In 2005, when my then-partner was stop-lossed — her military contract was extended, and she was involuntarily recalled into George W. Bush’s Operation Iraq Freedom — I didn’t think it could get any worse. She was being ripped away from me to fight in a war that neither of us believed in, without any legal rights to fall back on as a couple. And at the time, I was right.
George W. Bush was hell to my personal life, and my world became a different place because his political decisions in Washington, D.C. had an immediate impact on my life in Denton, Texas.
Because up until that moment, like most of us, I went throughout my day completely unaware of the invisible web that tethers us to the outcomes of D.C. politics.
But now, those invisible threads are beginning to show themselves. And people are starting to see how what goes on over there effects us over here.
A slow repealing of the Jones Act means devastation and death for an entire island. A declaration of one set of Americans being “very fine people” and another being “sons of bitches” has a direct effect on our views of patriotism. Rifles bought under the protection of our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms has a direct effect on 59 Americans’ constitutional right to life.
It’s the same interconnected reality I woke up to when I opened my mailbox and saw a sunny yellow Western Union letter address to Sgt. J. Stein. It was the same sound of the doors of separation between the personal and political slamming shut when I lived the hand I was dealt (illegally) in the army barracks of Fort Belvoir. It was the death of a depoliticized Brandi and the birth of a radical one.
As a country we, too, are experiencing death: The death of human decency. The death of democracy. The death of our illusions. The death of our people.
And today, whether it has to do with the advent of social media or because more people are paying attention, the general population is waking up to the fact that we aren’t as disassociated to the politics of the world as we once thought we were.
We are slowly being woke to the facts: That guns kill. That black and brown people are disproportionately being affected by this administration and police brutality. That the pictures on the news of terrorist threats, suicide bombers, shootings and buildings collapsing in other countries are now our own.
The reality of the world as it is now should be the death of our beliefs that everything is okay.
Because it’s not.
In this week alone, a white male terrorist killed 58 and injured 489 people who were doing nothing but enjoying music. We, the Unites States of America, land-of-the-free-home-of-the-brave, voted to allow the death penalty for LGBTQ individuals — even though the United Nations passed a resolution to ban it. And the president of our country told an island of Americans that their existence and their will to live threw a big wrench in his budget, before throwing packages of paper towels at them as if he were throwing kibble to caged animals in the zoo.
The sky is falling! And yet, there are still people who refuse to believe that the threat is real. Who refuse to see that we are drowning in our own rubble and remains faster than we can say “but her emails.” Who refuse to acknowledge that our country is in distress, and who fail to remember that even the great and mighty Rome fell.
And once again, I’m heartbroken and at a flat-out loss for hope, just like I was at 27 when George Bush ripped my girlfriend from me. Only this time, it’s not just one person being forcefully removed; its entire races, countries and cultures that are being ripped from history books, from their homes, from their breath.
I know this too shall pass, that tomorrow the sun (and my hope) will shine a little bit brighter than the day before.
But today, I’m telling myself it’s okay to mourn all we have lost, are losing, and still have yet to lose.
Because once you feel the web, you can’t disconnect from it. All you can do is hope that whatever you spin from it is sturdy enough to hold you and your fellow gente up as you grieve — and strong enough to arm you when you get back up.