Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 215

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I bought a slice of lemon bread with it; sunny as the last day of summer; the coffee was good, but it gave me a stomach ache

I went to a smoothie shop selling dark chocolate blended with blueberries, dates and bananas. Decadent. That’s not a word you can use without sounding like an asshole, but in this case it’s the best fit for the experience. The shop looked like an Apple store. Everyone else was wearing earbuds and athleisure.

I’ve been thinking about ‘whiteness.’ I come from a culture that cut itself from sea water, salt blocks, tart and fragile. It has no bones. It’s not English, not Italian, not even ‘American.’ Four hundred years ago, my ancestors saw themselves in the pages of ancient empires. They walked the bleached marble columns of Rome. They bought ships and blasted themselves on open waters. They brought swords and axes to carve and conquer different land.

That’s the thing: the history of ‘whiteness’ is in an admiration for imperialism. It’s not based in an organic community, not a long-term culture that binds itself to land, to rituals, to shared songs. It’s too reclusive for that, sustained on separation. It’s alchemy. It’s fool’s gold. And like all good alchemy, it’s bound by blood.

The ancient Greeks understood Achilles to be a part of themselves. They saw the might and beauty of a man unbound by culture and law. But they also saw how fearful was that life, and so they celebrated instead their customs, language, ritual sacrifices, a pantheon of Gods. But 400 years ago on a re-reading, my ancestors took Achilles to mean the will to power. They salivated at the lines where he declares himself free to feast on the flesh of his opponents. Power is everything. So ‘White’ men defined a kind of capitalism, a system of goods and demands, something to run the ships back and forth across the oceans, a raison d’etre, no celebration, not good enough just to survive, but the bloody sustenance of seeing themselves as ‘more than,’ ‘better,’ as living gods.

How do you destroy yourself? You rip the heart out of someone else’s humanity. You light fires to everything that stands against you. You enslave black families in Africa, brown-skinned Native Americans, anything that doesn’t look like you. Because you know you’re fragile, that you lost your culture, your community, cut out your own bones. When you look in the mirror, you can’t stand to see yourself as a sand castle. You must be white marble, flawless, a writhing God.

It does no good not to acknowledge it, my inherited, persistent sin. It does no good to pretend I’m somehow better because I’m aware of it. All that’s left is effort, and the ability to give it to a better future.

Life is made up of marble and mud.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 149

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

When I was a kid, it was hard to imagine violence happening overseas. There were buzzwords like ‘Nepal’ and ‘North Korea,’ but they didn’t mean anything. They were unseen threats. They were happening to someone else. The worst vipers in the deepest sea.

Then, after Iraq, it got a little easier. I didn’t know anyone who was a soldier but I knew people who knew them. American men and women were cutting up other people with automatic guns (and getting cut up themselves). It was closer to home, and the news even showed you pictures: that GI standing on the naked Iraqi men they’d taken prisoner. Horror knew my name now, and was occasionally sending postcards.

I read a piece about the Nazi’s. It was a series of photos of Auschwitz workers on their off days. Men and women eating ice-cream, posing for pictures. All smiles. It said: “These people don’t think they’re evil.” And it went on to catalogue the many years it took them to get there, to where you could be smiling after a day working gas chambers.

These days, the horror’s my closest neighbor. It lives beside me, two floors down. We walk across the lawn and wave at each other most mornings. Sometimes, we run into each other at the pool.

I don’t know how long it takes to go from taking children from their families or forcing men to share such crowded spaces they have to stand on toilets, to removing their humanity with a more literal force. On our Southern border, all of us condone an organized violence on migrants trying hard to be free. We tell ourselves we don’t like it. We still cringe when we look at the pictures. But how long does that last? How long before the horror moves in?

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.

Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved