Simple pleasures, complicated other feelings

Every week as I’m drawing my comic, and in the days leading up to Wednesday, I start thinking about what I want to say in this blogging space, the mini-essays I use to embellish whatever theme I was aiming at in my comic, or simply get something off my chest. I rarely write them ahead of time – never, actually. Not out of some sort of Instagram-like principle about giving you what’s on my mind in the moment. I just don’t usually have time.

As a result, though, I frequently lose steam in the moment and just post something glib. The thoughts that seemed eloquent to me as I was falling asleep on Friday or whatever come to feel mealy and weak-willed, ill-argued. But sometimes, as I am today, I push myself to untangle a few knots that have been tightening in my head. So bear with me.

I have been consuming arguably too much media about Nazis lately. No, that’s not a dark joke (or…not only): as I previously mentioned, I recently re-read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalemand Dave and I subsequently binge-watched both available seasons of The Man in the High Castle, which is an alt-history drama set (mostly) in a world where the Nazis and Japan were the victors in WWII, and share occupancy of the United States territories. (It’s based on a novel by Philip K. Dick.)

I started watching The Man in the High Castle in part because it fit my dark mood: I wanted to see how other people (however imaginary) set about fighting totalitarian regimes while living in the midst of them. There have been a number of chillingly familiar themes: information being suppressed, important messages coded, resistance quashed by police or military force. (And if you think I’m exaggerating that last one I encourage you to read about the reporters charged with felonies for reporting on the inauguration protests.)

However, the thing that has really stood out to me – thank god – is actually a place where our world (however fragile-feeling) differs (at least for now) from the Dark Timeline of the show: protests.

If you haven’t watched or read The Man in the High Castle, sorry for the sort of weird spoiler I’m about to lay on you, but it’s important to what I want to say: some of the characters in the show figure out that there are many parallel universes in which history is playing out differently, and one such character travels to what is basically the 1960s in our known reality. (It’s worth noting that this character, who is Japanese, doesn’t necessarily view our world as the “best possible” one, given the catastrophic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) And the difference between these two realities is striking. It’s not just that “our” world is full of Lolita posters and hippie hairstyles – the man’s son and daughter-in-law in “our” world are activists, working with a grassroots organization to protest the use of the atomic bomb. They picket on street corners; they openly assemble; they share information with both seriousness and rude good cheer.

After the Women’s March on Washington, I couldn’t stop thinking about how vital our resistance – our open, persisting resistance; our serious, substantive resistance; our silly but still somehow vital resistance – is to political regimes that seek to tamp down on freedom of information, on truth in journalism, on education, free elections, and human rights. (And no, I cannot believe I have to talk about these things in 2017; seeing progress go backward is heartbreaking; let’s carry on.) Donald Trump lies. Donald Trump nominates people to run agencies who are openly antagonist to those agencies’ purpose. Donald Trump wants to defund the arts, the humanities, support for women who are protected by the Violence Against Women Act. He and other Republicans claim to be “pro-life” when it comes to fertilized eggs, but not when it comes to the women who bear those eggs in their body or to the children that result if they are black, if they are immigrants, if they are poor. Even if they are refugees from war zones. Donald Trump claims, contrary to all existing (and strenuously collected) evidence, that there was massive voter fraud in the 2016 election, though he only seems to believe this was possible of votes that didn’t go to him.

And we resist him.

We march. We speak. We write. We make calls to our senators and representatives. We open anonymous Twitter accounts to tweet out facts (tax payer funded research!) about climate change. We support a woman’s right to choose & be a moral agent.

Eichmann in Jersalem, which provides an excellent overview of the bureaucracies of the Third Reich, can be a dark and dispiriting read at times. (Even though Arendt is, as I’ve said, a master of shade.) But one of the reasons I decided to re-read it was that I remembered the brief sections in which she outlined European countries that openly defied Nazi leadership – notably, when Denmark was told they’d need to force their Jewish population to wear the Star of David, they replied that the King himself (not Jewish, just in case you missed it) would be the first to wear it. (The Star was never instituted.) This is notable not because Denmark was able to overcome the Nazi regime singlehandedly – spoiler, they weren’t – but because it so clearly contradicts the idea that acts of defiance are meaningless. Arendt wrote that Denmark was “the only case we know of in which the Nazis met with open, native resistance, and the result seemed to be that those exposed to it changed their minds.” That included the Nazis working there: some of them turned.

Things are not good right now, my friends. They may get worse, and we may feel like we are having heart attacks and screaming into the void.

But our screams will echo. We will use our voices to shake the chamber.



(Also, boy is this embarrassing after an impassioned political essay, but there is a reading & release party for my book of comics, Apocalypse How? An Existential Bestiary along with a celebration of two other local authors and their debut collections – Dana Diehl’s Our Dreams Might Align from Jellyfish Highway Press and Michelle Ross’s There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You from Moon City Press – this Friday 1/27, at 6pm at the Southern Arizona Workspace. (For Tucson people, that’s behind/attached to Exo Roast. Co.) Please join us! I’ll draw animals for you on a chalkboard, and perhaps together we can answer the question of…how…the apocalypse. Or preferably how not the apocalypse.)