WOW, wow, WOW sky this morning!!
LA River moments…
When things fall apart….
Because they do, and then you have to figure out how to deal with it, and still maintain your sense of integrity in a world rife with contradiction where answers elude us, where support is difficult to find or non-existent and it is all too easy to fall into the pit of isolation and despair. Sometimes I feel like we all lead lives of quiet desperation. The personal IS political (well, because, we all find ourselves in personal dilemmas generated by the fucked up system we live in, over and over again).
So, all that’s just a long winded introduction to my own personal struggle over the last six months, and my attempt to frame my despair and frustration within some larger context in order to accept that fact that I can’t resolve things in the way I believe is right, accept that fact that I live in a fucked up society and that the struggle to change things in the larger sense, doesn’t necessarily lead to answers in the individual sense: What everyone who is oppressed by this system feels and struggles with on a daily basis … there are no immediate solutions, and one needs to carry on as best one can. I’m afraid that carrying on has violated my sense of justice, and is at best a compromised solution and leaves me conflicted and with a deep sense of despair.
My best friend, the man who was once the love of my life, with whom I’ve had an enduring emotional connection for over 20 years, who is brilliant and at the same time dysfunctional, who I care about perhaps more than anyone or anything else in life (and that, indeed, is it’s own problem), was released from prison after 6 years, 2 of which were in solitary, in February of this year. Released by a system that has no concern or compassion for those it incarcerates, whose lives it destroys. There are no words to describe my feelings about a system that cages human beings like animals, no words to describe how that system dehumanizes those on the ‘outside’ who care, no words to describe a system that sees punishment as a solution to human problems and needs. NO WORDS. And yet, today, I find myself wishing he would be arrested again, right now, and at least be put in a place where he can’t easily kill himself. To be in a place where it isn’t my problem anymore. And I hate myself for wishing that, and hate that the lack of social resources, and his own unwillingness, that has put me a place of wishing that.
My friend, he’s a junkie. Hardcore. Till death do us part with a needle jammed in his neck, hope to die junkie….
A brilliant mind, a voice and musical talent that’s deep and marvelous, a beautiful face, a wasted life. He’s got some demons, he chases them away with heroin. I understand, I junkied with him for a decade and gave away my own life, my own demons to that soothing peace the needle brings that mellows out all the contradictions until it doesn’t anymore, until it becomes its own hell and the biggest demon of them all. I got clean, I took my life back and all the contradictions. I thought that junkiedom was underground, romantic, cool and oh so William Burroughs, Beat, and rock and roll. It wasn’t. But being clean brings all the pain and contradictions back to the foreground – I’d like to drown it all away, but now I know that’s no solution. Besides, you can’t down away the system, the pain, the condtradictions we live in, you find yourself in it, regardless, no matter what.
I drove up to Vackaville (up by Sacremento) to pick him up from prison. Because, you know the normal method of release is to put on them on bus and send them on their way. Goodbye. We took away 6 years of your life, and oh, you have nowhere to go, nowhere to live? Well good luck then, and see you back soon. Like really, who designs this shit? I know, I know, but truly it’s unbelievable when you face it on a personal level, which thousands and thousands of people do, every day. Oh, and to further complicate things, while in prison, for medical reasons, he was on a three times daily dose of morphine and valium. But let’s put him out without any meds or scripts … really!? You put a known junkie who you’ve had on morphine and valium for 3 years onto the streets, cold turkey… really!?
So how do I even begin to describe the last 6 months? My futile attempts to find help. His attempts to readjust to life, his failure. My frustrations with the medical/treatment industrial complex, that’s profit driven and has very little space for the indigent, those without $$. My frustrations with junkiedom, and how impossibly difficult it is to not slip back into what you know. My frustrations with ‘the system’ that shuffles you around from place-to-place, and the frustation of being with a junkie who is having a moment of clairity NOW and is given an appointment for 2 weeks from NOW. My frustration with doing ‘harm reduction’ and buying his dope, and at $60 a day, I can’t do that for long. Watching my own life deteriorate into a “what’s the next disaster coming” mode. And there are promises made, and promises broken. And the only solution becomes to kick him out, onto the streets, into his disease and salvage my own life. And that is the most painful decision I can possibly make, and then not take any more phone calls, not listen to anymore pleading, not believe anymore promises. And that tears me apart.
So why am I even writing this, sharing my pain, exposing my vulnerability? Because telling helps the hurt, and because I know I am not alone in facing this kind of delemia, where no ready solution presents itself. My story is the story of millions of people every day in this Amerika that provides very little social safety net, and leaves you to deal with your problem on your own, if you are poor and without resources. I know that there are self-help groups (and I’m totally grateful for the help I’ve gotten there) and charitable and social service agencies. But these are truly band-aid solutions in a society that places profit, privilege, individualism and self-interest above all else. A society that has created a throw-away culture, where we discard people as easily as we discard our plastic, throw away products.
Addiction, like poverty, is a social disease. We live in an alienated world, a media culture saturated with messages of accumulation, where THINGS, how much and what you own, are the vehicle towards self identity and validation, where happiness is all about the bright, shiny, expensive objects you can surround yourself with. A society where one-up-manship, where status, where wealth and celebrity are worshipped, and you are what you make in $$s and the ultimate in validation is your net worth. Is it any wonder that we’re all alientated? And it you don’t qualify, if you don’t make the grade of net worth, if you don’t fit the media packaged image of white, successful heteronormativity, it’s your fault, afterall, you lazy, unsuccessful, sick fool. So is it any wonder that so many of us chose to check out in a drug induced haze of fuck it, none of that really matters? But you know, the narco trade is big business too, afterall, lots of profit to be made on people’s drug addicted misery, and so what initially looks to be an easy escape ends up tying you up in the most expensive and necessary PRODUCT ever, and you’ve got to sell your soul over and over again just to buy that next fix. What do you do when someone you love is caught up in that narco product, must buy, must escape hamster wheel that is hardcore addiction? If you haven’t already had the ‘net worth’ thing worked out you’re really fucked, because like any other product, you’ve got to buy it to have it, and this product, my friends, is expensive, and the ultimate in must have capitalist products, over and over again.
So, what would I have in an ideal world? I’d live in a humyn oriented, rather than profit oriented, society where the cultural core and norm was one of community, sharing, love and self respect. I’d live in a world where “problems” aren’t “personal”; a world where community rallies round you when the goings tough, a world where help is readily available to all, no cost, no fee. I’d live in a culture, in a social structure, that isn’t media saturated with consumerism, where one’s value isn’t measured by net worth, the things one owns. I’d live in a world that celebrates diversity and the beauty of humyn differnce, instead of one that bombards with images idealizing a white, heteronormative imaginary world of privilege that ain’t attainable nowhere, nohow, anyway. A world where my difference, anyone’s difference, doesn’t create self loathing and the need to escape, numb out and mentally flee it’s deadening oppression.
Because isn’t that what drug addiction really is? A failed effort to escape a world unbearable, a world one just can’t measure up to, a world so painful that escape at any cost seems like a strategy worth buying into? The culture we live in today is all about finding strategies worth BUYING into.
So the world I’d like ain’t anywhere nearby close, inspite of many of our valiant efforts to build local community and alternatives. On a second best level, I wish there were at least easily accessible, no cost social services available to assist us when things fall apart … but we don’t live in a no cost world. I’d like to think that fighting for these things is worth the investment, worth the energy, worth the idealist struggle to make change in this world. I’d like to think that the local, alternative communities we are trying to build might be enough….
But it’s Wednesday, 5:00am in the morning… it’s raining, it’s cold and he’s standing at my door, bedraggled and I can’t say no. And so the cycle starts again. And that my friends is why so many of us, the poor, the oppressed, the have nots desperately suffering are not engaged in the struggle to change things. We’re too engaged in dealing with our own dysfunctional realities, created by this fucked up system, behind closed doors, alone and desperate, no time or energy to deal with anything beyond the hope of getting through the disaster of today. That my friends, is the very real Amerika.
I’ll have some art hanging here! it’s a most fabulous Queer space.
Okay then, here is the FULL image of the Safer Spaces Root of Justice Tree (2 images combined - couldn’t get a shot of the whole thing in one frame even lying on my back … but important to capture all the words!
This beautiful work of art and education was painted on the ceiling of Dinner Not Guns via the collaborative efforts of 3 wonderful LAQR artists (who worked on it all night!) as part of yesterday’s Art Event, a truly wonderful day. More pictures, etc. to follow. This art so very much displays the energy of the day.
Los Angeles Queer Resistance Issue #5 is out and about.
you can read the full version here:
If you’d like a PDF version to print, email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you one.
okay then, time to do some work…
White Privilege is real and I think it is critically important for me, as a white person, to acknowledge that, so I’m doing that publicly. REALLY, it’s time to state that we do NOT live in a color blind society, and that being white gives me many advantages that are not available to people of color. Simple truth, simple fact. I think it would make for change for white people to simply admit that, and begin to understand what that means in the lives of people who are not white.
AND, here’s an interestingly radical perspective… well worth thinking about