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Sonoma County Gazette
Savory Sonoma by Stephanie Hiller

What is Happening Today is Some Kind of Bizarre Nightmare

Oct 30, 2018
by Stephanie Hiller


I was going to be cute and try some three-dot journalism this month because there’s so much activity just in my own small sphere here in Sonoma, I’m exhausted just thinking about it; but the times are so intense, the cloud over the world hovers so darkly, that I doubt that even legendary three-dot columnist Herb Caen could persist in tracking the quirks of local celebrities in San Francisco as he did for almost 60 years.

Because what is happening today is some kind of bizarre nightmare, with women and children fleeing chaos in Central America portrayed as terrorists, a Saudi Washington Post journalist dismembered by the Saudis in Ankara, the Kavanaugh obscenity, Trump’s threats to dismantle the long-standingIntermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (because, he said, we have so much money we can out-build anyone’s arsenal) and a young black man crossing a street in San Mateo shot with tasers and killed. I mean, how much worse can it get? Well, yes, we could see protestors hauled off to concentration camps (where they are given drugs and sexually abused, like the migrant families), we could have an actual nuclear war, and all of that and worse seems to be the direction we’re headed in.

Unless we resist, says incisive journalist Chris Hedges, resist massively. I don’t see that coming at the moment, do you?In this “Prozac nation,” as Prozac patient Elizabeth Wurtzel titled her vivid memoir, where we sit watching the setting sun from the patio, sipping a glass of world-class wine after an elegant lunch, a fundraiser for impoverished Latin workers who perform the essential labor that keeps our fantasy going – in this affluent valley, only the few rise up, having given themselves permission to express their outrage.

(Nice girls, you know, don’t get mad. If they do, their husbands might kill them, as Steven Rothschild did to his wife, so tormented by her nagging — and apparently so incapable of just walking out the door…And by the way, nice girls don’t get up in front of Congress and testify that they were attacked at a party 20 years ago by the nominee — I can barely spit this out – the nominee to the Supreme Court. I mean, who is writing the script for this dystopian horror show?)

All I can say is, the scum has risen to the top, and if we fail to see it, in this anesthetized nation, in this gorgeous county of visible affluence and invisible poverty, we won’t get the message of this historic moment which is that WE HAVE TO CHANGE THE WAY WE LIVE ON THIS PLANET, or we’re all gonna die. Is that too harsh to be spoken?

At least the bubbles of long-cherished fictions have finally popped. The view, for example, that we are all sinners, based on our interpretation of a Bible story in which a talking snake tempted Eve to eat an apple, plunging humanity into ignorance and demonstrating irrevocably that women are the weaker sex.

If someone told you this story today, you would tell him to get back on his meds, yet this tale of original sin and the weakness of women has pervaded our culture for thousands of years. Now when we picture athletic 17-year old Brett Kavanaugh crushing Christine Ford under his hulking body and laughing hysterically all the while, we say yes, boys will be boys, and the fault ishers.

If this doesn’t make sense to you, don’t blame me. This is the illogic that has underlain our moral edifice forever. And as Buddhist nun Pema Chodrun points out, it’s only in the West that people constantly tell themselves how bad they are. We’ve been imbued with it, the sin we were born with.

So, what is the answer? Not sure I can provide it in the space that remains. But one thing I know for sure: it starts with two words. Wake up.

Give up those Epicurean pleasures for a decade or two. Discourage tourism with its noise and gas fumes (GHGs). Grow food. Pay attention.

The world may fall apart completely. That could happen. But we, huddled together under the beautiful trees, sharing our lettuces and home-baked bread, we will survive. And a phoenix will rise from those ashes.

“Another world is not only possible,” said novelist Arundhati Roy to the Third Annual World Social Forum, held in Brazil in 2003 (Iwas there!), “she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Stay true, keep the faith. Vote! No on 6, yes on 10, Tony Thurmond for School Superintendent.




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