and wide. Building is always superior to dismantling, I’ve said, because if you build a better world parallel to the old, there’s no need for force. I have educated myself in this direction and worked all my adult life in this vein, truly believing it to the core of my being.
The events of late have not changed my personal resolve, but rather have truly shifted my eyes to the harm this exclusive position can have on those its meant to support. There’s strength in numbers, specifically in the ideas we temper to structure our values, and rigidity has no place in an ever changing world.
I’ve realized there’s a time for hope and positivity, but suppressing emotion to serve those goals isn’t positive. Or helpful. Erasing those realities only adds to the harm and dimishes the entire aim of the exercise. To truly defeat evil, yes, you must love thy enemy, but also constrain them from doing greater harm. Sometimes defeat them, and be intolerant of their evil to stop the plague of paradoxes over the limits of tolerance itself. There is no compromise to evil.
The streets aren’t safe for those whose skin has already worn a lifetime of oppressions, faced a gaunlet of discriminations, and subtleties meant to weaken their spirit and resolve. They rightly fear the tide of hate that swells against them, but stack the sandbags in preparation for the next flood.
These differences may not be inherent, rather imagined in our collective consciousness as realities worthy of distinction, but that imagination has summoned a brutality more real than any the universe could ever have created. A force evil enough to divide the life within us all, and place hierarchy on ignorance, all subtly clamouring for the highest place in some master power scheme we created to feel more secure in our place in it.
We can’t change the past, but we also can’t erase the fact that we were raised with inherent biases that have taught us our place on that hierarchy and have positioned us so without regard to our awareness of it. Our privilege is not some magic path to success, a guarantee of the “good” life. Our skin just shades us from the true realities of those on supposed lower rungs. We keep our eye on the top, and don’t look back for fear of falling and wonder why others don’t succeed as we’re stepping on their fingers and blocking their path.
It pains me to speak these words, but it needs to be said. I’m a racist, and the rest of my life, no matter how hard I work to supress this pedagogy that has been rammed down my throat since birth, I will never fully overpower it. No matter how much I read, support, listen, and work to become a good “ally”, these biases rest within me, subconsciously steering my positions and erasing the realities I can’t comprehend.
And so I must consider, that my biases have blinded me in some ways, and clouded my values to the extent that the lines are now blurred. I must resist the urge to become defensive and face the evil knowing that I am truly part of it, no matter how hard I may work to supress it. Hate dies in understanding, so I must understand and truly hear the voices that tell my subconscious it is flawed. I am an imperfect being. But owning your flaws and striving to better them is never a lost cause.
Now is not the time to play defense. Now is the time to fight my own values, and suffer the pain of their loss, realizing that that fight pales against the violence I actively create with my own subconscious. It’s time we lessened the burden and came back down to the ground. It’s time we laid this ladder to rest, and whatever way it comes down, we must be ready to fall. After all, we have ignorantly placed ourselves on this precarious perch.
We base our universal reality on constants we rarely question. Every scientist knows that proper measurement is integral to the usefulness of their findings. That without good metrics, their study is flawed, but still, we base our reality entirely on the assumptions that keep our mere mortal brains from exploding. The comforting biases and ordered reality that keep us from spinning out from chaos and allows us the piece of mind to evolve beyond just living.
I know that time is merely a construction that we have fabricated to try and make sense of our complex reality. In the moment when catastrophe strikes, time seemingly stands still, every milisecond spread out as a lifetime, each decision an agony of options that stretch out into infinty. There’s no time for action, no time to think, but yet limitedless thoughts sprint through our brains as if years had just passed by. Each instant remembered as vividly as the next, and though by our reality only seconds have passed, it would take weeks to explain each complex moment. The next months a blur that seemingly happened in an instant, unable to even recall a distinguished timeline of events.
Why is it that I sometimes remember the most mundane in all its glory, and the most traumatic not at all?
That moment of breath before a first kiss with someone you have been dreaming of, for what seems like an eternity. The lifetime before the ambulance arrives. The times when time slips by so quickly instinct takes over and it ceases to even exist for just that moment.
If each moment is a constant, on a linear track through the universe, then flashbacks are time travel and I am a magnificent Goddess able to manipulate this force with the sheer will of my traumatized brain, because in an instant, I’m there, flashing in and out of time, unable to keep a firm grip on any reality.
You see the sun doesn’t actually rise in the east, but our spinning motion and arbitrary selection of direction in this endless prism, trick our eyes into believing it. Time moves fastest on mountains and maybe that’s why it takes so long to climb, because the valleys are dragging us downwards and backwards through reality. But if we increase our climb to the speed of light, we can escape the summit and leave the concept behind entirely. At that moment, do we see our life flash before our eyes, or the universe as one tiny pinpoint that we can leap across? Or are we waiting waitless outside a black hole for infinty to crush us as time stands still?
The present is actually the past by the time our brain interprets it, yet we say to live for a moment we can’t ever understand until it’s gone. Tomorrow’s not for certain, and the reality of the past is never quite how we remember it. We say let’s meet at this set time, but each experience its passing differently, maybe that’s why I always think ppl are late.
The speed of light is as fast as our tiny brains can comprehend, yet none could interpret the passing as fast as it’s happening, so how could we even meaningfully measure it? Would that travel rip apart our skulls, or damage our sense of reality to the point that no constant is ever again steady? Is that the point we travel back to the beginning?
They say live for the future, but what if tomorrow is the day the clock stops ticking? What if the past is all we had and we are perpetually living it in never-ending cycles that we can’t see locked on this linear track. Tick tock. Tick tock. Don’t be scared for tomorrow. Time will bring us home, eventually.