It’s funny, isn’t it? The small things that catch hold in your mind when something big and bad is going on. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, to avoid the brain shutting down completely. Kind of like the grotesque show that begins today, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017. For the past few weeks I’ve been alternating between reading every newspaper article I can and shutting down the laptop and zoning out with Netflix. I’m sure I don’t have to detail how I was losing my shit, reading and watching clips from the Betsy DeVos hearing. I think the democratic senators did a great job, demonstrating through their questions, how wholly unfit and inappropriate she is for Education Secretary. I also think it doesn’t matter. She, and the rest of the Billionaire Club, will be approved, because all prior rules of engagement, like knowledge, qualifications, and at least a pretense of ethics have been suspended for the foreseeable future.
A couple of days ago a friend posted a picture on Facebook, a piece of art from a popular artist promoting women’s rights and being offered for download. What caught me wasn’t the art, it was the comment (not from my friend) that artists should keep their political views to themselves. Oh my. So terribly, woefully ignorant, a perfect case-in-point to what has gone wrong in America. Art is political. It makes you feel, it makes you see, it makes you connect, it makes you understand. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about visual art, poetry, prose, music, or performance. All art is political. And art is what endures.
My home is not what some would think of when they imagine a family of artists. The apartment is perfectly ordinary. Look at the sketch above, Art Child drew it about four years ago, one of her very first pieces after she began, magically, miraculously, to draw. That’s me in the sketch, perfectly ordinary. We struggle with bills, we struggle with chronic and debilitating health issues, we struggle with the bits and bobs of life. And we each love music and art and poetry and food and theater and literature, each with our own draws and, if I may be so bold, talents. Husband hears distinctions and nuances in music that are an entirely different dimension than I hear. He can turn anything into a drum and create an irresistible beat. Man Child creates art through food, and when he’s on a stage, it’s truly captivating. The math he loves, “pure math,” incomprehensible to me, is another language, music in its own right, a language that has no borders of origin. Nerd Child is a musician, a director, an orator. Listening to him on his guitar makes me want to dance and weep at the same time. He creates new worlds we all want to live in as he directs, and when he speaks, people listen. Art Child has developed her skills and talent, creating charcoal sketches and paintings that leave not just me, but others, strangers, talking about her work long after they’ve seen it.
Me? I write. I did write. I tried to write. Characters that are so everyday they’re more than a bit off, think you’re going to yawn and end with an oh! Settings that begin next door and then twist into the what the fuck. My favorite “genre” is magical realism. Not for escape, but for exploring the difficult and often ugly realities through the fantastical. Perfectly ordinary.
I am afraid of what’s to come tomorrow, next month, next year. I’m a woman, on the downside of middle age, a self-proclaimed sort-of feminist, unsuccessful, a big and nasty mouth with a latino family. By definition, not who our new administration wants to see or hear from. We are ordinary people, caught in what looks to be an extraordinary time. I don’t expect to become the next Salman Rushdie. I’m neither brilliant nor brave enough. Let’s be honest, at 40,000 years old, dreams of acclaim and awards are long gone, but in those moments where I let myself dream, I still dream of being able to earn a dollar from my fiction. Not because of the dollar, but because of the validation, because it would tell me I did, in fact, have an impact and speak someone’s truth other than my own. It is my belief that it is our obligation to continue to use our chosen mediums to explore and document what is happening, how it happened, why we are here. Now is the time to be political. Create.