Five months radio silence.
Harried, I left Napoli on a razor thin whim. One minute determined to stay as the lockdown kept us indoors while I made surreptitious trips under the guise of shopping, carrying bags, sometimes with food for a handful of Polish men without roofs, other times to borrow a homeless man's dog to get to a park bright with green spring, or dusk, dressed ninja dark, blending into ancient walls and narrow streets, playing fugitive.
The next, scared. Of being alone in a country where I had no mastery of the language, let alone its peculiar cultural dissonances. The emails from the US Embassy repeated Americans could come home, should come home before it was too late, if one did not return perhaps I'd remain interminably circling my studio, dog-like, restless, forever.
The joke was on me. April in New York, Covid full blown, I arrived at JFK to mask-less, hostile natives. I am not asked from whence I came, I am not made to quarantine. My American flight from New York to Phoenix no staff wore masks and arriving in Phoenix, strangers smirked at mine. I did quarantine, seeing only the landlord of my two-week rental and grocery delivery drivers from a goodly distance. Those two weeks were somewhat magical. I played solitaire, watched The Durrells in Corfu, drew with coloured pencils, climbed the staircase for exercise, and practiced yoga on the wood floors. That's when Phoebe Reads a Mystery began, a podcast, a reader, one chapter a day of Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre. I sat in the sun, lotus pose, my meditation.
I returned to New Mexico for sun and friends where I slathered affection on three dogs, planted an herb garden, started sewing again and made wonderful, summer-cool salads. In an airtight household, we were so far removed from the epidemic it was hard to get a grip on the virus's terrifying reality, a resting place I am deeply grateful to have participated in and inhabited.
From Rome 10 September 2020. I am a dual Italian-American citizen.
Today I feel the anxiety of my native country blowing up, a grief for so many black souls lost to police violence and my personal, silent complicity. I rage at Trump's fucked double-speak, shady innuedo, and the militant, willfull ignorance of many who follow him, who are not not apparently blindly. Because as Jesus H. Christ said,
"If you were blind, then you would not be guilty; but since you claim that you can see, this means that you are still guilty."
1 Oct 2020, Thursday 12:24
Now, assured Mr. Trump will not disavow *white body supremacists, if you crown yourself a christian, speak the name Christ, you best be busy reading your bible as there is no supporting evidence that one may harm one's neighbor, whether by word or deed. For as the golden rule requires,
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. -Matthew 7:12
Another way to hear it, only act towards your neighbour according with the manner you wish to be held. And if you're not sure "who is my neighbor?" watch the story of the Good Samaritan.
A weirdo since birth, thank god, a devotee to the holocaust, a worshiper at the altar of meaning, I desired to find in the cruelty of so-called loyal citizens, christians, the ability to send fellow humans, neighbours and countrymen, to inhumane ends. Then in 2016, at a Trump rally, I saw a beautiful young black woman being jostled and violently pushed, pelted with verbal abuse; a deep fear rose in me. The thing that could not possibly happen, a history behind us, "never again", IS happening; I shook with terror.
Was I over-reacting? Did I alone see? Why weren't we in the streets? Why weren't we outraged? Why weren't we protesting?
I posted something on Facebook, Facebook, god forgive me…
but took it down for fear of seeming, too conspiratorial, too a-demon-behind-every-bush.
When I felt strongly compelled to say something then, it seemed no one wanted to hear, to see the similarities to our American murdering, lynching, raping, land-grabbing- past, or make the connection to the nazis murder-cult-genocide.
"Don't rock the boat, rock the boat baby…"
How is it possible some Americans old enough to remember WWII, can remember the Holocaust, can recall prisoner-of-war camps, can remember Korea, Vietnam, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Mahatma Ghandi and might have a personal relationship with Jesus H. Christ, could have the audacity to lay hands on, let alone curse, this woman. You have forgotten not only your bible lessons but lessons from history.
An old urban myth says when certain rock albums are played backwards one might hear hidden satanic messages in those dusty grooves.
To which someone wisely responded, "why play backwards what can be heard playing forward?"
A message has been playing forward for a long time.
Will you let yourself hear it?
A dragon has awakened in the US, its tail thrashing. The United States, disunited, is inundated with fires, police destroying black lives, riots, weird freaking weather patterns, unrest, discontent and distress.
About five years ago I moved to to uber-crunchy suburb of Evanston, Illinois.
There, due to winter boredom in a lacklustre attempt to make new friends,
I attended CAPS, Citizens Police Academy, a ten-week course into the inner workings of the Evanston Police Department. What struck me most was the choir, as in, preaching to. Because I have been arrested, (story for another time), and spent 36 hours in jail with mostly black women, I've lacked a Mayberry sentiment towards law enforcement for some time.
When a bartender in Chicago I met plenty of cops. Several moonlighted, working as security-bouncers at the club in my neighborhood. Beside cash payment, they were there to pick up women and drink on the house. Even the alderman at the time regularly sat at my bar expecting free libations for he and his pal-sies. There were no Barney Fifes. Not a single one of them would I trust then, or now.
Point is, our guide through CPA was a black police officer, and even with his finger wagging and "don't resist" talk, he spoke of his mother who often asked when he was going to leave the job, then asked, "did we know the history of police violence".
Few did. Few do.
Originally formed to capture and return runaway slaves, the police were created to protect the property of the white population, to serve and protect white interests. If you'd like a beautiful history lesson check out the podcast 1619, a history of American slavery and the nation's complicated past.
A student of the Rwandan genocide, the distinctions between the tribal Tutsi and Hutu were created by the Belgians in the 1920's, when as colonisers they separated the loosely similar groups into two formal groups and created identity cards to distinguish between the Tutsi, taller, more 'European looking", and the Hutu, "squat, ugly, the help". Pitted against each other the two groups were put into role of master versus subordinate. Time plus abuse of power, political tumult, combined with "christian" cultural obedience gave way to moral stagnation, an unwillingness to question the false narrative that served their enslavers eighty years prior, they accepted the status quo. Following months and years of messaging, radio whispers, name calling, leaflets, segregations, associations to animal-like traits, the hatred silently festered and grew.
The mass slaughter happened so quickly that although nations around the world saw and knew, they dragged their feet to intercede, arguing over semantics. Approximately 800,000 people were murdered in less than a month.
One day you wake up with a machete in your hand covered in your neighbours hot blood, they hacked to death, friends with whom you formerly observed the grace of daily bread and the higher ceremonies of birth, weddings and death. You cannot explain, only that it was murmured, "they kept saying', you kept hearing, "they" were your enemy; you believed it.
When asked why, some who partook in the genocide said they'd been taught obedience, they did not question, they did not take responsibility to educate themselves, to reorient their moral compass, to be a peaceful part on behalf of the larger whole.
And here we are. And here we are.
Fall on your knees and beg for mercy, I say to myself, I say to my countrymen.
Fall on your knees.
Please, tip the boat over.
Now my calling is Italy, a country simultaneously beautiful though differently debased, riddled by corruption and poverty, seen and unseen. To those who know me it may seem I'm "living my best life", ( I hate that phrase), yet I know there are many rivers to cross, mostly obstacles of my own making. Here, I will be undone, in a good way, in the way of leaving off, letting go, immersing myself, arriving thin skinned and vulnerable.
Unable to see what lies ahead, only minutes, moments, days, I take a walk, a bit of sun, a swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea, I eat pizza.
I'm happy to provide other source material for undoing our shared mis-education.