Saturday night, my fiance spent the evening watching YouTube videos on my new couch (a graduation gift from my mother) when my Internet went out. When we finally got in touch with my roommate just this afternoon, we discovered that he had done a security update and out MAC addresses were accidentally wiped (our router has MAC address filtering so our neighbors don’t max out our bandwidth).
Also, since my trip I’ve fallen into a particularly uncomfortable state. I feel agitated, uneasy, and entirely uncertain about the future.
Things seem good on the surface; the US, a country I had tried to flee for political reasons in two successive lifetimes, has finally embraced same-sex marriage, upheld its first real attempt at health care reform in decades in the courts, is taking a long hard look at race relations for the first time in decades, and is gradually beginning to draw down on the destructive and costly unwinnable war on drugs (marijuana will be legal in my current home state in less than 24 hours and it’s already legal across the river in Washington, where cozy neighborhood shops on main street now sell the stuff). Also, transgender visibility from figures like Caitlyn Jenner gives me hope that one day it won’t matter what I was assigned at birth and I won’t have to worry how many people have connected the dots and know that I was born male.
In my personal life, I’ve graduated, I’m well on my way to graduate school, and my home is getting cleaner and more livable as I finally have time to focus on the domestic space and to stop living out of boxes like I have for the last 4 years. By the end of July, I should have yet another novel ready for publication (my goal is for a debut at that annual convention in Seattle this year).
But I don’t feel happy, satisfied, or at ease. There is a pervasive sense of impermanence, of something being “off.” I’m still dealing with severe employment-related anxiety that brings me panic attacks every time I start looking for jobs. I’m still unsure of how I’m going to go about learning Latin ahead of grad school (not necessary but it helps immensely). I’m still not sure I’m where I need or want to be in life.
Then there are the external factors. Driving through some of the more rural parts of my own state was an eye-opener. Confederate flags are springing up next to billboards condemning homosexuality, non-Christian religions, and the federal government, and if it’s getting like that in Oregon, I can only imagine that large parts of South Carolina- where I grew up and got firsthand exposure to the culture from age 4 to age 23- are starting to look a bit like a Klan rally 24/7. Churches are going up in flames all over the South (several this week, including a number of confirmed arsons), and the Confederate Flag is quickly becoming a go-to symbol not simply of Southern identity politics, but of militant far-right culture warriors riled up by recent events.
The sort of people who legitimately feel this is worth fighting, killing, and dying for (and aren’t just posing in militant gear on Facebook to look tough) are fortunately a small minority, and they become isolated more and more every day as the tenor of their extreme rhetoric pushes away more and more reasonable people. But do not underestimate the damage that a mentally-unhinged and well-funded group of even a few thousand militants can do; if the difficulty of controlling ISIS is any indication, a similarly-structured “Crusade” by rabid fundamentalists toting AR-15s in the backs of their pickup trucks could quickly take over large parts of the country and make life difficult for people in other parts of the country.
I do not anticipate that any of the groups who seek the overthrow of the federal government and establish strict Calvinist religious law a la Cromwell will succeed, but what I do anticipate is a bloody struggle as a small but well-armed minority that feels threatened and disenfranchised begins to lash out with increasing ferocity. I also anticipate losing friends to violence, especially a number of openly gay friends I have in places like Texas and Oklahoma where moods are souring by the minute.
I just hope that I can live to enjoy the progress we’ve made without seeing the coming madness at my doorstep. .