This Bastard’s Life #1: On Dread

I’ve been feeling real low for the past few weeks. I always do this time of year. Maybe it’s because this is the time that the long, dark winters start to get to me. Maybe it’s because my birthday, and all of the existential questions it raises, is at the end of January.

Either way, I feel depressed, and that makes it hard to keep up with the workload I willingly place upon my shoulders. And I have no one to blame but myself.

This week, I both fed and assuaged that depression by preparing for the autonomous day of action on the 6th. These last few days, I’ve been printing zines and gathering intelligence and watching as the right-wing blogosphere turns its eyes upon Eugene once again. It is the first major action here in several months, and there will be many people watching what happens very closely. I get the sense that there will be people out there to make a point. 

As such, I get the feeling that the 6th will not be a calm and uneventful day.

That, of course, is contrasted against the right-wing “Open Oregon” rallies that are scheduled for the very next day. 

At county courthouses and the Capitol in Salem, people will gather and demand that Kate Brown finally rescind her lockdown orders, which she’s already kind of doing. These rallies will almost certainly bring out some of the worst elements of Oregon’s right-wing population, especially those desperate QAnon adherents who will be heated and agitated after their March 4th inauguration prophecies once again failed to materialize. 

All these groups will be milling around the same general areas within days of one another, and that is not a hopeful prospect for those who enjoy their demonstrations free of conflict. The right-wing, somehow feeling both empowered and cornered in the months following the Capitol Insurrection, will be eager to cause a ruckus at a antifascist, anticapitalist day of action, especially at the behest of their favorite grifters. 

There are those who believe that we have just overcome some great foe, that the last four years were chock-full reactionary aberrations that waylaid our charted course toward the realization of human dignity. They, of course, are wrong, but I don’t think people realize just how wrong. The last four years–really, the last two decades–have been a prologue to the actual struggle that we are imminently approaching. The last year and all its upheaval was the closing sentence of that prologue.

And so, in the days ahead of these competing events, with the prospect of violence again looming over Eugene, I realized that I’m not feeling depressed.

What I’m feeling is dread.

A common trope that I see among conflict and protest journalists is a sort of desensitization to how common people respond to the anxiety that comes with the potential for sectarian street violence. 

It can happen to anyone who spends enough time witnessing traumatic events, if not enduring the trauma themselves, but it manifests in so many different ways. There are some that I admire simply because they have yet to succumb to the justifiable mental anguish they almost certainly feel. People like that possess a strength that I could only ever dream of possessing. Some conflict writers begin to lose touch with regular people and find it difficult to relate with anyone who hasn’t seen what they’ve seen; others learn to respond to unpredictable violence with a sort of strange, giddy irreverence that elicits neither confidence nor calm in their circles. I’m not sure which is worse.

When I learned of the imminent day of action, I initially felt that upswell of giddiness, which was of course followed immediately by an overwhelming sense of shame. And with that shame came anxiety and dread.

I hold two truths within me. The first is that I’ve never grown comfortable with or accustomed to violence and destruction. The second is that I can easily justify said violence and destruction on behalf of others. And, to be clear, I mean violence against people and the destruction of their means to survive and enjoy the tiny joys that come with humanity. A window cannot feel; brick and mortar cannot breathe.

Don’t get me wrong: It is easy for me to see the romance and joy of it all. To see the daily violence waged upon people by the dual powers of capitalism and the State briefly turned back upon itself is about as pure an expression of the joy that comes with true human freedom. If art is the expression of the self, then the individual actions that make up the much-feared mob mentality are strokes of a paintbrush, single notes within a greater symphony. One may not like the colors or the medium used, but it’s hard to view it as anything less than a social artform.

I do not like violence, but I fear it is necessary. Or, more accurately, I fear that people have come to believe that is necessary to achieve their ends. I get the feeling that many people share this contradiction within themselves, as well. 

That’s why feeling this dread is such a complex state to inhabit. I worry that I don’t have the spirit to withstand what comes next, and yet feel a compelling obligation to stand and face it anyway. The fear is real, and yet through it lies the path forward. The dread is inevitable, and so it must be overcome. We are all players in the trolly problem, but we do not control the lever that changes the path of the trolly–we are all tied to the tracks, waiting as the trolly inevitably moves menacingly toward our throats.

And it is inevitable, no matter what hope one might carry in their heart. There are days to come in which we will all feel this way, if we do not already. If not this coming weekend, then the weekend after, or the weekend after that. 

I abhor violence, but I am tired of waiting for it to arrive.

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