Does it feel like living in a fascist state on a dying planet is a lost cause at this point?

It’s a serious question I don’t have an answer to. I’d like to say “no” but no matter which party is in charge, they will continue to empower the police and enable capital to pursue its interests unchecked. This has led to a situation in which a lot of issues—which are themselves symptoms of even larger issues—require a full and meaningful response by the whole of society.

Some days, I just feel like saying, “ What’s the point?” The period between 2015 and 2020 felt like a confirmation of what a lot of people already knew about the dangerous turn taking place in our country and the last two years feel like reaffirmation that the parties are either exacerbating the problems we face or are simply unable to deal with them. On the other hand, I can see the wheels slowly turning in the right direction when it comes to some of the crises we face. If we had another decade or two, I’d be optimistic.

But we don’t.

I remember reading that climate-related mass extinctions will start in earnest in 2040 when my kids will be twenty-six and thirty-four. God, can you imagine being my age watching life just die off. I tried to picture what life would be like if my time on this planet was spent witnessing the end of all things. Picking through the wreckage of what was. Trying to reconcile with your understanding of all that could have been. Trying to weigh whether it is a life worth living. 

I haven’t been able to shake the image.

They’d probably feel how I have felt since seeing my people get strung up in the South in 2020 while the police called it suicide. Lynchings are still lynchings, even if you don’t call them that out loud. Instead, we get trees bearing midnight fruit. Mandrakes whose wail is a silent warning to certain people: “know your place.”

In the eighteen months since the summer of 2020, when protests for liberation spread like wildfire, I’ve watched the calls for a radical reimagining of society spun into “diversity initiatives.” Seen the same institutions pushing the same exact policies that got us here. Doubling down whenever possible. Turning our concerns and pain into reasons to be fearful we have signed our own political death warrants by daring to voice them.

And it’s not really any different for white folk in liberal cities either. How long did hazard pay last for you down in Portland? How long did it take to get it? Who made that delay possible? And whose interests were they worried about when they delayed and ultimately killed it?

In my city, Waterville, it’s the 200 year-old institution that’s acting as the engine of gentrification. It’s supposed to be for our own good. However, dig just below the surface and you’ll find that even “very liberal” and well-meaning institutions are not immune to the problems baked into every layer of society, including poor conditions for workers and extractive relationships for those who ostensibly pay them for the privilege of being neglected. 

Those who speak up get silenced. Dissenters are crushed. The conversation gets buried and acts as fertilizer for rosy outlooks propagated by our benevolent liberal saviors.

Now you may think that is a harsh assessment but it’s coming from someone who has to teach naive humans how to eventually survive without me in places built on these systems and structures. We don’t do a lot of naivety in our household. You can only allow so much deviation from what is appropriate to expect. To do otherwise would be negligent.

I have to teach my children why well-meaning folk will allow the worst people society has to offer a place of authority and legitimacy. Even as those same well-meaning folk decry the oppression imposed on themselves by those terrible people. The same terrible people they enabled in the first place. It’s not like my children aren’t impacted by it already. 

They are. They see it. They know these to be things which are tangible parts of their reality. They also understand how it manifests in their own lives. They see and understand that the people who complain loudest about the impacts of remote learning on mental health are some of the same people whose children are a form of job security for therapists. They see that their teacher is a blatantly political Trump supporter and are not surprised at their rudeness, disrespect, or transphobia.

The unfortunate part is that, like a lot of people these days, they know that there is almost nothing to be done about these things except to carry on however they can. It’s what we’re all doing as we watch our planet collapse and fascism grow. The people who perpetrate these problems for the rest of us are allowed to continue business as usual. And if it seems as though the system has no capacity to discipline them or prevent the harm they cause then, as a parent, I must conclude that the system has no real problem with them in the first place.

The plain fact of the matter is that there is no mainstream policy prescription for these things. No policy is going to change what policy has failed to accomplish already. Instead, The People must become the policy. The People must decide that they are finally done living this life, a life that was forced on us all for the benefit and comfort of a few, before anything will change. 

And in the extremely likely scenario that nothing changes, I must continue teaching my children how to live a fully human existence while human society itself seems bent on destruction. There’s nothing else for me to do. If I am successful, then at least the end will be observed with clear eyes and the accounting of it somewhat poetic. That’s what it means to carry on as best you can while parenting through the end of times.