"The burning of the building"
On legacy systems, communal memory, and caring for the dead.
I wrote almost all of this in mid-September and then had to step away from it for some weeks. The verdict had come back on Breonna Taylor’s murder, and the way the state has continued to respond was making me remember certain things I witnessed during a sojourn to study Spanish in the Guatemalan highland, Quetzaltenango.
(Do we fill their collection plates? Yes we do.)
There are groups of Black trans fem/mes all over Philly right now (and well before) conducting complex and ritual public mourning for the lives of Breonna Taylor, Dominique Fells, missing and kidnapped and trafficked fems women girls throughout the tristate (Philly Jersey Delaware), and organizing for relatives and neighbors who need a community to protect and pull them through the gauntlet of patriarchal religious and state-institutional violence.
It is my charge now on you the reader, that if you are descended from people who assimilated into whiteness & status quo values, are gainfully employed, have savings, come from a blue-collar upbringing or generational wealth and-or resources, have spending money in general, that you are well in the practice of redistributing the $$$ in your possession on a very regular basis (directly to individuals is my recommendation). If you’re any of this and not doing this shit out of indignation or fear or whatever, you probably have ghosts eating your soul, so. Figure that out.
[image description: a chain link fence surrounds an empty field. vinyl signs are attached to the fence, showing distasteful renderings of future developments and with text that says COMING SOON and OPENING DOORS TO OPPORTUNITIES. this is the same field, across from the Philly Housing Authority multimillion dollar headquarters, where Philadelphia Housing Action had been maintaining one of their protest encampments]
The other day I stumbled into an old file directory on my machine, full of pictures of a 21-year-old me in the time I was in this abusive relationship. I take pictures of my surroundings. I like to archive. I looked at all my old rooms and apartments at some of the worst times of my life. I remember the visceral and pervasive dread. During and after 9/11, I lived in a series of conservative white, ‘these colors don’t run,’ addiction-addled Republican towns, 30-45 minutes by car outside of Boston. On the afternoon of 9/11 I was sitting in the backseat of my abusive ex's Mazda, in the parking lot of his food aid job, when I noticed him coming out quickly to the car. I sat up. He opened the car door and told me to turn on the radio, that there had been some attack. What?? Said it was on every channel and every station, serious. He went back inside. I listened to shocked radio news announcers frantically describe and speculate on the situation at hand: one of the two iconic World Trade towers had a commercial airline crash and explode into an entire set of floors. The burning of the building was becoming increasingly dire, out of control, catastrophic. They described the horrifying plight of the people trying to escape, fleeing, burning, jumping. Then they began shouting—oh my god another plane another plane looks like its going to collide with the second tower. It hits. Everyone is reeling. Another plane has hit the fucking Pentagon. A fourth crash-lands in a field in Pennsylvania. I'm sitting in the passenger seat of the car, closed 500-page fantasy novel in lap, completely shocked and knowing that I will forever remember that I was homeless in this fucking car on this day. Wow. When my ex's shift was over and he started driving us to his friend's place where we were staying for the night, he was totally convinced that wow if it wasn’t for me he was really about to go enlist in the motherfuckin army, for this terrorist attack.
Some fifteen years later I'm disembarking from a long bus ride out of Guatemala City into the highland municipality, Quetzaltenango, which everyone there calls Xela. I've spent all my savings to not work for a month and pay for a Spanish language immersion school, which Xela is famous for, and which is cheaper by hundreds of dollars than paying for comparable language immersion education in the United States. This fucks me up from the start of things, but at this point in my life I've been to a real big-time-academy language immersion school for Japanese, and I feel like local economies built around language education/tourism should be patronized when they are so deliberately accommodating to budget travelers and have no requirements of enrollment in higher education.
Being in Xela felt like when I was a kid walking behind my mom on a bustling north 5th street in Olney. I experienced this persistent body memory of fondness and vigilance for ones surroundings, originally reinforced by the adults in my life: Walk with respect, observe your surroundings, be confident and pay attention, especially to your gut. In Xela: Dress conservatively, come home before dark, walk with company if it’s getting late, don’t stray too far from the area around the school and the homestay. I had never been around a public transportation system made out of networks of passenger vans and modified pick-up trucks, but one learns to ride public transit as a child, and do you forget things like that? I also did most wider activities with the accompaniment of the language school faculty, who one evening made a movie night out of showing us a film depicting the plight of children kidnapped and forced to work as soldiers during the civil war that ended just 15 years earlier. And I looked it up on Wikipedia and read about the CIA working with the United Fruit Company to overthrow Guatemala's popularly elected leaders, so motherfuckin 'Americans' can eat monoculture bananas with their cereal, healthfood industry bullshit. A horrifying civil war, generations shattered and hundreds of thousands dead for this. Goddamn. I'd never had to walk by at-attention armed guards in front of liquor stores before, the designs of which reminded me of pull-up boardwalk stalls with bottles and their prices displayed on tiered platforms. Their local economy was in recovery then.
I've been fixated on this long review and Institute for Hermetic Studies podcast interview with Peter Mark Adams, author of this book called The Game of Saturn. My understanding of the book is that it's a long-form analysis of a certain Renaissance family's private custom tarot deck, whose symbolism is unlike common tarot decks and in fact suggests a ritual magic astrology practice for influential elites to perpetuate their power through generations, utilizing massive astral forces/entities to do so. Real Illuminati shit. The lengths and depths the powerful go to maintain their power…
And just think. On top of that, here we are still dealing with the racial caste system the Spanish conquerors and Catholic ‘holy’ men brought to this land mass, too.
In recent years, there has been an increasing number of online manipulation campaigns targeted at news media. The goals of manipulation campaigns can vary widely, but they all rely on communication platforms to respond in real time to breaking “media spectacles” or, sometimes, to anticipate or even generate such spectacles.
1. This report focuses on a subset of manipulation campaigns that rely on a strategy we call source hacking. Source hacking is a set of techniques for hiding the sources of problematic information in order to permit its circulation in main-stream media.
2. Source hacking is therefore an indirect method for targeting journalists—planting false information in places that journalists are likely to encounter it, or where it will be taken up by other intermediaries.
Source Hacking: Media Manipulation in Practice by Joan Donovan & Brian Friedberg [PDF]
Every day I scroll my social media and check a handful of news websites and screencap a variety of headlines, posts, comment threads, targeted ads, and move them to my desktop folder titled DAILY HELL. I started this folder when Trump ‘won’ in 2016, but this practice of screencap archiving is not new for me.
Yes, before I heard the verdict for Breonna Taylor’s murder at the hands of gangster police, I heard the news stations announcing the reinforcements of property, mobilized law enforcement, and potential road closures. So we all knew what was coming. The screencaps I ended up taking that week revolved around news and reactions over this verdict, and also the upticks of armed white mobs playing soldier-proto-lynchmob, and all the latest right-wing grifting and sell-out Democrat placating. I think about how the United States encourages a total lack of awareness in its citizens for the plights of neighboring countries south on this landmass, for we are the perpetrators on our southern cousins and it’s not polite to talk about. A plane ride from Philly to Mexico City or Guatemala City takes less time than to fly to California. And in Guatemala City a no-bullshit auntie will hail a reliable cab from the bus station to the airport for you, hapless student tourist, so you don’t end up with a driver who will rape and rob you.
Middle class Americans vent on twitter about how America is turning into a third-world country. Others with what I consider more insight call America a failed state. Black anarchists, Indigenous organizers and scholars, disabled and trans and regular people point out America as a fantasy, a sham, a scheme and long-running con. I see the white militia groups abided by our sell-out fascist government and think about puppet statesmen, the Cold War, Ghost in the Shell plotlines, media manipulation as destabilizing geopolitical economic warfare. The Earth turns. After my homie dropped major science on their own part, I added that I think there is no Left Wing party, and that when the Liberals came to power through the 50s I guess, by the 80s they had cannibalized the Left Wing.
‘Liberal’ itself is confusing cause without political education, you just think it means free or daresay forward thinking, opposite of conservatives that favor the past. Or you imagine it as the cultural attitude of intellectual snobs that get made fun of on The Simpsons. But Liberal democrats here are conservative and centrist. They have no imagination for the future. They dismiss even the tamest progressive and socialist ideologies as the fancies of foolish children (and not feasible, practical and efficient possibilities in economy and infrastructure), and they perpetually give in to the taut-hard lines of Republicans or any vocal white outcry for that matter. Both ‘sides’ maintain the fallacy that only their two parties exist, when …just look at all the fucking factions out there in the streets right now, running fundraising and awareness campaigns, doing mutual aid outside of non-profit models, corporations pandering to their desired markets, thinktanks and lobbyists designing million dollar TV advertisements, endless FOP PR campaigns in the form of popular procedural dramas such as Law & Order and Paw Patrol, and clandestine firms funded to implement strange political YouTube ad messaging and TikTok accounts.
What do you know in your gut? What are you witnessing right now? Have you ever questioned the origins of civilization itself? Do your bones ache?
caring for the dead
After years of largely praying to and calling upon saints and spirits, I’ve begun speaking to my elder ancestors. This is after several slow previous progressions attempting relationships with my recent dead, which did not feel exactly right no matter how I set my altars or addressed them or contemplated the circumstances of their lives. In Jessica Dore’s pre-pandemic weekly tarot circle, I used to sit over my cards and listen to almost exclusively Black women speak over their beautiful Black-made decks on building/their relationships with ancestors and Spirit, and I’d be asking myself what traditions were in my heritage for ancestor worship in kind, besides a fractured relationship to All Saints & All Souls Day and denialist New-Ager interpretations of pre-Catholic pagan spiritualities. What relationships does one have with their recent dead when those dead are full of wrath, hurt, spite, and wish to haunt your living body with their unresolved pains?
(I think it was seven-some years ago when I realized I needed therapy for my relationship-eating anger issues, and now I’ve come to realize I’m housing more than just my own anger memories.)
INTERJECTION: This newsletter originally went out on the 14th, and on the 19th, area herbalist Kelly McCarthy of Attic Apothecary passed me this Open Letter Regarding Daniel Foor & Ancestral Medicine, of former practitioners airing a unified public grievance and warning against Daniel Foor as dangerous, of who I am now about to speak. I’ve left my original text in order to reflect my perception of this man, who has now—unsurprisingly—been revealed to be another dangerous white savior, in an expansive field of corrupted white wellness, honorable spirituality figures. I did not realize he ran a for-profit training of his practice. Fucking funny. It’s a good leter. Ok.
This summer I ended up hearing this man Daniel Foor speak on the Rune Soup podcast about repairing one’s ancestral lineage by going back to your oldest ancestors, old ones who are healed and wise and kind and wish good for you. You go to them for help, even though you don’t ‘know’ them at first, to build relationships, and you ask them to help heal your more recent dead. What a concept. Some things shifted rapidly for me after I began to do this, although I am yet in the very opening stages.
Daniel Foor is a white man whose work it turns out, is the result of studying under Yoruba practitioners, who speak openly about this on his platform: Talking Yoruba Culture with Oluseyi Atanda & Ifasola Onifade. I had shared the Rune Soup podcast with Philly jawn in Pittsburgh, Petra Floyd, and she mentioned this Appalachian one, Talking Backwoods Witchcraft with Jake Richards, was interesting. And I like this talk too because the host Gordon White and Richards both speak explicitly on the need for white people to revive/establish/strengthen traditions of caring for their dead, because the past 100 years especially have seen such a dramatic disconnect, and it’s eating us alive. This is not news or new insight. We are not well and won’t be until this begins to happen. I speak on Richards and Foor in particular because the two of them have authored instructional books on the matter.
Back in June I watched this facebook teach-in on White Supremacy & Class in Italian-American Communities, moderated by journalist Adryan Corcione, joined with Italian studies expert Samantha Pinto,
“to confront the history of Italian American communities like South Philadelphia and the complex history of white supremacy[…] We invite the community to this important discussion in light of the incidents of white supremacist vigilante violence unfolding at Marconi Plaza since June 13th.”
The rioting and lootings from the start of June were still fresh, and at this time people were tearing down Confederate monuments and coming after Columbus next in many places. Here in Philly, the South Philly Italian assholes emerged from their concentrated enclaves to ‘defend’ the Columbus statue. Shit was fucked up, tense, outright violent, and kept escalating for days until the city finally covered it in a box and promised to haul it out of there (and fucking clown Rudy Giuliani just visited and called the box 'anti-Catholic’ WHAT A STOOGE). I had just started watching The Sopranos too, and was like, wow blue-collar ‘pride’ is such a racist sham.
So, I thought the teach-in was good. Samantha Pinto is a bonafide born-n-raised South Philly Italian, well studied and fluent in Italian language, and has relationship to being in Sicily the land itself, so she was thoroughly breaking down the white supremacist motives behind by the tools at Marconi. The two of them (Corcione) made clear cut lines to the struggles of southern Italians and their legacies of anarchist organizing and so on, which has long been abandoned in Italian American aspirations to join the political party that is whiteness.
I ended up watching this talk with Mauro Valeri around the same time, about the ret-conned erasure of Black Italians during the rise of the fascist party leading up to and between the World Wars. Valeri does this by tracing the lives of several prominent Black Italians in the recent centuries, one of whom was a decorated general who sued to keep his position within the rising fascist party, until he realized that anti-blackness was now also part of the party’s position.
Then I jumped to this talk about the origins of ‘white trash’ as stemming from eugenics and ‘poor breeding’ according to the standards of white land-owning elites. As if you didn’t know by now with me, language is a sorcery that must be paid fastidious attention.
There’s so so much history from the landmass-now-called-Europe, of its descendants-now-called-white-people in struggle against their own oppressive land owner rulers and warmonger elites, but what do we find for ourselves in 2020? Another fucking DUNE remake. (oh wait it got postponed) Have you read Dune? Some space nobles are maneuvering for economic dominance of the galaxy by controlling the commodity known as Spice. Spice is required for the operation of intergalactic trade. There is a single source of Spice, on an unforgiving desert planet named Arrakis. Spice is the excrement of gigantic sand worms and it is ingested as a drug, with long term cognitive effects. The struggle of Dune is that of an oppressed native people against their colonizers, led by… a prophesied savior… who happens to be… the rising king of one of the warring colonizer families. But this one is special because reasons! (A real Gary Stu, if you’re of the Live Journal fic reading generation and get that.)
Dune is memorable for several world-building details, however, like “the Butlerian Jihad [that] results in the strict prohibition of all thinking machines, including computers, robots and artificial intelligence of any kind,” and that produces mentats, a class of elite tradesperson that can perform cognitive assessments and mathematical computations as though they were computers (aren’t they). One of my favorite details is the Weirding Way of the feared Bene-Gesserit witches, and their martial Litany Against Fear.
"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
It’s a toughass piece of world-building. But the new movie trailer utilizes the “Only I will remain” language as its tagline, and I find that fantasy very dangerous in this pendulum swing of retaliatory white male anger.
“A militant nationwide uprising did in fact occur.”
I said at the start of this missive that state violence was making me remember what else I have witnessed, and now I’m going to end with an excerpt from a July talk titled How It Might Should Be Done:
We all saw it. We all saw what happened after the murder of George Floyd. What occurred was an extremely violent and destructive rebellion. It was a phenomenon the likes of which we have not seen in America in 40 or 50 years. Very few of us have experienced anything of this magnitude: a precinct was immediately torched in Minneapolis, after which entire cities went up in flames—New York, Atlanta, Oakland, Seattle. Comparisons were quickly made with the riots after Martin Luther King’s assassination. However, I think that we’ve gone further in this case, that 2020 went harder than 1968, and we’re not even done yet.
Despite all of this, the reformers have had the audacity to claim that all of this never actually happened. They are trying to make the burning cop cars disappear, to extinguish from memory the police stations on fire, as if it didn’t happen. Again and again, I hear the same script: someone comes on the news, a political activist gives a talk, and we hear them say something like, “the protests were peaceful and non-violent, they stayed within the bounds of law and order.” No: cops being shot at in St. Louis is not within the bounds of law and order. They’re doing their best to make the event disappear. One has to wonder what planet they are on that a torched police station appears within the bounds of civility.
This delusion is something that we need to think about. Ultimately, it’s more than a delusion. It unites veritably all the progressive liberals who chatter on about what’s been going on over the past summer. From the Biden democrats to virtually all of the mainstream media not affiliated with Fox News, to the Black Lives Matter™ people, the agenda pushed by all these groups is the claim that the insurrection did not take place. I even read a recent study by some sort of consulting firm that sought to prove through quantitative means that there was a very civil nature to the protests. 
The fact is, whatever data or graphs they draw up, nothing will erase the fact that police cars were on fire in dozens of American cities. So why do liberals feel the need to jump through such incredible hoops in order to erase this insurrection or this uprising? Why is it that the most violent wings of law and order—e.g., Attorney General William Barr—are today the only audible voices willing to acknowledge that the uprising occurred? We need to think this through.
What is at issue is more than just a momentary lapse of sanity: it is a strategy of denial, a counter-insurgent strategy of reform par excellence.
And so I part by asking, what are you willing to remember? What are you unwilling to accept is happening all around you?
Hold on to your love.
Till next time.