TOWOIT #88

April 14, 2017… Day 85

Paul Manafort is registering as a foreign agent after the fact.

I went to visit my sister, to execute our long-held Hamilton plans and have Easter with her kids. I’m reading A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle on the trip. It’s about washed-up radical environmentalists of the 80s and 90s after all their worst ecological-destruction fears come true and everyone is just riding out the rest of their days in climate change chaos. It was published in 2000, and pivots between a point in 1989 and a point in 2025.

I was an intensely earnest child environmentalist in 1989, and in 2000 I was a 22-year old with a newly minted degree in ecology & evolutionary biology. Now it’s 2017 and I’m just a jaded corporatist worrier. And 2025 is not looking very far away at all. So for the year 2000 to be the unspoken frame of reference for this author to be writing from– and to have the story swing between reflection of 1989 and projection toward 2025– well, it’s creepily resonant.

It feels like everything that’s gone wrong in the novel is what was predicted and pre-catalogued by the declensionist main character of the podcast S Town. And I feel like I drove my own declensionism underground between about 2003 and 2016. The whole time between the Iraq war protests not working and last summer. I lost touch with my own ingrained sense of how everything is going to hell. I still felt that way a little more than the average person (I think), but it was muted. I was willing to not know the details. I was ready to be proven wrong. I was falling back on my liberal arts education, which taught me that I actually knew nothing about anything. I allowed myself to feel vaguely optimistic during the Obama years.

Also my declensionism was all tied up with anxiety and depression and being a sensitive, horrified, guilt-ridden child who would lie awake at night imagining terrible things and doing terrible mental math. So I shook it off in order just to live, partly. And then, benumbed, I let everything get so much worse.

And now it’s all coming home to roost.

That all sounds dramatic, but for a bit there over the weekend, we sort of thought we might get into a nuclear pissing match with North Korea. So nothing is really too dramatic anymore.

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