on revenuers, thought police, and steely hearts

Last dream upon waking to grade: running from the revenuers through the cold, wet Mississippi woods with my mother, hell-bent on making it to the last rise to stop them overrunning our farm, after having raced through the house of collapsing chifferobes searching for a coat and a place to hide my children and my book on Nazi history from the thought police who were expected to make a visit to my grandmother’s house that day. There was thunder and sopping-wet waist-high ferns and so many children and Mama’s mama making choked-off biscuits in her giant wooden bowl and not seeming to notice the ruckus or our deer alerting on the troops heading our way on the double, and that one big heavy book. Treasured because it was the only one the thought police had left us from last time.

BuckDreams clean up reality. My mother is dead. Her mother is dead. Neither woman’s house was ever home to a collapsing piece of any kind of furniture or untidiness of any sort. Were either woman alive in such a situation, we wouldn’t be running to hide something, because they’d be standing at the driveway with rifles at the ready and the look in their eyes and every line of their bodies saying they’d just as soon shoot you as look at you, just dare you lay one toe across that line, and they’d do that without either woman ever having to utter a word out loud. I—their weenie offspring who has believed in and practiced nonviolence all my adult life (at great personal cost)—would be standing alongside them. The women in my family hit what they aim at. So, tell me this: Why in the hell are we letting the thought police shake down our whole world?

0197Clearly I am worried about how we’re all being muzzled to speak only whatever authorities nearby can stomach. Clearly I am unnerved by how many of us no longer speak up at all. Clearly I don’t believe (never have, never will) that a society can remain healthy if it has to throw all its horsepowers against dissent and difference and those who have outright questions about the gig’s present givens. Clearly I am sickened by how many good people are being put through the wringer at jobs that break them and don’t pay the bills, yet they must still censor every word for fear of losing even that. Clearly I’m fed up with those who have everything attacking those who have nothing and every living being on the planet to fill their coffers, with not just the blessing of the nation state but the aid of its weapons and g-men and -women out front. Clearly I’m uneasy about the state of learning and knowledge and civic memory in this era of buy-a-degree universities and the CEO-ization of all education (for the latter tolls death knells for critical inquiry and debate that are so necessary for a healthy body politic). Clearly I feel a cold night looming ahead for us all, if I’ve been driven to seeing the varnish peeling off the beautiful, sturdy chifferobes of my childhood, their contents in disarray and sheltering no coat or even sweater anymore, their legs and doors askew, splintering and nearly down, and no place to hide my book.

0198So I’m happy for dreams that speak truth to power and remind me of my raising and those parts of Mississippi that no one should ever do without. As my grandmother always put it, “I’ve got a backbone of steel and a heart to match.” Steely hearts, I once thought, were overkill. Wasn’t the backbone enough and couldn’t the heart be left supple and soft, amenable to change? Steely hearts care too much and are subject to outright disintegration in high heat. Weren’t they likely to just turn bitter or sour themselves? These were the roving thoughts of a dreamer who had not yet bumped noggins with reality hard enough. Someone who refused to pick up a weapon and stand at the driveway even when one was required, called for in the clarion tones of eternity. That was then. This is now. Now I know better.

Buck 2Steely hearts are much needed at this moment, for the revenuers and thought police are no longer at the door. They’re inside us.

4 responses

  1. Amen, Hannah. All this worries me, too. I would only add that there’s also the great frustration of speaking up, and finding that no one can hear you. I don’t think I’ve yet written a book that didn’t have a lot to say about politics and the way we treat others – Chantress, for instance, is deeply shaped by this endless “War on Terror” we’re living through – but it’s rare for people to see that. Even when I take to the streets to protest injustices (and I have) I often feel powerless. Which isn’t a reason not to do it – but it is disheartening.

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    • Amy, I so agree—and don’t you feel lucky now to be able to at least work out these issues in words on a page, esp. with fiction, which allows us more leeway to confront the whole truth, no holds barred? The powerlessness part is what’s gigging me to speak up with more fervor than before. There’s a deep unsettling push to muzzle all dissent in the United States now; it has literally seeped into every last aspect of the culture: and the results are terrifying to me for what they mean, not just to people but the planet.

      I feel as if I’m watching raw power strip ordinary people’s voices and limbs straight from our bodies. This happens in almost every interaction anymore: even the most basic customer service and business interactions, where we in the U.S. have been turned into fodder for the nanny state, and the nanny’s armed and snippy. I kid you not. It is almost impossible to get things dealt with. For one minor example? I am now on my 40th phone call to get a single digit corrected in a covered service on a medical bill. Forty calls. The 38th included a conference call between representatives of the insurance company and the billing department: they both vowed it was fixed for good, and verified that I had a credit balance which I would receive within ten days. Three weeks later I got another bill, a threat for collections, and now I’m on phone call #41. I am certain that a lot of people give up and just send them another $750, for this is the standard way business here is done now. That and silencing workers for the least hint of dissent. It’s as if the collective brain on predatory capitalism is finally spinning out of control.

      So we write, hm? And try not to let disheartened become an acceptable state of being?

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    • Oh, Amy, speaking of Chantress…. I am determined to get a signed copy for my granddaughter. Have you done any stock signings for bookstores stateside? Or in the UK? I’d love to be able to find one. I’d like this first grandchild to have models for singing the world into being no matter where the darkness presently resides!

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  2. Dear Hannah, how frustrating about the medical bill! I know I was reduced to tears, and then galvanized to pursue arbitration (and won, though it took untold time and energy) by billing idiocy. I think you’re right, and many people give in, or simply don’t have the skill and fortitude to read the (unnecessarily complicated) bills in the first place. As you say, silencing happens in many ways.

    But as for Chantress, I’m sure we can find some way to get a signed copy to that wonderful granddaughter of yours. Maybe when I’m next in the States? Let me have a think…

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