Paul Van Sickle ~ The Overton window

Outside my win­dow today it is rain­ing. Seven bum­ble­bees strug­gle against the drops. They strain to bear their own weight, emer­ald fronds of grass below ready to receive what pollen falls from their over­laden bod­ies, what hon­eyed dust liquors the land. The sun will come out soon. These are all lies, but they feel like an accept­able sum­ma­tion of what could be beyond the win­dow­pane. They feel they could be true. We’ll get to that my dears, we will.
~
Outside my win­dow today the bees have start­ed dis­ap­pear­ing. They are trapped in the haze of Wi-Fi sig­nals, radio fre­quen­cies. They crash against the waves we can­not see and the bees are grow­ing sick. Some say they are Africanized, angry. This is anoth­er lie, of anoth­er sort. Bees can only sting once. To believe you are impor­tant enough for them to lose their lives, their striped backs, is van­i­ty. Wasps can sting end­less­ly and wasps have always been the true vil­lains in this coun­try.
~
Outside my win­dow today there is a plane crash, and anoth­er. Falling tow­ers. Screeching sirens. The imme­di­ate oth­er­ing of a small minor­i­ty for the sake of a mob, for our right to ques­tion sus­pend­ed by duty. Airports become unrec­og­niz­able. Dangerous laws are put into place and a dan­ger­ous new depart­ment is set up with­in the gov­ern­ment. Wars start up. It is demand­ed of most to return to work the very next day. Many do.
~
Outside my win­dow today the wars have spread like mad cow dis­ease, like bird flu, like swine flu: a mas­sive scare fol­lowed by a slow trick­ling of death as the world pre­tends not to see. Airstrikes are car­ried out with the malaise of a but­ton, the immi­nent chrome of life­less shrikes: their remote pilots pick­ing off civil­ians with racist zeal. So far, the ani­mals we’ve col­o­nized are spread­ing dis­ease. En masse we too are treat­ed as live­stock while we wait for immu­ni­ties. Lyme creeps unde­tect­ed. Chikunguya emerges. Zika storms towards an apoc­a­lypse. Anywhere a herd men­tal­i­ty erupts, the blood­suck­ers fol­low.
~
Outside my win­dow there’s a plas­tic bag caught in the wind: one more inevitable piece of a hun­dred fifty mil­lion met­rics tons of plas­tic in the ocean. The reefs have bleached to bone, mar­row sucked dry by jet-black anemones. The coasts are dead zones too oxy­gen deplet­ed to sup­port wildlife. Our lust for the preser­va­tion of mem­o­ry has left us with the cloud: all our infor­ma­tion stored on data cen­ters deep in the earth and the bot­tom of the ocean. Even the depths are heat­ing. Anywhere a cloud becomes a melt­ing pot, the rains become unpre­dictable.
~
Outside my win­dow today I hear sirens. I fear where their death knell may land. My hands shake despite the fact I see a fire truck instead of a police car. Despite the deaths of Michael Brown, Terrance Franklin, Julio Bald Eagle, Sandra Bland, Quanice Hayes, Miles Hall, Kalief Browder, Tiara Thomas, Darrien Hunt, Darius Tarver, William Green, Kwame Jones, De’von Bailey, Koben S. Henriksen, Jose Mejia Poot, Christopher Witfield, Michael Marshall, Anthony Hill, Frank Smart, Eric Logan, Jamarion Robinson, Darrell Gatewood Gregory Hill Jr., Gregory Lewis Towns Jr., James Chasse, James Brissette, Ron Pettaway, Albert Davis, JaQuavion Slaton, Ryan Twyman, Brandon Webber, George Mann, Hallis Kinsey, Howard Wallace Bowe Jr., Ryan O’Loughlin, William Chapman II, Jimmy Atchison, Kathryn Johnston, Willie McCoy, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., Francisco Serna, D’ettrick Griffin, Jemel Roberson, Michael Lee Marshall, DeAndre Ballard, Botham Jean, Steven Isby, Sean Bell, Robert Lawrence White, Robert Storay, Robert Johnson Jr., Robert LaVoy Finicum, Calvon Reid, Lavall Hall, Jacory Calhoun, Aaron Campbell, Aaron Siler, Kelly Thomas, Kenneth Christopher Lucas, Kaldrick Donald, Bettie Jones, Ronald Madison, Lawrence Allen, Anthony Lamar Smith, Veronica Woodard, Treon Johnson, Latandra Ellington, Ramarley Graham, Manuel Loggins Jr., Trayvon Martin, Wendell Allen, Kendrec McDade, Larry Jackson Jr., Tyrone West, Tyre King, Tyrone Davis, Tommy Yancy, Linda Yancey, Jonathan Ferrel, Saif Alameri, Keara Crowder, Jordan Baker, Jeramine McBean, Juan May, Victor White III, Dontre Hamilton, Jacqueline Nichols, Yvette Smith, Vincent Wood, Eric Garner, John H Crawford III, Julian Alexander, Ezell Ford, Emmanuel Jean-Baptiste, D’Angelo Stallworth, Natasha McKenna, Eric Ricks, Nicholas Robertson, Dante Parker, Kajieme Powell, Cameron Tillman, Glenn Lewis, Kevin Higginbotham, Christopher Jones, Laquan McDonald, Anthony Ashford, India Kager, Adam Hortter, Akai Gurley, Russell Rios, David Andre Scott, David Felix, Felix Kumi, Tyisha Miller, Jason Washington, Jason Brady, Eddie Ray Epperson, Samuel Harrell, Jeremy Lake, Tamir Rice, Lavon King, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Charly Leundeu Keunang, Tony Robinson, Walter Scott, Freddie Carlos Gray Jr, Brendon Glenn, Charles Goodridge, Samuel DuBose, Christian Taylor, Arvel Williams, Deontre Dorsey, Jamar Clark, Otto Zehm, Frank Clarke, Talif Scudder, Mario Woods, Mario Ocasio, Quintonio LeGrier, David Winesett, David Yearby, Dominick Wise, Gregory Gunn, Akiel Denkins, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Rebecka Pearce, Feras Morad, Andrew Depeiza, Richard Gregory Davis, Lorenzo Hayes, Brandon Glenn, Markus Clark, Terrence Sterling, Terrence Coleman, Jeremy Ajibade, Jeremy McDole, Terence Crutcher, Keith Lamont Scott, Alfred Olango, Jordan Edwards, Stephon Clark, Lashano Gilbert, Ross Anthony, Danny Ray Thomas, Dejuan Guillory, Patrick Harmon, Cedric Stanley, Ronald Singleton, Gabriel Parker, Cortez Washington, Gregory Frazier, Sylville Smith, Joyce Quaweay, Ernest Satterwhite, Ernesto Javier Canepa Diaz, Christian Redwine, Michael Schriver, Michelle Shirley, Ferguson Laurent, Paul O’Neal, Joseph Mann, Deravis “Caine” Rogers, Dylan Noble, Tyler Gebhard, Ciara Meyer, Chance Thompson, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Jonathan Hart, Nathaniel Dorough, Brandan Jones, Justus Howell, Antwun Shumpert, Johnathan Paul, Gilbert Flores, Jonathan Sanders, Ollie Brooks, Jessica Williams, Terrance Moxley, Deborah Danner, Cecil Lacy Jr., Najier Salaam, Salome Rodriquez Jr., Allen Baker III, Maurice Granton, Julius Johnson, Jamee Johnson, Autumn Steele, Loren Simpson, Joseph Hutchison, Kristiana Coignard, Luis Gongora, Keshawn Hargrove, Greg Gunn, Akil Denkins, David Joseph, Ryan Bolinger, Loreal Tsingine, Keith Mcleod, Paterson Brown Jr., Ricky Ball, Troy Robinson, Dominic Hutchinson, Joshua Beal, Nehemia Fischer, Ebin Proctor, Corey Jones, Lavante Biggs, Michael Sawyer, and Michael Dean [to name a few] police spend­ing sees a cease­less increase. Despite mass incar­cer­a­tion, stop and frisk, hous­ing seg­re­ga­tion, lead in the water, lead in the walls, lead in our blood, the war on drugs, the new Jim Crow, seg­re­ga­tion, red lin­ing, the old Jim Crow, and hun­dreds of years of slav­ery a white lash still echoes across the nation as a man with no qual­i­fi­ca­tions steals the pres­i­den­cy with a plat­form based on nation­al­ist hatred. The reporters don’t seem to know what to do. The weath­er doesn’t seem to know what to do either, but out­side my win­dow it is grey.
~
Outside my win­dow today, there is a crowd of peo­ple gath­ered for an inau­gu­ra­tion. I am sick­ened by what they rep­re­sent so I turn away. On my tele­vi­sion, a larg­er crowd has gath­ered for the same inau­gu­ra­tion. Somewhere here there is a lie. Clearly the peo­ple in whichev­er crowd is real are con­vinced the lie is truth. Objectivity has become a tool of suprema­cy. There is col­lu­sion with Russia. There is no col­lu­sion with Russia. Whatever hap­pened to net neu­tral­i­ty? Was neu­tral­i­ty pos­si­ble to begin with? The page for cli­mate change is erased from the EPA’s web­site and sud­den­ly the only peo­ple I trust are a group of rogue park rangers. They remind me that car­bon diox­ide in the atmos­phere is high­er than any time in the last 650,000 years. They remind me that ocean acid­i­ty has increased by thir­ty per­cent since the Industrial Revolution. I want to believe what the park rangers say is also false, but they’re silenced after a swamp is drained some­where. The only swamp I saw drained was wet­land destroyed for a pipeline in North Dakota.
~
Outside my win­dow today: cov­fefe.
~
It hasn’t even been a year but I can’t bear to look out the win­dow. The afford­able care act is under attack. Pipelines are being built across the coun­try. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead. A rule reg­u­lat­ing safe dis­pos­al of mer­cury has been with­drawn. The House Administration com­mit­tee elim­i­nat­ed the only agency whose job was to ensure vot­ing machines could not be hacked. The vice pres­i­dent is put in charge of elec­tion integri­ty. The Justice depart­ment renewed its con­tracts with for-prof­it pris­ons. Border Security has formed into its own pri­vate mili­tia in antic­i­pa­tion of a wall being built. More and more visas are revoked. Money is being divert­ed to the mil­i­tary for the sake of “readi­ness.” A man who spent decades fight­ing against repro­duc­tive rights has been made a mem­ber of the Supreme Court. A probe is sent out about Russia’s involve­ment in elect­ing a real­i­ty TV pres­i­dent and mem­bers of his core cab­i­net dis­ap­pear from office. To dis­tract, a Syrian base is struck with cruise mis­siles. The pres­i­dent tar­gets the Estate tax. A pri­vate bill defunds Planned Parenthood. A four tril­lion dol­lar bud­get is pro­posed, depen­dent on cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, dis­abil­i­ty, and stu­dent loan sub­si­dies. When this is crit­i­cized, the gov­ern­ment moves toward aban­don­ing the Paris Climate Accord, tout­ing coal as clean ener­gy. Transgender folks are barred from the mil­i­tary, not that many want­ed to serve a coun­try that has bashed their rights [skulls] at every turn. The pres­i­dent threat­ens nuclear retal­i­a­tion in North Korea and push­es a plan to cut legal immi­gra­tion. Factions of Nazis rise from their hate filled depths to descend on Charlottesville with tiki torch­es. A hur­ri­cane dec­i­mates Texas and Louisiana. Texas receives imme­di­ate aid. A month lat­er anoth­er hur­ri­cane floods Puerto Rico, killing three thou­sand, leav­ing the entire island with­out pow­er or clean water, dis­plac­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple. The pres­i­dent throws paper tow­els at the vic­tims and lies about how much mon­ey will be allo­cat­ed towards relief, but we nev­er got cov­er­age because of a tax plan designed to mur­der the low­er class­es. Its details are illeg­i­bly scrib­bled in pen on the mar­gins of the offi­cial doc­u­ment but the bill pass­es.
~
Outside my win­dow today there is hope. It is quick­ly dashed like egg into a stir-fry, into indis­tin­guish­able chunks from the rest, into more fury.
~
Outside my win­dow today, chil­dren are being round­ed up. Some are sep­a­rat­ed from their fam­i­lies, oth­ers sep­a­rat­ed from the coun­try they were born in, the only home they’ve known. The sting of assault rifles sep­a­rates oth­ers as twen­ty-four sep­a­rate school shoot­ings round out a sin­gle year. Those too afraid to go to school, prac­tic­ing active shoot­er drills, and weep­ing over the bod­ies of their friends are some­how the lucky ones. For every bul­let lodged in an ele­men­tary school, a mosque has been attacked. Migrants are denied their right to an attor­ney in order to pro­tect their con­fi­den­tial­i­ty. ICE runs its deten­tion facil­i­ties at full capac­i­ty, sets dai­ly goals for the num­ber of peo­ple deprived of lib­er­ty. These facil­i­ties max­i­mize prof­it by elim­i­nat­ing human rights: reduc­ing dol­lars down to spoiled food, mag­gots in the show­ers, bleach in the water. Across the coun­try, racist police arrest inno­cent peo­ple in sanc­tu­ary cities for traf­fic vio­la­tions before turn­ing them over to immi­gra­tion author­i­ties. Homeland Security pur­chas­es loca­tion data from phone apps to track and arrest immi­grants. Inside the con­cen­tra­tion camps, refugees are cramped into cells tight as the hold of a slave ship, hun­dreds of peo­ple forced to share one toilet—forced to drink from that same toi­let. Deaths pass by unsub­stan­ti­at­ed as the offi­cers of these facil­i­ties lose or burn doc­u­ments. Lose or burn lives. Lose or burn footage of sex­u­al assault. From the flames, like a demon, like a phoenix ris­ing from the ash­es of our new holo­caust, a rapist ris­es to the Supreme Court.
~
Outside my win­dow today there is a polar vor­tex, or a bomb cyclone. A nuclear avalanche. I can’t keep track of what they’re call­ing the storms any­more because each one has become unprece­dent­ed. All I can say for sure is the snow is falling side­ways and I doubt I’ll be able to shov­el it in the morn­ing. The days are dark and there’s lit­tle to bright­en the gloom. I have a pic­ture of the Great Wall of China by my win­dow, which I’ve dis­so­ci­at­ed into for the past two hours. Collectively, the wall is over thir­teen thou­sand miles long, was built over two mil­len­nia. The pres­i­dent has con­tin­ued to extend the longest gov­ern­ment shut­down in his­to­ry for the sake of his own wall. I should be glad the gov­ern­ment has halt­ed for a moment, but for some rea­son it hasn’t. People across the coun­try are so afraid of a sys­tem col­laps­ing they work with­out pay. The sec­re­tary of defense quits after the pres­i­dent tries to back out of Syria. More of his fol­low­ers have been fur­ther accused of col­lud­ing with Russia. A Special Counsel is inves­ti­gat­ing and I wait with bat­ed breath.
~
Outside my win­dow, a cou­ple days have passed. The snow has not, but it’s six­ty-five degrees in Antarctica in February. The shut­down has end­ed with­out approval for fund­ing the president’s wall. He has declared a state of emer­gency. I declare to the walls of my liv­ing room that we’ve been in one for years. The Special Counsel’s report con­cludes and though it out­lines ten counts of obstruc­tion of jus­tice, nobody car­ries it through. Wall con­struc­tion begins. Water sources, bur­ial sites, and land sacred to the Tohono O’odham peo­ple are bull­dozed and blast­ed with­out con­sid­er­a­tion for either sov­er­eign ground or the dozens of unique species pop­u­lat­ing Monument Hill. Still, this pic­ture of the Great Wall haunts me. The bor­der with Mexico is less than two thou­sand miles. For some­one who cares so much about inflat­ing their posi­tion over for­eign nations, the wall seems dinky com­pared with China. Thirteen thou­sand miles. Over two mil­len­nia. Most of which was fin­ished before the Untied States even declared itself a coun­try. Even as a dis­play [abuse] of pow­er, a bor­der wall would serve only as an exam­ple of the president’s impo­tence, a mod­ern Ozymandias defi­cient of the roman­tic lus­ter.
~
Today out­side my win­dow the wrong ice is melt­ing. The wrong Amazon is burn­ing. Fires were delib­er­ate­ly start­ed to clear out rain­for­est for farm­ing and min­ing. California swel­ters through anoth­er path of flames. Prisoners swel­ter through anoth­er job they are not paid for defeat­ing the blaze. The rich enlist pri­va­tized fire­fight­ers to pro­tect their assets. Australia is engulfed in embers, a bush­fire near­ly the size of the United Kingdom swal­low­ing the descen­dants of England’s pris­on­ers [col­o­niz­ers]. They car­ry on with Brexit as the con­fla­gra­tion con­sumes count­less endan­gered species. Plumes of black car­bon trav­el across a swath of the globe half the length of the con­tigu­ous Great Wall of China. A sear­ing infer­no scorch­es through the cathe­dral of Notre Dame, as if a god who chose not to inter­vene since the great wall was only four thou­sand miles long final­ly agreed we were beyond deliv­er­ance. I know watch­ing the steeple become a pyre that this is the only fire whose destruc­tion will be reme­died.
~
Today out­side my win­dow a man is being rushed to a max­i­mum-secu­ri­ty prison, to be held on twen­ty-four hour watch for his orches­tra­tion of an inter­na­tion­al sex ring. He imme­di­ate­ly winds up dead. I won­der at the impos­si­bil­i­ty of what is ruled a sui­cide; until it comes up that his client list includes English princes, prime min­is­ters, for­mer pres­i­dents [the sale of under­age boys and girls to our cur­rent pres­i­dent]. To dis­tract, the Endangered species act is once again slashed and a rule is put into place lim­it­ing food stamps, hous­ing sup­port, and Medicaid for immi­grants. The half-truths are pushed clos­er to absur­di­ty with a plan to buy Greenland for its coal, pushed clos­er to bla­tant lies as the pres­i­dent alters the course of a hur­ri­cane on a weath­er map with a sharpie. Despite anoth­er unprece­dent­ed slew of hur­ri­canes, the admin­is­tra­tion final­ly pulls the coun­try out of the Paris Agreement.
~
For a dizzy­ing moment the view looks bet­ter out my win­dow. It’s Christmastime and the lights look pret­ty in the frost. The pres­i­dent has been impeached. Another law­suit has shown he dis­trib­uted char­i­ty funds towards his elec­tion cam­paign. It feels good to watch mon­ey bleed. I can’t help but stay awake at night think­ing of all the ways I wish those hoard­ing it might also bleed.
~
Today out­side my win­dow, there is quite the buzz. I wish it were my bees—the ice has been get­ting to me despite a warm win­ter. I grit my teeth see­ing it’s anoth­er debate. Somehow we’ve sur­vived to anoth­er elec­tion year, yet again skirt­ing a third world war after an unnec­es­sary airstrike mur­ders an Iranian gen­er­al. Despite one pro­gres­sive can­di­date haunt­ing the estab­lish­ment like the ghost of elec­tions past, I can’t see much hope. Maybe I don’t want to. Maybe I’m mired in the trench between those hop­ing a bro­ken sys­tem could work and those say­ing we need to remake the whole thing. Maybe I remem­ber the cheat­ing [vot­er sup­pres­sion] from our last elec­tion. Maybe I’m angered that our best can­di­date would be con­sid­ered mod­er­ate in many oth­er coun­tries. Maybe I’ve noticed the attempt to cov­er up our fifth wide­spread epi­dem­ic in Wuhan and I wor­ry about the world­wide land­scape should it erupt.
~
Today I’m not look­ing out the win­dow. There is an image on my social media of an arti­cle claim­ing ket­a­mine cures the coro­n­avirus. I can’t stop look­ing at it. In the rever­ber­at­ing storm of true things I’ve doubt­ed, things I nev­er thought would hap­pen that have come to pass—in the mael­strom of fake news, pro­pa­gan­da, piss­ing con­tests, hor­ror, and irony—it is impos­si­ble for me to decide whether or not this feels like it could be true. I actu­al­ly can’t tell whether or not I’m star­ing at a meme.
~
Today out­side my win­dow it is dawn. The Iowa cau­cus was last night. I’ve lived through enough elec­tions to know the best thing is a sleep­ing pill at sev­en p.m. It seems my plan hasn’t worked as well as I’ve hoped. Instead, fed­er­al agents has used one of the candidate’s cam­paigns as a front to fund their own vote count­ing app. I’m not sur­prised to see they’ve named it Shadow and that it incor­rect­ly tal­lied del­e­gates towards their can­di­date. Nor am I sur­prised to see that it crashed and the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to find a way to cov­er up their incom­pe­ten­cy.
~
Today out­side my win­dow there is a child cry­ing. His moth­er is wear­ing rub­ber gloves and an indus­tri­al res­pi­ra­tor. Momma, the boy cries, where are all the peo­ple? My stom­ach sinks as I con­sid­er how I might explain a pan­dem­ic to a small child. It’s Lent, the moth­er says. You know how we had to give up eat­ing meat? The whole world is giv­ing up jobs and going out­side for Lent. That’s all sweet­ie. I wish it were that sim­ple. I wish there were test­ing avail­able. I wish I knew whether the tight­ness in my chest means I could die or if it’s just a deep-root­ed pan­ic set­tling into the core of my bones. Elders always said when I was younger that the hard­est part of life was watch­ing things change, mourn­ing peo­ple and places that were gone. I nev­er thought that would mean play­ing cards with friends, smil­ing at a stranger instead of giv­ing them as many feet as pos­si­ble. Cooking din­ner for a rel­a­tive after a long jour­ney. I nev­er thought I’d miss rid­ing the bus. I cry for those deemed essen­tial, try to tip the woman with a limp bag­ging my gro­ceries. I order Chinese take­out more often because racist big­ots won’t. After check­ing my tem­per­a­ture for the fifth time in a day, I recline and watch the finan­cial dam­age work its way up the food chain from indi­vid­u­als unable to pay rent to their vam­pir­ic land­lords unable to sus­tain a mort­gage they’ve nev­er felt the risk of. From cof­fee being out of stock in my gro­cery store to the cof­fee chains that had shot up like Covid clos­ing hun­dreds of loca­tions across the coun­try. I rejoice at some bank­rupt­cies, mourn oth­ers. At my dark­est, I feel hope stain­ing the hor­ror of this moment: we have reached a reck­on­ing too large to bypass. I pray that when this ends we have the strength to exam­ine what can no longer serve any­one.
~
Today out­side my win­dow com­pa­nies are dump­ing milk and pota­toes while food banks strug­gle to main­tain their sup­ply. States paint social­ly dis­tanced box­es in pave­ment for the home­less to sleep in instead of let­ting them stay in emp­ty hotels. The wealth gap in the United States is larg­er than it was dur­ing the French rev­o­lu­tion. The EPA, cit­ing the pan­dem­ic, has rolled back more pol­lu­tion laws, allow­ing cor­po­ra­tions to decide for them­selves what is accept­able. Our only viable can­di­date, fol­low­ing var­i­ous attempts at vot­er sup­pres­sion from his own par­ty, has dropped out of the race after Wisconsin forced cit­i­zens to vote in per­son. Stock prices in health­care imme­di­ate­ly surged. The inte­ri­or sec­re­tary is try­ing to elim­i­nate the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s reser­va­tion. Raging fires near Chernobyl are releas­ing radi­a­tion into the atmos­phere. Citizens mar­ried to immi­grants are blocked from get­ting stim­u­lus checks. Others are wait­ing because the pres­i­dent wants his sig­na­ture on theirs, and nobody in Puerto Rico received one. Tribes [the hard­est hit] were sup­posed to get eight bil­lion dol­lars in aid but have seen none of it. Deforestation of the Amazon has soared under cov­er of the pan­dem­ic and the U.S. is deport­ing Covid pos­i­tive immi­grants to Haiti and Guatemala, fur­ther spread­ing the virus. An exec­u­tive order has been signed on World Environment day using emer­gency pow­ers to once again gut the endan­gered species act, the clean water act, and the nation­al envi­ron­men­tal pol­i­cy act. All over the coun­try, relief funds are mis­al­lo­cat­ed, states are forced to open back up so small busi­ness­es have to force work­ers to endure peo­ple too indoc­tri­nat­ed to wear a mask or fire their employ­ees, jeop­ar­diz­ing unem­ploy­ment allo­ca­tions.
~
Today out­side my win­dow a man’s nose is stick­ing out over his face mask. He rips the mask from his face in order to cough and sneeze into his hands, then puts it right back on with his nose stick­ing out. I won­der how we got to a point where sci­ence became some­thing you could dis­agree with, but I already know the answer. It’s one thing for a pres­i­dent to sug­gest inject­ing bleach to clean out your lungs; it’s anoth­er for peo­ple to be hos­pi­tal­ized for lis­ten­ing to him. Meanwhile, the white house is set­ting up block­ades of pro­tec­tive equip­ment, only send­ing sup­plies to states con­tent with the administration’s fas­cism and goug­ing prices after end­ing an ear­ly warn­ing pro­gram to test for the virus. The pres­i­dent offers large sums of mon­ey for exclu­sive access to vac­cines being devel­oped across the world, at the same time refus­ing to offer finan­cial assis­tance to the post office in the hopes it will close down and make vot­ing impos­si­ble by the time of reelec­tion. During a glob­al pan­dem­ic, the Senate has banned trans­gen­der med­ica­tion for minors, fed­er­al exe­cu­tions have been rein­stat­ed, and health­care pro­tec­tion for trans patients have been elim­i­nat­ed. Overflows of dead patients are being stored in freez­er trucks out­side hos­pi­tals. Families are giv­en four­teen days to claim the dead before bod­ies are piled into mass graves. The pres­i­dent has halt­ed fund­ing for the world health orga­ni­za­tion. He touts hydrox­y­chloro­quine as a cure because his step­son has stakes in its production—resulting in mul­ti­ple poi­son­ings in Nigeria, unavail­abil­i­ty of the drug for lupus patients depend­ing on it, more price goug­ing, and a ban on pan­dem­ic tes­ti­mo­ni­als before con­gress. The virus goes unchecked in pris­ons and con­cen­tra­tion camps, where chil­dren are sprayed with dis­in­fec­tants so often they are get­ting burns and dying from tox­ic over­ex­po­sure. One of the health giants prey­ing on Americans for decades has bought up the world’s stock of remdesivir—another drug said to help with the virus—and is sell­ing it for twen­ty five hun­dred dol­lars a treat­ment, if you have insur­ance. It costs ten dol­lars to make. This com­pa­ny realigns its hold­ings every year to avoid pay­ing tax­es despite the fact our tax­es have pro­vid­ed the bulk of fund­ing for their top three sell­ing drugs. It seems like­ly they will low­er the price after pub­lic out­rage and call it char­i­ty, just as they did with an HIV drug they dis­trib­ute. I am gear­ing up for the loss of anoth­er gen­er­a­tion of artists and crit­i­cal thinkers.
~
Today out­side my win­dow, there is an erup­tion of green. My bum­ble­bees have returned! In a cru­el twist of fate they risk hav­ing their heads torn off by an inva­sive species dubbed mur­der hor­nets. I won­der how much more bib­li­cal it can get [no frogs yet]. Maybe I’ve been quar­an­tined too long, but I feel I can see a sticky web feath­er­ing out, can add up how the strands con­nect to our suf­fer­ing. While it’s evi­dent this pan­dem­ic is a symp­tom of cli­mate change, I fear cli­mate change itself is being used as lever­age in a class war. I think of the nation­al­ism, how coun­tries deemed devel­oped spit on refugees and shut­ter their bor­ders to those flee­ing per­se­cu­tion, slav­ery, reli­gious extrem­ism, and war. I think of how many of those wars were start­ed by these same coun­tries to plun­der resources, of how insur­gen­cies and pup­pet gov­ern­ments seem to occur clos­er to the equa­tor. I think of Brexit and the desire to build walls. I think of how migrant car­a­vans have already being stopped at my own bor­der, how many of those peo­ple died from the heat. I think of how the coun­tries with the largest land­mass are at the cen­ter of this, how much of this land­mass exists in mod­er­ate cli­mates, how these coun­tries are also the top pol­luters and have the most bil­lion­aires. I think of all the hur­ri­canes and fires and mud­slides that could have been pre­vent­ed if those bil­lion­aires invest­ed in cli­mate solu­tions instead of per­son­al inter­est. I think of how there are five times as many sea­son­al homes in the United States as there are home­less peo­ple. I think of how the mon­ster in charge of our edu­ca­tion depart­ment owns a fleet of yachts, how the rich­est men in the world bust unions to build legions of sub­marines and sup­port coups to swipe up lithi­um, how these same men are pri­va­tiz­ing space trav­el. I think of how the pres­i­dent estab­lished a divi­sion of the mil­i­tary as Space Force and signed leg­is­la­tion to drill the moon for min­er­als. I think of how the num­ber one cause for future pan­demics is the habi­tat loss of wild ani­mals. The rich are con­tent rav­aging us of all pos­si­ble resources as they deter­mine the best way to escape—running, hid­ing, and pro­vok­ing a prob­lem they could eas­i­ly solve. We are hostages to the great­est cow­ardice in the his­to­ry of the plan­et, numbed and beat­en down with small com­forts we are told to be grate­ful for. Every calami­ty is an orches­trat­ed domi­no of com­ing cli­mate geno­cide.
~
Today out­side my win­dow a police precinct is on fire. The police have shot a nurse in her sleep on the grounds of a no knock war­rant tied to a gen­tri­fi­ca­tion plan. They have held down anoth­er inno­cent man, kneel­ing on his neck for eight min­utes while he cried for his moth­er. They have wrong­ful­ly shot fif­teen thou­sand peo­ple [that we know about] over the last ten years. But now a precinct is on fire and I am grin­ning at the flames. People for whom the prob­lem wasn’t close enough have wok­en up to the fail­ings of the insti­tu­tion they’ve spent their whole lives ben­e­fit­ting from. In a week of protests and a few days of riots, more progress has been achieved towards true jus­tice than in the last twen­ty years. Still, the admin­is­tra­tion has had no prob­lem weaponiz­ing a pan­dem­ic to clear out wrong­ful­ly com­mit­ted peo­ple in pris­ons and con­cen­tra­tion camps so they can con­tin­ue fill­ing them with pro­test­ers as we are evict­ed, tear gassed, shot at by mili­ti­a­men, lynched by fired cops, and round­ed up by feds in unmarked vehi­cles. We can’t leave the coun­try. Under this admin­is­tra­tion we are effec­tive­ly hostages, slaves for prof­it. Many of the peo­ple on the pres­i­den­t’s side are expe­ri­enc­ing what­ev­er the mass hys­te­ria equiv­a­lent of an abu­sive rela­tion­ship is. Many cen­trists are so beat­en by their own sys­temic white­ness that they need to parade at out­side brunch­es through Covid to prove they’re not dead inside. These peo­ple won’t be con­vinced either way, and oth­ers every­where are at long last step­ping up to car­ry the polit­i­cal fight minori­ties have been exhaust­ed by for decades. I’m cack­ling at the flames because these protests have proven that we final­ly have the num­bers.
~
Today my win­dow has been smashed in: anoth­er link in an end­less chain of police bru­tal­i­ty. I gath­er the shards, take them in. I won­der how they ever fit togeth­er. What jagged view has now escaped beyond the cracks once smooth? Is this what I’ve been doing? Trying to fit the pieces togeth­er to form a whole? This entire time I have felt if I could line it all up, see how much has been lost, cat­a­log the atrocities—then I could make sense of it. Now, puz­zling togeth­er the con­fu­sion feels use­less. A mosa­ic of abuse can only go so far. You can’t un-walk a path already laid out by the hor­ror of igno­rance. But damn can I march! I am done count­ing tragedy, com­pound­ing grief as if it will stop. So long as one can look out a win­dow and see how the world could get worse, it will. So long as I can view these atroc­i­ties, I can dis­tance myself from them, the same way social media forces us into com­plic­i­ty through the bystander effect. What’s left to con­sid­er in bro­ken glass? The streets are wait­ing.

~

Paul Van Sickle’s work has appeared in Cagibi and the Showbear Family Circus. He stud­ied fic­tion at Bennington College, and attend­ed Tin House’s 2019 Summer Workshop as a short fic­tion writer under Kelly Link. When not in a pan­dem­ic, he is a milliner at the Metropolitan Opera and the edi­tor of Merde: a zine doc­u­ment­ing mod­ern dance and per­for­mance art.