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I asked my partner if I could be their wife on an otherwise typical Sunday. A public and/or elaborately planned proposal would have been out of the question even if COVID hadn’t ensured that we were living through our eleventh month of “work from home” quarantine. The capitalist spectacle of engagements and marriage is a nuisance and burden neither my fiance — an aromantic enbie with adult ADHD — nor I — a transgender autistic Communist — desire.

Nic’s aromanticism does not make them incapable of feeling or expressing love. She is indisputably made of love to steal a bit from Steven Universe, but for Nic, the highly socialized binary that demands hierarchical stratification or even, for the most part, differentiation period between fraternal and romantic love doesn’t exist. That her first marriage was to a predatory, emotionally abusive shit heel contributed to Nic’s antipathy to ever getting married again. For my part, a combination of general neurodivergent social detachment as well as being the child of a divorce that just about killed my father and led to my mother cannonballing into two even more disastrous marriages afterwards has made me more than a little skeptical of the whole institution. Despite all of those existential roadblocks, there was no hesitation when Nic said yes, and I could not help but pop the proverbial question less than 36 hours after I’d stayed up until 7 AM realizing what I needed to do.

I emphasize the normality of that Sunday because like many couples with overlapping but not identical places on the neurodivergence spectrum, a degree of chaotic structure is the only thing that keeps the Frankenberry-Saas household from operatic spirals of executive dysfunction. This blog exists because I once spent a week putting together a list of every single film nominated in certain categories at major awards shows into a spreadsheet, randomizing said thousands of films large list, and then allowing that spreadsheet to order the overwhelming majority of my at-home movie viewings for half a decade because I would have been too paralyzed by choice at the time otherwise. I once remade the list from scratch without batting an eye because the computer that had the first version kicked the bucket not long after I started my blog.

Nic is reliant on sophisticated budgeting software otherwise they wouldn’t be able to keep their (and now our) finances in order, not out of laziness or profligate spending habits but because her brain simply can’t wrap itself around things like money or time if their existence isn’t pushed directly in front of her face. Nic’s bank merging with PNC sent them into a mini-panic spiral last year because said service was offered through her bank and will be discontinued after the merger.

Like a couple of geriatrics, we both had to relent and buy medicine bottles with timer caps so that we would know for sure whether or not we’d taken our medications. The number of times where Nic forgot their Vyvanse or I forgot my second dose of my Zoloft/Estradiol/Spironolactone (or my first/only dose of Loratadine) is far too high for folks not suffering from early onset dementia.

Although Alzheimer’s runs in both of our families so there’s honestly a good chance that we are experiencing very minor instances of early onset dementia.

A big part of our routine as a couple revolves around video games and that’s how our day had started on Sunday. Nic and I like to cuddle on the couch and watch the other play some game. The one not playing is generally engaging in some light parallel activity. Nic has been using Duolingo to learn Scottish Gaelic, Greek, and Spanish and her Gaelic and Greek are both scary good for someone who’s just started learning within the last four months. If Nic has the controller/mouse & keyboard, I’m generally reading a book or scrolling through Reddit or Twitter. We both have a tendency to need to be doing multiple things at once, but even as our attention is divided across multiple media, we’re communicating with and encouraging one another and simply touching each other after a lifetime of starvation for affectionate, non-domineering touch.

My fiance loves the Dragon Age games, and the social/romance elements in RPGs are why she plays western RPGs like the aforementioned fantasy series or the post-apocalyptic Fallout games in the first place. Video games and RPGs in particular have given queer and neurodivergent folks like us safe avenues to explore social roles and relationships that we would generally not have access to in real life, and one of the legion of reasons that I fell in love with Nic was how passionately they could discourse about the love lives and rich lore of completely fictional characters and universes.

Sunday, Nic was playing Cyberpunk 2077. Notable for one of the most bug-ridden and publicly mocked AAA launches of the last decade as well as for a nasty series of reversals on crunch and other promised protections for the game’s developers, CDProjekt Red’s latest release is a technical marvel held together by barely existent AI and the exploited labor of its dev team. I have a different essay to write about that game and its hilariously jumbled politics, but after the session that day, I turned to Nic and told them that I couldn’t wait to grow old with them, living vicariously through disaster video game bisexuals. Realizing that I’d just set up my own opportunity to propose without intending, I told Nic that I wanted to be their wife.

While I wound up being the one to propose, Nic actually brought up marriage as a possibility for us about six months ago. With the pandemic as well as the resurgence of fascism and our continued habitation in the heart of Trump country, Nic made it clear that she had no objections to marrying me in the future for the legal protections it would provide us, particularly as an openly queer couple in a state where it’s still legal to evict a tenant for being transgender. The day of the proposal I told Nic that I didn’t want there to be any way that any one could keep them from having the last say (beyond my own) in my affairs.

Nic’s love had helped sustain me during the second long-term dissolution of my relationship with my mother as well as my attempts to transition in a very visible, very conservative workspace. I had reached a point where I was experiencing daily suicidal ideation, and Nic and Zoloft are 75% of the reasons I made it through the winter of 2018-19.

I told Nic if they needed any time to think before they responded, they had all the time they needed and that I’d understand if they said no but Nic immediately clutched me right to their chest and said “Yes. Of course. Yes.”

We talked for about an hour about our relationship and what we both wanted from a marriage at this point in our lives. Nic made me promise that I hadn’t changed my mind about not wanting kids some day, and through thick happy tears, I belly-laughed and reminded her that being a parent was the last thing I wanted on this Earth.

Nic knew that this time around, our engagement didn’t change the texture of our relationship. I told Nic they were my forever person less than three months into our relationship and the confession was mutual. Our intense reciprocity has only blossomed in the intervening years. The hard work of building a life together had already been done and we were able to make this commitment to ourselves and our futures on our terms and inside of our vision rather than the socially baked in expectations and desires of others.

After the crying and hugging and kissing and declaring of love had stopped, we ordered dinner and put on Barbara Kopple’s classic labor documentary, Harlan County, U.S.A. One of the initial venues that Nic and I pursued to begin seeing each other socially was film. I introduced Nic to Upstream Colour, Inherent Vice, and When Marnie Was There on two of our earliest dates, and to this day, I can elicit at least a chuckle (sometimes a groan) by referencing Manic Pixie Dream Grandmother Lesbian Ghosts (can a film with two related leads queerbait? Studio Ghibli found out even if it didn’t mean to).

Nic’s politics are less vocally revolutionary and theory-oriented than mine, but we’re both committed leftists, and as soon as I explained ‘s Harlan County‘s premise to Nic, they agreed to watch the documentary as we wolfed down the hot wings we’d ordered as an engagement treat to ourselves.

I’m a card-carrying member of the Industrial Workers of the World, and while I’m also fairly consistent in saying that trade unionism is only a small part of the broader struggle for revolutionary liberation, the struggles of mine workers and the folks that risked everything for solidarity is the radical, revolutionary history of the Appalachia that Nic and I call home.

Miners living in tenement shacks without running water or electricity, company gun thugs intimidating working class martyrs that only wanted a fair pay for a day’s work, picket lines speaking truth to power.

Harlan County, U.S.A. is explicitly a product of the labor struggles of an increasingly austerity embracing America of the 1970s, but the war for a worker’s right to decency and self-respect is as old as the hills. Nic and I both have our trepidations and fears about the current state of West Virginia and the hyper-reactionary/unapologetically fascistic nature of so many of our elected officials (including State Senators who were involved in the Beer Belly Putsch in January), but our hearts bleed for the mountains that birthed us and we both want nothing less than the total liberation and emancipation of the Appalachian working class (but, once again, that’s a different essay).

Our engagement Sunday ended with Nic and I playing a multiplayer session of the historical dynastic grand strategy game, Crusader Kings III. The game allows us to disassociate and relax but also taps into the parts of our brains that process vast amounts of data and try to manipulate it to our benefit while also sharing with one another whatever debauchery or tragicomedy has befallen our medieval feudal lords.

Parallel play is one of the recurring themes of our relationship. The comfort that we can feel by being around one another, being aware of one another’s passions and sharing in the specificity of the moment without having to devote ourselves entirely to the other’s enterprise keeps our relationship fresh and strong. Nic and I occupy our own worlds with our own hyperfoci and digital obsessions, but we also find our joy in the pleasure and passion of each other. A psychic feedback loop of warmth and compassion and care drives our relationship and our world view and our lives, and as someone who had spent so much of her twenties resigned to my eventual, eternal solitude, that emotional and spiritual harbor that I have found in Nic is a treasure without equal. And if we can raise some Appalachian Communist hell while we find ways to express and enact our love daily… well, being a comrade starts in the home and if you can’t commit your heart and soul to a person you love, how can you hope to do the same for your fellow man?

How Soon Is Mao

Complacency is the enemy of study. We cannot really learn anything until we rid ourselves of complacency. Our attitude towards ourselves should be “to be insatiable in learning” and towards others “to be tireless in teaching.”

Mao Zedong. “The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War” (October 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 210.

History shows that wars are divided into two kinds, just and unjust. All wars that are progressive are just, and all wars that impede progress are unjust. We Communists oppose all unjust wars that impede progress, but we do not oppose progressive, just wars. Not only do we Communists not oppose just wars; we actively participate in them. As for unjust wars, World War I is an instance in which both sides fought for imperialist interests; therefore, the Communists of the whole world firmly opposed that war. The way to oppose a war of this kind is to do everything possible to prevent it before it breaks out and, once it breaks out, to oppose war with war, to oppose unjust war with just war, whenever possible.

Mao Zedong. “On Protracted War” (May 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 150.

I don’t handle contradictions well; I haven’t since I was a kid. The full weight of evangelical paradox was employed to crush my capacities for independent thought as well as any material critiques of abusive power. I lost countless sleepless nights pondering original sin, eternal damnation, and redemptive love while failing to square those ideas with a world where even the most devout Pentacostals fell so far short of the textual demands of their theology. I convinced myself that my curiosity and analytical frustration with “born again” Christianity was a sign of my fundamentally sinful nature. Christ’s love and even Christ’s word without struggle would always be beyond me because of my pride and arrogance masquerading as intellect.

Unlike many traditional Marxists or even other atheists, I embrace my spiritual comrades and their religious traditions. Respecting the cultural and psychological value faith can hold is not incompatible with criticisms or even attacks on religious institutions and hegemonic beliefs that are used to do harm. I am all too familiar with how communities supposedly built around love and ideological solidarity can become tools of hierarchical control and systematic exclusion.

Disentangling myself from the obfuscation of contradictory, self-harming Christian ontology was a key step in my road towards socialist historical materialism and away from liberal idealism. I was able to look at what was rather than what should be. I was able to look at the roots of my pain and suffering as observable externalities and not divine punishment for imagined sins. The pain and suffering that Christianity had exported across the entire world began to manifest itself as a historical process of imperialist, colonialist power politics and not a tragic byproduct of the “essential” mission of proselytization.

While my faith lasted, Christianity did give me purpose. I was a soldier for Christ. Every action of every day held cosmic import because my eternal soul hung in the balance. Existence was an all-consuming war between good and evil, and constant vigilance was the only thing that could save me from temptation and damnation. The stick of Hell was always more comprehensible to me than the carrot of Heaven. If I was going to be a Christian, I was going to be devout, and devotion gives life urgency.

When my religious faith evaporated after my first serious exposures to secularism in college, I was hit with a decade of the most severe depression of my entire life. Replacing Christian purpose with the technocratic nihilism of neoliberalism upended my mental health. My academic background of political science paired with an obsessive attention to national Democratic politics was slowly combining into the dialectic that our American system was fundamentally corrupt, fundamentally cruel, and fundamentally rigged. Liberal democracy consistently proved itself incapable of rising to the challenges of catastrophic climate change, ascendant fascism, and the continuing devastation of America’s working class.

My college courses felt useless. Teachers would walk us through the material realities of power in America: the incestual nature of corporate/academic/non-profit/think tank boards, campaign finance evasion/manipulation, predatory housing policy, racist education policy, etc. etc. My pre-law profs would walk us through how right wing business interests skirted due process and constitutional interventions by buying Supreme Court justices as hostile to civil liberty and basic protection as the bosses, and American empire just kept on ticking despite one obvious constitutional crisis after another.

Nothing inside of American democracy or liberal philosophy could offer a solution to the mounting catastrophes facing every aspect of human existence. Empty platitudes about voting began to fall on deaf ears. It was impossible to deny the methodical exclusion of large swaths of the population from voting rolls, or the continued weakening of voting rights laws, or the dissolution of public polling places solely to discourage Black and brown and working class votes from having a say in their own governance. Twice in the last two decades, the racist institution of the Electoral College (literally invented to uphold the interests of slave states) ensured that reactionary warmongers and their cronies held the highest offices of the land despite objectively losing what would have been otherwise a quasi-democratic election.

Even the most left-leaning bits of liberal agitprop had nothing more to say than that power will eventually corrupt even if acquired and initially utilized with “the people’s” best interests at heart. The Wire‘s Tommy Carcetti demoralized and ethically neutralized a generation of young radicals furious at the unnecessary waste and greed and violence of our society by saying that no matter what you try to do, the power of the system is too much and you can’t change it but it will change you. These were true statements about American politics but without a picture of what was possible outside of this system, David Simon and liberal pessimists of his ilk reduced activism to angry editorialism with no hope or answer for a better tomorrow.

The stagnation of the left and its contemporary ability to leave any substantial marks on American culture predates the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Sino-Soviet split due to the Soviet Union’s revisionist turn under Kruschev regarding peaceful coexistence with capitalism gutted the emergence of a truly organized global proletarian movement. China’s own turn towards state capitalism was the nail in the coffin of the third world socialist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. That’s not to say that Marxist-Leninist revolutions don’t continue to this day. The people of Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, and the DPRK proudly continue their fights against imperialist and colonialist violence. But there is no doubt that there is currently one pole of global geopolitics and that pole is extractive finance capitalism.

However, we can not confuse strategic retreats and even world historic failures of significant socialist states to ideological defeat or surrender. Capitalism is still a runaway train headed off a cliff of irreparable ecological devastation. Capitalism is still a system of repression and subjugation by the industrialized world at the expense of the global south. Capitalism is still an uncompromising competition where its most rewarded owners utilize every legal and illegal means of violence to control their workers and their profit margins.

Socialism is not a historical inevitability, but it is the only modern alternative to capitalism or fascism. Class struggle is an inescapable feature of daily life. Billionaires begin to verge on becoming trillionaires as the world enters the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and, in America, we’ve skyrocketed past the Great Depression’s economic impact in our COVID-fueled nightmare world. Unapologetic white supremacist ethnonationalism holds the reigns in the United States, Russia, and Great Britain and is on the verge of mounting its largest comeback since the Third Reich throughout the rest of Europe as well.

To be a white American and to spend a single day not invested or involved somehow in the destruction of our empire is collaboration with evil. To be a white American and to not utilize every method at your disposal to do material harm to the prison-industrial complex and the military industrial complex and the endless war machine is profiteering off of evil. To be a white American and to not reorient your entire political praxis and theory around Black liberation, Hispanic liberation, and indigenous liberation is unapologetic settler-colonial evil.

Revolutionary socialism gave my life purpose. Revolutionary socialism gave me the language to contextualize the totalizing oppression and systems of power that control our world. Communism hasn’t asked me to turn a blind eye to the failures of past revolutionaries. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism doesn’t promise me Heaven or threaten me with Hell. To quote Mao, “revolutions aren’t a dinner party,” and we all know when the revolution comes, it will be horrific and violent and the work after the revolution will be even harder. But any comrade worth their salt knows that life under capitalism is already its own Hell.

Revolutionary socialism simply demands I commit myself to a self-education of my own complicity in white supremacist violence and global neoliberal capitalist violence. It demands I commit myself to the agitation and education of my peers and my community even if it puts me even further in harm’s way from reactionary capitalist violence. It demands that I put my body on the line for the realization of this possible but never promised better world. Yet these aren’t metaphysical, quasi-religious demands. This is a living, material response and respect for the revolutionaries and theorists who came before who showed what worked and what would ultimately fail when one starts to organize themself and their community against their oppressors.

The urgency of this re-alignment of all of our theory and practice towards revolutionary liberation and intersectional ecosocialist solidarity is reaching a flashpoint. To sit back on the sidelines and wait for others to do the work that you’re too inexperienced or comfortable to do is moral failure. Each and every one of us who have been dragged by the yokes of capitalism and suffered under its lash carry the potential for revolution inside ourselves. When we organize into revolutionary cadres and revolutionary parties and eventually revolutionary armies, we express our indomitable spirits even if our bodies must pay the price for the benefit of the human race as a whole.

What stronger purpose could you ask for than the realization of humanity’s potential for peace and the meeting of the basic needs of all? What greater eternal reward could be given than your knowledge that you helped laid the foundation for that world? What greater eternal damnation can be imagined than the knowledge that you held water for or stayed silent in the face of cruelty and avoidable suffering?

The civil war already exists; the class struggle, which results in so many massacres even when the proletariat is not consciously fighting the bourgeoisie, needs to be engaged and, in this engagement, made visible.

Moufawad-Paul, J.. Continuity and Rupture: Philosophy in the Maoist Terrain (p. 218).


A comorbid symptom of my autism spectrum disorder, gender dysphoria, and generalized anxiety is severe mental stress when communication and understanding start to break down. Panic and incendiary rage tear through me at a microsecond clip; inner calm and joy are replaced with ulcer-inducing anger.

The most severe manifestations of this phenomena occur when the social construction of language is weaponized to do harm and/or neurotypical expectations of vocal affectation are used to gaslight me regarding my own intentions or meaning. My lizard brain doesn’t make “flight or fight” calculations; my immediate trauma response is to fight.

“Stubbornly literal” would be a polite description of my mind. I am almost always oblivious to sarcasm. There isn’t a rhetorical question that I’m not prepared to reflexively answer. My aphantasia prevents me from even conjuring up imagined or remembered visuals in my own head. I conceptualize the world almost solely by definitions and relations.

One of those rhetorical question setups to which I am physiologically incapable of responding are questions framed as “I don’t know/understand why X does Y?” The most common version lately is “I don’t get why people can’t just wear a fucking mask!” coming from earnest liberals who are incapable of processing the root causes of self-destructive logic in conservatives because said liberals are simultaneously incapable of recognizing the carcinogenic qualities of their own ideology.

Anti-maskers and their predecessors, anti-vaxxers, are products of the same late capitalist, neoliberal contradictions. When the “marketplace of ideas” is bulwarked by a national culture of narcissistic libertarianism and self-aggrandizement of the consumer, sociopathic violence in the name of liberty is guaranteed to become a normalized feature of society.

To manage the psychic trauma of catastrophic climate change, decades of economic stagnation and recession, and the emergence of a global market defined less and less by American hegemonic control, Americans cling desperately to the last shreds of the socialized power of whiteness, the relative economic power and security that said whiteness provides scaled to workers in the global south, and the soul-affirming power of American exceptionalism. White workers have become so enmeshed in the values of imperialist, white supremacist capitalism and have reaped enough psychological and material benefits from imperialist, white supremacist capitalism that they understand intuitively if not consciously that even the slightest slide to social democracy or a welfare capitalism would undermine the entire foundation of the systems of violence and exploitation that make this country run.

Anti-maskers would rather be wrong and die than accept the existence of social responsibility. Acceptance of social obligation is acceptance that we owe more to each other than to simply worship at the temples of the self and the free market. The most basic forms of social obligation such as not spreading preventable diseases become a burden to the rugged individualism and dog-eat-dog capitalist ambition that defines the white American character.

I’ve never info-dumped that whole spiel at a friend but I’ve given plenty of versions of the abridged text. However, my partner Nic has to repeatedly point out to me that unless somebody explicitly asks me to give them a mini-essay on cultural hegemony and the social implications of late capitalism as a literal death cult, I can sometimes do as much as harm as good (or, at least, no productive good) with those unapologetic polemics because most folks don’t talk to each other with such an explicit emphasis on the dialectic. Many of us have either lost through disuse or never even acquired the training to think or speak in an explicitly historically materialist manner and that lacuna exists before we even discuss the social or legal pressures used to stigmatize and demonize folks outside of the traditional capitalist milieu.

A friend who was much better versed in Deleuze and Foucault than I’ll ever be once made the argument that the ideological and cultural establishment of neoliberal capitalism in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union was so total in its victory that our language has pushed so far past a comprehension of Marxism that almost any attempts to use Marxist language will provoke reactionary physical or emotional violence from the typical American worker.

The material rewards of our society on those rare occasions when they are allotted to the proletariat or our academic class are given to those individuals who most completely internalize and then externalize the values and productive desires of our capitalist system. Marxist theory requires not just literacy but critical literacy, and the bourgeois values one accumulates in the academic and professional settings that would let most of us acquire critical literacy as often as not instill an inherent hostility to proletarian ideology. On the flip side, the absence of critical literacy in a society as deeply propagandized as America leads to hollow echoes of imperialist, white supremacist propaganda from the white masses. Bourgeois academics and a white working class that is ignorantly proud of its place as the bootlickers of the billionaire capitalist class does not bode well for the establishment of a revolutionary vanguard.

I embrace the idea that we inhabit not just a universe structured and governed by rational mathematical and physical principles but that we are members of a species whose historical and social relations can be studied and explained through scientific inquiry. I am also all too aware that the historical and social relations that have shaped my surroundings have thoroughly decimated my ability to converse with many of my fellow workers and vice versa. Figuring out how to bridge those communication gaps while also acknowledging and labeling the reactionary, imperialist bent of much of the labor aristocracy in the United States (even in areas as poverty-stricken as the Appalachia I call home) is perhaps the defining task of my current socialist praxis, and I feel increasingly lost in these dialectical seas.

So many liberals feel utterly hopeless because the institutional processes and safeguards we were told to trust in as our last defense against fascism and totalitarianism have proven as hollow as our supposed national values of freedom, liberty, and prosperity. Workers are more productive than they have ever been and the rewards for that labor have been disappearing for decades. That decline is the happy half of the global proletarian story. White workers have at least on occasion possessed the economic and physical security that America denies to its Black and brown citizens. The global south has always paid for that white economic and physical security with their blood, sweat, and lives in a way white American workers are rarely if ever forced to comprehend.

The supposed “progress” of the Obama years was immediately met with the reactionary fascism of our current administration. That reactionary fascism is the dark funhouse mirror of the globalist rainbow capitalism the Third Way has promised since the 90s. When vast tracts of the population are utterly abandoned economically to the merciless whims of corporate power, white identity politics that offers even less than neoliberal capitalism materially but at least tells white workers that they’re special and goes out of its way to punish those outside of the volk will maintain its shamanic appeal.

The broad solution to humanity’s problems are obvious. Without some form of intersectional global ecosocialism, the human race faces almost certain, imminent extinction from climate change. Even if capitalism were somehow able to correct course on climate disaster, the increasingly multi-polar vector of realpolitik power is already destabilizing the supposed “peace” bought by the end of the Cold War. Imperialist warmaking is the highest stage of capitalism to slightly repurpose Lenin. How many times have we narrowly avoided World War III in the last four years alone?

I’m not a utopian idealist. I don’t believe that what I hope to see for this world is inevitable. My gut instinct often leads me to feel the way that Octavia Butler felt in her Lilith’s Brood novels which posited that there was something so deeply ingrained into how humans think at a biological, molecular level about hierarchy and power that inter-group violence has become an inescapable aspect of our evolved sentience. These existential conflicts aren’t simply cultural values that we can unlearn. This violence is ingrained into how we think to the same extent that linguists like Noam Chomsky believe our capacities for language are hard-coded into our brains. We as a species may be evolutionarily incapable of saving ourselves.

I’m also not suicidal, or, at least, I haven’t been since I started taking Zoloft. If our choices are socialism or barbarism, revolution or annihilation, anyone who chooses life must choose to resist. Like Sisyphus, we must continue to push that rock up and down the hill until something changes or we die because to stop means to be crushed by a cruelty we still have some potential to fight.

Black Panther co-founder Huey Newton titled his autobiography Revolutionary Suicide. Revolutionaries aren’t suicidal even if they recognize that revolution could result in their individual death. “Revolutionary suicide” is revolutionary self-sacrifice. Revolutionary self-sacrifice is the intentional divestment of the fruits of white supremacist, imperalist, colonialist power and the direction of body and mind to liberation and solidarity of the global masses.

Marx was correct. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” The breakdown of those class struggles and its intersection with multiple points of oppression in our society (Black liberation is class struggle; queer liberation is class struggle; indigenous liberation is class struggle) is substantially more complex than a simple bourgeois/proletarian split (and even Marx and Engles recognized this). Weaponized white supremacy and the comfort of the white working class is the single biggest impediment to mass solidarity on a global scale.

Yet, the wanton avarice of the so-called masters of the universe has never been laid more bare or the inherent class antagonisms facing even the white labor aristocracy made so obvious than they are becoming during the COVID-19 pandemic. 150,00 dead in America alone. 40 million people without jobs. Over half of the renting class in the country facing eviction. “Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing left to lose but your chains” is an apocryphal misattribution of two separate quotes from The Communist Manifesto but like “Play it again, Sam,” it’s nearly better than the original at conveying the spirit of the problem. If our choices are death by rising sea levels through inaction or death by Tsarist firing squad /ICE Gestapo unit because of rebellion and a true people’s war, I know which death I’d prefer.

How I say these things to folks who haven’t had their “red pill” moment (and I appropriate that pop culture reference as a trans woman using it in the explicit subtext of The Matrix where it’s a clear allegory for becoming a transgender communist) without coming off like a raving lunatic or getting myself thrown in jail is the revolutionary puzzle box I haven’t saved. Despite my own theoretical shortcomings, these are the conversations we must have as white organizers and white revolutionaries about the white working class who we know will never take the red pill. They may be uncomfortable but they are necessary because we can not let our own whiteness and our attachment to those who share our whiteness be a stumbling block to mass liberation and mass solidarity.

The fury that whips through me when I hear coworkers proudly discuss circumventing mask laws in West Virginia even though our state recently had the dubious honor of having the fastest person-to-person per capita infection rate for COVID-19 is thermonuclear. The nearly violent hate I feel towards family members who try to defend the police in the midst of a righteous uprising against police violence and centuries of white supremacist state oppression against Black Americans becomes all-consuming. The venom coursing through my veins when I think about politicians selling out the working class for another term in office and millions and millions of more dollars in Super PAC money leaves me paralyzed.

None of those purely emotional reactions are remotely useful if they aren’t immediately paired with an organized theory and praxis to confront these existential crises of our society. And even those steps aren’t helpful if we aren’t capable of communicating any of those ideas to others. But, also, sometimes you have to know when folks can’t be saved.

A Procedural Tragedy Simulator

(Author’s Note: I haven’t posted anything on this blog in a couple months, and I know it’s been much longer since the weekly release schedule I’d been maintaining from November to February was in effect. This post should help explain what it is I’ve been working on.

Also, I haven’t updated this blog since I’ve started to come out to friends and family as a woman. Hi. I’m Dawn. Lost Again has been host to a lot of the fundamental essays that helped me work through my genderqueerness when I was first coming out as non-binary. However, in the years/months since I made those initial transitions, I’ve become more aware/accepting of and excited by my transfeminine nature and the way I feel about myself and the world around me as a trans woman. My pronouns are she/her.

In all likelihood, I’m going to try to find the pieces from this site that I want to save and migrate them to a new host for my essays and delete everything else at some point soon. I have over 1200 pieces on this site that I’ve written over the last seven years. The vast majority of the essays/reviews/recaps on this site were written when I was first learning how to write and also when I still identified as a man. I want the public face of my writing to be more polished, but I do want to keep the content that I’m still proud of. Thank you to everyone who has been a reader all of these years.)

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I accepted that I was transgender in my late 20s because I made friends online and in real life who helped me develop a vocabulary to explore my gender identity. I am now and have always been transgender because I had two parents who raised both my sister and I not to accept the shackles gender had placed on their own lives. They’ve never been able to experience the freedoms my sister and I cherish so dearly and I doubt that they ever will.

I thought about my mother and my father a lot as I watched 20th Century Women, Mike Mill’s electric follow-up to his beloved sophomore feature, Beginners. 20th Century Women is about a teenage boy, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), raised in SoCal in the late 70s by his single mother, the engineer and independent spirit Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening). With Jamie’s father a non-presence in both Jamie and Dorothea’s life, Dorothea worries that she can’t sufficiently raise her son on her own and recruits two young women, ill photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and troubled teenager Julie (Elle Fanning), to help shape her son into a whole person.

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Up until I was twenty one years old, I wanted to be a cop. Specifically, I wanted to be a Fed, working public corruption cases. I had my whole beat figured out. Undergrad in political science and criminology. Law degree. FBI. Public office. I had neoliberal Appalachian rags-to-riches legislative ambitions.

I was making waves in WVU’s political science department as a potential candidate for the Truman scholarship. I was a well-respected RA in the school dorms, and I was active in student government. I had great grades, and I was heavily involved in a political summer camp for teenagers each year — where I was developing an important and formative friendship with an FBI agent. I had roots of fond supporters throughout the state.

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My grandfather told my mother we were Jewish on his deathbed.

That was the observation I fixated on as I watched Dekalog: Eight. My maternal grandfather’s family name is Swartz. “Swartz” was the Anglicization of the very German and very Jewish “Schwarz”, and it was the name that my forebears were given when they immigrated to America in the early 20th century. My narrow line of the Swartz tree settled in West Virginia, and at some point between the 1910s and the 2000s, our Jewish identity had become such a point of shame and was covered in such secrecy that my mother — a devout Evangelical Christian — was in her 40s before she found out she was Ashkenazim.

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I was on the edge of oblivion the first weekend I saw Jason Isbell perform.

The 400 Unit was playing at Bonnaroo 2016, and I was barely a month removed from quitting my job as the Managing Editor of Baeble Music in New York City. I had moved back home to West Virginia to finish college (and because I couldn’t afford to live in Brooklyn anymore without my salaried job), and Bonnaroo was the final obligation I had to Baeble. It was the epilogue to my career as a music journalist.

I spent the weekend in the most desperate drug binge of my life.

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“Too Often On My Own”

I’m going to Tina’s tomorrow night.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, but I’d be at Tina’s apartment tomorrow even if that holiday didn’t exist. Wednesday has become one of our regular date nights. Also Mondays… and also Fridays. We’re spending as much time together as not anymore. Tina gave me a key to their place last week. We’re both non-binary so we can’t really be lesbians, but I joked to them that we were probably U-Haul lesbians anyways. We’re trying to come up with a genderqueer version of that expression so we don’t misgender each other, but Avis Enbies doesn’t have the same ring to it.

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“Potage:” Bambi’s Mom

“Potage” begins with Abigail Hobbs killing a deer.

Abigail’s father — Garret Jacob Hobbs, trophy hunter and infamous serial killer — has taken his teenage daughter hunting for the first time. Abigail bags her prey, and when she and her father take the deer back to her father’s cabin to be cleaned, Abigail is already regretting her actions. She discusses the emotional complexity and intelligence of deer with her father. She compares their capacity for personality to that of a four year old and appreciates the tender care they show for their environments.

Garret Jacob Hobbs, the Minnesota Shrike, proclaims his almost religious reverence for the sentience of these animals he hunts. He rationalizes their slaughter by telling Abigail that the ways they will use these animals in death honors their “sacrifice.” They will eat the meat. They will turn the bones into knives. The pelts can be used for clothes and pillows. Garret Jacob Hobbs knows that these beings have feelings, that they have an element of self-awareness, and that they can feel pain. He tells Abigail that hunting them would be murder if every element of the deer weren’t utilized after their deaths.

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