I see a distinct possibility—a likelihood, really—that American democracy collapses before the end of the year, that the very concept of “America” crumbles into something either meaningless or altogether fractured. I’ve talked about this often with friends. What I *mean* by this is harder to articulate. And whether we’ve crossed the Rubicon already in history is a muddy question, but I think it’s obvious that a 21st-century fascism is something with no real historical precedent. Five months out from an uncertain U.S. election, who’s to say that it’s not too late?
A fascist president stokes his rabid fanbase and his rabid detractors in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A global pandemic ravages the country from sea to shining sea. A militarized police force cracks skulls and beats men and women in the streets. A flinty attorney general grips his power accordingly and trounces political enemies. And in every state in the country, bread lines stretch past the polluted horizon.
Now, I mean, whattaya supposed to *do* about any of that? The train has left the station! We’re several decades into collapse, and yet it’s just startling how fast the scenery is whizzing by the windows!
This is the Doppler effect of raw power. Choices are narrowing: Brace yourself or loosen your muscles for impact? How do you prepare your mind, your body, your family, your access to resources—the undergirding of a life—for the spectrum of possible outcomes? I’ve watched, flabbergasted, as many of the horrors my friends and I predicted in 2016 have come true. The ratcheting. And at the front of my mind each day is the safe bet that the worst is plenty yet to come.
We can consider the opposite notion, of course, an opportunity for a more egalitarian future built on mutual respect and a resetting of the global economy and environmental norms. But I’m writing about a likelihood here. Which bet would you call at this hour?
This ain’t your neighborhood stickball game; this is a fascist power grab for the long haul. The 2020s. ICE raids and cages and military vehicles. The eerie doubt of a national election to kickstart a white-knuckled decade on Earth.
We are unwilling pioneers, drifting headlong into the theft of America with no clue what lurks on the far side. I write this only to say the ramifications are on a scale that’s unimaginable to almost anyone alive today. I write this only to have written it, to explain to myself later that the possibility was clear from the jump. It was all there in plain, unbroken sight.
“‘Alabama‘ gives this unceasing immersion in grief a form. It’s there in the song’s disconcerting stops and starts, its disarticulated notes, its willingness to abandon virtuosity in favor of a style of playing that is repetitive, diffuse, tentative, and dissonant.”