I keep trying to write something about this, and I keep stalling out, because I figure, what is there to even say?
Or, what could I say that might make any difference, several thousand miles away from where this is happening, in the privileged bubble of my happy family life?
That picture of the little girl sobbing, after being separated from her family, after her goddamn shoelaces were taken away—I saw it while sitting in a locker room. I was about to test for the next level in Krav Maga, a martial art founded by Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1930s to defend Jewish neighborhoods in Bratislava from anti-Semitic gangs. All I could think was: the only thing that’s changed is the uniforms.
I looked at that picture and I shook because this little girl was so tiny and so afraid and I think of how I feel when my daughter is upset or afraid like that, and how it rips my heart clean in fucking two, and this child’s parents aren’t even there to comfort her. They’ve been taken away by a bunch of fuckers who are gleeful in their hatred. What that kid must be going through, what those parents must be going through, it’s a pain I can’t even fathom.
My daughter was born with a heart defect, and twice in the first year of her life we handed her over for six-hour open-heart surgeries. So I know that feeling of your child being taken away and the stakes being very high. But we were handing her over to a team of doctors who demonstrated the utmost care and compassion. And by the end of the day we had her back.
There is no care or compassion here. None. Instead there’s a complete and utter breakdown of empathy and kindness.
We are in the midst of a full-blown humanitarian crisis and I keep coming back to this feeling of: we are the bad guy. If this were a movie, then America would be the regime the freedom fighters would be trying to topple. And we would cheer those fighters, because a government that splits up families and then lies about why they’re doing it—there’s no law here, this is a negotiating tactic for Trump to get his dumb fucking wall—is just full-blown evil.
I don’t know what to do.
I gave money to ActBlue, which is funneling donations to a number of organizations trying to help these families. I found them on a longer list that Mashable put together. But my heart still hurts because all I did was press a button. It feels like nothing.
I can beg and plead for people to vote in the midterms. Cut Trump off at the knees, at least, so his power will be limited. But I begged and pleaded for people to vote for Clinton, for all the good that seemed to do.
I don’t know what to do as an artist. Though, at times like this I tend to fall back to what Kurt Cobain wrote in the liner notes of Nirvana’s 1992 album Incesticide:
At this point I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us—leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.
There’s this debate that pops up a lot in artistic communities—especially lately—over how political an artist should or should not be, because you don’t want to risk sales. But I’m pretty comfortable saying that if you can look at what’s happening on the border and you can shrug it off, or worse, justify it—leave me the fuck alone! Don’t come to my signings and don’t buy my books.
Other than that, all I feel is powerlessness.
I don’t speak Spanish. I live thousands of miles away from the border. I’m not a lawyer. I poke around on the internet looking for articles like this in Slate, roundups of how to help, and I hold my daughter extra tight. I hide what I’m feeling from her, because I want to protect her from the horrible fucking place this country has become.
I don’t know that this changes anything or helps anything. I don’t know what it means to the broader fight. I just wanted to say something before I climbed into bed and stared at the ceiling for a little while.
I do believe in the best of us, still. I believe we will get past this. I will watch and wait and help where I can and be the best father and husband and citizen I can be and maybe right now that can be enough.
Maybe it’s enough for us to stoke the fire in our hearts, to make sure that flame doesn’t go out, even in high wind and heavy rain, because those fires will keep us warm and light the way in the dark, so we can see ourselves through this.
And yet it’s so easy to say because I’m too far away to say it to the little girl whose shoelaces were taken away.
If you can help, please help. If you can’t—please keep that fire alive. Just do that. I feel like we’re going to need every source of flame we can muster.
One thought on “On powerlessness”
I feel exactly the same. I have had your website saved bbut hadn’t looked at it for years. Now first thing I will do is buy one of your books. I’m one of those who wrked hard for many years, tried to protect the earth and animals w/donations and find I have little left to give after retirement which makes me sad. Thinking of going back to work partly because I love it and it will free me to give again. and i will continue to do anything i can to overthrow the present administration.