The Domestic Terrorism Diaries

Sometimes the winners are real losers.

Come on, man:

Look, I say “I don’t know” an awful lot, and that’s because I don’t know. What I do know is that what’s happening is happening, and like it or not, it’s the process. I have always liked his willingness to do unpopular things, his refusal to be politically correct. He’s shown some backbone that has been sorely missing from the White House for, really, my whole life, and has been good medicine for the whiners and whingers of The United States for the last few years. And one of the things that I appreciated about him from the beginning was that he seemed to have the right idea about who and what he was as the President. With every other politician, you can sense the megalomania from a mile away. Trump always seemed kind of blasé and disinterested in the power, and more focused on breaking up the phlegmmy muck clogging up the political machine, while actually and genuinely putting America and Americans first. He’s been famous forever – becoming president wasn’t going to give him much of a bump in that category. But here he is, forgetting all of that, and saying, “Take back your city NOW” or he will do it for them. A bit of an egregious chest thump. (One of) The (many) problem(s) with that is that the city of Seattle does not belong to Mayor Durkan, nor to Governor Inslee. It is not in any way “their” city. It belongs to the people, and the people have it, for now. Perhaps for the first time ever, really. It may be bad people, it may be the wrong people, it may be people who aren’t going to vote for you, but it’s the people all the same.

Honestly, Mr. President, I’ve lived under these politicians for a long time now, and I am in no particular hurry to let them have it back.

Besides, perhaps if the police can be overthrown by a bunch of low-grade terrorists, they should be overthrown.

It’s interesting, too, and probably worth several pages of analysis, that a city which has been monopolized by a single political party for as long as anyone can remember, is being overthrown by its own party members. The other party is sitting back, watching the cannibalism and saying “have at it, just stay away from my home and family.”

Please, President Trump, stay away from Seattle. Stay away from Washington state. Protect your own House, even while mine burns down. The idea of the military coming in here and thrashing these punks back to their poetry slams and interpretive dance studios is rather satisfying on the surface, but it’s really nothing that a free society wants to see.


The PVP Diaries #58

Which Horseman are we up to?

These quotes are getting long. Wait until you see tomorrow’s.

“Oh, how well he understood that for the humble soul of the simple Russian, worn out by toil and grief, and, above all, by everlasting injustice and everlasting sin, his own and the world’s, there is no stronger need and consolation than to find some holy thing or person, to fall down before him and venerate him.”

– Dostoevsky, The Brothers K

The problem, Fyodor, is that we don’t have time for holiness, so we find some criminal charlatan, and venerate him instead. (He said, in an election year, during race riots.)

The toil and grief:

Not much left to say here. It was interesting to go to the KING 5 news website yesterday to see poor Governor Inslee and the Coronavirus buried deep, deep, and barely visible beneath a pile of violence, fire, and retreating police.

More West Seattle businesses reopened yesterday.

The everlasting sin:

I don’t know what to say here, as far as the police and the rioters go. It’s too obvious to point out the idiocy of running around and burning things, then becoming indignant when the police show up. In the Capitol Hill neighborhood, the police just left. They’re still around, still mildly present, but they boarded up and abandoned the precinct building. That might have been the smart move. The mature move. I have two children who fight with each other all the time, both of them being irrationally intractable and far more wrong than right, making it obvious to any 3rd party observer that the best course of action is for the smarter, stronger one to shrug, walk off, and let the other have his tantrum.

And it’s all very childish, isn’t it? Every time. The rioters are mad at the cops, so they do things to deliberately draw out the cops. The cops come and do hard, mean things to the rioters because the actions of the rioters demanded it, the rioters point and say “see?” and somehow nobody feels as stupid as they should. Or they actually do, and like all children when they start to feel their own guilt, they double down on the crookedness.

This is a questionable choice, though:

The mayor said previously she hoped the crews would help to clean up the area daily. The city is also maintaining chemical toilets in Cal Anderson and will add a new bank of toilets outside Seattle Central on Broadway in a bid to avoid the health problems that dogged the neighborhood’s Occupy camp nearly a decade ago.

Capitol Hill Seattle

They made this bed. Don’t clean the sheets for them.

The article also said that the rioters had rearranged barricades to block traffic. Cars and trucks are having to turn around. That’s nice, because we all know that businesses create their own goods on Star Trek replicators in the back room, and never have to be supplied by deliveries from the outside.

Perfect opportunity for a siege, if you ask me. Starve ’em out. Their little urban p-patches, fertilized as they are by patchouli and vanity, won’t be near enough to feed them all.

It’s important to note, just once, that equality and justice are the rallying cry, but as with everything else that mobs do, the true driving force behind all of this is the simple fear of not being able to take credit when something significant happens. “I was there.” Doesn’t really matter what that something is. We are driven by fear and loneliness more than anything perhaps. Surfing a human tsunami anonymously as it wipes a city away is preferable to having to say, afterwards, that you only saw it on snapchat. Lots of little nobodies are paddling in a panic out there, because fortifying your house against the flotsam-riddled wave is too much work, and lonely.

Anyway, it’s all fear and momentum now. People feel the advantage building for the other team, so loyalties will be shifting, and an embarrassing sequence of bad political decisions and dangerous policy choices is sure to follow. Votes uber alles. Seattle may get its experiment with real socialism sooner than later. The corporations that pump blood into this city and keep it alive are no doubt already working on their bugout plans. Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, etc. They’re the most generous, philanthropic, socially conscious and justice-oriented entities this city has ever known, but socialism’s about criminalizing the success of others, so it’ll be “off with their heads.” If you don’t think Bezos and Bill are fully prepared to wag a middle finger in the rearview without skipping a corporate beat, you’re more naive than I am. And folks, you read these pages, I’m pretty bad.

The humble soul:

It was my daughter’s last day of 6th grade yesterday. Felt like nothing happened. They had a Zoom class or two, then it was just over. Nothing changes much for me, either. She’s independent – gets herself up and fed in plenty of time for classes, so that was never part of my routine. The school tried to signify things by sending out a few high-energy emails full of great ideas for the summer and commiserations over the “weirdness of these times,” but in the end it’s just a few months without classes. No big to-do. I imagine we’ll all be out and about in a fairly normal, pre-Wuhan way sooner than later, because as hard as sudden homeschooling may have been for people, it at least had structure and requirements and a schedule, to some degree. Summer’s just chaos, and families are going to be clamoring for the progression of recovery phases to continue with as much haste as possible. We need to go from 1.5 to 4, like today.

I cut The Boy’s hair yesterday. I haven’t done that in years. His mom gave him a little trim a few weeks ago, but no kind of a lasting scourge like the one I laid on him in the bathroom, under the humming clippers after school. He’s got wild hair, he does, and I may not be particularly proud of my tonsorial handiwork, but he was perfectly pleased:

“Thanks for giving me a good haircut. I look a lot more like you. I like looking like you.”


Wax your plywood surfboard, Comrade Citizen!

Friday in the Grist Mill

A Perfect Vision Plague Subplot

I came downstairs to assume my usual position, and found The Boy, asleep under a blanket in my chair. I don’t know when he got out of bed and headed down there. He’s been out of sorts – sudden bursts of sadness, lots of resistance to school and soccer. He’s a feeler, emotional, and as much as we may think that the heavy things of our big, grown-up world don’t penetrate their gleeful childish ignorance, we are wrong. He’s been, for instance, for weeks now finding ways to work the word “detain” into conversation. “I feel so detained today,” or, in the middle of doing chores or schoolwork, “this feels so detaining.” I don’t know that I use that word very often, but he picked it up somewhere and is feeling it. Of course if I said any of this to twitter I would be told that he needs to check his privilege; that he has no idea what it really means to be detained. Because everything is binary, zero-sum, and a 9 year-old saying he feels detained during the COVID-19 quarantine, while riots are burning the cities, is a slap in the face to 9 year-old immigrants in detention facilities at the border. It can only mean that.

Even Lileks is depressing this week. If you just got your internet this morning, and still don’t know James Lileks, here’s your chance. Click on “The Bleat” and you’re on your way. He’s always taking the angle that I wish I would have been insightful enough to take myself. There’s no one more level-headed and erudite, and this week he just sounds pissed off and tired and sad and well, not himself. Things have taken their toll. On all of us.

The first of several planned and announced demonstrations in West Seattle is at 10:00 this morning. I don’t anticipate problems. This is a gathering of people on a street corner outside of a senior care center. Another one is later this afternoon at a busy intersection, but there’s no retail to speak of out there. Hooliganism also not expected.

It’s tomorrow’s march through the heart of West Seattle that worries me. Someting about the idea of movement seems to excite the mobs, and there are lots of juicy targets for the brick-throwing anti-capitalists.

Let me just say something here that nobody else will (I also hate that I said that just now. As if I’m so special, so unique that I could possibly be the only person to say something. What a jerk). It ties directly to what I’ve said several times about people being exhilarated by tragedy. People taking a, perhaps unintentional and consciously unnoticed, thrill in being a part of something horrible. Like COVID-19 and the excitement that seemed to come out when people talked about how bad it might become. Like watching a grenade get lobbed into a public swimming pool and being a little disappointed, in spite of our better angels, when it turns out to be a dud.

We’re a fodder-fed society, and there’s no fodder in joy.

So what I’m saying is that I see it in me. Just admitting that right here, right now. A part of me wants to see West Seattle burning tomorrow. I want to be able to drive through on Sunday morning and see the broken windows and graffiti, take pictures, write about it, and commiserate with my neighbors about the sadness of it all while working in, every dozen sentences or so, the boilerplate “it’s a shame that they have to make the good protesters look bad like this.” It’s a small part of me that wants this, a part in no danger of becoming dominant. The part that longs to belong, to be able to say #metoo. The allure of locking horns with hell and boasting, later, of my survivability. Especially when I was never in any real danger because the devil doesn’t want me. It’s weak and petty. It’s the side of me that wants something for nothing; to take credit for resilience that I may not have shown in the face of anything more immediate than these approximate dangers that I see on the news. I don’t know if you feel that, too, but I know I’m not the only one who does.

Find something that sucks that you can admit about yourself today. Maybe it’s the part of you that hopes, when you’re reading an article about a murder, that the perpetrator turns out to be not of your race. Or the jolt of happiness you feel when you’re reading an article about a politician in a sex scandal, and they turn out to be not of your party. Drag that feeling out by its tail, give it a little shake, then put it back in and make sure you remember where you left it. I’d like to say that you should throw it away, but let’s be honest.


The boy woke, stirred, accidentally shook a sleeping cat from his lap, then slumped down onto the floor and fell asleep again on the rug, as he mumbled something indecipherable to me. This is not the sleep of bliss under the impenetrable dome of childhood. His is the sleep of emotional exhaustion. The exhaustion of the long-borne illusion, the impotence of childhood. and the weariness of trying to work out just what that thing is, slinking around behind all of these toys and games that seem so nice. That thing that worries you inexplicably and keeps full contentment at bay. The thing that no amount of otter pops and ice cream can sweeten enough to silence. That thing that feels so detaining.

He’ll know it one day as conscience, or Original Sin, or a grand moment of unchecked honesty. Maybe he’ll be careful enough, astute enough, mature enough, to drag it out by its tail, give it a little shake, and then set it free.

From the Beginning. Of One Day to the Next

Definitions are fascinating. We don’t get to decide what an ocean is. Or an insect, or a human, or a mountain, or a deer. But we do get to define them (what power!). We generally define them by their most notable, prevalent characteristics. The things that are most intrinsically and consistently “them” from the beginning of one day to the next,  in saecula saeculorum. 

The ocean is whales and plankton, sharks and seals, waves on sand and a handshake with the moon. The ocean is a list of glories too long to tell.

We do not define it by its pollution.

The body is heart and mind, skin and soul, laughter on tears and a dance with unknowable mysteries. The body is a vessel of beauty too vast to fill.

We do not define it by its cancer.

From the beginning of one day to the next, the beautiful bodies of the United States produce oceans of glories. Cub Scouts in nursing homes, churches feeding the hungry, neighbors helping neighbors after fires and floods. The corporations and sports franchises and police departments reach within themselves and outward into their communities to create healthy environments of access to education, employment, fitness and safety for as many traditionally under-served people as they can. New songs, poems, books, and stories are written every hour of every day; new paintings and sculptures are created. Indeed, the world of the arts is daily refreshed and brightened with more publishing opportunities and awards specifically targeted to the historically passed-over, the marginalized, the oppressed. The energy of the United States of America is, from the beginning of one day to the next, dispersed to the deepest reaches of the neediest depths of its own particular ocean of bodies, and is then spent in the recognizing, uplifting, spotlighting, and glorifying of all those who have been so difficult to see and hear over the centuries.

In its own stumbling, imperfect, grasping way, the United States of America has always spent its energy thus. Its cancers and pollutions have always been apparent and pernicious, and sometimes the cancer has consumed the organ or the pollution has choked the stream, but the country has never forsaken its scalpels or sponges. The body has thrived. The river has run. We have never, not once, let a cancer grow unfought or a pollution spread unchecked. We are an ocean whose full beauty is too deep to chart. A mountain of charity whose every peak is just a place to stand so we can see the next higher one.

Fascinating. We don’t get to decide what America is, but we do get to define it (what power!). We should define it by its most notable, prevalent characteristics. To say that America is defined by racism or that America is defined by injustice is to look at the ocean and see no water. To look at the patient and see no person. It means obsessing over dirt and disease in ignorance of the obvious. It means creating a definition out of caprice, malice, and self-pity, to the total exclusion of all of the beautiful things that are most intrinsically and consistently “us” at the beginning of one day from the last, ab initio.