Feast or Famine: Drought or Sharknados
You might think that as a writing teacher who regularly extols the virtues of free writing and writing regularly I would learn not to fret when I “just don’t have anything to write about,” or fall into the blogger trap of “who cares what I have to say anyway.” I should know the only thing to do in those moments is to breathe deeply, look at the world around me, and put my fingers to the keyboard because then the ideas will come. Eventually the ideas arrive faster than I can coherently write them. In just the last 48 hours, I’ve almost finished a book and have started thinking about what I would like to write about it. The North Carolina and Texas political assaults on women deserves some attention. There is plenty about my summer job that I just shouldn’t write about, and, just last night KnittyKay sent me a tweet about working class academic issues. In short, I’ve gone from “I don’t know what to write about” to “There’s too much to write about.” Feast or famine.
For the past year, maybe longer, I don’t think I can’t count how many times I have seen some version of this image.
Seriously, when I searched the slogan, “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit.” there were 10 pages of results. I just chose the first image I remember seeing of this sign. The point is that it feels like some new reason to mutter this crops up everyday: the Florida courts, the Texas legislature, the North Carolina legislature, the poor treatment of a vast portion of the academic workforce, feminine hygiene products treated as deadly weapons, the list just goes on and on… You might think deluge a better metaphor for this list, but I chose drought because I believe that this list also represents a lack. We each might think of that lack differently – a lack of common decency, a lack of respect, a lack of generosity, a lack of care, but the lack is there. It is what makes it possible for legislatures to ignore their constituents, courts to put victims on trial, and employers to justify abysmal working conditions.
The lack is insidious because it remains undefined – something missing, something wrong, perhaps even invisible until one of two things happens. The public is galvanized by an example, and is able to finally point and say, “That! That is what has been missing!”
An example of this was the public reaction to (and support of) Wendy Davis.
I found this image here, where it is listed via Facebook:Taylor Marsh It reads: “Wendy Davis, first of her name, Khaleesi of the Texas Prairie, born in a storm of Repbulican tears, Breaker of Patriarchy, Mother of Freedom and Queen of our Hearts.”
Davis stood, spoke, and it was like a drop of rain on parched earth. People responded, where they may not have been able to define the lack, they recognized what they needed and wanted. Suddenly, we were a nation of Texans. A week later people, once again, tried to speak back – this time to the North Carolina legislature. I like to think that those of us in NC would have come forward and protested regardless, but I think the momentum created by the Texas event help spur the swift reaction the NC Legislature’s shenanigans.
The problem with the lack I am trying to define is that it represents a constant drain of resources. Like a low grade, but constantly present headache, toothache, or fever it wears a person down. Often the drain of those resources is most keenly felt just when the lack is truly revealed. Galvanized by the shiny example of what the world needs people begin to react and just as quickly realize how little energy there is left for action. Those moments are best illustrated by what becomes entertainment. The dire nature of the current political and cultural climate is, I think, best illustrated by the phenomenon that Sharknado became this week.
Certainly, there have always been those willing to watch Syfy made for television movies like Mega-Shark Vs. Giant Octopus if only for the wonderful snark fodder they represent. This week, however, Sharknado captured the country’s attention. It gave everyone a chance to suspend their disbelief and turn to the patently ridiculously in an effort to relieve the burden of what was happening in their states and/or country. I am sure this need to escape fueled many other forays into the truly improbably, like Godzilla, or I Dream of Jeannie. It is all I can think of to explain the sheer range of people who tweeted, wrote, or talked about watching Sharknado. Or, maybe I am wrong, maybe twitter just makes everyone’s viewing habits that much more visible, and we all just have really bad taste in movies.
In this case I think Sharknado was a collective sigh of relief. Something to momentarily relieve us from the fatigue brought on by the serious drought of common decency, respect, generosity, kindness, (insert your version here) in the current political and cultural climate. I hope Sharknado made everyone who watched laugh just a little and revived their spirits just enough to continue with this fight.