In 2001, I may or may not have done my first bump of ketamine. We called it “kitty” back then. Since 2003, I have no idea what they call it. Ketamine, an animal tranquilizer, when taken by humans in just the right amount, made a night at The Club just memorable enough.
Whatever happened of note, we accepted, could be recounted as necessary by the people whose bumps were less potent. Generally, kitty purred in the shadow of what we called “X.” The combination of these two, ecstasy and anesthesia, made for an evening in which reality could be cloaked behind alternate states, the 10th Amendment to the Constitution notwithstanding.
Oh, for the days when meth was just for losers.
Oh, for the days when we could be judgmental – our personal, self–reflective and internalized SCOTUS.
A decade and a half has changed a lot of the ways we deal. For a group whose oscillation between euphoria and stupefication could once be best managed by illicit drugs, a rapid–fire series of cultural shifts most recently captured by Obergefell and Pulse has transformed us. In that time, presidents – past, present, and future – have embraced us with words and actions.
The first Clinton presidency had just come to a close and the second Bush presidency was already being tested by al–Qaida. As a nation, we were mastering the balance between euphoria and numbness: coalitions of the willing toppling stateless enemies within bordered, sovereign state sponsors. Hillary Clinton immigrated from Washington to New York and squatted in the Senate, officially kicking off the sesquicentennial celebration of a presidential campaign.
And then Afghanistan and then Iraq and then the Great Recession and then the Arab Spring and then the rise of ISIL and then Trayvon and then Occupy movement and then the Baltimore Riots and then the decimation of the GOP by Trump and then Pulse. We came to view crisis as the normal state; we interspersed our tragedies with mindlessness: Facebook, Kardashians, Kanye West, Prince Harry, “strategery,” “leading from behind.” All the while, Hillary lurked below deck with her hands on the rudder.
And then I wrote my most brilliant essay ever: about President Obama’s use of language in the days following LGBT America’s 9/11. Quoting myself from the unpublished – bumped – manifesto:“…As a governing reality, Obama’s rhetoric may not have always matched his actions – constrained by an uncooperative Congress and the stark realities necessitating pragmatic management of the economic and diplomatic business of government – but he has always chosen his words carefully: professorially…”
I gushed on:
“… POTUS, true to form, argued unapologetically that it [The Pulse Massacre] was both, ‘We know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. As Americans we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.’
In so doing, he reaffirmed his command of language. In nuance, he understands, we find the strength of language. He could have chosen an ‘ish’ and lessened the wrath of the politicos on both sides whose posturing required the singularity of the hard ‘c’ at the end of ‘Islamic’ or the hard ‘t” that punctuates ‘hate.’ He made the calculated decision to acknowledge both in his hard–wrought statement – in his choice of words …”
Then I identified Secretary Clinton as the heir apparent to that legacy:
“… And here’s the difference between being Barack Obama and being Hillary Clinton in 2016. One knows words like a pro and one uses them like a pro. One, the current POTUS, exudes optimism in his words: We are great enough to debate and still live side by side. The other, the next POTUS, reflects conciliation: We are similar in our shared Americanness and should drive toward the middle ground. …
“I have little doubt that Hillary, when president, will finally be able to stop campaigning and start growing the discourse like her predecessor. I also believe she will help, with the friends Obama has not been so eloquent about, grow us fiscally to match that rhetorical two–hundred percent worth of stifled American economic potential.
“Divided, but whole, one divides us with a chasm, the other with a dotted line…”
I was about to send my essay, “Bull–ish on America,” off to my editor at Watermark when that editor called and informed me that I’d been bumped: My column inches had been commandeered. Our little paper, under the brave leadership of Billy Manes, had scored an exclusive policy piece written by none other than the next POTUS. Her dotted line, in light of Pulse, instantly became a bold proclamation of support for our place in America and of America’s place in the world. She wrote:
“…Our hearts are broken, and our thoughts are with the survivors still fighting for their lives. And to the LGBT community – in Orlando and across America – know this: I see you. I hear you. I’m with you. And I will do everything in my power to prevent future tragedies like this act of terror and hate…”
These words, her words in our paper, the words of our next president, the words that pre–empted – bumped – mine, are apocalyptic. Seismic in their effect, she has shifted the landscape of discourse of and about visibility, of and about pride – of and about the power of discourse itself.
I could not be more ecstatic for the bump.
Numb no more, this bump – more than a nudge – calls us to action as a community of overlapping communities. This bump calls us together as Americans in a world where love must ultimately conquer hate.