This post has nothing to do with the blog…
Yet, it has everything to do with the blog.
A momentary pause on the Broken Mirror series.
This is a brain purge.
By a twist of fate that was not planned, I find myself tonight (August 28 2023) in a room at the Capital Hilton 2 blocks north of the White House in Washington, D.C.
What makes this hotel– formerly known as The Statler Hotel– and this date remarkable is that this is the hotel that sponsored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” Speech.
That speech occurred 60 years ago today… and after that speech Dr. King and many of his organizers stayed at this hotel afterwards. In a hotel that historically had discriminated against black people.
It is impossible to be here in this city, at this hotel, on this date and not find myself reflecting upon the magnitude of the occasion.
60 years later… what happened with that Dream?
Where are we today as a civilization? A culture? A community? A People?
I walked around the National Mall as the 60th anniversary scaffolding is being removed today and experienced the enormity of the Smithsonian collection and I was struck by many thoughts pinging around my head.
And I don’t know how to unpack it all…
It is impossible to be in this city and not be struck by the magnitude of being in a National Capital city. The spectacle. The grandeur. The history. The monuments commemorating history. The history of the history. The history of the monuments. The history of this strange and fucked up country.
And nothing exemplifies all of that better than the Smithsonian. The world’s greatest collection of human knowledge and achievement and Science and Art and Industry and Technology.
This institution exists and has assembled and amassed the greatest collection of everything in the history of humanity… an effort to ensure the education of our society and that this education would be free for ALL. FOREVER.
You pay nothing to walk into the world’s greatest collection. Of EVERYTHING.
It was funded by money donated to our country by a man who never once set foot in it with the purpose of: “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men”.
To be amongst the greatest displays of… well… everything is humbling. And here is the great promise of this country at its best. An institution of learning and knowledge free to everyone and anyone.
Yet it’s impossible to not notice that almost all of the staff of our National collection are African Americans. Surrounding these buildings are immigrants from every country in food trucks trying their best to grab a hold of the supposed American Dream. In a city built by slave labor where our
National Phallus Washington Monument has two very strikingly different types of stone in its construction. You can see where a Civil War interrupted its construction.
The legacy of a divided nation.
On my way into the National Art Gallery I passed two African immigrants (unsure which country) who were selling Trump hats. Nothing BUT Trump hats. A whole table full of ’em.
And as I wandered around a gallery full of every great painter and sculptor European and American history produced– from DaVinci to Rodin to Matisse to Van Gogh to Pollack to Rothko and literally everyone in between– I emerged onto the roof of the modern wing of the museum staring down on the media reporters who were covering the trial date setting of the Jan 6 insurrection trial at the Federal Courthouse across the street. Up the road you can see the Capitol where the insurrection occurred. Behind that, the Supreme Court where the Donald Trump handpicked fetus fetishizers have spent years unwinding so many of our legal protections… like the Voting Rights Act which did not exist 60 years ago when Dr. King demanded all men be treated equally:
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, Black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The juxtaposition of all these factors was made even more notable as I gazed down on some uberblonde propaganda reporter for Faux News– my stomach was in knots.
Why was my stomach in knots?
Because about 30 minutes earlier while staring at Van Gogh’s self portrait my spouse’s and my phones start going haywire with incoming emergency notifications and automated calls.
What were the emergency notifications pinging our phones simultaneously in this very, very, very quiet museum?
3,000 miles away back home our local PUBLIC LIBRARY had just received the 3rd Bomb Threat in the last two weeks.
The city I live in has this PUBLIC LIBRARY placed between a PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and a PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL. And so both PUBLIC SCHOOLS have to be locked down and every parent has to be alerted while the publicly-funded-police shut down our PUBLIC LIBRARY and send bomb-sniffing dogs through the building until it can be cleared before the kids leave their PUBLIC SCHOOLS for the day.
The fury and rage I felt made the ice cold air conditioning futile in this PUBLIC MUSEUM. I was sweating. Livid.
My teens 3,000 miles away in school.
Why is someone routinely calling in bomb threats to my local PUBLIC LIBRARY sandwiched between two PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
Because anti-trans activists have formed a “Moms Demand Liberty” group of bigots who have been relentlessly attacking our PUBLICLY-ELECTED SCHOOL BOARDS and PUBLIC LIBRARIES for the last two years taking shots at LGBT+ kids. They had a rally two weeks ago in the PUBLIC LIBRARY and were kicked out of the PUBLIC LIBRARY when their rally got too ugly.
As a result, the PUBLIC LIBRARY has been hit with bomb threats for the last two weeks.
And today– that I receive notification that my local PUBLIC LIBRARY has a bomb threat– is the 60th Anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic and world changing “I Have a Dream” speech.
And to be inside the world’s greatest effective PUBLIC library/museum/research Institution while my local library back home is under threats of home-grown terrorism is a psychological puzzle I was unprepared for.
To look down upon the typical eye candy Faux News reporter who was reporting on the Insurrection Trial of the 45th POTUS who is the primary person responsible for tearing this country apart and making it cool to be a bigot again while two African immigrants sling his merchandise blocks away as this city is reflecting upon the 60th speech about equality and the Dream of the American Dream that has never been given to ALL.
It made my head spin.
Who can give a shit about Renoir and Picasso when you’re worried about people you love who are being targeted with violence by bigots?
An hour later, still numbed with shock, I found myself staring at the actual suit Neil Armstrong wore on the moon. And I suddenly notice I can’t fight the tears anymore.
And I feel the tears slide down my cheeks and disappear under my N95 mask I’m wearing because the pandemic is spiking again and being around people is dangerous.
And it’s too much.
How did a country that put a human being on the fucking moon still not be able to deliver equity and equality of opportunity for all 60 fucking years later?!?
Where is the Life, Liberty, & Pursuit of Happiness for anyone anymore?
Dr. King was protesting the bombing of black churches and barbershops 60 years ago! Eventually, he would be shot in the head and killed. Months after delivering his famous speech the sitting POTUS would be assassinated. Whose brother would be killed as well when he ran a few years later…
It’s hard to see the Watergate Hotel and not think about Presidential corruption. It’s hard not to think about the privilege of the wealthy– every building and road and monument dedicated to some white, powdered-wig-wearing, son-of-capital-luxury-and-inheritance in a city built by slaves while disabled people wander the streets in extreme poverty forgotten by those who profit from everything… somewhere above me Elon Musk’s satellites dominate the sky while he continues to destroy a FREE SPEECH social media platform that had toppled governments in the Arab Spring a decade ago.
And it’s impossible to be thinking all of these thoughts and not be thinking about the purpose of why I started writing this blog.
How literally it was the decision of SCOTUS to overturn Roe a mile from this hotel room… How it was the January 6th Insurrection wondering how many of my fans were committing treason that day because they’re trapped in an apocalyptic political cult because they grew up listening to the radio show I did that brainwashed them?
Tomorrow I head to the US Capitol to take a tour. As an ExecDir of a county Democratic Party I’m hoping to pull a string and get a tour half as good as the ones that Lauren Boebert provided Insurrection planners… if people trying to destroy a democracy get to see the roof of the Capitol and then smear shit on the walls, can a guy trying to save a democracy get such special treatment? We shall see.
As I stared at Neil Armstrong’s Space Suit feeling the tears under my COVID mask… I looked over and saw the display of the door of the hatch of the Command Module that Neil and Buzz and Michael descended to earth in from their extra-planetary excursion.
What is remarkable about the display of the door is that it is right next to the door of the Apollo 1 mission where the hatch was unable to be opened from inside as Gus Grissom and crew asphyxiated to death from a fire. The door hatch of the Apollo 11 mission being a testament to the genius of engineering and problem solving. To see the mechanical ingenuity and complexity… to see how things can be improved upon when people work together towards a common goal.
And it struck me how a country put a man on the moon. How a people could be so united to accomplish such a feat.
Yet… as I wandered on the rest of the day thinking about that door and that space suit… I had to remind myself that the Apollo program was happening WHILE Dr. King was making his speech.
In fact, Dr. King never lived to see the Apollo program send humans to the moon. He would be assassinated 8 months before Apollo 7 lifted off. Another 7 months would go by before Neil took that first step.
And as all these thoughts flooded me today I think of that damn door. The gears. The wheels. The steel. The milling. The multitude of engineers and companies that provided parts. We made a bad thing better.
We didn’t stop the Apollo Program because Apollo 1 burned and killed our first astronauts. We figured the problem out. We made it better. We worked each problem and solved it.
And then two missions after Neil stepped on the moon, Apollo 13 would struggle and all those same brilliant engineers would work tirelessly to bring those astronauts safely home while a nation of people prayed.
I guess the thing I’m meditating on now is that there are problems and solutions. Advances and setbacks. In all things.
I remarked to my traveling companion why we as a nation couldn’t work together towards common goals of majestic ambition anymore… when the dichotomy of the Civil Rights Era occurring during the Apollo Mission program hit me square between the eyes.
That we as a nation reached for the moon while we wouldn’t let black people become astronauts, or vote, or stay in hotels….
While women couldn’t have bank accounts or get divorced or work most jobs or be allowed into space….
While the Stonewall Riots where the LGBT+ community was being targeted just days before those first momentous steps on another celestial body….
While the mentally ill were being shut out of hospitals to wander the streets for decades….
While a 500 year genocide continues to occur….
We landed on the moon at a time when our country was suffering. Struggling. Fighting itself. We had just started desegregating schools a year earlier.
And I guess the only takeaway I have of all of these thoughts is that: Good things can happen amongst terror.
We can reach for heaven while trapped in hell.
And what is the heaven we’re reaching for now as a society? The hell is clearly all around us. Cultists are trying to destroy all of our institutions. Our public education system, our public libraries, the want to roll back women’s rights, POC rights… they want theocracy. They want illiteracy. They want ignorance and hate. They want pandemic. They want school shootings. They want homelessness and poverty because they do nothing to change any of it for the better. Always the worst.
And what are we going to do to push back against this hell of our time?
What is our reach for the heavens?
This was the question I have pondered for 12 hours today.
What is our cultural defining moment here that we can all work towards?
I believe in my heart that the answer to that is to finally cash in the check that Dr. King demanded. For ALL people.
We have to save this insane experiment in self-governance. We should be the country that has free museums and libraries where every person can stare at the brushstrokes that Leonardo DaVinci painted 500 years ago with his hand. That access to knowledge would lead to greater freedoms and understanding and better human health and if we can walk on moons can’t we maybe make this planet a little better?
The Smithsonian was gifted to us all who live here by a man who never stepped foot on our shores but believed in the promise of whatever the hell it was we were trying to do during this early Enlightenment Period. The idea that self-governing was a revolution of knowledge– not just government. The ideas of We the People rooted in the philosophers that came long before the founding authors who borrowed heavily from their prose.
The Dream of this country has always extended beyond these shores… hell BEYOND THE ATMOSPHERE.
And are we just gonna let some bloated oligarch asshole who likes to name everything after himself hijack a religious cult that is trying to end the world because they think they’ll be swept up to heaven and the rest of us will suffer? Are we really gonna passively sit by while fascism returns to our shores and our cultures tears itself apart with mass shootings and bomb threats and tiki torch mobs of proud boys and anti-trans moms in bigoted denial?
Or are we going to grow a fucking spine and reclaim this Dream for everyone?
Finally? Just once?
If a nation can put humans on a moon… can we save that same country and fix it and make it better with the same dedication and strength of purpose the way we fixed a door hatch that wouldn’t open?
A man asked a question 60 years ago today:
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied?”
A country and a people owe his legacy an answer.
Right fucking now.