America in Heat: Searching for our High Water Mark
by Mari Gomez
Ryan fell through a gopher hole. I waited, then went inside for dinner. He came out the other side all muddy.
-Where did you go? I said.
-America 1776. Liberty was the talk of the town.
-Liberty or death.
-America had some fine ass rebels.
Gophers are tunnel architects, creating complex systems of burrows that have surrounded our house.
On a routine visit, my curly haired mother sits in front of me with a concerned, quizzical look. I change the subject. She's not interested in gophers. She has gophers of her own and one of them is eating her peaches.
So there is this lady that fronts a kind of pious-pseudo-Buddhist-love-mother-nature demeanor at writing workshops. She speaks with a soft voice and wears a little hat as if she’s coming straight from a meditative bird watching session. This Buddhist lady called me a “self-righteous prick.”
-Are you going to get shot? My mother asked.
-Now that would be a story! People just get brave on the internet.
I’m in the backyard looking through a gopher hole. It looks welcoming enough, cool and dark, away from the blithering sun.
This Buddhist lady’s son called me “fascist scum” and a “neo-nazi.” It was all because I suggested an article was taking Trump out of context. That and she made a snarky comment about The Rift.
-The what? my mother asks.
-You know, our magazine.
-Oh yeah. Stop wearing that hat, my mother says, It’s ugly.
-It fits well, it’s hard for me to find hats that fit.
Wearing this Make America Great Again hat feels similar to when I was in high school, sneaking out to smoke cigarettes sporting my Tool t-shirt or drawing Nine Inch Nails logo on my backpack. It feels kind of rebellious, a declaration of allegiance to a set of ideas, or perhaps more accurately right now, an attitude. To identify and declare yourself of this ilk was empowering: you felt part of something bigger, a movement of people that understood the greater complexities. Everyone else, well, they simply didn’t get it.
And those supporting Hillary don't get it. Donald Trump got close to 14 million votes in the primary. And people say:
I can’t believe this. We have to stop him!!
This isn’t about him, this is about a wave, the very real sentiment and demand for change that has washed him up to the podium.
The gopher holes are getting bigger. So far I've understood that anything worthwhile always takes some digging, usually some scrapes and bruises, so I put my ear to the ground and then crawl in.
Donald Trump has tapped into something. He is the modern American discontent, manifested in all its brash, unpredictable, impulsive and politically incorrect grandeur.
Except sometimes the fog rises and a once clear landscape begins to blur. I emerge from the gopher hole by the river, about a mile from my house, with teeth marks on my arms and legs.
-Where’d you go? Ryan asks.
-America April 1865. The country suffered severe growing pains. Lincoln’s brain was a Pollock-like painting on the floor of the Ford theater.
Gophers are solitary animals. They are territorial, though they are known to be friendly with their neighbors, who might share a bordering tunnel. I cover the gopher hole with dirt. We’ve started to fall into them regularly and its become a distraction. Ryan was lost for two days when he drunkenly stumbled into one.
This election is as much about a cultural choice, as it is a political one. Millennials and thirty somethings get a lot of criticisms, but there are many of us fighting against the social justice warrior, racially sensitive, politically correct and incoherent whiners that exist in many college campuses and hipster coffee shops out there (The Trigly Puffs and Aids Skrillex of the world, and the many rigid feminists and BLM “activists”).
Ryan emerged one windy night.
-Where’d you go?
-America. 1920’s, Eugene O’Neill wrote the Hairy Ape. He explores what might become of the American worker.
-Yank is faced with an important question. How important are we in this system?
-What he finds out is not particularly comforting.
-But in the end, who is the ape that will crush us?
-The government? Our own ignorance?
-A fear of the truth?
This election is very much a cultural affair, a generation lost in its values, fragmented in its culture. Hillary supporters are like those poor fuckers that thought they were getting rock music with Limp Bizkit. So they would go to concerts and sing along to nonsensical lyrics and break stuff because Fred Durst told them to.
There was a gopher hole by the garden, I fell in while getting a tomato for the salad.
-Where’d you go Mari? Ryan asked.
-America. Late 90’s. Fight Club comes out. Tyler Durden talks about our great spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives, he said. We are distanced from our own animal instinct and logged on to the world through artificial interfaces. We have yet to define ourselves in any meaningful way on the historical timeline.
-The book certainly anticipated a lot of problems with masculinity. Men now are vilified if they embrace it.
-Underground societies that operate under their own rules? But even Fight Club, then turned Project Mayhem, turned and lost the initial goal. They went from a group of rebels to a group of monkeys following an authoritarian leader.
-That is always the risk.
Some of us have come to reject the common narrative. We do not expect, nor desire the government to step in and fix our lives. Many Bernie/Hillary supporters don’t even realize that that, is in fact, what they are encouraging. Black Lives Matter blames the government, the system, and its policies for their problems and yet expect and demand that same U.S government to protect them and fix it. Recently they published their "demands" on their website, most of which include government handouts!
I’m walking out to my car and fall into another gopher hole. You close one up and another one opens somewhere else.
We don’t all find ways to make ourselves victim to some racial or gender driven injustice. There are people out there chipping away at the narrative, grabbing it by it’s tail and yanking it in an attempt to sway the beast in a different direction.
But the beast is stubborn and well fed. Even a generation has a legacy.I certainly don’t want to be part of the one known to move back with parents, borrowed money to go to school, defended being fat in the name of diversity, couldn’t buy their own homes, thought of political protest consisted merely of yelling and throwing things, mostly broke and so desperately confused that they believe the government can save them from themselves, while being culturally responsible for Kim Kardashian and Drake and the selfie.
Certainly we don’t want to be remembered as the generation that out of a naive belief that the government was there to save us, slowly dismantled civil liberties and consequently, our national identity.
-Where’d you go? Ryan asked.
-America.1959. Allen Ginsberg reading Howl at the gaslight, the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness.
-Where are our best minds?
-Lost in the feed.
-Who are our cultural heroes?
So far my generation has been clumped in with the distracted, in debt, iphone addicted, drunk driving, spoiled and self-righteous people, who get dumber when they go to college, can’t take a joke, chase Pokemon through their phones and think communism is cool.
These people believe that everyone that voted for Trump in the primary, that is 13,300, 472 people, are racist and/or brainwashed and somehow it is they that are the smart ones. Somehow, they are the “good” ones because they are not racist or bigoted and wear rainbows and shirts that say You Can Pee Next To Me.
Because, in fact, this is how many liberals think: We are good and they (everyone else) is bad. They simply turn everything into an emotional argument. It is they, that are compassionate and open minded, it is the others that are simply “neo-nazis” or “fascists.”
Ryan disappeared again. Fell into a gopher hole by the pecan trees. I turn on the hose full blast and see him splash out the other side. He’s upset because he’s not a good swimmer.
-Where’d you go?
-America 1960’s. Dead Kennedy. Dylan. The Beatles. MLK. Malcolm X.
-"By any means necessary."
-How come they don’t quote him as much as they do MLK? The guy had a point: You don’t depend on the government. You depend on your brothers and sisters.
-He’s not as marketable. The whole violence thing.
-Right. Someone always takes it too far.
-MLK believed in a violent love. Isn't that a wonderful line?
-It sure is.
I know I get looks with the MAGA hat, but I feel like I’m silently telling everyone: Yeah, so what, go to hell! This country can be great again.
The very fact that Trump has survived despite his many blunders, his unorthodox tactics, his lack of funding compared to Clinton, his disorderly political campaign, might be an indication that this is more real than people like to admit. So if the only argument you got is that Trump is a bigot as is everyone that supports him, then you have to do a little better than that. You have to look a little closer.
Donald Trump, if anything, has jolted people into political conversation.
Certainly Trump has alluded to some less than savory propositions, but we simply don’t know what a Trump presidency would be like. We know that Hillary has lied. Somehow this uncertainty about Trump is part of the appeal. I don't worship the guy, nor excuse some of his less than rational proposals. He frequently baffles me with incoherent answers, his reluctance to show restraint or decorum, and what is indication that he’s often simply over his head. There is the promise of re-focusing on America’s well-being and there’s an impatience with the loud mouthed liberals that want to control everything.
I walk out to get the mail and fall through another hole.
I come out at a party, where people are gathered, drinking and talking. I have to dust off my shirt. I’m spouting off something before I have time to warn myself. I’m handed a tequila shot and regret it immediately.
-Oh my god, I can’t believe you! they say. The man is racist!
Of course, that’s their go to. I have never heard someone begin with, “The man doesn’t understand economics” or “his stance on the Middle East is often contradictory.”
No no no. They go for the racist thing.
-And you’re a Mexican!
I am an American from Mexico. Yes, I love Mexico, but I'm not into identity politics. I understand that the whole Latina thing sells, as does the Chicana image, but I don’t play that card because Chicano writers that write about their abuelitas and their rough tortilla-making hands get on my fucking nerves, (there, I’ve said it! And A House on Mango Street is the WORST!! haha!) even though my abuelita is the epitome of pure and angelic abuelitas that will out stereotype yours any day of the week.Yes, I am Mexican, but like a proper immigrant, I have been assimilated. This country made me.
Liberty is a matter of life or death. Edward Snowden sacrificed himself because he thought the American people cared about this. A rebel (or traitor depending on how you look at it) who sacrificed for the Fourth Amendment and the majority of young people don’t even know his name or his story or the fourth amendment.
Ryan fell in to a gopher hole while cutting the grass. He came out the other side with a black eye and bruises.
-Where’d you go?
-America. 1970’s. Nixon, towards the end of the Vietnam War.
-The 70’s saw the spent and withered generation of the sixties, as Hunter S. Thompson wrote, apparently the spiritual trip had its consequences.
-I wonder what Hunter would say now. The wave Thompson wrote about in Fear and Loathing, which in 1970 had fallen so low beneath the watermark, is now probably nothing more than a gurgling puddle.
-Where’s our high watermark?
-The question is, where is our wave and can it transcend the narrative?
Universities are shutting down speakers because students become upset and yell out "hate speech!"
I’m walking my dog Samuel Beckett. I'm going in Beckett, I tell him, see you on the other side. He stands there and barks. Maybe this will help me understand, maybe this will help make sense of the knotted truths.
I’m back at the party, or maybe it’s another one. Faces begin to look the same. All I know is I’m trying to make sense of this rush of something I feel when I think about what this country means. I start to get louder and jittery with excitement. I start to lose my ability and patience to try to articulate things accurately and decently.
-Fuck Hillary Clinton!
I’ve begun to lose decorum. Maybe this is what happened to our generation, they wanted to say something but then they drank too much because college was too easy and they had shitty parents. That, or they just said it on their status update and thought it mattered. I try to get a grip of myself. There is a wildness in my stomach that I like.
-You know, immigrants are supposed to become Americans. That's the whole point. Otherwise, get them out.
What I mean is…oh hell, this is really fun. It’s really fun to say that. But let me explain…
- She’s a criminal!! Put her in jail Mr. Trump. Put the bitch in jail!! Make America Great Again!
I want to explain my thinking, but it’s too late for that. There is no room for reason at this precise moment, holding this drink, only high charged emotion. Oh it all falls apart. Shameful. Let us not be betrayed by our last hope. For years we have asked for a non politician, for an anti-establishment candidate; I want to believe so strongly that Trump is one of those rare historical moments when someone unexpected steps in and steers the ship in a new direction. Or, maybe they drive it into the iceberg that forces people on the lower rungs, those throwing coals in the engine, those serving the wine, to stop and say, Fuck this, I want to live. And there's only so many life boats.
-Hillary is the Antichrist!
It feels good to say that; it's ridiculous, but if feels good. I crawl right back into the gopher hole. This dehydration is too much, I want to find something substantial. I want to piece things together.
Oh, America. You are in heat once again. And we must step in before these liberals mount you with their lies, impregnating you with generations of Americans who demand the government’s teat to survive.
America, Goddamn you’ve done some fucked up shit, but we all know how truly grand and beautiful you are. We all know you are the baddest finest bitch in the Western World.
-Hey Ryan, look at this one. It looks deeper than the others.
-It probably goes for miles.
- Let’s go.