The Mad Activist Comes in from the Cold

You want to know why I’m nuts, Doctor?  I’m part of the lunatic left, that’s why.

My delusions of intellectual grandeur are great enough to make me believe that I can actually comprehend the bombings, the embargoes, the torture — all wrought by the good old US of A — while everybody else goes shopping.  Look at what we do to hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen.  Look at Tikrit this very second; look at Sana’a.

At least the dead there are nameless; NBC Nightly never tells you who they were.  Here in the States, it’s harder.  When you learn of deaths caused by our government, the names slip out.  Names like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tanisha Anderson.  Black people, Doctor.  Very seldom white.

Well, you asked, Doctor.  You asked me why I thought I was crazy.  Being queer is only a small part.  Look at me, Doctor.  Look at my political buttons, my thrift-store clothes.  Smell the patchouli.  I’m a peace activist.

I don’t have boundaries, Doctor.  But then, neither does the US of A.  We both just take everything over.  In my case, though, it’s psychological.  Here’s an example of the insanity that happens when you believe the personal is political.

According to our Declaration of Independence, it is a “self-evident” truth that all “men” — in the patriarchal terms of our slave-owning founding fathers — have a soul that is “created equal.”

Now, a few years ago, a five-foot-high little white lady I loved more than anyone — you would have liked her, too, Doctor — died young, not on the street of police bullets, but in bed, of a mild heart attack.  Even though she was my mother, she cannot be blamed for my condition.

Then today, I read in the Guardian, “Police killed more than twice as many people as reported by U.S government,” or an average of 928 people a year.  If I can’t comprehend the quiet little death of my own mother, how can I possibly understand the brutal and needless yearly deaths of 928 unrepeatable human individuals whom I will never meet?

I can’t.  I can’t do the math.  So I go nuts.  Because, you see, underlying all my so-called politics is that still, small voice — p.s., this voice is searchable online in our national archives — that tells me, every life weighs the same.  But irony of ironies, Doctor: in America, believing this is the clinical definition of insanity.

But you know what really drives me crazy?  Peace.  Real peace is horrifying because all your boundaries are gone.  You are no longer female or male; you’re not Black or White or Red or Brown; not rich or poor; you have no sexual orientation — and what’s more, none of that matters.  Peace is that thunderous sense of dumb, heart-splitting glory in the most negligible of things.  Peace is beyond words or identity or recognition or prizes.  That’s why nobody gives peace a chance.  They’d lose everything if they did.

Still, I try to peel back the eyelids of America.  I decry the-loss-the-loss-the-loss forever of these beings to the world.  America gets it when you talk that way about the World Trade Center.  Not so much when you say things like, “Black Lives Matter.”

But I say it.  I say it loud and often.  I march around with other wacked-out politicos in the cold and dark because people of color are being hunted and humiliated in respectable suburbs.  We lie down in the streets of Manhattan because people in the streets of Staten Island will never get up.  I hand out badly xeroxed flyers I forgot to proofread that talk about the UScapitalistimperialistracistprison-industrial-complex, and everywhere I go, I get these looks that say, get that obnoxious creep away from me.  Let’s face it, Doc, I am obnoxious.  Plus, as a white person, I still don’t really get it.  And I can’t remember how I should talk to sane people, the ones who don’t get it at all.  Like you, Doctor.

I mean, look at you.  Haven’t you been indoctrinated to promote what is sane?  Don’t you dutifully believe the pundits and legislators and commanders and police commissioners who daily preserve — in well-modulated, National-Public-Radio tones — the stabilizing wisdom that white American lives are naturally more valuable than any others?

Doesn’t this permit you to pay bills, read the paper, load the dishwasher with complete mental health?  Americans like you, Doctor, work all day, every day, to stave off the lunatic prospect that somewhere outside your sanity pod, people are screaming.  Your sanity pod also allows you to accept me: another ignorable, sign-waving crazy.  Because allowing me to wave a sign proves that you still live in a democracy, Doctor — you straight, white, middle-class male of European descent, you.

So I’m obnoxious, so what?  Also, my motives are not pure.  Right now, for example, I simply want to make you ashamed of all the suffering I can’t stop.

Oh yeah — I came here to fix my suffering.  I am tired of being an outsider, Doctor.  I am willing to give up activism in order to become sane.  You got to bring me in from the cold, Doc.  I’m lonely and nobody likes me.  Make me fit in.  Please.  Make me an American again.

Susie Day’s new book Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power is now available from Abdingdon Square Publishing: <>.